2019 Fantasy Football: Rookie tight end breakdown starts with Iowa studs Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson

Rookie Breakdowns: RB | WR | TE | QB

What's the best way to describe the 2019 draft class? Hmm, that's a tough one. It's a deep group, but there appear to be more contributors and role players than superstars. 

Take the running backs for example. You'll learn everything there is to know about Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery and Miles Sanders, but beyond those three are plenty of backs with lots of potential to help a run game, not lead it. Maybe that changes in time in the cases of Darrell Henderson, Damien Harris and Devin Singletary, but even they're not cinches to be good. 

The receiver class is equally challenging to handicap. All three of CBS Sports' analysts have different receivers atop their dynasty positional rankings -- none of them being the first receiver taken in the actual NFL Draft! The good news is that several receivers landed in places where they can make a modest impact right away. 

If there's a position where there's a consensus on long-term optimism, it's tight end. T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant both have appeal as difference-making tight ends, even if it's not happening in 2019. Same goes for Jace Sternberger and Irv Smith, Jr. This fab four could make appearances in Fantasy drafts for the next five years.

But the most polarizing rookie is the one taken at the top of the NFL Draft -- Kyler Murray. While the rest of the rookie quarterbacks figure to struggle in limited playing time this season, Murray found a comfortable spot where he'll start in Week 1. If his game is anything like it was in college, Fantasy managers will be excited to draft him now and into the future.

Whether you're drafting in dynasty leagues, or just window-shopping for some sleepers, our rookie class preview is designed to give you an idea of what to expect in 2019 and beyond.

Here are the top tight ends:

*age as of Week 1 of 2019 season

NOAH FANT, TE, DENVER BRONCOS

6-4 1/8, 249, 21 years old

More a receiver than blocker, Fant is a mismatch player the Broncos can use against slower linebackers and smaller safeties. That was something he did often in the red zone at Iowa, scoring 18 times over 69 catches his final two seasons. But he averaged just 40.5 yards per game and had plenty of mishaps (botched plays, bad blocking, awareness issues). With very good speed and unique size, Fant has the athletic profile to dominate. He must improve his route-running skills and get tougher with tacklers before ascending to the elite level of the position. He also must manage to connect with Joe Flacco this year and Drew Lock in the coming years, which doesn't sound like a big problem but might be given the depth of young receiving talent in Denver.

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Once you hit Round 11, he's fair game.

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: A lot of people like Fant, so don't be surprised to see (or afraid to take) him within the first eight picks.

T.J. HOCKENSON, TE, DETROIT LIONS

6-4 3/4, 251, 22 years old

Hockenson is not just the best all-around tight end in the draft, but he's among the best all-around skill-position players in the class. He caught nine touchdowns over 73 grabs in 2017 and 2018, never missing a game and averaging 14.8 yards per catch. He's a Day 1 starter in Motown and an eventual Pro Bowler because of his receiving capabilities and his good blocking skills. Sadly, it's the latter that might prove to be more impactful in 2019. The Lions want their run game to be dominant, not morph into a pass-frenzy offense. The Lions haven't had a tight end with over 90 targets since 2012. Maybe that changes with Hockenson's arrival and only Danny Amendola threatening to take looks away in the middle of the field, but the risk is there. That would obviously keep Hockenson from realizing his ceiling immediately -- we may have to wait a year or two.

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Anytime from 110th overall or later is fine.

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: He'll get snared anywhere from fifth to 10th overall as one of the safest players available.

JACE STERNBERGER, TE, GREEN BAY PACKERS

6-4, 251, 23 years old

What a fun fit this could turn out to be! Sternberger is a big target who had a Gronk-like effect on the competition at Texas A&M, scoring 10 times over 48 catches for 17.3 yards per catch. He did it with speed and height, lining up all over the field and making moves after the catch. So why did he get taken in Round 3 instead of Round 1? He's considered far from NFL-ready because his route-running and blocking are unrefined. But that could be something the Packers train him on while he plays. The potential of a receiver this big catching passes from Aaron Rodgers is pretty exciting to think about.

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Potential late-round pick

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: If you miss out on Fant, Sternberger offers a similar profile. You can find him in Round 2.

IRV SMITH JR, TE, MINNESOTA VIKINGS

6-2 3/8, 242, 21 years old


Smith was a do-it-all tight end at Alabama, laying blocks to pop open the run game and catching passes (16.1 yards per catch) for first downs and touchdowns. That kind of versatility is a good fit for a Vikings squad that plans on being balanced. That could ultimately cost Smith some huge numbers, but the reality is that as long as Kyle Rudolph blocks his playing time, Smith won't be beneficial for any Fantasy managers. It's probably better off this way -- Smith needs to polish his route-running and get even stronger to help dominate in the ground game. Once improved there, he'll be a complete receiver with gifted, natural hands to reel in plenty of nice numbers. 

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Potential late-round pick

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Expect Smith to consistently be available in the second round.

So which Fantasy Football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which RB2 can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Andrew Luck's huge season, and find out.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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