During the 2019 NFL season, two of the best Fantasy tight ends were Darren Waller and Mark Andrews. Both were drafted after Round 12 based on their Average Draft Position. Meanwhile, three of the worst tight ends were O.J. Howard, Vance McDonald and David Njoku, who all went off the board between Rounds 5 and 7 last year.
Why are we bringing these guys up now? We want to help you find the next Waller and Andrews and avoid tight ends like Howard, McDonald and Njoku. Heath Cummings provided some sleepers, breakouts, and busts in his tight end preview, and we went over some of our strategy and favorite targets in our State of the Position survey, and here are my favorite sleepers, breakouts and bust picks for tight ends in 2020. Hopefully, you'll wind up with several starting options to target on Draft Day, while also offering a few to avoid.
Mike Gesicki TE
MIA Miami • #88
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Gesicki is an excellent tight end to wait for this season coming a solid sophomore campaign in 2019 he could improve on this year. He should be the No. 2 or 3 option in the passing game depending on what happens with Preston Williams' recovery from an ACL tear, behind No. 1 receiver DeVante Parker, and Gesicki stood out last year for the Dolphins when he scored at least 11 PPR points in four of his final six games. He showed a solid rapport with Ryan Fitzpatrick, and hopefully Fitzpatrick starts more games this year than Tua Tagovailoa. We'll see if the change in offensive coordinator to Chan Gaily helps or hurts Gesicki, but hopefully the Dolphins keep their best players on the field often — and involved. Gesicki is a solid, low-end starting tight end to target in Round 10 or later.
Blake Jarwin TE
DAL Dallas • #89
Age: 26 • Experience: 4 yrs.
The Cowboys are loaded with weapons after adding CeeDee Lamb to a roster that already includes Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Ezekiel Elliott and Jarwin. But they also have a lot of production to replace with Randall Cobb and Jason Witten gone, as that duo accounted for 118 catches for 1,357 yards and seven touchdowns on 166 targets in 2019. While Lamb should help fill most of that void, so will Jarwin if things stay the same for Dak Prescott and this passing attack. Jarwin might not have the highest ceiling with all those mouths to feed in Dallas, but he could turn out to be a low-end starter in all Fantasy leagues as he replaces Witten this year. Jarwin had 41 targets of his own in 2019, so he could be looking at 90-plus targets this year. He's a good fallback option at tight end if you need a starter with a late-round pick.
Hayden Hurst TE
ATL Atlanta • #81
Age: 27 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Hurst is stepping into a big role with the Falcons now that Austin Hooper is gone, and hopefully this is the season Hurst takes off. Atlanta paid a pretty price to get Hurst from Baltimore, giving up a second-round pick and a fifth-round pick, while also getting a fourth-round pick in return. For the past two seasons, Hooper averaged 93 targets, 73 catches, 724 yards and five touchdowns for the Falcons. That's the role Hurst is inherting now as the starter in Atlanta. Hurst has struggled to produce in two seasons with the Ravens, mostly due to injuries in 2018 and then being stuck behind Andrews and Nick Boyle. He'll be behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley when it comes to targets in Atlanta, but this is still his time to shine. Matt Ryan will hopefully find that Hurst is a quality weapon, and he has the chance to be a No. 1 Fantasy tight end this year. The best thing is you can wait on Hurst on Draft Day with a mid- to late-round pick, and he has top-10 upside. He's capable of big things in Atlanta this year.
Jonnu Smith TE
TEN Tennessee • #81
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Delanie Walker is gone, and now is the time for Smith to be a star. He could be the second-best receiving option for the Titans behind A.J. Brown, and he's worth drafting as a No. 1 Fantasy tight end this year with a late-round pick. Titans coach Mike Vrabel is excited for Smith, saying at the NFL Combine that "we're going to try to feature the players that can help us win, and Jonnu is one of those." Over his final nine games in the regular season in 2019, with Walker out with an ankle injury, Smith scored at least 11 PPR points in four of those outings. He also had at least five targets in four of those games, and the Titans gave him three carries over that span to boot. And Smith scored a touchdown in the divisional-round upset against Baltimore. Smith might not become a top-five Fantasy tight end this year, but he could be a top-10 option. He's the perfect tight end to wait for on Draft Day, and you should be thrilled if he ends up on your Fantasy roster.
TB Tampa Bay • #87
Age: 31 • Experience: 10 yrs.
I'm excited that Gronkowski is back in the NFL. It's more fun when he's playing. And it's great that he was able to reunite with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. But while Gronkowski has the greatest rapport with Brady of anyone on the Buccaneers, this is the most talent he's ever had to share the field with in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. And the last time we saw Gronkowski in 2018 with the Patriots, he was mediocre at best, catching 47 passes for 682 yards and three touchdowns on 72 targets. He averaged just 10.1 PPR points per game that season, which was his worst year since his rookie campaign in 2010. He'll be 31 when the season starts, and he hasn't played a full season since 2011, although he said he feels great following a year off. I have Gronkowski ranked as a top-10 Fantasy tight end, but even that feels too high. The earliest I would draft him is Round 9 in all leagues, but I'm not confident in him producing at a high level.
CLE Cleveland • #81
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Hooper was a star in 2019 with the Falcons, and he was rewarded with a four-year, $44 million contract, including $23 million guaranteed, by the Browns. He's now the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. If he plays like he did last year in Atlanta, when he was the No. 3 PPR tight end at 14.7 points per game (behind only George Kittle and Travis Kelce), then the money would be worth it. But I'm expecting a downturn in production in Cleveland. The Falcons led the NFL in pass attempts last season with 684, while the Browns were at No. 19 at 539. It's doubtful Baker Mayfield's attempts rise under Kevin Stefanski, who was the offensive coordinator of the Vikings, and they were No. 30 in pass attempts at 466. Hooper also shares the field with standout players in Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Hooper still thrived on the same field with Jones and Ridley, but Ryan was clearly better than Mayfield. I would only settle for Hooper this season with a late-round pick as a low-end starting option.