Tight end is perhaps the one position in Fantasy football where you can say position scarcity really exists, which is to say, it's the one position where you can really get an edge on the competition by having one of the elite options. Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and the like are just so much better than most of the players your league-mates will be starting, that it can be worth reaching for them in the first round.
At least, that's the way it's been in the past. That calculus would change a bit if the rest of the position weren't such a disaster — and there's reason to think that will be the case in 2020, given how many breakout options there are to be found. As Heath Cummings notes in his preview for the position, "It has become fashionable of late to talk about the depth of the tight end position," so should your approach to drafting the position change?
That's just one of the big questions facing Fantasy players heading into 2020 drafts, and it's one the Fantasy Football Today crew are trying to answer right now. I've gone through six of the biggest questions about the tight end position for 2020, focusing on the purported depth of the position and looking at how many viable starters there might be, among other questions. Here's how the position shakes out in the eyes of Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, Heath Cummings, and Ben Gretch:
1. How would you sum up the state of the tight end position in 2020?
Jamey Eisenberg: I'm excited about the tight ends this year, mostly because of the sleeper/breakout options you can get with late-round picks. This is a great season to draft two from the group of Hayden Hurst, Noah Fant, Mike Gesicki, Jonnu Smith, T.J. Hockenson and Blake Jarwin. All of them could be had with a pick after 100 overall based on their Average Draft Position.
Dave Richard: Better than it's ever been. While I'm sure we won't have that "tight end revolution" people keep hoping for (I've been hopelessly hoping since the mid-2000s), I am sure we have as few as nine and as many as 14 tight ends who could be reliable starters from the jump. Can't remember tight ends ever being that deep before.
Heath Cummings: It's still very top heavy, with no one very close to Travis Kelce and George Kittle, but there are a lot more guys to speculate on in the double digit rounds.
Ben Gretch: Top heavy, then deep. There are a lot of names outside the top four that have reasonable profiles and justify a Draft Day selection. But the reality is most of those players have a low probability of competing with the top names, particularly Kelce and Kittle. And Kelce and Kittle are probably cheaper than they should be due to drafters not wanting to lock up a position perceived as deep.
2. How many tight ends do you view as viable starters?
Jamey: This probably sounds crazy, but 17 of them. I have Jack Doyle ranked at No. 17, and I feel confident in him with Philip Rivers now the starting quarterback for the Colts, especially with Eric Ebron gone. Factor in the guys I mentioned in question No. 1, and I like a lot of tight ends this season.
Dave: Here's the breakdown: Nine for-sure starters (Rob Gronkowski counts; Austin Hooper doesn't), then another five who profile as palatable starters (Hooper counts; Jonnu Smith doesn't — for now), and then another seven or so who could end up being early-season streamers (guys like Smith, Jarwin, Ian Thomas, etc.).
Heath: I think there are seven I feel really good about starting all year. There are at least 20 I think could finish the year top-12 if they play 16 games. But the bar is really low to be top 12.
Ben: It depends on your definition of viable. It could arguably be as few as four names — there's a reasonable argument against every tight end after that point. It could also be something like 10-12, because that's where you start to get into projections based more on upside. But that's also where the depth kicks in — there are a lot of solid upside cases this year — so I might argue there are as many as 24. In other words, the position is not deep in sure things, but it is deep in justifiable draft targets.
3. Fill in the blank: On Draft Day, you want your starting tight end to come from your top-__ tight ends.
Dave: Nine. I pretty much want a value, too, so it'll be one of the last five players in my top nine.
Heath: Preferably? Top two so then I don't have to worry about it. If not, I'd say top eight.
Ben: 12, but in a deeper league it's 24.
4. How important is it for you to get an elite tight end?
Jamey: Unless it's a tight-end premium league, I'm probably not drafting one of the elite tight ends this year in most 12-team formats. Now, if Mark Andrews falls to Round 5 or Zach Ertz in Round 6, then I'll take one of the top four guys. But it's doubtful that I'll draft Travis Kelce or George Kittle in Round 2.
Dave: Not as important as last year. Those elite tight ends will still be in high demand even though there are more seemingly reliable starters out there. I'd rather wait a little while and get a tight end I deem start-worthy every week without having to spend a top-50 pick.
Heath: I'd be willing to take Travis Kelce at the end of Round 1 and George Kittle in Round 2. It's pretty important.
Ben: I de-emphasized the elite options in early drafts, and I wasn't alone. I now believe Kelce and Kittle later in the second round or in the third are phenomenal values. Their dominance of the position is probably worth a pick at the 1/2 turn, and I've started to make them targets when I have an early draft slot.
5. Who is your favorite breakout tight end?
Jamey: I'll take a chance on Hurst now that he's the starting tight end for the Falcons. He's stepping into a big role with Austin Hooper gone, and the Falcons should again be a pass-happy team after leading the NFL in pass attempts in 2019.
Dave: Tyler Higbee has held that place in my heart since March. I love how he finished last season as a regular part of the Rams offense, improving not only his profile but keeping Jared Goff productive and defenses way off balance. He reminds me a lot of Kittle, which is a scary thought considering the playcaller he has.
Heath: Hurst in the Austin Hooper role, for sure. if Hurst can stay healthy, you should expect 100 targets at least.
Ben: Evan Engram.
6. Who is your biggest bust?
Jamey: It's Hooper going to the Browns. Targets could be an issue on a run-first team, and Hooper is sharing the field with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Baker Mayfield is also a downgrade from Matt Ryan. Hooper's ADP on CBS is Round 8 as the No. 10 tight end off the board. That's too expensive for me, and I would only settle for Hooper with a late-round pick.
Dave: I guess I'm not ready to rush Hurst into my Fantasy lineup. I'm not sure he's any more talented than Hooper and I'm not sure he'll see as many targets as Hooper saw in 2019 (7.5 per game) or 2018 (5.5 per game). He's an older prospect with an injury history. I'd take him if he fell to me in my draft, but chances are there will be one guy in every league who targets him, so I doubt he'll be on many/any of my squads.
Heath: I guess Higbee, but I don't feel great about that. Relative to what they were last year I'd say Hooper.
Ben: Jared Cook.