The tight end position has long been a struggle in Fantasy, but for the first time in years it's starting to look like there may be enough starters. We may even have some upside depth behind those starters to be excited about. I'm not ready to say "tight end is deep" quite yet, but the idea of tight end being deep no longer sounds ridiculous.
Some of this could be because of the emergence of Mark Andrews and Darren Waller last year or the return of Rob Gronkowski this year. Those things definitely help. But a lot of this potential depth comes from. the opportunity created by offseason moves. Delanie Walker, Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen all moved. on, leaving room for Jonnu Smith, Jace Sternberger, and Ian Thomas to possibly emerge. That definitely helps. But those aren't the tight ends with the most potential opportunity.
Hayden Hurst was traded to the Falcons to replace Austin Hooper, and that means 100-target potential. Dirk Koetter calls the plays in Atlanta, and he has consistently dedicate more than 120 targets per year to the tight end position. Hurst won't get all of them, but as you see below I project him for 94, which makes him a top eight tight end. Hurst is a former first-round pick, and he's turned 62 career targets into 43 catches, 512 yards and three touchdowns. In 2020 he'll have an even more accurate passer in Matt Ryan. If Hurst plays 16 games there's a very good chance he finishes in the top five at the position.
Tyler Higbee was incredible in the final five games of 2019, and with the trade of Brandin Cooks it sure looks like he has enough room be a solid starter as well. The reason I sound more measured when talking about Higbee is that Sean McVay has not been near as predictable as Dirk Koetter in his distribution. In 2018, McVay's tight ends combined for 85 targets. And they've been talking Gerald Everett up again this offseason. Before the second half of 2019, nearly everyone valued Everett over Higbee, and Higbee's breakout didn't happen until Everett was hurt.
None of that is to say I don't see Higbee's upside. If McVay sticks with the game plan from the end of 2019 and Higbee holds off Everett, Higbee could absolutely be a top-five tight end. Those targets just don't seem quite as secure as Hurst's expected share, even with Cooks gone.
Finally, the flip side of all of this opportunity is Austin Hooper. You're going to to chortle when you see where he falls in the projections below. He's one of those guys I'm going to rank higher than I project. But Hooper has to battle Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb and David Njoku for targets in a Kevin Stefanski offense. The Browns paid Hooper a lot of money, but I'm pretty certain there aren't enough targets to go around in Cleveland, and that crushes his projection.
Here are my updated tight end projections: