If you asked the industry to name a pair of breakout tight ends, the top two answers would be T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Pitts. Putting aside questions about whether rookies can be breakouts (you'll see one below), those are fine choices. Pitts is a monster of a man with incredible talent and seemingly great opportunity. Hockenson looks like the top target on his team. That being said, they aren't the only breakout candidates at the position.
The third most likely tight end breakout is Dallas Goedert, assuming Zach Ertz ever gets traded or cut. Goedert has spent the first first three years behind Ertz but has flashed elite upside for stretches nevertheless. He started out 2020 with 101 yards in Week 1 and had a three-week stretch later in the year where he averaged 16.9 PPR Fantasy points per game. In Goedert's final four games (including the playoffs) of 2019 he averaged nine targets and more than 70 yards per game.
Assuming Ertz is gone, Goedert has a legitimate shot as being a top five tight end based on volume alone. The fact that he's going 30 picks behind Pitts and 20 picks behind Hockenson only makes him more attractive. And if you wait one more round you can get Noah Fant, who may have even more upside.
- We look at Noah Fant's production, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Saquon Barkley, read your Apple Podcast questions, share thoughts on when to draft Najee Harris, keeper questions and more on the Fantasy Football Today podcast. Listen below and follow at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts:
Fant's 2020 is a bit hard to parse because of Drew Lock's poor play and Fant's inability to stay healthy. In Fant's 12 healthy games with a quarterback (remember the Kendall Hinton game?), Fant actually averaged 11.5 PPR Fantasy points per game despite an unlucky 3.5% touchdown rate. That would have placed him fifth at the position, ahead of both Hockenson and Goedert.
The addition of Teddy Bridgewater helps Fant's floor in case Lock doesn't improve, and we still have reason to hold out hope for the upside of Aaron Rodgers as a Bronco for just a little while longer. Regardless, as long as Fant stays healthy he should be right there with Hockenson. I would much rather draft Fant in Round 8 than Hockenson in Round 5, and there's a decent chance Fant is simply better.
Here are seven more breakout candidates for 2021:
Joe Burrow QB
CIN Cincinnati • #9
Age: 24 • Experience: Rookie
Burrow was, not surprisingly, inefficient as a rookie passer before his injury. But the sky is the limit in 2021 and beyond. His Bengals should be one of the most pass-happy teams in the league (they averaged 40 attempts per game with him under center) and the addition of Ja'Marr Chase gives him one of the most talented receiving corps in the NFL. There's 5,000-yard upside in this offense if Burrow can make the typical Year 2 quarterback leap.
DET Detroit • #32
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Anthony Lynn's offenses have historically been very running back friendly, with the position garnering more than 30 touches per game most years. So even with Jamaal Williams taking a third of those touches, Swift has immense potential. He flashed top-five upside any time the team gave him 15 touches last year and scored at a high rate despite playing on a bad offense. The Lions receiving corps is depleted, which opens up the possibility that Swift sees an Austin Ekeler-like workload in the passing game.
Mike Davis RB
ATL Atlanta • #28
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Wait. Didn't Mike Davis break out last year? Yes, but now he's in position to do it for a full season, and judging by the pictures we've seen this offseason, he appears to be getting himself in shape to do just that. In Arthur Smith's offense, with Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts stretching the field, Davis has legitimate top-12 upside if he can keep from wearing down like he did in 2020. But even if Davis could just match what he did without Christian McCaffrey over a full season, he'd be a league-winner in the fourth or fifth round. Currently his biggest challenger for touches is Qadree Ollison.
Myles Gaskin RB
MIA Miami • #37
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Like Davis, Gaskin had a pretty remarkable run when he was healthy in 2020. In his first six starts, he averaged nearly 100 total yards and more than 15 Fantasy points per game. The Dolphins only significant addition to the running backs room was Malcolm Brown, who is unlikely to take anything more than short yardage work away from Gaskin.
CeeDee Lamb WR
DAL Dallas • #88
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
I struggle with how to distribute the targets in Dallas, but there's little doubt that one of the possibilities is that CeeDee Lamb becomes their new No. 1. Only Amari Cooper saw more targets than Lamb when Prescott was under center in 2020 and those were the first five games of Lamb's career. The former first round pick now has a full NFL season under his belt, and Cooper is still recovering from offseason surgery. Even if Cooper is fine, Lamb should best his own numbers from last year simply because he's catching passes from Prescott and not Andy Dalton or Ben DiNucci.
CIN Cincinnati • #1
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Those 40 pass attempts per game for Burrow make it possible for Chase to break out even in a crowded receiving corps with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. And to be clear, Chase has much better pedigree than either of them. In 2019 (with Joe Burrow) Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns, outperforming last year's rookie sensation Justin Jefferson. His talent and his prior connection with Burrow make him my bet to lead the Bengals in targets, yards and receiving touchdowns. It may not be long before we're projecting him to challenge for the league lead in those categories.
A.J. Brown WR
TEN Tennessee • #11
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
This was less bold before the Julio Jones signing, but I still believe Brown has the upside to be the No. 1 receiver in Fantasy this year. Jones' arrival dampens target expectations a bit, but it also lessens the likelihood that we'll see major regression off Brown's historic efficiency (10% career touchdown rate, 11.2 yards per target). And Jones isn't likely to soak up all of the 192 targets left behind by Jonnu Smith, Corey Davis and Adam Humphries. For reference if you projected 140 targets for Brown at his career efficiency, you'd expect 90 catches for 1,568 yards and 14 touchdowns. That's not a fair projection, but 140 targets isn't his ceiling either.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.