Preseason football is here and that means it's crunch time for Fantasy Football draft prep. The tight end position feels more about the haves and haves not than ever before heading into prime drafting season. It seems like there is a clear Tier 1, and they're likely worth investing in, but positional scarcity is also pushing up the Tier 2 TEs and they may not be worth the investment. As you dig deeper down the rankings, that's where you might find value. We'll be tackling different position groups in the coming weeks, and this week we are focusing on the tight end position.
Today, we're tapping the Fantasy Football Today team to gauge the tight ends they want to avoid drafting in all leagues. Without further ado, let's dive into it.
Tight end busts
Jamey Eisenberg's picks
You might not find a Fantasy analyst more excited about Pitts than me as a University of Florida grad. All Pitts did was make plays for the Gators, and he's going to be a star in the NFL. But when we talk about bust candidates, it all comes down to cost on Draft Day and realistic expectations, and I'm worried that Pitts will let you down -- slightly. His Average Draft Position on CBS Sports is at 51.34 overall, and I'm not sure he should be drafted in Round 5. He's also the No. 5 tight end off the board behind Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller and Mark Andrews, and I'd rather draft T.J. Hockenson over Pitts instead for this year. While Pitts has a tremendous opportunity to help Atlanta replace Julio Jones, keep in mind that he's going to be the No. 2 target for the Falcons at best if Calvin Ridley is healthy. Over the past five years, only one player had more than 97 targets as the No. 2 receiving option for Matt Ryan, which was Russell Gage with 109 last year. Pitts will either need to score double digits in touchdowns or be extremely efficient if he's only around 100 targets. I would gladly draft Pitts in Round 6 or later, but I'm avoiding him at his current ADP.
Tonyan was great for Fantasy managers in 2020 when he finished as the No. 4 PPR tight end. He had 52 catches for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns, but it's highly doubtful he comes close to finding the end zone that much again this year, especially since he had just 59 targets. That number was No. 24 among tight ends in 2020 -- behind guys like Gerald Everett (62) and Tyler Eifert (60). Fantasy managers must be hoping for a repeat performance since Tonyan's ADP on CBS is at 108.08 as the No. 10 tight end off the board. While he should still remain the starting tight end for the Packers, the addition of Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers will likely limit any uptick in targets for Tonyan this year. Maybe he's still among the league leaders in touchdowns at the position, but if he falls below eight and doesn't see an increase in catches and yards then he could be a total dud. I don't see myself drafting Tonyan often this season, and I definitely will not select him as a top 10 Fantasy tight end this year.
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Dave Richard's picks
Dallas Goeddert, Eagles
Goedert's stock began falling late last season when Jalen Hurts threw his way 5.7 times per game over his four starts with ZERO red-zone targets. Then the Eagles added a playmaker at receiver in DeVonta Smith and kept fellow tight end Zach Ertz. Tack on the improvement Jalen Reagor seems to be making this summer, and it points to a passing game that will probably create one pass-catcher with over 100 targets, and Goedert probably won't be it. When a tight end won't reliably get good target volume from game to game, he must score touchdowns, and that could be sporadic for Goedert, especially since his quarterback will run for his fair share of touchdowns much less throw them to all of his targets. It's frustrating because Goedert is a beastly tight end who can move, but Nick Sirianni's system tends to prefer utilizing multiple tight ends, not funneling work to just one. You can draft Goedert to begin the year as your starter, but do so with lowered expectations and don't do it until Round 9 at the absolute earliest.
There's a lot of hype around Higbee this offseason. I was there last offseason and it definitely did not work out, and I don't see enough change to think he'll break through in 2021. For one thing, the Rams coaching staff seems to love him as a blocker -- he's pass protected on at least 21% of the Rams' pass plays in each of the past two seasons. That means he won't even run a route, much less get targeted, as other tight ends across the league. He's also played 78 career games and has 10 with a touchdown, eight with five or more receptions and six with 70 or more yards, and the majority of those came in the "December of Higbee" when he stepped up in the Rams pass game when Gerald Everett was out and Cooper Kupp was playing hurt. Everett's gone from L.A., but the Rams may have a young talent in Jacob Harris to take his place, and Kupp's not going anywhere in the offense. Between Kupp and Woods, it's hard to envision Higbee collecting enough targets to be reliable every week. At best, Higbee is a touchdown-or-bust tight end who might not even be worth the Week 1 stream versus Chicago.
Heath Cummings' picks
Kyle Pitts, Falcons
I want to be clear, I don't like calling Pitts a bust. But that's undoubtedly the most likely outcome with an ADP at the 4-5 turn. Essentially, Pitts needs to give you the greatest rookie tight end season of all time just to justify his ADP. Is that possible? Yes, he's that kind of special. Is it something I want to bet a draft pick on? No chance. Mark Andrews is a better bet in the same range, and I prefer T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant at their cost. All have elite upside and a much higher floor than Pitts.
Robert Tonyan, Packers
Tonyan averaged fewer than four targets per game last year, but because he scored once every 5.4 targets he finished as a top-five tight end. And it's not like his role really grew; he only had 15 total targets in his final five games including the playoffs. If you caught Tonyan's magic carpet ride in 2020, thank your lucky stars. But don't try to ride it again. There's simply not enough volume here to justify him as a starting tight end.
Chris Towers' picks
T.J. Hockenson, Lions
I want to be clear about this: I do not think Hockenson is likely to be a bust in the traditional sense. He has a very safe floor as the presumed No. 1 target in his offense, and that alone should make him a solid weekly starter. I just wonder if he'll ever be anything more than that. He was TE5 in PPR scoring in 2020, so with an even bigger role in the offense, who can make a case against him going in that exact same range in 2021 drafts. The problem is, though he finished that high overall, he was just one PPR point ahead of TE12 and 2.0 ahead of TE18 in points per game. He wasn't a difference maker last season, in other words. And I'm just not convinced he's set up to be a difference maker this season despite the likely increase in targets because I'm not sure he's got difference-making skills. He's a good athlete, but not necessarily a special one, and he's been a good playmaker (ninth in average YAC since entering the league), but again, not a special one. Hockenson took a big step forward in 2020 and was still at just 7.1 yards per target, but that was just 26th among the top 50 tight ends in Fantasy scoring. He's going to face more defensive attention and has a downgrade at QB going from Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff. If you are going to reach into the fifth round for a tight end, you need someone with superstar potential. I just don't think Hockenson has that.
Robert Tonyan, Packers
The case against Tonyan should be fairly obvious at this point, and the fact that he isn't being drafted inside of the top 100 right now is a sign of how much sharper the Fantasy industry has gotten over the past few years. Still, I don't really think there's any reason to draft Tonyan at all. He needed 11 touchdowns on 59 targets to even be Fantasy relevant. If you cut his 18.6% touchdown rate in half, it still would have been the third-highest among TE with at least as many targets as he had, he would have been TE13, just ahead of the likes of Eric Ebron and Hayden Hurst. He's a touchdown-or-bust streamer and you should treat him like that.
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.