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Tight End Strategy and Rankings

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Kelce, Kittle or wait…

For years the optimal Tight End strategy mimicked the Quarterback strategy: wait until the final rounds of your draft and then take a flier or two. When a better option emerged on the waiver wire, go get that player. Rinse and repeat. Then came Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, to be replaced by Travis Kelce, who is joined now by George Kittle. As offenses have found ways to have a few select tight ends perform as WR1’s, we have had to adjust strategy ever so slightly. Kelce and Kittle are both worth second round picks in season long leagues and are a first round pick in any tight end premium format (1.5 PPR for TE).

After the top comes the question marks though, and they come fast, as they do every year. Mark Andrews is a prime TD regression candidate. An increase in volume could help ward off some of that regression, but it is unclear if that volume increase will come. Zach Ertz continues to thrive as Carson Wentz’s go-to, but the Eagles drafted a receiver in the first round, get Desean Jackson back healthy, and have seen Dallas Goedert’s role continue to grow alongside him. Darren Waller also saw the Raiders bring in new target competition both at his position (Witten) and via the draft (Ruggs/Edwards). Engram always has questions about his health. Higbee put up monster stats over the last five games, but was a non-factor in the eleven weeks before them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

At tight end, you either pay up for Kelce or Kittle, or you get question marks.

Last year I had great success targeting Kelce at the 1/2 turn. This year I hope to land either of the studs in the back half of the second round. If not then I find myself waiting. I usually find it worth it to get Engram in the middle rounds if I am comfortable with where my running backs and receivers are at, but other than that I have been waiting a long time to target the position and taking shots at a very particular profile.

I have been looking for the super-athletic tight ends, with a good quarterback, who aren’t coming from nothing (either a former top pick or carried a target share around 10% the previous year). I have been looking for a guy who checks two or three of these boxes. These targets include Hayden Hurst, Eric Ebron, Noah Fant and Ian Thomas. If you look at the tiers below you will see that they comprise a lot of the third and fourth tier. They are routinely available after the rest of your roster is set, and there are many of them. If you pick one and it doesn’t seem to be working out after a few weeks, then swap to another. There are at least 23 tight ends that people like to be relevant. Some have a better chance than others, but the position is always a little fluky. Embrace it.

Updated Sept 5

Target (o) - A player we are targeting at their current ADP.

League-Winner - A player whose potential range of outcomes could swing your chances at a championship.

Riser - Someone climbing the ranks or someone I have ranked ahead of consensus.

Faller - A player who has moved down the ranks or someone I have ranked below consensus.

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