Well it feels like fantasy championships were just a week ago, but as the old adage goes, “there ain’t no rest for the wicked.” With 2020 and a whole lot of recency bias still ripe on my mind, I aim for these positional rankings to give you a premature preview of 2021, a season hopefully devoid of COVID complications among other things.
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Side Note: I’m incredibly excited about Pat Friermuth and Kyle Pitts. I figure both of these rookies to have an immediate impact on whatever team they are drafted by and may slot into instant TE1 relevance.
- Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
- George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
- Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders
- T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
- Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
- Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
- Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
- Noah Fant, Denver Broncos
- Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
- Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers
- Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons
- Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys
- Evan Engram, New York Giants
- Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns
- Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings
- Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team
- Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans
- Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
- Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
- Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills
- Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
- Chris Herndon, New York Jets
- Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints
Well, no surprises here at the top. The only real questions surrounding Kelce is where do you take him in relation to other position players? All I’ll say is that he offers managers potential that is quite literally unmatched. His 61 PPR points above second place Darren Waller and 143 above #3 T.J. Hockenson is truly gamebreaking at the position. In dynasty, you ride with him until the wheels fall off unless you have NO SHOT at contending this year whatsoever.
George Kittle over Waller is little more than preference. I believe the San Francisco tight end will benefit from some better quarterback play in 2021 and will hopefully stay healthy. Only akin to Gronk, I will say Kittle hits defenders. He doesn’t have them bounce off of him like Kelce, he seeks the contact and punishes those who try to tackle him. Expect a healthy bounce back for Kittle.
T.J. Hockenson nearly saw 100 targets in Detroit’s offense and built some solid rapport with veteran Matthew Stafford. If you’re a Lions’ fan, I believe you hope Stafford stays because I don’t really think you’re going to find a better option. He’s not the reason they’re consistently letting up 30 points a game. Six-plus targets a game should bode well for the reliable Hawkeye.
There’s almost always one player at a position that has a few incredible games that carry them to a very high finish. For the 2020 tight ends, Mike Gesicki had nearly half his points come out of three games as he slotted in at TE7 to end the year. If you started him those games, congratulations, but the inconsistencies may have meant he spent that time on your bench. Let’s hope Tua can make a leap and turn the former Nittany Lion into a more reliable asset.
Robert Tonyan had an incredible breakout year, but let’s temper expectations, lest he become 2021’s Tyler Higbee. Ten touchdowns is remarkable, yet unlikely to happen again come next season. Cut that total in half and he falls to TE15. The position is touchdown dependent, and there is little separating players once you get beyond the elite tier. Tonyan is little more than one’s best guess if they can’t get their hands on the upper echelon of tight ends, unfortunately.
Irv Smith is a budding talent that has the potential to be everything Kyle Rudolph was supposed to be and more. In his final 5 efforts he averaged 13.1 PPR points per game. Kirk Cousins has a devastating pair of red zone threats as well as an elite running back. There’s no reason why this offense can’t be one of the leading scorers in 2021 and Smith figures to be the beneficiary.
Before I came into making this list, I expected to slot Jonnu Smith a lot higher, and then I kept on listing player after player that i felt more optimistic about and then we ended up at low TE2 land. Crazy how that works sometimes. He ended 2020 with a fizzle, but a far cry from his world-beating first four performances in which he looked to match the likes of Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. Tennessee favors Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and even Corey Davis to some degree. As such, we find Jonnu Smith ranked lower than we’d like.
A virtual non-factor until week 12, Dawson Knox came up strong down the stretch, catching three touchdowns in his last 5 games. Josh Allen clearly has some significant chemistry with him with six red zone targets over that stretch. He’ll be an intriguing pick in some tight end premium leagues.