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2020 Early Sleepers and Draft Targets - Tight End


Just because the NFL’s regular season is over, it does not mean that you stop focusing on fantasy football!

Besides all of the playoff leagues and DFS contests that fantasy footballers can enter, you can also look forward to the 2020 NFL season and start preparing for your drafts and auctions now. Why not get a jump on the competition?

We all know Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, San Francisco’s George Kittle, and Las Vegas’ Darren Waller will garner much of the attention heading into the 2020 NFL campaign. Let’s look at the lesser-known tight ends who could provide plenty of bang for the buck next season. Here are my 2020 early sleepers and draft targets at the tight end position.

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Dallas Goedert - Philadelphia Eagles

2019 Stats:  58 receptions, 607 yards, 5 TD

Goedert proved this year that he can produce whether Zach Ertz is on the field or not. The former second-round pick hauled in four Carson Wentz touchdown tosses in the first 10 games he suited up for when Ertz was the top target in the passing attack. Goedert saved his best work for late in the season when his fantasy owners needed him the most, though. He caught 27 passes for 318 yards and one score during his final five contests, and during that span, he was targeted as often as Ertz was (31 targets apiece) until Ertz suffered a fractured rib and lacerated kidney and missed the Eagles’ last game of the season. With Ertz banged up in the Wild Card game, Goedert led the team with seven catches for 70 yards.

Fantasy players worried before about Goedert’s fantasy effectiveness when Ertz was on the field taking the targets and touches. Truth is, Goedert has fantasy value even when Ertz is with him because Philadelphia employs so many two-tight end sets in its offense. Could this be the offseason the Eagles decide to trade one of their talented tight ends away to sure up a hole at another position, though? If that happens this season and Goedert is the top tight end for whichever team he is on, his fantasy stock will skyrocket.

 

Noah Fant - Denver Broncos

2019 Stats:  40 receptions, 562 yards, 3 TD

Denver’s 2019 first-round draft choice had an uneven rookie season that ended on a sour note when all he could muster over the final two games of the season was three receptions for 14 yards. His season totals were nice considering it was his first pro year, but those numbers are mediocre for a tight end in the fantasy football world. You have to remember, though, that Fant had to play with three different quarterbacks (Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, Drew Lock) and did not have any receivers other than Courtland Sutton distracting defenses once veteran Emmanuel Sanders was shipped to San Francisco midseason.

Denver should be vastly improved on offense in 2020 as Fant, Sutton, and franchise quarterback Lock all gain another year of experience and spend another season working with one another in the offense. Fant has electrifying playmaking ability and can turn 10-yard crosses over the middle into 50-yard touchdowns. At just 22 years old the sky is the limit for this kid, especially if Denver’s offense improves around him. Fant might not turn in the same sophomore season the aforementioned Kittle did in 2018 when he set the record for receiving yards for a tight end in a season, but Fant could surely have 800 yards in 2020 and 1,000 in 2021 if you hold onto him in dynasty leagues.

 

O.J. Howard - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 Stats:  34 receptions, 459 yards, 1 TD

Howard entered the 2019 season as a prime candidate to have anywhere from 800 to 1,000 yards since he was coming off a year where he racked up 565 receiving yards and five touchdowns in just 10 games. Then Bruce Arians became Tampa Bay’s head honcho. Howard suddenly disappeared from the offense quicker than a vegetarian’s appetite at a hot dog stand, and his fantasy value fell through the floor. Howard finished with the same amount of catches, 106 fewer yards and four fewer touchdowns than the year prior despite appearing in four more contests.

Tampa Bay’s offense is built around its terrific twosome of receivers, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Buccaneers also have another tight end in Cameron Brate who could start for many teams in the NFL. This means Howard’s best chance to become a fantasy goldmine again is to be traded out of Tampa to a team starving for a super-skilled tight end. Can you see Howard swallowing up red zone passes from Tom Brady in New England in 2020? Maybe offensively-challenged squads such as Jacksonville, Washington, or Arizona try to acquire the former first-rounder for a bargain-basement price. If Howard lands somewhere other than Tampa Bay in 2020, then he instantly becomes a more attractive fantasy piece.

 

Jonnu Smith - Tennessee Titans

2019 Stats:  35 receptions, 439 yards, 3 TD

Delanie Walker ruled the roost at tight end for Tennessee for several seasons, but injuries and Father Time combined to tackle him this year, so he probably will not be in the Titans' plans for 2020. Smith filled in admirably for Walker this year and last as well. The third-year pro had five games of 50-plus receiving yards and was an integral part of Tennessee’s turnaround once Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback and the offense went from one of the worst in the NFL to an above-average unit with plenty of playmakers.

Smith is more of a home run threat than most tight ends. That was witnessed when he broke a 57-yard run on a rare tight end handoff in Week 15. It was the longest run for a tight end in over 40 years. Because he has the speed of a wide receiver and can break bulk plays, Smith has to be thought of as a great buy-low or draft-low candidate for 2020 since he just needs to learn how to be more consistent and run routes better to take his game to the next level. If Tannehill and the Titans offense continue their upward trend, Smith should have 700 yards and six scores next season and be someone to build around in dynasty leagues.

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