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Tight End Best-Ball Tiered Rankings and Analysis (April 2019)


All of a sudden, the tight end has become cool in fantasy football. Maybe not all of them, but the position that used to be largely ignored until the middle rounds is now a priority for some. If you managed to nab one of the top three TEs last year, you had a clear advantage over the competition. The big questions entering 2019 are whether we will see the trio of Kelce, Ertz, and Kittle repeat their staggering statlines and if another tight end might emerge as well.

The ranking experts at RotoBaller have assembled tiered rankings in all major formats in order to help you prepare for your upcoming drafts, and improve your chances of winning your leagues in 2019. This includes our updated Best Ball rankings, which are designed to assist you in constructing rosters that will accumulate the highest point totals throughout the season.

With the NFL Draft fast approaching, it's a good time to look at the pre-draft values at each position. We already looked at running back and wide receiver rankings for best-ball leagues, so now let's shift to tight end. We will continue to update these rankings in Best Ball and every other format throughout the offseason -- you can find the latest rankings here.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

TE Best-Ball Rankings (April)

Position Rank Position Tier Player Name Overall Rank Overall Tier
1 1 Travis Kelce 16 2
2 1 Zach Ertz 24 3
3 1 George Kittle 29 4
4 2 Eric Ebron 72 6
5 2 Evan Engram 73 6
6 2 Vance McDonald 78 7
7 2 Hunter Henry 79 7
8 2 O.J. Howard 84 7
9 3 David Njoku 101 9
10 3 Jack Doyle 112 10
11 3 Trey Burton 119 10
12 3 Austin Hooper 120 10
13 3 Jared Cook 123 10
14 3 Kyle Rudolph 126 10
15 3 Delanie Walker 127 10
16 3 Chris Herndon IV 130 10
17 4 Dallas Goedert 142 11
18 4 Mark Andrews 146 11
19 4 Jimmy Graham 147 11
20 4 Jordan Reed 148 12
21 4 Greg Olsen 150 12
22 5 Tyler Eifert 164 13
23 5 Ian Thomas 167 13
24 6 Jake Butt 189 14
25 6 Cameron Brate 190 14
26 6 Blake Jarwin 197 14
27 6 Mike Gesicki 202 15
28 6 Gerald Everett 206 15
29 7 Jason Witten 217 15
30 7 Tyler Kroft 223 16
31 7 Irv Smith Jr. 242 16
32 7 Hayden Hurst 246 16
33 7 T.J. Hockenson 259 17
34 8 Antonio Gates 262 18
35 8 Noah Fant 274 18
36 8 Ricky Seals-Jones 278 18
37 8 Nick Vannett 281 18
38 8 Charles Clay 282 18
39 8 Austin Seferian-Jenkins 293 18
40 8 Jonnu Smith 294 18
41 8 Jeff Heuerman 305 19
42 9 Adam Shaheen 320 19
43 9 C.J. Uzomah 332 19
44 9 Luke Willson 335 19
45 9 Vernon Davis 343 20
46 9 Jordan Thomas 349 20
47 9 Demetrius Harris 360 20
48 9 Dwayne Allen 363 20
49 9 Josh Hill 364 20
50 10 Will Dissly 381 20
51 10 Tyler Higbee 384 20
52 10 Jesse James 389 20
53 10 Geoff Swaim 390 20
54 10 Ed Dickson 402 21
55 10 Ryan Griffin 404 21
56 10 Matt LaCosse 406 21
57 10 Mo Alie-Cox 407 21

 

Tier 1

Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, George Kittle

There will be an interesting dynamic between these players' performance and their expected value in 2019 after record-setting seasons. Kelce is practically a first-rounder in current best-ball drafts with an ADP of 13 overall. Ertz and Kittle can be found at the end of the second round, with ADPs of 23 and 24 respectively. If you want one of these stud TEs, you'll have to strike early.

That said, it seems highly unlikely any of the trio will repeat last year's production. The entire Chiefs offense has to see some negative regression, doesn't it? The potential absence of Tyreek Hill due to suspension could affect the team's ability to move the ball as well. The Eagles and 49ers will both try to focus on the ground game more, as numerous injuries to running backs forced them to pass more than desired. The Eagles acquired Jordan Howard, while the 49ers acquired Tevin Coleman and will also get Jerick McKinnon back. It's not as if these three will suddenly fall off a cliff but you have to carefully weigh the value of having an advantage at tight end over taking your first RB or WR in round two.

 

Tier 2

Eric Ebron, Evan Engram, Vance McDonald, Hunter Henry, O.J. Howard

Eric Ebron - you love him or you hate him. If you had him on your fantasy team last year, you're in the former camp and if you ever spent a draft pick on him any year prior, it's the latter. There is no way he will repeat last year's touchdown total of 12. Simple regression would be enough to justify that prediction, but let's also take into account that Jack Doyle probably won't miss most of the entire season again and Devin Funchess (I know, chuckle away) is a big-bodied receiver that could steal at least a few red zone targets. Ebron is better-suited for the best-ball format than head-to-head leagues but will likely be overdrafted everywhere based on his 2018 breakout season.

You won't find a ranker who likes Vance McDonald more than Fantasy Bomb co-host Chris Mangano. I can't say I disagree. McDonald is bound to see a jump in target share based on the departure of Antonio Brown and long-time Steelers TE Jesse James. Unless you think James Washington is ready to take a major leap, Donte Moncrief is a true WR2, or the Steelers will draft a rookie receiver that is ready to play right away and contribute to the degree JuJu Smith-Schuster was, McDonald must be considered a starting fantasy tight end in 2019.

Hunter Henry continues to tease us with untapped potential, mainly because he didn't take a snap in 2018 until the playoffs. Will he be able to co-exist with Mike Williams in the red zone? The Chargers tend to be fairly balanced in that area of the field, running 51 times versus 66 pass attempts. There should be plenty to go around but it's not a given that Henry will repeat his eight-touchdown output as a rookie. His mediocre 2017 numbers of 579 yards and four TD might be more in line with what we should expect, which makes him a low-end TE1 rather than a top-five player at the position.

You may see O.J. Howard go as high as fourth among tight ends because of optimism surrounding Bruce Arians as Tampa's new coach. Howard was enjoying a fine season, averaging 16.6 yards per reception (ninth-best in the league for all players), until his season-ending injury in Week 10. Arians hasn't traditionally utilized the tight end much but he's never had a tight end like Howard. We have some reservations about Tampa's offense as a whole, which explains his ranking as the eighth TE here, but you could see him creep above Henry or even Ebron in the coming months.

 

Tier 3

David Njoku, Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, Austin Hooper, Jared Cook, Kyle Rudolph, Delanie Walker, Chris Herndon

Does Njoku belong in tier two instead of this group of misfit tight ends with questionable weekly value? Almost but not quite. The addition of Odell Beckham to Cleveland alongside Jarvis Landry puts two target hogs on the field at all times, rendering Njoku as a less-reliable target, especially given his 59.5% career catch rate, which is low for the position. His 63.6% catch rate in 2018 ranked 32nd among qualified TE. His upside is palpable but the volume and reliability just aren't there.

Jared Cook in New Orleans=fantasy gold. Or does it? Cook is coming off his best season at the age of 31, largely due to the fact he was the only legitimate receiving threat in Oakland for much of the season. Once Amari Cooper was dealt and Jordy Nelson was injured, Cook reaped the benefits. He saw the fifth-most red zone targets of all tight ends but only cashed in for four TD on those 16 passes, finishing with six scores for the season. There's no argument that the Saints are a better offense and Drew Brees is a superior quarterback but he will go from being the top option to the fourth or fifth at best. There still hasn't been a TE other than Jimmy Graham who stood out for fantasy purposes under the Payton-Brees regime and Cook probably won't be the exception. He will have his moments but figures to be a fallback option for those who decide to wait on TE before nabbing a starter rather than a sleeper to target.

 

Tier 4

Dallas Goedert, Mark Andrews, Jimmy Graham, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen

A pair of second-year players mixed in with a group of oft-injured veterans makes for some interesting decisions among the backup TE crowd. Goedert showed that there is room for him to produce even with Ertz putting up Madden-like numbers any given week. He could very well be the rare TE handcuff worth owning on the chance something happens to Ertz.

Is there anything left in the tank for Jimmy Graham? The good news is that he played in all 16 games for a third straight year. The bad news is that he scored just twice in his first season as a Packer and saw the lowest receptions per game total (3.4) of his career since he was a rookie. With few highs in between the numerous lows, Graham seems like a worse bet in best-ball than re-draft.

If there is a risk worth taking after the first 20 tight ends are drafted, Greg Olsen is it. There was speculation he would retire to fill the void left by Jason Witten, who we won't be recommending in this article, in the announcer's booth. Instead, Olsen has declared he'll be back for 2019 as long as he is able to keep playing. With a full offseason to recover from various foot/ankle issues, he is still the starting tight end for a good offense with a QB he knows well. If you select Olsen, you may want to hedge your bet with Ian Thomas (below) or another player later on as your third TE. This assumes you waited to draft your first TE initially and are seeking more upside than you would get from a player like Doyle or Hooper as your starter.

 

Tier 5

Tyler Eifert, Ian Thomas

This tiny tier has a pair of interesting tweeners. Eifert could produce TE1 fantasy value again if he ever stayed healthy. That's a big IF but one worth taking in best-ball as a backup to the position, as long as you grab a third tight end later on. An incentive-laden one-year deal under a new coaching regime should give him plenty of motivation to stay on the field.

Thomas started slow but ended his rookie year strong in place of Greg Olsen. Between Week 12-16, he averaged five catches and 49.2 yards per game. Olsen is back for one more season but his fragile foot could lead to extended playing time for Thomas again, making him a potential bargain backup.

 

Tier 6

Jake Butt, Cameron Brate, Blake Jarwin, Mike Gesicki, Gerald Everett

There seems to be a lot of optimism among our rankers (myself included) that Jake Butt will claim the starting job in Denver after missing his entire rookie season. The team did sign TE-lovin' passer Joe Flacco to solidify the passing game but they also signed Jeff Heureman to a two-year, $8 million deal with a one-mil signing bonus. It's likely that Heuerman keeps the job heading into camp and will need to be outplayed by Butt in order for things to change. Still, at this point you are chasing upside and Butt has it over Heuerman.

It might be surprising to hear that Gerald Everett had the fifth-best player grade on offense among all tight ends from ProFootballFocus last year (76.6), better than Evan Engram and Zach Ertz. The problem is that Everett saw half as many total snaps as players like Ertz and even had less than rookies Dallas Goedert and Chris Herndon. Tyler Higbee is superior as a pass-blocker and the team just doesn't target tight ends much to begin with. Everett did show signs of life late last year, catching 14 passes in a three-week stretch when Todd Gurley's struggles began. That said, unless things go south for the team's running game, Everett is a third-year TE without the upside you'd expect on such a prolific offense.

 

Tier 7 and lower

Stop, no, and don't. That's the best advice for most of these tight ends but if you go with three on your roster then there's a good chance you'll be selecting someone from these lower tiers. Despite the talent at the top of the rookie class, we still don't know where players like Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, and Irv Smith will wind up. It's best to avoid them until we know they might be in a position to see some targets of value.

Ricky Seals-Jones has seen his minor hype come and go along with any excitement regarding Arizona's offense. That makes him a nice post-hype sleeper if you believe Kliff Kingsbury can right all that is wrong in the desert. Veteran Charles Clay isn't a major threat, specifically because he's never healthy for very long, having missed 12 games over the last five years and playing under the questionable designation for several others. RSJ at least provides Josh Rosen (or Kyler Murray) a nice red zone target.

Hayden Hurst was supposed to be the pass-catching tight end in Baltimore but his delayed start to the 2018 season put him behind Mark Andrews. Hurst has the physical talent but now has a QB who won't throw it even 20 times a game, limiting his upside. That situation is best left alone in fantasy.

You might see Austin Seferian-Jenkins shoot up the rankings on a lot of other sites but we know better. Not that we don't like him as a player but we know New England won't stand pat (pun intended) with him alone to replace Gronk. There's a good chance they draft a tight end early, which will affect ASJ's snap count. If you believe Tom Brady will hesitate to throw to a rookie TE, go back to the 2010 season and look up the Patriots' player stats. I'll wait...

More Best-Ball League Strategy


Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




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