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Biggest Tight End Busts of 2021 - Fantasy Football Year In Review

Jonnu Smith - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

The 2021 season was not kind to some of fantasy football’s top tight ends as not every highly-drafted TE put up the numbers Baltimore’s Mark Andrews did this season.

Minnesota’s Irv Smith Jr., Green Bay’s Robert Tonyan, and Washington’s Logan Thomas all had their seasons ruined due to major injuries, and all three had the makings of being top-10 fantasy tight ends. Meanwhile, some other tight ends that fantasy managers banked on being solid or spectacular turned out to be busts. Whether it was due to poor play, the subpar supporting cast around them, or offensive game plans that ignored them, these tight ends had seasons their fantasy managers would like to forget.

Here are the biggest busts at the tight end position in fantasy football for the 2021 season!

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Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

2021 Stats: 61 receptions, 560 receiving yards, five TD

After following his breakout 2019 season with a disappointing 2020 dud, 2021 was supposed to be the year Higbee became a full-fledged fantasy force. He went into the season with a huge upgrade at quarterback with Matthew Stafford throwing to him instead of inconsistent Jared Goff, and he no longer was stuck in a tight end timeshare with Gerald Everett, who took his talents to Seattle. Higbee was going to be mastermind Sean McVay’s unquestioned top tight end in one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NFL. The sky was the limit for Higbee.

Yet Higbee, who racked up 521 receiving yards over an amazing five-game stretch in 2019, barely topped that total over a full season this year. He was rarely used on seam patterns downfield and averaged less than 10 yards per catch. He was usually a bystander watching Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and eventually Odell Beckham Jr. take all the targets when Stafford would throw. Higbee saved his best game for the last game of the season when he scored two touchdowns. Too bad the majority of fantasy leagues ended their playoffs during Week 18, so Higbee’s outburst was meaningless for most of his managers.


Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots

2021 Stats: 28 receptions, 294 receiving yards, one TD

Fantasy footballers and pundits knew Smith and Hunter Henry both signing for multimillions with New England in the offseason was a recipe for fantasy disaster. If you thought these two could put up the same monster numbers Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez did back in New England’s glory days, especially in a run-first offense helmed by a rookie quarterback, you were as dumb as the people who thought Kanye West and Kim Kardashian would remain a couple for 50 years.

Smith went from being a red-zone force (eight TD in 2020) to being a red-zone afterthought. While tight end teammate Henry racked up nine touchdowns, Smith only managed one measly touchdown. Smith did not even average two catches or 20 yards per game. After hauling in nine passes over the opening two weeks, Smith did not have a four-reception game the rest of the season. Hopefully, he will become more involved in the offense in 2022, but it is highly doubtful he will post the numbers he did during his time in Tennessee unless Henry is hurt or traded.


Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

2021 Stats: 60 receptions, 612 receiving yards, zero TD

We all knew the plan was for Kmet was to be Chicago’s top tight end this year. Longtime stalwart Jimmy Graham was going to be slowly put out to pasture so Kmet could get on the field and prove to people why he was a second-round draft choice in 2020. His 28-243-2 line during his rookie campaign did not deter fantasy managers from taking a flyer on him, especially in dynasty leagues where they thought he could be a solid fantasy find for the next several seasons.

Kmet was able to catch 60 passes for 612 yards this season, even though the quarterbacks throwing to him could not hit the broad side of an elephant most weeks and the offense reduced Pro Bowl wide receiver Allen Robinson to a mere sideline spectator in many games.  The problem was Kmet could not find the end zone if Columbus, Magellan, and the best GPS in the world teamed up to navigate his way for him. How bad is it that Kmet went scoreless? Chicago’s No. 3 tight end, Jesse James, scored a TD despite only having seven receptions on the season. Worse, No. 4 TE Jesper Horsted had two touchdowns, and he only had two catches!!!!!!


Other TE Busts Receiving Votes

Evan Engram, New York Giants

2021 Stats: 46 receptions, 408 receiving yards, three TD

Engram stayed healthy for 15 games (a rarity) but still posted a career-low in receiving yards and failed to average nine yards per catch. Much of the blame goes to the quarterbacking trio of Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon, and Jake Fromm, but Engram failed to do much fantasy-wise even though most of the Giants' receiving corps was decimated due to injury.

Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

2021 Stats: 38 receptions, 345 receiving yards, three TD

Hooper proved his 2020 season was not a fluke and that he probably is not worth the millions Cleveland lavished him with a couple of years ago. For the second season in a row, he was stuck in an offense that revolved around its running backs while being trapped in a three-way tight end rotation with David Njoku and Harrison Bryant. A change of scenery would be great for Hooper, and/or one of the other tight ends on the Browns roster.

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