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Best-Ball Pre-Draft Values - Tight End

With just a couple of weeks left before the NFL Draft, it might be tempting to take a wait-and-see approach to best-ball leagues, mocks, or fantasy football activity in general. After all, everything is about to change!

For serious best-ball players, this is the wrong approach. We understand that the current ADP is about to get shaken, not stirred, and many players will see their ADP rise or fall dramatically based on where skill players are selected.

Phil Clark has already covered the best value picks at wide receiver in depth, so now it's time to hone in on tight end. Knowing that FFPC uses TE-premium scoring of an extra half-point per reception, it is more critical to target the right one. These are the most desirable tight end targets based on current pre-NFL Draft ADP in FFPC  best-ball leagues.

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Noah Fant, Denver Broncos - 67 ADP

There now appears to be a good chance the Broncos land a quarterback like Trey Lance at the ninth spot in the draft. The first three picks are bound to be QBs but after that, we can definitively rule out Cincinnati, Miami, or Carolina from taking one. The Lions made a point of acquiring Jared Goff rather than another draft pick in the Matthew Stafford deal because they apparently believe in him, so that scratches them out. Atlanta has too much invested in Matt Ryan still and has other pressing needs, so I would be shocked if they take a QB. That means an upgrade could be in store while the worst case is another year of Drew Lock or the addition of someone like Teddy Bridgewater.

All things considered, Fant was fortunate to even approach TE1 status in fantasy considering he missed a game and was catching balls from Lock, Brett Rypien, and Jeff Driskel. Let's not forget the Kendall Hinton game either where the team completed exactly one pass on nine attempts. Fant is a receiver in a tight end's body and simply needs some stability in the offense to reach his potential. If you miss out on the top three tight ends early on, Fant is the best Tier Two value.

 

Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings - 84 ADP

Smith's value jumped up once Kyle Rudolph signed with the Giants in free agency. This is not unlike his target share jumping up late last season after a slow start to the season.

There isn't much consistency here but Smith could experience a third-year breakout as the main tight end. The Vikings seem content to stick with the duo of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson at wide receiver, not having added anyone of consequence through free agency. We know they will continue to address the defense on draft day and have to address the hole at left tackle as well. Smith could be third in line for targets in Minnesota. He and Rudolph combined for 58 receptions and 699 yards on 80 targets last year. If he inherits those stats on his own, it makes him a top-eight fantasy tight end in 2021 yet is being drafted as the TE12.

 

Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles - 123 ADP

It was a year to forget for Ertz, who was drafted as the TE4 on average, in front of Darren Waller. It's not just the fact he missed five games that hurt fantasy teams; he recorded a career-low 9.3 yards per reception and an abysmal 4.7 yards per target. By contrast, Waller averaged 11.2 yards per reception and 8.2 yards per target. Despite the massively disappointing season, in the time he played Ertz was eighth among tight ends in target share at 18.9% even with Dallas Goedert on the field with him. He's technically still an Eagle but the contract stalemate hasn't been resolved and Ertz could be shipped off elsewhere before or even during the NFL Draft.

The ideal landing spot would be Indianapolis where he could be reunited with Carson Wentz in a TE-friendly offense. Jacksonville and Buffalo also have openings at the position but haven't been linked to Ertz in trade talks. Either way, Ertz could wind up as a big riser just weeks from now. Even if he plays out his final days in Philly, a healthy Ertz should outperform last year's version, especially if Jalen Hurts is the real deal.

 

Gerald Everett, Seattle Seahawks - 139 ADP

It's easy to forget that Everett was drafted in the early portion of the second round by the Rams three years ago because of his athleticism and receiving ability. Everett had a 91st percentile College Dominator rating coming out of South Alabama and posted superior workout metrics.

This never translated to superior production on the field, unfortunately. Everett showed incremental improvements in total yardage each season but reached a career peak of just 417 yards in 2020 while again taking a backseat to Tyler Higbee. Higbee was on the field for 77% of the team's offensive snaps while Everett was at 61% and Higbee running 35 more routes.

Now that Everett has moved on to Seattle and is attached to Russell Wilson rather than Jared Goff, he becomes much more intriguing. Greg Olsen has retired, Jacob Hollister has gone to Buffalo, and Luke Willson remains unsigned. Seattle hasn't replaced David Moore at receiver yet either. While I expect them to draft a wideout in Round 4 of the NFL Draft or sign a discount veteran, neither option should impact Everett, whose value could steadily climb throughout the offseason as drafters realize his potential.

 

Chris Herndon, New York Jets - 216 ADP

No, this isn't another declaration that every Jet is going to boom in a post-Adam Gase environment. We don't know how Zach Wilson will handle his transition to the pros, assuming that's who they select with their second overall pick of course. We also can't assume the team won't bring in more competition at tight end beyond Tyler Kroft. Herndon will get first crack to keep the starting job, now he just has to prove he can do something with it.

Herndon is a post-hype sleeper that is easy to forget about between his injury-lost season in 2019 and the forgettable/regrettable season the whole Jets team put together in 2020. He's just 25 years old though and could be in line for the type of production many expected this past season.

 

Dan Arnold, Carolina Panthers - 251 ADP

By the point when it's time to throw darts, point one squarely at Arnold. The undrafted receiver turned tight end has gone from New Orleans to Arizona to Carolina, making three teams in four seasons. One might argue that his inability to be fantasy-relevant on two of the most prolific offenses in the league renders him useless now that he's going to the Panthers. I don't care how much you like Sam Darnold, there's clearly a downgrade here from the likes of Kyler Murray and Drew Brees. But we know targets are the lifeblood of fantasy value and he now has just two viable threats to compete with in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson at receiver. Ian Thomas has done nothing to show he is secure in the TE1 job.

Make no mistake about it, Arnold will not be asked to block. He ran a route on 97.3% of his snaps, tied with Mark Andrews for the fourth-highest mark in the NFL. The only hesitation is the fact that Carolina is very much in the mix for Kyle Pitts if he is available at the eighth pick. Still, for a last-round pick as your TE3, there is nobody with greater upside.

 

A Word About Rookies

In my previous look at FFPC values and reaches, I mentioned that rookie fever was yet to sink in. Once prospects have landing spots, their draft value jumps exponentially. This isn't necessarily the case with tight ends since it's rare for a TE to produce offensively as a rookie.

Kyle Pitts may be one of the most dynamic athletes ever at the position with a SPARQ score of 120.9 and a sky-high ceiling.

But... he's a rookie and still just 20 years old. For every Vernon Davis, there's a Rob Housler. (Also, please take note of Noah Fant's name up there.) Now, I don't anticipate him to bust in the pros but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet, especially before we see where he winds up.

Pitts has been linked to nearly every team in the NFL in various mocks at one point or another. The bottom line is that if he doesn't go somewhere guaranteed to produce a high target share because of competition, he might be overvalued in every format other than dynasty. Think Atlanta or Dallas. I can't feel comfortable drafting him as the sixth tight end, even in best ball leagues, where he'll nearly cost a top-50 pick in FFPC with its TE premium scoring.

My favorite dice roll in pre-draft best-ball leagues is Brevin Jordan. The Miami Hurricanes have been a pro-tight-end factory since the turn of the century. While not all have panned out (see: Herndon, Chris above), Jordan looks to have the best hands and natural receiving ability of any TE in this class after Pitts. With an FFPC ADP of 305 overall, there's no risk with plenty of potential reward if he lands in the lap of the Jags, Titans, or Cardinals.



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