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Rookie Tight Ends In The Best Fantasy Situations


The 2019 NFL draft is complete and it's time to start prepping for fantasy football. Today, we're talking about tight ends that could make an impact in the rookie season. The most difficult part of this will be figuring out which tight ends can avoid the rookie wall that most rookie tight ends seem to hit when they jump to the NFL.

Evan Engram was a great player during his first year in the league, but that was more of an exception to the rule than an indication that the NFL is becoming easier for rookies. O.J. Howard was viewed as the most NFL-ready tight end in a decade when he was coming into the league, and he didn't even have 40 targets during his rookie season.

There are a few guys worth looking at in dynasty formats, such as Jace Sternberger of the Green Bay Packers or Kahale Warring with the Houston Texans, but we want those guys that can contribute right away and help you win. These guys can be big focal points of their offense, and they're going to get the opportunity to start right away once they get on the field.

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T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

When a team drafts you in the Top 10, you're going to be a major focal point of whatever they do on that side of the ball. T.J. Hockenson still has room to grow, but he will get that opportunity right away. The Lions signed Jesse James in free agency, but they don't have any other player on the roster that can take snaps away from him.

This offseason, the Lions changed offensive coordinators to former Seattle Seahawks coordinator Darrell Bevell. That should be an advantageous situation for him. Packers' tight end Jimmy Graham had two great seasons, and they both came under Bevell. He likes to use the tight ends down in the red zone, as evidenced by the 10 touchdowns Graham had.

Hockenson may not be the most efficient tight end this season, and he might not put up the highest yardage totals. However, he's going to get plenty of opportunities. That's what you're looking for in a rookie. He may not be your top option at tight end, but he will put up solid TE2 numbers in this offense when the year is over.

 

Noah Fant, Denver Broncos

Both Iowa tight ends are making this list, and Noah Fant could arguably be higher on the list than Hockenson, although this list is in no specific order. Fant is immediately the number one tight end in the Mile High City, and he is playing in an offense that will love to use the tight ends. Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello spent the last two seasons as the quarterbacks coach with the San Francisco 49ers. They had a tight end that was a "decent" player.

Fant has the potential to be the next George Kittle. Both are above-average athletes for the position, and they both came out of Iowa. While Kittle is the better blocker, it's all about the receiving game when it comes to the fantasy football world. That is where Fant excels. Despite playing in a run-first offense in college, he was still able to make plays happen. He was especially good in the red zone where he took advantage of his 6'5," 241-pound frame to haul in 18 touchdowns over the last two years.

Similar to Hockenson, Fant has no challengers to his title as TE1. He also quickly becomes at least the third-best receiving threat the team has behind wide receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton. Fant is a great threat up the seam, and, whether it's Joe Flacco or Drew Lock slinging him the football, he'll get plenty of opportunities to be one of the top tight ends in the NFL his year.

 

Drew Sample, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals brought back tight end Tyler Eifert on a one-year prove-it deal, and they have C.J. Uzomah in place as the second-string tight end. So, why is Drew Sample on this list? In his six-year career, Eifert has played 16 games zero times, and that number has steadily decreased following his injury at the Pro Bowl in 2015. Meanwhile, as the featured tight end last year, Uzomah didn't even crack 500 yards, and he only had three touchdowns. The door is wide open for Sample to insert himself as TE1.

In college, Sample played on a team that was built on winning defensive possessions, and the offense just had to do their job. He was a decent blocker, and he did his job as a receiver. The Bengals grabbed him in the second round because they believe that he can be a big part of what they want to do. Putting Sample in this group is less of a boost to him, and it's more of an indictment of the guys in front of him. If they won't strangle their hold on the position, he's a solid enough player to take over their spot.

He's not going to put up gaudy stat lines that we might see from guys like Fant, but he's going to get consistent targets on a weekly basis. Quarterback Andy Dalton has always liked to use the tight end position, but he hasn't had a consistent player at that spot that could help him out. Sample can be a great safety blanket for Dalton, and he can be a safety blanket for you in fantasy.

 

Josh Oliver, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars made a splash in free agency when they signed quarterback Nick Foles away from the Philadelphia Eagles. When the draft started, they knew they needed to get him some more offensive weapons. Josh Oliver is a good weapon to go grab in the third round. He isn't Zach Ertz, but he does have some of those elements to his game. He can line up in line, but he can also be moved into the slot. At 6'5" and 250 pounds, there won't be many slot corners that can handle his size.

Not only did the Jaguars grab the Eagles' former quarterback. They went and grabbed a former quarterbacks coach to be the offensive coordinator in John DeFelippo. The Eagles used the tight ends a lot, and Oliver should be used in a very similar fashion. The only tight end in front of him is former Dallas Cowboy Geoff Swaim. Oliver should have no problems pushing past him to become the starter for this offense.

The Jaguars' offense has done a lot of ground-and-pound stuff in the past few seasons, but it's likely that they're going to try and open things up more with Foles under center. That will give Oliver more opportunities to succeed. With tight ends, it doesn't take much to make a difference. Even if he is just a red zone guy that catches three balls a game with a touchdown, you'll take that from a rookie tight end all day long.

 

Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills

Dawson Knox wasn't the most-utilized tight end in college, but that was more of an issue with who his teammates were. They had players like A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge taking up the majority of the targets, and that left Knox to take up what was left. In a Bills offense that doesn't have a ton of proven pass catchers with a young quarterback, Knox can quickly become the number one tight end option by building his rapport with sophomore quarterback Josh Allen.

Knox will have to work to beat out free agent signing Tyler Kroft, but he shouldn't have any trouble doing that, especially if his blocking is able to translate to the next level. Knox was one of the best blocking tight ends in this draft class. The Bills have put an emphasis on keeping Allen upright, and Knox falls right in with that mentality. His blocking may be his best skill, but he's a good receiver when given the opportunity.

Knox can give Allen a safety blanket that all young quarterbacks look to develop. He knows how to use his size effectively, and he can give Allen an option to dump it down when things aren't going right on a play. Knox will get better as a receiver with more time, and he's playing with an offense that has wanted to use their tight ends. He may not be the most athletic guy in the room, but he's a smart football player that works hard on the football field.

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