The tight end position is consistently one of the toughest positions to predict production for. This trend pushes tight ends that are consistently productive (Kelce, Kittle, Ertz) or recently productive (Andrews) to the top of draft boards; all four of these tight ends have a seasonal average draft position (ADP) within the first five rounds of 2020 fantasy football drafts. While it may be an effective strategy to use early draft capital to secure one of these tight ends, it can be an even more effective strategy to pass on a high investment for a volatile position; choosing instead to take a shot on a breakout from a player you can get late in your drafts.
Taking risks is essential to winning your fantasy football leagues, but they should be calculated risks. Below are five of the tight ends that I’m most willing to take a shot on in the 11th or later rounds of seasonal drafts, according to their PPR ADP per Fantasy Football Calculator.
Average Draft Position: 11.01
Fant had a slow start to his rookie season but had a productive back half of the season, especially once paired with Drew Lock. Fant finished with 40 receptions on 66 targets for 562 yards and 3 touchdowns. He caught 10 of 14 targets from Lock between Weeks 13-17, bringing in 188 yards and a touchdown. Fant had a relatively impressive first-year, especially when considering the slow development often associated with the position-both for NFL and fantasy football purposes.
This season I’m expecting Fant to see a significant increase in targets despite the additions of Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, and Albert Okwuegbunam. The Broncos should be passing the ball a lot this season (I project 575 times), meaning there will be volume to go around. NFL Betting Sites have the Broncos projected win total over/under 8 games, so despite all the new young firepower sportsbooks aren’t backing a big season. However, this could actually go in Fant’s favor, shootouts and a lot of garbage time late in games could bump Fant’s fantasy stock. Overall the second-year late-round Tight End should see an increase in receptions and receiving yards in 2020, and a slight increase in receiving touchdowns.
Fant’s current ADP is 11.01 (TE12) but I expect him to finish as high as TE6 in an offense that could surprise a lot this season. He is an ideal combination of low risk and high reward.
Average Draft Position: 12.12
Hockenson, like Fant, was a rookie in 2019. Unlike his fellow first-round NFL Draft selection, though, he did not stay healthy through the season. He missed time early in the season and then was shut down with an ankle injury following week 16. Hockenson also had the disadvantage of his gunslinging quarterback, Matthew Stafford, being unhealthy throughout his rookie campaign. The inconsistency tempered an early breakout for the eighth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Hockenson has the type of upside we’re looking for with this late-round tight end strategy. He had a huge Week 1 in 2019; catching 6 of 9 targets for a touchdown and 131 yards. I expect him to see more than 80 targets in an offense that should throw the ball well over 500 times. I have him projected as my TE16 this season but he has the upside of a top 5 tight end. He’s well worth the risk at his current ADP of 12.12 (TE14).
Average Draft Position: 13.04
Gesicki saw a significant increase in volume and productivity in 2019. He saw 89 targets in 2019 under new head coach Brian Flores, compared to just 32 targets in his rookie campaign. Those 89 targets were the second-most on the team, behind just DeVante Parker. He caught 51 of those targets for 570 yards and 5 touchdowns; 5 more touchdowns than his rookie campaign. Gesicki’s 2019 season, despite not looking overwhelmingly impressive was good enough for a TE12 finish.
In 2020 I expect him to see a slight increase in his targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. He should continue to see a steady rise in production and should not be pivoted from based on the likely change in quarterback; his game will be able to support either the veteran or the rookie gunslinger. I have him projected to finish as TE10 in my 2020 projections.
Gesicki is now heading into his third year, one which traditionally yields tight end breakouts, with a combination of Ryan Fitzpatrick, known for his big arm, and highly touted top five rookie selection Tua Tagovailoa. His current ADP is 13.04 (TE15), making him a great value option late in your seasonal fantasy football draft.
Average Draft Position: 13.08
Smith has steadily improved in each of his first three NFL seasons, progressing his way to 439 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 35 receptions in 2019. He saw a particular boost in 2019 once the Titans switched from Marcus Mariota, who has always been Smith’s quarterback, to Ryan Tannehill. With Mariota at the helm in 2019 (Weeks 1-5), Smith averaged 1 reception for 17.8 yards and 0 touchdowns per game. With Tannehill as the full-time quarterback (Weeks 7-17), Smith averaged 2.7 receptions for 31.8 yards and .27 touchdowns per game.
Tennessee has moved on from long-time staple Delanie Walker, meaning that Smith has a clear path to breaking out in 2020. I expect Smith to be the third-highest targeted player in the Titans offense, for him to push 600 receiving yards, and to find the endzone six times. I have Smith projected to be TE13 this season, with a ceiling much higher. His current ADP is 13.08 (TE16), meaning he could return good value as a late-round selection.
Average Draft Position: 13.06
Goedert lept past the sophomore slump in 2019, becoming a key part of an otherwise lacking Eagles passing attack down the stretch. After surpassing 50 receiving yards just once through Week 12, he finished with at least 50 receiving yards in 5 of the last 6 weeks of the 2019 season. That finish boosted Goedert to TE10 in PPR formats in 2019.
I project that Goedert will finish third in targets for the Eagles this season, despite the addition of first-round selection wide receiver Jalen Reagor and the anticipated breakout of sophomore wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside. He nearly doubled his targets between 2018 (44) and 2019 (87) and clearly has earned the trust of Wentz. Past Ertz and Sanders, Godert is the go-to in an offense that commonly deploys two tight end sets.
Goedert currently does not register in seasonal PPR ADP, meaning his average is not within the first 15 rounds of drafts. I expect him, though, to finish as TE15 as his floor-with a ceiling much higher.
Matt is a seasoned fantasy football analyst that writes dynasty and devy fantasy football content year-round. In addition to writing for Gridiron Experts, he writes and hosts a podcast for The Dynasty Draft Room and publishes all of his work at patreon.com/theffeducator