Tyler Higbee appears to be a love/hate fantasy player this year. Meanwhile, there seems to be a slow build on players like Adam Trautman and Irv Smith Jr.
I think there is a fair amount of low floor and high ceiling to most of the players I'm highlighting here...
1.) Tyler Higbee doubles his receiving yards from last season (achieves over 1,042 receiving yards).
Justification: Higbee took a downturn last season, dropping from 734 yards in 2019 to 502 yards in 2020. In comes Matthew Stafford, who is above average in targeting his tight ends. Stafford will enjoy an improved offensive line and some improved weapons on offense. Finally, with Gerald Everett out of the picture, Higbee is the sole tight end to receive targets.
Route running is a leverage game! Tyler Higbee attacks the DBs inside shoulder to sell the in-breaker.— Damian Parson (@DP_NFL) August 11, 2021
He crosses the defender's face and displays physical route running to fight through the obvious hold! pic.twitter.com/bjiOtKQ6Zl
2.) Noah Fant becomes the ninth TE to have 100 catches in one season.
Justification: Most recently achieved by Darren Waller in 2020 (107), Zach Ertz in 2018 (116) and Travis Kelce in 2018 and 2020 (103, 105)...it’s not a common overall feat (although it’s become more common recently). Fant had 40 receptions his rookie year, and moved up to 62 receptions last year. While the Broncos have a solid left tackle, the rest of the line is sub-par, leaving the QB competition up in the air for protection. Whether it’s Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater, a reliable tight end option will be there to help bail them out in a pinch. The Broncos targeted their tight ends 27.8% of the time last season tied for 6th most in the NFL.
3.) Adam Trautman has a 5X increase in receiving yards and receiving TDs this season.
Justification: He’s big on my lists for sleepers this year. After a solid rookie season (as the second string TE in New Orleans) where Adam posted 15 receptions on 16 targets for 171 yards and 1 TD, he is the sole man for the Saints now that Jared Cook is out. There are a lot of targets up for grabs, and he has proven in a small sample size that if he gets the ball, he can excel.
4.) Travis Kelce finishes outside the top 5 TEs this season.
Justification: Kelce has positioned himself to end his career among the great tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Shannon Sharpe and Greg Olsen. He’s currently 10th in career receiving yards and will likely be 7th by the end of 2021. When you look at a number of those greats, though, they slow down around 31-32 years of age. It’s not considerable, but it’s common to see the receiving yards drop below 1,000 and the TD count to decrease by 3-4 scores. This could see him drop to TE6/7 status.
5.) Irv Smith Jr. is a top 7 TE this season.
Justification: Currently sitting around TE13, Irv Smith Jr. finds himself as the TE1 on a team that enjoyed feeding Kyle Rudolph for years. Initial practices have seen him utilized heavily, and he has rewarded the investment well. That said, this is just practice. Smith Jr. also showcased his potential late last season when he went off for 216 yards and five TDs—catching 19 out of 26 targets (74% reception rate). That is in line with Darren Waller and Travis Kelce reception rates.