Here’s the whole deal on tight ends—you PAY UP for the big guys if you can. Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, George Kittle, AND Mark Andrews. That’s right—for me it’s a clear-cut top four, not just a top three. Andrews doesn’t get the respect he deserves. And no, I’m not worried about his recent cramping. Have you ever been to Spartanburg, SC? That’s a different kind of heat, y’all. Given that Andrews won’t play his football games in the walk-out-the-door-and-get-drenched humidity that is the south, I’m not worried about his recent cramping episodes.
Anyway, point is, you do what you can to snag one of these four monsters at a ridiculously thin fantasy football position. If you can successfully do so, odds are you’ve given yourself quite the edge on your competition.
If you fail to do so for some odd reason, here are three potential targets to take some shots on to fill the void.
Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams (Heath Capps)
Higbee looks like a stone cold lock to wind up as a top 10 tight end this year, but with upside for more. Former teammate and fellow tight end Gerald Everett has been jettisoned to the Seattle Seahawks, and is therefore no longer around to contribute to these two studs cannibalizing each other’s fantasy football value. Gone also is the underwhelming Jared Goff, and IN is the underrated Matthew Stafford. If you want to surmise that Goff (third-worst aDOT in 2020) is better-suited for a tight end than Stafford (5th-highest), you can be my guest. And maybe draft T.J. Hockenson (not going to argue). But at some point the quality of the pass itself has to matter, and in this regard Higbee is getting an upgrade in Stafford. Stafford has a career 62.6% completion rate, but he hasn’t been below 64% since 2014. He’s also been productive throughout his career despite the mess that is Detroit—just imagining what the savvy veteran can accomplish with the young and talented head coach Sean McVay in Los Angeles is mouthwatering.
Lastly, the loss of running back Cam Akers, to me, also points to more passing game volume. I’ve got Higbee as my TE6 in 2021.
Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots (Skyler Carlin)
After two straight seasons of having an offense that didn’t have the manpower to score points in bunches, the New England Patriots shelled out a ton of money in free agency this offseason. On the first day of free agency, the Patriots signed Jonnu Smith to a four-year, $50 million deal, making him one of the highest-paid tight ends in the NFL. Despite the addition of Smith, New England proceeded to sign Hunter Henry to a three-year, $37.5 million contract. Some people are concerned that Henry will hurt the value of Smith --- or vice versa. However, seeing that Smith was given the lengthier contract, and the fact that he’s a better athlete, I expect him to be a focal point of the offense in 2021. Besides signing two new tight ends, the Patriots also added Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to their wide receiver room. While Agholor could stretch the field and Bourne could operate as a depth option, there’s a decent chance that Smith leads New England’s offense in targets this season. Smith is an athletic freak at the tight end position and he’ll be utilized in a variety of ways in the offense, even on jet sweeps. His usage in the red zone alone will be enough to make him a massive value at a position that lacks consistency. The only thing preventing Smith from being a top 10 tight end in fantasy football in 2021 is a potential injury, but avoiding someone because of a possible injury can be dangerous, especially when the player is as talented as Smith.
Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints (Mark Abell)
Last year Drew Brees sent 86 passes to the various tight ends of the Saints, of which 60 were caught. This was good enough for the 7th-lowest percentage of passes to tight ends in the league (red flag). That said, 60 of those 86 passes went to Jared Cook, who is now with the Chargers. The 2nd-most passes (16 targets) went to Adam Trautman, who caught 15 of those 16 passes. In addition, Cook had seven receiving TDs, which opens up a lot of opportunities both in targets and red zone targets for Trautman to eat up. Additionally, the few games that Trautman received more than one target, he hit for long receptions of 41 and 29 yards, showing me that as a rookie, he demonstrated the ability to excel with more targets. Trautman could easily return top 10 tight end value at as a late-round/last pick.