2021 Fantasy Football: Double-Digit Round Sleeper Tight Endsby Christopher Gallagher June 2, 2021 0 comments
With training camps just over a month away from kicking off across the NFL, the time for fantasy football is nearly upon us. Tasked with navigating their respective drafts to maximize the talent on their rosters, general managers will once again look to find consistent production from the tight end position. With only a few star players across the league at the position who offer a sure-fire start every week, owners will once again likely need to look for late-round value picks.
Seeing shuffle at the position in the offseason via free agency, a few household names at the top found new teams with both Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry landing in New England. Along with this, longtime New Orleans tight end Jared Cook agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Chargers. While the players on this list are not guaranteed to enjoy breakout seasons next year, their respective situations offer players a strong shot at finishing inside the top six after the year’s conclusion. To put together this group of players, I used the average draft position (ADP) provided by Fantasypros.com.
Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings
The No. 1 option at the tight end position for the Vikings heading into next season following the release of Kyle Rudolph, look for the former second-round pick to enjoy a breakout 2021 campaign. Leaving fantasy owners disappointed a year ago, the 22-year-old hauled in just 30 receptions for 365 yards and five touchdowns. However, when Rudolph was forced to miss time late in the season with a foot injury, the University of Alabama alumn enjoyed one of the best stretches of his young career.
Racking up 15 receptions for 183 yards and three touchdowns, Smith ranked inside the top 10 for tight ends. Likely to receive a high volume of targets inside the red zone in the Viking’s heavy rushing attack, he will remain third on the depth chart in targets behind veteran wideout Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. Nonetheless, target Smith at his current 143 ADP to become a bigger part of Minnesota’s passing game as he heads into his third year in the league.
Chris Herndon, New York Jets
Failing to build off a stellar rookie campaign over his last two seasons, Herndon racked up just 32 receptions for 294 yards and three touchdowns last year. Averaging eight yards per reception, the former fourth-round pick will be under a new regime for the first time in his NFL career. Former San Francisco 49ers passing game coordinator, Mike Lafleur, remains set to take over for former New York head coach Adam Gase as the leader of the Jets offense.
Choosing to target tight ends in a large chunk of their offensive plays in Lafleur’s heavy play-action scheme, San Francisco directed 24.1 percent of their passes to the position a year ago. Remaining a yards after reception specialist, with nearly half of his receiving yards coming after the catch a year ago, if Herndon develops a quick rapport with Zach Wilson, a strong season could be waiting in the wings.
Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys
Currently ranked as TE20 heading into next season, Jarwin will look to return back to form after his injury. Tearing his ACL during the opening half of the Cowboy’s Week 1 matchup with the Los Angeles Rams after signing a four-year extension, the former undrafted free agent remains a better downfield threat than Dalton Schultz. Developing a connection with Dak Prescott two seasons ago, Jarwin recorded career highs in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns.
On track to be a top-five passing offense again in 2021 with the return of their franchise quarterback, the Cowboys will again have many mouths to feed on offense with receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. However, with passing numbers reaching all-time highs, take a flyer on Jarwin late in drafts as an elite athlete who will remain a matchup problem for opposing defenders.
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
A player that fantasy owners expected to make a bigger impact for the Bears a season ago, Kmet started just nine games for the team after being selected 43rd overall. Behind Jimmy Graham on the depth chart for the year, the Notre Dame product caught just 28 balls for 243 yards and two touchdowns. However, after becoming a larger part of Chicago’s offense down the stretch, the 22-year-old will look to become the go-to man at the tight end spot for Matt Nagy’s group.
With Justin Fields likely to take over as the starter for the team during their 2021 campaign, look for the Bears offense to benefit from better quarterback play. Just three years removed from ranking inside the top 10 in points per game during the rookie year of Mitchell Trubisky, bank on Kmet to have a breakout sophomore year in a much improved Chicago passing attack.
Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints
Gutted in free agency as they danced along the league’s salary cap number, the Saints lost Cook and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. With no other weapons added during free agency as a result of their sparse cap room, the team will once again rely on superstars Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara to carry the load on offense. Nonetheless, look for Trautman to have a significant uptick in targets with over 152 vacated targets during the offseason.
Friendly for tight ends during past seasons, the Saints saw Cook rank inside the top 12 in back-to-back seasons. One of the most productive players in college football, the Dayton native racked up 2,295 receiving yards and 31 touchdowns. An exceptional route runner in all areas, jump on the 24-year-old in the later rounds of your draft. Currently ranked as TE29, he is an ideal late-round boom or bust option.
Follow Chris Gallagher on Twitter @ChrisGally06
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