Mike Fanelli | July 31st, 2019
The 2019 NFL season is almost here! Well, the preseason at least. The Hall of Fame Game between the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos is tomorrow. The regular season is a little more than five weeks away, but football is back baby! Of course, that means redraft fantasy leagues will be drafting left and right over the next month or so. With that in mind, here are my top 12 tight ends for the 2019 season.
My rankings are based on PPR scoring and I will have an updated top 12 after the third preseason week so be sure to check back then. For all my redraft PPR rankings, click here.
Make sure you also check out my other fantasy rankings:
1) Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
If someone has an argument as to why Kelce shouldn’t be the TE1 this preseason, I’d love to hear it. With that being said, Kelce finished as a TE1 in 80% of his games last season, finishing as a top-six guy in 67% of his games. He has finished as the TE1 for three straight seasons while averaging 89 catches and 7.3 touchdowns per season during that span. Kelce also has Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback and a defense that will give up plenty of points. I’ll say again, someone make an argument why Kelce shouldn’t be the TE1. Kelce is the only tight end in tier one for me.
2) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
Last year, Ertz had a career season across the board, finishing with 116 catches on 156 targets for 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns (matching his career-high in 2017) while catching 74.4% of his targets. Ertz was productive with either quarterback last year. In 11 games with Carson Wentz, Ertz averaged 7.5 catches for 79.5 yards and 18.7 fantasy points per game. By comparison, with Nick Foles, he averaged 7.8 catches for 68.5 yards and 17.6 fantasy points per game. If Ertz was listed as a wide receiver, he would have finished last year as the WR10. Despite being a tight end, Ertz is easily worth a third-round pick this year.
3) George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
Kittle quickly ends tier two for me. Coming off a breakout season where he had 88 catches on 136 targets and an NFL record 1,377 yards by a tight end. While some argue that Kittle should be ahead of Ertz or even Kelce, that’s nonsense. While Kittle hopefully will have Jimmy Garoppolo for the entire 2019 season, he won’t see the same number of targets. The player with the second-most targets on the 49ers last season was Kendrick Bourne with 66. However, with Dante Pettis‘ development and the addition of Deebo Samuel and Tevin Coleman, Kittle isn’t likely to see his 136 targets from last season, rather ending up with closer to 110 targets.
4) Evan Engram, New York Giants
After trading away Odell Beckham in the offseason and losing Golden Tate for four games because of a suspension, Engram is going to be assaulted with targets this season. Last year, Engram struggled, catching 45 balls on 64 targets for 577 yards and three touchdowns, finishing as the TE13 in 11 games played. However, Engram had a very productive rookie season, where he finished as the TE5. That year, Beckham missed the last 12 games of the season with an injury, setting up Engram as the feature guy in the passing game. Furthermore, last season in seven games with OBJ, Engram averaged 4.7 targets and 8.8 fantasy points per game, compared to 7.7 targets and 14.5 fantasy points per game in weeks 14-16 without OBJ.
5) Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
Unless you are Stephen A. Smith, you know that Henry didn’t play last season as he tore his ACL in May 2018. The Chargers have produced several fantasy relevant players the past few years, including Henry. In his first two years in the league, Henry has averaged 40.5 catches on 57.5 targets for 528.5 yards and six touchdowns per season. He has reportedly looked very good and aggressive in training camp, and with Antonio Gates finally off into retirement, Henry has the tight end spot all to himself. Some fantasy owners might be scared of taking him coming off a torn ACL at his ADP but remember, Henry was healthy enough to play in the Chargers’ playoff game verse the Patriots in January. Henry ends tier three.
6) O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Injuries have been an issue for Howard as he has missed 25% of his career games. However, when he is on the field, he has caught a touchdown in 46% of his games. Howard saw 4.8 targets per game last year but that number should jump to about 7.5 a game this season. The Buccaneers lost 179 targets from last year’s team with the departures of DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries, while the team did very little to replace them, meaning Howard should see a big uptick in targets as well. Most weeks if a tight end can score, he finishes as a TE1, and Howard has a knack for getting into the endzone and should end up with nine or more touchdowns this season.
7) Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
I am all in for the Vance Dance. Last season McDonald finished as the TE10, averaging 8.9 fantasy points per game while finishing as a TE1 in 36% of his games. While that doesn’t sound very impressive, the reason I’m all in on McDonald is the same reason for Howard; an uptick in targets. The Steelers lost 207 targets between Antonio Brown and Jesse James from last year’s team, and while they added a few receivers, McDonald will have every chance to be Ben Roethlisberger‘s number two passing weapon behind JuJu Smith-Schuster. Despite having just four touchdowns last season, McDonald finished tied for ninth among tight ends in that category, and with Brown’s NFL high 15 touchdowns from last season gone, McDonald could easily double his touchdown production.
8) Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints
Coming off a career year in Oakland where he was force-fed 101 targets, which he caught 68 of them for 896 yards and six touchdowns, finishing as the TE5 on the season. In the offseason, Cook left the dysfunctional Raiders and took his talents to New Orleans to pair up with a future Hall of Fame quarterback. The Saints haven’t produced a TE1 tight end since Ben Watson in 2015 when he finished as the TE7. However, Cook is the best tight end the Saints have had since Jimmy Graham and they needed to add a weapon around Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. All of the Saints’ tight ends from last season had 99 targets and Cook should get the majority of those this season.
9) Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons
Hooper closes out tier four but he might be one of the more underrated tight ends in fantasy football. Last season, Hooper finished as a top-six tight end in 33% of his games, only four tight ends had more such games. He was second on the Falcons in red-zone targets last year with 13 only behind Julio Jones with 17. Hooper finished as the TE6 last year, after finishing as the TE17 last year and the TE38 as a rookie. The downside with Hooper is the Falcons defense was killed with injuries last year and had no running game, forcing them to chase points, and that isn’t likely to be the same this year. Either way, Hooper should be viewed as a low-end TE1 and ends tier four.
10) Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts
In 2017, Ebron was the TE13 in Detroit but in his first year in Indianapolis, he easily had a career year and finished as the TE4. While I said Ebron was a sleeper last year, this year I’m very concerned with drafting Ebron. His splits with vs without Jack Doyle last season are drastic. In games with Doyle, Ebron averaged 3.7 targets and 38 receiving yards per game, compared to 9.1 targets and 51.3 receiving yards per game without Doyle. With Doyle coming back healthy, the Colts added Devin Funchess (another big athletic weapon) and Parris Campbell this offseason. Andrew Luck spreads the ball around but outside of T.Y. Hilton, the rest of the Colts’ weapons come with risk.
11) Trey Burton, Chicago Bears
Many thought Burton would explode in Matt Nagy’s offense with the Bears. However, Burton was more hit and miss than an elite tight end. While he finished as the TE8 last season, he averaged just 9.2 fantasy points per game. Burton finished as a TE1 in 47% of his games but then finished outside the top 24 tight ends in 40% of his games. The Bears have a lot of mouths to feed on offense and added feature running back David Montgomery this offseason; however, it shouldn’t surprise people if Burton has a good second year in Nagy’s offense, becoming a post-hype sleeper.
12) David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
Last season Njoku finished as the TE9, averaging exactly nine fantasy points per game. In his second season, he nearly doubling his catches and yards from his rookie year; however, his touchdowns remained the same at four. My concerns with Njoku is all the additions the Browns made in the last two seasons. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are clearly Baker Mayfield‘s top two guys and will demand over 100 targets each. Antonio Callaway is a very solid number three receiver, while Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and Duke Johnson is probably the best running back trio in the league. There are so many snaps in a game and I’m worried Njoku is going to be the one getting squeezed.
HM) Noah Fant, Denver Broncos
Rarely tight ends make a fantasy impact as a rookie but I think year Fant pushes for a TE1 finish, and because of that, he kicks off tier six. Many, including myself, believe Fant landed in the perfect landing spot for his fantasy value. Joe Flacco has a history of favoring his tight ends. Over the last three seasons, Flacco has targeted a tight end on 23% of his passes, the fifth-highest in the league during that span. Other than Emmanuel Sanders, the rest of the Broncos receivers are young pups, giving Fant a chance to steal a good percent of targets.
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