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Travis Kelce
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Best Ball Strategy

Updated Best-Ball TE Tiers

by John Daigle
Updated On: June 18, 2019, 8:23 am ET

Tier One


Travis Kelce (TE1) -- Nine top-five weekly finishes in '18, including four TE1-performances and a positional-high 1,401 air yards. Trickle-down stemming from any Tyreek Hill fallback puts Kelce in position to trump last year's team-high mark in targets (150) this upcoming season. Arguably a top-ten first-round lock.

Zach Ertz (TE2) -- Quietly soaked up a target share (26.7%) comparable to Kelce's (26.5%) in 11 outings with Carson Wentz under center. Expected bump in 12 personnel usage likely leaves Ertz lined out wide against smaller corners in the red zone.

George Kittle (TE3) -- Three-down go-to option as proven by his team-high 26.4 percent target share, which more than doubled the next closest on San Francisco's roster last year.



Tier Two


O.J. Howard (TE4) -- Targets (48), catches (34), and receiving yards (565) in only 10 contests last season outdid his own production in 14 rookie showings. Extrapolated totals (54/904/8) would've resulted in fantasy's TE6 at season's end. Ahead of the curve in coach Arians' new offense given Cameron Brate's absence from offseason workouts.

Evan Engram (TE5) -- Engram's totals in New York's last four games without Odell Beckham last year: 3/77, 8/75, 6/87, 5/81/1.

Hunter Henry (TE6) -- Last year's universally-acclaimed breakout tight end burst onto the scene following a 45/579/4-campaign on limited usage the year prior. Inevitably unable to return from a torn ACL in 2018, Henry now "pretty much a full-go" in the same Antonio Gates-less position that vaulted him to the top-four of positional Best-Ball rankings last May.

Vance McDonald (TE7) -- Previously tied to the hip and unable to shake a timeshare with Jesse James, McDonald opens the season as the lead every-down dog now that James has since left for Detroit. Pittsburgh carries the fifth-most available targets (226) from last season's production into the new league year.

Jared Cook (TE8) -- Shouldn't have any problems usurping Dan Arnold and Josh Hill fresh off career-high tallies in targets (101), catches (68), receiving yards (896), and touchdowns (6). Reportedly Drew Brees' first look and the star of Saints OTAs.


Tier Three


Eric Ebron (TE9) -- Yielded majority usage to teammate Doyle in the six games the duo played together, but Ebron's fruitful red zone role trumps the latter's between-the-20's targets. Ebron's 21 looks inside the 20-yard line trailed only Ertz's (27) and Kelce's (26) marks among tight ends. Still chasing an unachievable ADP given the offseason additions of Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell.

David Njoku (TE10) -- Targets per game plummeted from 6.4 with Todd Haley to 4.1 in nine games with Freddie Kitchens commanding Cleveland's O. Comical run-blocking skills could result in above-average blocker Demetrius Harris stealing snaps (and touchdowns) inside the five.

Greg Olsen (TE11) -- Exited Week 1 early with a broken foot, but returned in Week 6 to play 95.1 percent of Panthers' offensive snaps over the next seven games. Development of second-year pro Ian Thomas undoubtedly an afterthought as long as Olsen is healthy.

Delanie Walker (TE12) -- A 35-year-old coming off a broken ankle is less than ideal, but Walker reportedly participated at "75%" at the Titans' offseason workouts. The projected leader in targets for Tennessee if fully healthy to start the year.

Jack Doyle (TE13) -- Out-snapped Ebron 331-to-165 in their six games together, but still second fiddle in Indy given the latter's aforementioned preferential red zone usage. Worth noting Doyle saw 33 looks to Ebron's 22 when both were active and was spotted running routes full speed at minicamp.

Austin Hooper (TE14) -- Targets (27 > 65 > 88) and routes run (284 > 456 > 516) have progressively increased in every season in the league thus far. Friendly reminder the Falcons were gifted a schedule that doesn't include any bouts outside of a dome until Week 11.

Jimmy Graham (TE15) -- Kept around on a $5 million roster bonus despite rumors of his inevitable release. Second on the team in targets inside the 10 (5) last year, but presence of No. 75 overall pick Jace Sternberger is concerning.

Chris Herndon (TE16) -- Preseason head-turner played eight games with Sam Darnold from Week 6 onward and ranked as fantasy's TE7 in those outings. Buoyed his seven red zone looks in that span into four touchdowns. Worthy of a mid-range selection in Best-Ball even if rumored two-game ban becomes official.

Dallas Goedert (TE17) -- Sporadic usage in his first season, but still delivered with four double-digit fantasy performances on median 47.8 percent snap rate. An all-too-obvious breakout candidate if glued to the field in excess 12 personnel.

Trey Burton (TE18) -- 14 red zone targets in first year under coach Matt Nagy ranked fourth-overall among tight ends.

T.J. Hockenson (TE19) -- Lions GM Bob Quinn on Hockenson post-draft:  "He checked every box that we had in terms of the evaluation process, from on-field to third down to red area to blocking to special teams ... Three-down, four-down player that’s going to be a big part of our offense." Showed as much as no linebacker or corner "had an answer" for his abilities at the team's mandatory minicamp.

Kyle Rudolph (TE20) -- Tied with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs for team-high in targets inside the 10 (8) last year.


Tier Four


Mark Andrews (TE21) -- The TE16 during Lamar Jackson's seven starts, Andrews is admittedly unlikely to match his 17.1 yards per catch from that span unless his 34.8 percent snap rate increases mightily. Was reportedly Jackson's favorite target in the red zone at OTAs.

Jordan Reed (TE22) -- Has yet to play 16 games at any point throughout six-year career, but educated dart-throw Vernon Davis is served a post-June 1 cut would not only save the Skins nearly $5 million against the cap, it would obviously bump Reed's per-game averages.

Darren Waller (TE23) -- Following glowing reviews from Oakland's minicamp, it's obvious absolutely nothing separates 6'6" converted-wideout Waller from strolling in to an every-down role in the Raiders' offense.

Noah Fant (TE24) -- Expected to battle rookie developmental curve shifting from a seam-stretcher at Iowa to an all-around inline-option with the Broncos, but guaranteed every-down usage because of it.

Mike Gesicki (TE25) -- Last year's No. 42 overall pick is a bet-on-talent candidate to beat out 29-year-old veteran Dwayne Allen. Reportedly put on 13 pounds of muscle this offseason to avoid being physically dominated for second straight year.


Tier Five


Matt LaCosse (TE26) -- Projected every-down usage for the first four weeks following Ben Watson's suspension and the surprising release of Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Jason Witten (TE27) -- Despite reports of "25-snap" diet, Witten's unlikely to cede reps to late-season breakout Blake Jarwin given coach Jason Garrett's tribalism personnel usage. The 37-year-old is only one nightmarish broadcasting career removed from cranking out 1,048-of-1,052 offensive snaps in 2017.

Will Dissly (TE28) -- Fantasy's TE15 through three weeks buoyed two red zone looks into ensuing touchdowns. Unlikely an unathletic fourth-round blocking tight end can bounce-back from a torn patella tendon, but Dissly is reportedly on track for training camp.

Cameron Brate (TE29) -- Has quietly sniped 20 touchdowns as a red zone safety valve for Jameis Winston over the last three seasons.

Gerald Everett (TE30) -- Resulted in minimal production, but Everett still had his name called on an increased 62.9 percent of Los Angeles' offensive snaps over the team's last five games (playoffs included). Early rumblings of expanded offense likely include Everett glued to the field in 12 personnel. Was reportedly the "breakout star" of Rams OTAs.

Jesse James (TE31) -- Four-year, $25 million deal (including $11 million guaranteed) not going to suddenly disappear despite top-10 investment in better all-around prospect Hockenson.

Tyler Eifert (TE32) -- Spiked one score on an Antonio Gates-like red zone role before haplessly shattering his ankle in Week 4. Has missed more games (34) than he's took part in (14) over the last three seasons.

Ian Thomas (TE33) -- 5.8 targets per game in seven starts for Greg Olsen, but stayed glued to the bench with the 34-year-old healthy. An every-down candidate if the latter misses a handful of games for the third consecutive season.

Josh Oliver (TE34) -- Jaguars coach Doug Marrone publicly complimented the third-rounder's catch radius as Oliver flashed his lengthy arms (33 1/2") and massive hands (10 3/4") at OTAs.