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Best Ball Strategy

Updated Best-Ball TE Tiers

by John Daigle
Updated On: July 24, 2020, 6:06 pm ET

Jump to: QB Tiers I RB Tiers I WR Tiers

 

TIER ONE

 

Travis Kelce (TE1) -- Four consecutive seasons as the overall TE1 keeps 30-year-old Kelce cemented as the only mandatory player at his position in any and all first-round mocks. Averaged 8.3 targets in 16 full games with Patrick Mahomes last year, playoffs included.

George Kittle (TE2) -- Confidently finished atop his position in fantasy points per game (16.5) during the regular season before performing a disappearing act (8/71/0) in three lopsided postseason contests.

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TIER TWO

 

Mark Andrews (TE3) -- Finished second only to George Kittle (3.11) in Pro Football Focus’ predictive yards per route run (2.89) metric among tight ends in just his second year in the league. The 23-year-old's team-high 23 percent target share figures to increase in 2020 with 15 tight end routes per game vacated following Hayden Hurst's departure.

Zach Ertz (TE4) -- Ertz's yards per target (6.8) dipped to a career-low in 2019 despite his continued involvement in Philadelphia's makeshift offense throughout the year. Triple-digit targets in five consecutive seasons remain tough to ignore.

Evan Engram (TE5) -- Engram accrued a team-high 28.9 percent target share in the lone start he made with both Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate. Still an outside chance he could be moved during the summer after missing a combined 13 games the past two seasons and reportedly being shopped over draft weekend.

Tyler Higbee (TE6) -- December's five-game sprint with 12.8 fantasy points and 11.2 targets per outing would have landed Higbee as the overall TE6 if extrapolated for the full year. Coach Sean McVay’s willingness to part with Brandin Cooks suggests an increase in 12 personnel, keeping Higbee glued to the field no matter teammate Gerald Everett’s opportunities.

Darren Waller (TE7) -- Waller exploded on 8.3 targets per game through Las Vegas’ first seven contests before seeing his weekly opportunity plunge (6) in seven games alongside Hunter Renfrow from Week 9 on. An undisputed role for the latter in three-wide sets — not to mention the addition of Jason Witten and an abundance of receiving talent via free agency and the draft — leaves Waller as a player to bet against in 2020.

Hayden Hurst (TE8) -- Baltimore's No. 25 overall pick just two seasons ago, Hurst eventually lost out to former teammate Mark Andrews despite entering the league as a second-level weapon with South Carolina’s school records for catches (100) and receiving yards (1,281) for a tight end under his belt. 27 in August and atop a thin depth chart, Hurst will undoubtedly open camp as the Falcons' de facto retread of Austin Hooper. For what it’s worth, Jaeden Graham ran the seventh-most routes (97) in his three spot-starts for Hooper last year — a role that now falls into Hurst’s lap.

Hunter Henry (TE9) -- Spiked career-highs in catches (55) and receiving yards (652) despite missing four games with a tibia fracture in ‘19. Los Angeles' questionable situation under center still paints an unknown picture for Henry's outlook.

 

TIER THREE

 

Mike Gesicki (TE10) -- Essentially left for dead following his forgettable rookie year (22/202/0) with ex-coach Adam Gase, Gesicki (6'6/250) morphed into a slot receiver under Brian Flores, lining up from the middle of the field on a position-high 71.8 percent of his snaps. Somewhat concerning the 24-year-old averaged 3.9 targets with Preston Williams available and 7.3 in eight games without.

Rob Gronkowski (TE11) -- The last we saw Gronk, his fantasy production per game (6.5) had dipped to a career-low in 13 appearances. He did close the Patriots’ 2018 Super Bowl run with 13/191 and 10 yards per target across three postseason games, but his skill set in his age-31 season following a yearlong hiatus is a mystery. His proven rapport with Tom Brady — a trait no one else among the Buccaneers’ talented surplus can claim — still gets a borderline TE1 nod in his first (only?) year back.

Dallas Goedert (TE12) -- DeSean Jackson's long-term injury ultimately forced Philadelphia’s hand to two-tight end sets, allowing Goedert to close the year as the overall TE7 from Week 4 on. The 25-year-old again finds himself as the Eagles’ No. 2/3 option given the inexperience every newcomer (Jalen Reagor, Marquise Goodwin, John Hightower) has in working with Carson Wentz.

Austin Hooper (TE13) -- Only the Eagles (53%), Texans (37%), and Titans (36%) ran more 12 personnel than Kevin Stefanski's Vikings (35%) this past year. Unfortunately, 25-year-old Hooper arguably projects as Cleveland's fourth mouth to feed behind Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Kareem Hunt.

Jared Cook (TE14) -- Cook averaged an absurd 13.6 yards per target in 10 full starts with Drew Brees last year, but he'll be hard-pressed to match seven receiving scores on just 4.6 targets per game again. The veteran’s slot participation (67.9%, third-highest among tight ends) also figures to plummet with veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders suddenly onboard.

Noah Fant (TE15) -- Suffered the same fate as Courtland Sutton down the stretch as Fant was peppered with 6.3 targets per game from Brandon Allen but merely averaged 2.8 (9% share) in Drew Lock's five starts.

T.J. Hockenson (TE16) -- The Iowa product ran a route on 63.8 percent of his offensive snaps in the seven games leading up to his season-ending ankle injury, but that enticing usage only amounted to 17/180 and 5.2 yards per target in that stretch.

Blake Jarwin (TE17) -- Dallas (surprisingly) committed $9.25 million guaranteed on a new four-year deal for Jarwin, who has quietly averaged over 11 yards per reception and 8.5 yards per target in a limited role in back-to-back seasons. Jason Witten's exit logically paints the 25-year-old as the team's every-down successor in spite of his questionable blocking skills.

Chris Herndon (TE18) -- Slapped with a four-game suspension ahead of his sophomore follow-up, Herndon tragically made one appearance before sustaining a season-ending ribs injury in Week 10. The 24-year-old tight end remains the most logical candidate for a Darren Waller-like breakout if only for the rapport he showed from Sam Darnold (27/380/4) in 13 games together as rookies.

Jonnu Smith (TE19) -- Like A.J. Brown, Smith took the smattering of targets (3.4 per game) he was afforded from Ryan Tannehill and leveraged them into an otherworldly 12.3 yards per touch. The uber-athletic 24-year-old still gets knocked down a peg for having no defined role, as proven by his 42 routes to Anthony Firsker's 44 in Tennessee’s three postseason games.

Ian Thomas (TE20) -- Thomas' receiving lines in his last six starts for Greg Olsen: 9/77, 2/14, 4/48/1, 5/61/1, 5/57/1, 2/23.

Jack Doyle (TE21) -- 29 routes and six targets per game without Eric Ebron, who has since signed with Pittsburgh, in the Colts’ last five bouts to close 2019.

 

TIER FOUR

 

Eric Ebron (TE22) -- One year removed from spiking a career-high 13 touchdowns with Indy, a healthy Ben Roethlisberger would go a long way in rejuvenating Ebron on his third squad in four seasons. Chase Claypool’s (6'4/238) confirmed role as an outside receiver is a win for the 27-year-old tight end.

Irv Smith (TE23) -- Routes run per game jumped from 15.2 through Week 8 to 24.1 in Minnesota's last 10 bouts while Adam Thielen nursed a soft tissue injury. A pivot to Gary Kubiak's stretch-zone scheme entails Smith working full-time with Kyle Rudolph rather than behind him.  

Jace Sternberger (TE24) -- Began the year on injured reserve (ankle) then ultimately failed to eclipse eight routes run in any of his eight rookie appearances. Nevertheless, Sternberger remains only one season removed from recording 48/832/10 in his lone season as a JUCO transfer against stiff SEC competition.

O.J. Howard (TE25) -- Howard averaged 11 yards per target in his first two years out of Alabama, a feat Rob Gronkowski has only accomplished once across nine Hall of Fame seasons. Unfortunately, being one year removed from averaging 2.24 yards per route run won’t do him any favors in a crowded room. Merely a bet-on-talent TE3 for Best-Ball leagues.

Gerald Everett (TE26) -- A speculative league-winning dart if unleashed, 25-year-old Everett ranked as the overall TE4 in October before sustaining a knee injury and losing any semblance of a job to teammate Tyler Higbee at season's end.

Greg Olsen (TE27) -- Only 7.0 fantasy points per game while working with Kyle Allen and Will Grier last year, but Olsen arguably enters the best offensive situation he's seen the past four years in signing with Seattle. Per Warren Sharp, Russell Wilson targeted tight ends at the league's second-highest clip (33%) from 2016-18 before fighting through Luke Willson's and Jacob Hollister's tenures this past season.

Dawson Knox (TE28) -- Logged 70-plus percent of Buffalo's offensive snaps in 6-of-8 starts to close the year. Fully expected to return as the team's every-down inline option.

Kyle Rudolph (TE29) -- Lathered in touchdown deodorant while Adam Thielen was sidelined, Rudolph impossibly turned 36 catches over the Vikings' last 12 games into seven receiving scores. Merely out-targeted Irv Smith 41 to 36 from Week 8 on.

 

TIER FIVE

 

Darren Fells (TE30) -- Non-zero chance 34-year-old Fells leads Houston in receiving scores following DeAndre Hopkins' exit to Arizona.

Tyler Eifert (TE31) -- Bengals scaled back Eifert’s workload this past year and in doing so allowed him to play a full 16-game schedule for the first time in his career. 30 in September, any shadow of his old self could result in a handful of red zone scores from Gardner Minshew.

Dan Arnold (TE32) -- Splashed in his lone spot-start for Charles Clay in Week 17 (4/76/1). The latter has since moved on, logically putting Arnold atop Arizona's thin tight ends room ahead of Maxx Williams and Darrell Daniels.

Will Dissly (TE33) -- The overall TE1 through six games before tearing his Achilles' in November, Dissly's best-case scenario is an even split on passing downs with 35-year-old Greg Olsen.

C.J. Uzomah (TE34) -- Started in 31-of-32 games the past two seasons as Cincinnati's unrivaled receiving specialist. Drew Sample, Uzomah's second-year competition, is primarily an inline blocker.

David Njoku (TE35) -- More than capable of finishing as a TE2 if Cleveland unleashes his 97th-percentile arm length (35 1/4") and stout frame (6'4/246) alongside Austin Hooper in goal-line territory. No. 115 overall pick Hunter Bryant still threatens Njoku’s outlook after the team reportedly shopped the fourth-year pro over draft weekend.

Devin Asiasi (TE36) -- A one-year starter in coach Chip Kelly's high-octane offense, Asiasi (6'3/279) averaged over 15.0 yards per catch while recording 14 plays of 20-plus yards with the Bruins the past two seasons. The Patriots have essentially shown their hand in giving Asiasi an every-down opportunity after leapfrogging nine other teams to move up and select the 22-year-old with the No. 91 overall pick.

Kaden Smith (TE37) -- The direct beneficiary if any trade rumors involving Evan Engram come to fruition. Smith quietly tallied an impressive 30/267/3 on 97 percent of New York's offensive snaps in his interim debut from Week 12 on.