The Tiers of Fantasy Football TEs

Oct 18, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports.

The NFL regular season is officially a month away, and that means fantasy football drafts are even closer. So far this offseason, we’ve talked about the tiers of quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Today, we jump into the ever-chaotic world of tight ends. Stay tuned to find out which players you should be keeping an eye on as your fantasy draft approaches.

Tier 4: Replacement Players

Jul 26, 2022; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jackson Jaguars tight end Evan Engram (17) participates in training camp at Episcopal School of Jacksonville. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
  • Evan Engram (JAX)
  • Hunter Henry (NE)
  • Tyler Higbee (LAR)
  • Logan Thomas (WSH)
  • Mo Alie-Cox (IND)
  • Kyle Rudolph (TB)
  • Hayden Hurst (CIN)
  • Adam Trautman (NO)
  • Noah Fant (SEA)

If you land in an unfortunate position where your starting tight end is going to be out for multiple weeks with an injury, you’re going to have to enter the dreaded world of streaming players at the position. Depending on the matchup, these guys all have the potential to have at least respectable fantasy football production. Mo Alie-Cox out of Indianapolis is a player that has the potential to break out a little this season with Matt Ryan at QB. On top of that, there isn’t exactly a terrific defense in the AFC South outside of Indy, so he should get plenty of favorable matchups this season.

Tier 3: Boom-or-Bust

Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith (84) before the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
  • Dallas Goedert (PHI)
  • Pat Freiermuth (PIT)
  • TJ Hockenson (DET)
  • Mike Gesicki (MIA)
  • Albert Okwuegbunam (DEN)
  • Cole Kmet (CHI)
  • Irv Smith Jr. (MIN)
  • CJ Uzomah (NYJ)
  • Robert Tonyan Jr. (GB)
  • David Njoku (CLE)

Out of this group, there are a few red flags concerning how productive they will be. Here are the criteria that landed players in this group:

  1. Playing in a run-first offense
  2. Being a third-favorite target or lower
  3. Questions about the QB throwing them the ball
  4. Injuries

Obviously, there are going to be weeks where TJ Hockenson goes off for 80+ yards and a touchdown, but there are also going to be times where the Lions decide to run the ball and turn Jared Goff into a game manager. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to draft someone from this tier, keep an eye on Robert Tonyan out of Green Bay. Tonyan struggled with injuries last season and is currently on the PUP list.

However, if he can come back healthy somewhat soon, he could be a force in fantasy leagues. During 2020, he tied with Travis Kelce for the most touchdowns at the tight end position with 11. You know how I feel about touchdowns in fantasy football by now, so Tonyan is certainly a candidate to emerge as a weekly starter.

Tier 2: Consistent Stars

Jan 9, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz (86) waves towards the crowd before a home game against the Seattle Seahawks. Nfl Seahawks Vs Cardinals
  • Mark Andrews (BAL)
  • George Kittle (SF)
  • Darren Waller (LV)
  • Kyle Pitts (ATL)
  • Zach Ertz (ARI)
  • Dawson Knox (BUF)
  • Dalton Schultz (DAL)

If someone is bold and snags Travis Kelce in the first round, you can’t go wrong with any of these players as consistent starters at tight end. Honestly, if we wanted to get nit-picky, Mark Andrews could be in his own ‘tier’ below Kelce and above the rest of these names, especially with Marquise Brown no longer in Baltimore. That said, I ultimately grouped him with these players because of the Ravens offense likely going back to its run-first system of 2019 and 2020.

A player that could go overlooked in this grouping is Zach Ertz out of Arizona. After being traded to the Cardinals in October, Ertz averaged nearly 7.5 targets per game over the final 11 games of the season. DeAndre Hopkins is not going to be an option for the first six games, so especially early on in the year, Ertz should remain one of Kyler Murray’s favorite targets.

Tier 1: Travis Kelce

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) catches a touchdown as Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) defends in the second quarter during the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022, at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Cincinnati Bengals At Kansas City Chiefs Jan 30 Afc Championship 220
  • Travis Kelce (KC)

Despite being dethroned in 2021 from his usual spot as the top fantasy football tight end by Mark Andrews, I still believe the 33-year-old Travis Kelce is in a league of his own heading into 2022. Without Tyreek Hill, Kelce’s target share should only increase this year after a slight dip last season.

Obviously, playoffs don’t matter for fantasy purposes, but in Kelce’s final six games played, including the postseason, he caught a total of seven touchdowns after having just five scores through Kansas City’s first 13 games. The Chiefs went through a bit of a strange start to open the 2021 season in which their offense was uncharacteristically bad. I don’t think that happens again in 2022.