Having already gone over both the running backs and wide receivers, we keep moving down the fantasy food chain to tight ends. While tight ends don’t necessarily have the same value as the aforementioned positions, an elite one can really give you an advantage over other teams in your league, especially if you can get one for good value. Here’s how I see the pecking order for the tight ends across the league. However, I’ll put out this disclaimer: after the first three, there will most likely be a decent sized drop-off in point totals at the end of the year (PPR rankings in parenthesis after team).
1. Travis Kelce- Kansas City Chiefs (1)- Combining the most athletically gifted tight end with a stud at quarterback and a system that is tight end friendly, Kelce is bound to land at #1 on this list. Kelce is dynamic and can do it all, especially when he finds open space or can sniff the goal line. Kelce could see a boon in production if Tyreek Hill misses any extended time with a suspension.
2. George Kittle- San Francisco 49ers (3)- Kittle more than doubled his catch total in 2018 compared to 2017 (43 to 88) and went over the 1,000 yard mark for the first time. If he can improve on his 5 touchdown receptions from last year and get up closer to the 8-10 range, he’ll produce similarly to both Kelce and Ertz. Jimmy Garropolo returning is also a big deal for Kittle.
3. Zach Ertz- Philadelphia Eagles (2)- Zach Ertz had his much anticipated “break out” season in ‘18. Ertz fought through some injuries and quarterback shuffling early in his career, but put it all together to eclipse the 100 catch mark in 2018 (116) for the first time. If he repeats this in 2019 (I expect a slight drop off), you won’t go wrong with either of these first three guys.
4. Hunter Henry- Los Angeles Chargers (6)- Henry missed the entire fantasy season last year, but posted promising numbers in his first two seasons. He posted 36 and 45 receptions in ‘16 (8 TD’s) and ‘17 (4 TD’s) respectively. With Antonio Gates now out of the picture, Henry will get more red zone looks and should stay on the field more. A year end stat line of 70/850/8 would be a really solid year for the big guy and should be attainable.
5. OJ Howard- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)- Had he stayed healthy in ‘18, Howard was on pace for 54 receptions and eight touchdowns. That should be what you expect from him this year as well if not a slight uptick in production. The presence of Cameron Brate can sometimes put a damper on Howard's fantasy ceiling.
6. David Njoku- Cleveland Browns (5)- With more weapons being brought into the Cleveland offense, it should open up some room to work for Njoku. He’s athletic and can get away from linebackers and no defense will double cover him with Beckham and Jarvis Landry on the outside. He quietly put up 54 receptions last year and that could balloon up to 60 or 65 this year. His touchdown total should be fairly similar to last year at four (+/-).
7. Even Engram- New York Giants (7)- I’m expecting a big bounce back year from #88. Engram was hampered by injuries last year, but he’s fully healthy now. He had a receiving line of 64/722/6 (receptions/yards/TD’s) in his fully healthy rookie campaign, and with Odell Beckham gone, don’t be surprised if he repeats those numbers.
8. Jared Cook- New Orleans Saints (8)- Cook, believe it or not, was a top flight fantasy tight end for a good chunk of last year. It did help that he had two games of scoring 27+ points (PPR) out of the first four weeks of the season. Now in ‘Nola, Cook is a part of an offense that has elite weapons at quarterback, running back and receiver, so expect his numbers to dip a bit.
9. Trey Burton- Chicago Bears (10)- Burton should see his numbers continue to grow, especially as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky comes into his own as a passer. Burton put up 54 receptions, six of which crossed the goal line. Look for that reception total to creep up towards 60-65 in 2019 with the touchdown total to stay near six.
10. Austin Hooper- Atlanta Falcons (9)- Hooper put in a respectable 2018 season with a line of 71/660/4 and it seems he’s carved out a niche in the Falcons offense. The reason he comes in at this spot is because he is rarely Matt Ryan’s first option, or second for that matter, so he is fairly volatile in terms of production volume.
11. Eric Ebron- Indianapolis Colts (11)- Eric Ebron may have been the steal of the year last year, posting a stat line of 66/750/13. However, if Jack Doyle, the co-starting tight end in Indy, can stay healthy, I fully expect Ebron’s stats to come back down to earth. While he may not reproduce 2018’s numbers, he should still be a solid option if you can’t get one of the guys closer to the top of this list.
12. Kyle Rudolph- Minnesota Vikings (UNR)- After hauling in nine touchdowns in 2017, Rudolph was limited to just four in 2018. He is overshadowed in the passing game by Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and to a degree, running back Dalvin Cook. Rudolph does do well in the red zone, so expect his touchdowns to fall somewhere in between that four to seven range in 2019 to go along with 55 receptions. Just Missed the Cut: Chris Herndon- New York Jets- Herndon is the top tight end for the Jets and he produced well in spurts last year. Delanie Walker- Tennessee Titans - Productive when healthy but suffered a serious injury last year and he’s on the wrong side of 30. Jimmy Graham- Green Bay Packers- With his yardage total declining over the past two years, it’s hard to put him any higher than this. His weekly stat line is largely dependant on if he can find pay dirt. Jordan Reed- Washington Redskins- Reed was once a “tier two” tight end, but injuries and Vernon Davis have really cut into his production. Look for a high end back-up if he’s your top option.