2020 Tight End Tiers (PPR)

Tier 1- Elite TE

  • Travis Kelce (KC) (TE1)
  • 2019 Stats: 16 GP 136 Tar. 97 Rec. 1,229 Yds. 5 TD
  • Kelce has been TE1 from 2016-2019, a four-year run as the premier option at TE. Kansas City has one of, if not the most dangerous offense in the NFL. The opportunity is there, the past production is evident, and having Kelce in your lineup is about as safe as it gets.
  • Risk Level: Low
  • George Kittle (SF) (TE2)
  • 2019 Stats: 14 GP 107 Tar. 85 Rec. 1,053 Yds. 5 TD
  • If you want a premier TE and Kelce is off the board, Kittle is the next best thing. He has had 85+ catches and 1,000+ yards in each of the past two seasons. San Fransisco is a run heavy offense, but Kittle has proven to be the focal point of this passing game. San Fran didn’t add much real competition for targets, and Kittle’s role is beyond safe.
  • Risk Level: Low
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates after a long catch and run against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo )

Tier 2-Next Best

  • Zach Ertz (PHI) (TE3)
  • 2019 Stats: 15 GP 135 Tar. 88 Rec. 916 Yds. 6 TD
  • I believe Ertz is still the number one target in Philadelphia. He and Dallas Goedert should be on the field together…a lot, but Philly targets the TE enough to keep both relevant. Ertz has become Carson Wentz’s safety blanket, and favorite option in the passing game. The Eagles added speed on the outside at the WR position, which should only open up the middle of the field more for Zach Ertz to go to work.
  • Risk Level: Low
  • Mark Andrews (BAL) (TE4)
  • 2019 Stats: 15 GP 98 Tar. 64 Rec. 852 Yds. 10 TD
  • Andrews truly burst onto the TE scene in 2019. He started 2019 as a good value TE sleeper and ended 2019 as a league winning TE stud. It will be tough for Andrews to replicate his 10 TD from 2019, but Baltimore didn’t add much competition in the passing game and they got rid of TE Hayden Hurst. The path to TE stardom is once again there for Andrews as the primary target in Baltimore.
  • Risk Level: Medium
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Tier 3-High Upside

  • Evan Engram (NYG) (TE5)
  • 2019 Stats: 8 GP 68 Tar. 44 Rec. 467 Yds. 3 TD
  • Now Engram has only played a combined 19 games in the past two seasons, but projecting into 2020 we’ll put injuries aside and look at upside. He might be the best receiving threat the Giants have. Every time Engram is on the field he is productive, in 5 of his 8 GP in 2019 he had 6+ catches and 2 GP with 100+ yards. Projecting to 2020 he comes with risk but I love his upside.
  • Risk Level: Medium-High
  • Darren Waller (LV) (TE6)
  • 2019 Stats: 16 GP 117 Tar. 90 Rec. 1,145 Yds. 3 TD
  • Waller was a PPR darling in 2019, and if you’re just looking at his 2019 numbers I’m sure you would expect him to be in the first tier. But Waller entered the NFL in 2015 and last season was his first productive campaign. The Raiders were desperate for any viable receiving threat so they peppered Waller with targets. For whatever reason they don’t utilize him much in the redzone, and they added multiple receiving weapons this offseason. Draft him for the upside but consider that things might be different in 2020.
  • Risk Level: Medium
  • Hunter Henry (LAC) (TE7)
  • 2019 Stats: 12 GP 76 Tar. 55 Rec. 652 Yds. 5 TD
  • Henry has shown flashes of high upside, but similar to Evan Engram we haven’t seen it all come together for a full season. From 2016-2017 he was sharing snaps with Antonio Gates, then he missed all of 2018 (0 GP) and only played in 12 games in 2019. Hunter Henry has the talent, when healthy he gets the volume. The Chargers added Tyrod Taylor who loves to rely on his TE, so I like Henry in the range he is going and if he stays on the field in 2020 I’m expecting big things.
  • Risk Level: Medium
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Tier 3-Breakouts/Value TE

  • Jonnu Smith (TEN) (TE8)
  • 2019 Stats: 16 GP 44 Tar. 35 Rec. 439 Yds. 3 TD
  • I know, I have some explaining to do…Jonnu was TE20 in 2019, and I’m projecting him as high as TE12. In my opinion he could be the 2020 Mark Andrews, and the value could be amazing. Jonnu is a premier athlete at the TE position and he possesses rare big play ability for his size (12.5 YPC. in 2019). Tennessee is a run heavy offense and aside from A.J. Brown they are desperate for play makers (similar to Baltimore 2019). Delanie Walker was let go this offseason providing a clear path for a significant uptick in Jonnu’s target share. I’ll bite the bullet if Jonnu doesn’t pan out, but he will be on a ton of my teams in 2020 and I really do think there is a clear path for a major breakout season.
  • Risk Level: Medium-High
  • Tyler Higbee (LAR) (TE9)
  • 2019 Stats: 15 GP 89 Tar. 69 Rec. 734 Yds. 3 TD
  • Higbee really took a step in 2019, putting up career highs in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns, while finishing as the TE8 in PPR formats. The Rams will look to find themselves offensively in 2020 after a down year 2019, and Higbee could be an even larger part of the offense. Brandin Cooks is now in Houston which clears up 72 targets and Higbee proved last year that given the volume production can follow. I’m not as all in on Higbee as others but also wouldn’t be surprised if we see another step forward in 2020.
  • Risk Level: Medium
  • Hayden Hurst (ATL) (TE10)
  • 2019 Stats: 16 GP 39 Tar. 30 Rec. 349 Yds. 2 TD
  • In Baltimore in 2019 Hurst was in a much different role than what is expected in Atlanta in 2020. He was used situationally on a run first offense, where he wasn’t even the top TE backing up Mark Andrews for snaps. Entering 2020 he finds himself on a pass happy Atlanta offense that needs to fill a void left by Austin Hoopers departure, a void that included 97 targets for Hooper in 2019. Hurst is a former 1st round draft pick, a good athlete, and could be the 3rd option in one of the highest scoring offenses in the NFL. You have to love the situation for Hurst now we’ll have to see if production follows.
  • Risk Level: Low-Medium
  • Mike Gesicki (MIA) (TE11)
  • 2019 Stats: 16 GP 89 Tar. 51 Rec. 570 Yds. 5 TD
  • Gesicki played has played all 16 games in both of his first two NFL seasons, but from 2018 to 2019, he went from a non factor to a solid week-to-week streamer. Of course this Miami offense could look drastically different then the unit we saw this past year, after drafting Tua 5th overall. But Gesicki has a lock on the TE spot, and if he can get 89 targets again and improve his catch rate he could be a steal in the later rounds of the draft.
  • Risk Level: Low-Medium
  • Noah Fant (DEN) (TE12)
  • 2019 Stats: 16 GP 66 Tar. 40 Rec. 562 Yds. 3 TD
  • Typically rookie TEs take time to develop and don’t provide much fantasy value right away. Fant on the other hand put together an encouraging rookie campaign given the circumstances of his offense. In 2020 Denver seems to be committed to Drew Lock (started 5 games in 2019) and poised to hit the ground running. They added two wide receivers in the first two rounds of the NFL draft and signed Melvin Gordon. The new additions will be fighting for targets, but ultimately I think the offense improves and Fant benefits from a better all around offensive unit.
  • Risk Level: Medium
(Photo by: NBC Sports)

Tier 4-Week-To-Week/Matchup TE

  • Rob Gronkowski (TB) (TE13)
  • 2019 Stats: N/A (He won a WWE Belt)
  • It is impossible not to have Gronk in this tier purely based on the upside of what could be. Gronk and Brady teaming up in Tampa could be electric and the path to success is clearly there. But I have somewhat tamper my expectations and be realistic, the future Hall-of-Famer didn’t play in 2019 so we have to see what he’ll look like back on the field. In this Covid-19 world we live in, the proven chemistry between Gronk and Brady becomes even more prominent. I expect him to be involved in the redzone and on the field right away. Really the only downside is the many mouths to feed in Tampa (Godwin, Evans, Gronk, Brate, Howard). The upside is too great to pass on so I’d take him ahead of less proven TEs in the same range.
  • Risk Level: Medium-High
  • Eric Ebron (PIT) (TE14)
  • 2019 Stats: 11 GP 52 Tar. 31 Rec. 375 Yds. 3 TD
  • This is another one where I know I have some explaining to do, Ebron has really only had one productive NFL season (2018) where he finished as TE4. He finished that high by scoring 13 TD and everyone screamed negative regression for 2019…which proved to be true. My explanation is, I think the potential in Pittsburgh’s offense is greater than any other offense Ebron has been in. Ebron has now almost exclusively made a name for himself in the redzone and I think that value can carry over nicely to Pittsburgh. I don’t think he replicates his 13 TD from 2018 but I can see 8+ TD if Big Ben stays healthy.
  • Risk Level: Medium-High
  • Austin Hooper (CLE) (TE15)
  • 2019 Stats: 13 GP 97 Tar. 75 Rec. 787 Yds. 6 TD
  • Hooper finished 2019 as TE6 and has had 70+ receptions, 650+ receiving yards, and at least 4 TD in each of the past two seasons. He has become a very productive and reliable option at TE these past few years. The catch is Hooper isn’t in Atlanta anymore, and I don’t expect Cleveland to be nearly as pass happy as Atlanta has been. Similar to Atlanta, Cleveland has multiple mouths to feed and Hooper won’t be the first option. Although that role is nothing new for him, if they aren’t as pass heavy there are less targets to go around. I still think Hooper will play an important role in the redzone for the Browns but I wouldn’t feel as comfortable starting him week-to-week.
  • Risk Level: Low-Medium
  • T.J. Hockenson (DET) (TE16)
  • 2019 Stats: 12 GP 59 Tar. 32 Rec. 367 Yds. 2 TD
  • Hockenson was the fun sleeper TE heading into the 2019 season, he had the first round draft pedigree, the big athletic frame (6’5), and he landed in Detroit where he was expected to have a big role. Fast forward to 2020, where it seems like Hockenson still has a lot to prove. Young TEs typically struggle their rookie seasons so it wasn’t too much of a surprise, and the Lions were a shell of themselves without Matt Stafford. Hockenson is another guy I’m scared I’m too low on, but I think he will be available late and is a great bench stash with breakout potential.
  • Risk Level: Medium
(Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Tier 5-Good Offenses/Path to Success

  • Dallas Goedert (PHI) (TE17)
  • 2019 Stats: 15 GP 87 Tar. 58 Rec. 607 Yds. 5 TD
  • The Eagles proved last season that their offense is capable of supporting two top-10 TEs, Ertz was TE4 and Goedert was TE10 while both playing in 15+ games. Philadelphia should be healthier on offense this upcoming season considering how banged up they finished the 2019 season, so I’m not quite projecting two Top-10 TEs again. But in the event Ertz misses any time, Goedert becomes elite in an offense that targets the TE position with so much volume.
  • Risk Level: Low
  • Jared Cook (NO) (TE18)
  • 2019 Stats: 14 GP 63 Tar. 43 Rec. 705 Yds. 9 TD
  • Let’s start by admiring Jared Cook’s extremely efficient 2019 season, he scored 9 TD on 43 receptions which is out of this world. In addition to that, in only 2 of his 14 GP last year he had 4+ catches, and in 6 of 14 GP he had 2 or fewer. Week-to-week Jared Cook will give you nightmares, he is the definition of a high risk/high reward play. The reason to consider him is that the New Orleans offense has arguably the most upside in the league. Heading into 2020 they have added some new faces in Emmanuel Sanders and rookie TE Adam Trautman, so I don’t expect New Orleans to be as desperate for a secondary option behind Michael Thomas as they were in 2019. I don’t ever feel safe with Cook in my lineup , he has a very low floor and a high ceiling if he scores a TD.
  • Risk Level: High
  • Irv Smith (MIN) (TE19)
  • 2019 Stats: 16 GP 47 Tar. 36 Rec. 311 Yds. 2 TD
  • I’m sure you’re wondering why Irv Smith made the cut and Kyle Rudolph hasn’t been mentioned. Well Rudolph was targeted 48 times in 2019 and Smith was targeted 47 times, the difference was Rudolph scored 6 TD in comparison to Smith’s 2 TD. Clearly the redzone was Rudolph’s in 2019, but Irv Smith was a rookie and being able to say he and Rudolph had almost identical target numbers is saying something. Smith is a former 2nd round pick (2019) and I believe the Vikings will want to see what they have in him going forward. I expect Smith to take more work from Rudolph in 2020 and with his athletic ability I expect he’ll make the most of it.
  • Risk Level: Low
  • Blake Jarwin (DAL) (TE20)
  • 2019 Stats: 16 GP 41 Tar. 31 Rec. 365 Yds. 3 TD
  • The Cowboys offense was extremely pass heavy in 2019, I don’t expect that to be the same with the coaching change to Mike McCarthy. In saying that, whether they become less pass heavy or not, a massive void has been left by Jason Witten’s departure to Las Vegas. Witten and Jarwin were targeted 124 times combined with Witten accounting for 83 targets himself. Jarwin is the clear starter in Dallas and if he can soak up even half of the targets left behind by Witten he should be a viable option week-to-week.
  • Risk Level: Low
(Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Tier 6-Bench Stash

  • Jack Doyle (IND) (TE21)
  • 2019 Stats: 16 GP 72 Tar. 43 Rec. 448 Yds. 4 TD
  • Doyle was the TE7 in 2017, only played 6 games in 2018, then finished 2019 as TE16 while sharing snaps with Eric Ebron. It looked like 2020 could be his year to rebound after Ebron took off for Pittsburgh, but then the Colts signed Trey Burton. I don’t see Burton being too much of a factor in the offense, but he’ll be involved enough to limit Doyle’s ceiling. Phillip Rivers should make this offense more effective as a unit and he has a history of targeting his TE, from the Antonio Gates days in San Diego. Doyle could be a solid matchup play and typically has a safe floor when he is on the field.
  • Risk Level: Low
  • Ian Thomas (CAR) (TE22)
  • 2019 Stats: 16 GP 30 Tar. 16 Rec. 137 Yds. 1 TD
  • Thomas’s 2019 stats aren’t anything to get excited about, he was an afterthought in the Carolina offense backing up Greg Olsen who surprisingly played in 14 games. What is inspiring is the fact that Carolina let Olsen leave, and didn’t find a replacement for him during the offseason. They must have some confidence in Thomas’s ability, either that or Matt Rhule doesn’t really plan to use his TE much. I’ll stick with the idea that Thomas is Olsen’s predecessor and will make the most of the 82 targets Olsen left behind.
  • Risk Level: Low/Worth it
  • Greg Olsen (SEA) (TE23)
  • 2019 Stats: 14 GP 82 Tar. 52 Rec. 597 Yds. 2 TD
  • I’ll start by saying I’m scared I’m too low on Olsen heading into 2020, but since 2017 Olsen has missed 18 games and he is now 35 years old. I’m still scared I’m too low because I don’t think Olsen has ever had quarterback play even close to what he will have in 2020 with Russell Wilson. I really hate to say, “If he stays healthy” but in this case I have to. If he stays healthy and is on the same field with Wilson for the majority of this season I think he can be a major threat in the redzone and a safety blanket for Wilson in short yardage situations.
  • Risk Level: Low
  • Jace Sternberger (GB) (TE24)
  • 2019 Stats: N/A injured (Playoffs: 2 Tar. 2 Rec. 13 Yds. 1 TD)
  • The former 3rd round pick in 2019 unfortunately didn’t see much of the field his rookie season. He debuted in week 9 and only saw 60 total snaps in the regular season. But Jimmy Graham is now on a division rival in Chicago and vacated a solid 60 targets in Green Bay. Sternberger can be a sneaky bench stash heading into 2020 in an offense worth paying attention to.
  • Risk Level: Low
(Photo Above: Dylan Buell, Getty) (Cover Photo: Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

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