Note that I am defaulting to half-PPR scoring, so feel free to adjust players up or down a bit for standard or full-PPR formats. Best of luck to you in your drafts!
1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs (bye: 12)
I’ll let my colleague Neil Greenberg go out on a limb by giving George Kittle the No. 1 spot at TE, as I agree with the vast majority of fantasy prognosticators. In fact, there’s probably no player who engenders as much consensus as Kelce, viewed so widely as the best option at his position. And with good reason: He was tops among TEs in fantasy scoring in 2016, barely behind Rob Gronkowski (with a big drop to third) in 2017 and back on top again last year, by a notable margin. Oh, and only in the most recent of those seasons did Kelce enjoy the MVP-quality quarterbacking services of Patrick Mahomes, as he will again this year.
The bigger question with Kelce is where he ranks overall, as some have him in the first round, particularly in full-PPR leagues. Because of positional scarcity at RB and WR, I have him in the second round, but such is his unimpeachable track record and situation that he is that rare TE (especially one not named Gronk) worthy of a top 12 pick.
2. George Kittle, 49ers (4)
In his second NFL season, this 2017 fifth-round pick went bonkers, setting a record for his position with 1,377 yards and, just as impressively, leading all NFL players in yards after the catch. The number of huge plays Kittle broke off, as well as the overall yardage, seems destined to regress this year, but he could offset some of that with an improvement on his five TDs.
3. Zach Ertz, Eagles (10)
Another record-breaker in 2018, Ertz set a new standard for TEs with 116 receptions, on a whopping 156 targets. Eagles beat writers appear to be generally of the opinion that those targets will drop this year, as Philadelphia has added weapons in the passing game, leaving Ertz very much a member of the “Big Three” at TE but a draft round or so behind the top two.
4. Evan Engram, Giants (11)
The stars have aligned for Engram, who had a productive rookie season in 2017, when Odell Beckham Jr. missed 12 games with injury. Now Beckham is gone, and New York’s top WRs in training camp all suffered some sort of misfortune, including Golden Tate’s four-game suspension.
5. O.J. Howard, Buccaneers (7)
On the surface, it’s a bit odd that a player who went from 26 catches as a rookie to 34 last year is generating so much excitement in fantasy circles, but Howard played in just 10 games in 2018 and was extremely efficient, leading all TEs in yards per target (minimum 10 targets). The former first-round pick was also a big-play machine at Alabama, and he oozes upside in an offense that should take to the air early and often.
6. Hunter Henry, Chargers (12)
Henry’s 2018 was almost entirely wiped out by an anterior cruciate ligament tear, but he managed to make it back in time for the playoffs and thus the injury should be no issue this year. He showed great promise in his first two seasons, and with Antonio Gates out of the picture, Henry can become the new go-to TE for QB Philip Rivers.
7. Jared Cook, Saints (9)
After setting career highs last season in targets (101), receptions (68) and yards (896) on an otherwise fairly dysfunctional Raiders offense, Cook signed in the offseason with the Saints, who have shown that they know how to use a TE. In fact, offseason and training camp reports have been glowing, providing reasonable hope that Cook can approximate the role Jimmy Graham had in New Orleans.
8. Vance McDonald, Steelers (7)
Not only did Antonio Brown depart Pittsburgh, but so did veteran TE Jesse James, leaving a plausible path for McDonald to become the Steelers’ No. 2 receiver. At the very least, he should be able to improve on last year’s 50-610-4 line, and possibly greatly so.
9. Mark Andrews, Ravens (8)
What is a guy who might not even get the second-most snaps at TE on his own team doing ranked so high? Well, Andrews did lead all rookies at his position, including teammate and 2018 first-round pick Hayden Hurst, in receiving yards (552) last year, and reports this summer indicate that he’s primed for an even bigger role in Baltimore’s attack. That offense, for what it’s worth, will frequently have multiple TEs on the field, so there should be plenty of snaps to go around for both Andrews and Hurst (and also blocking standout Nick Boyle).
10. David Njoku, Browns (7)
With Beckham joining Jarvis Landry in Cleveland, Njoku will have to fight for leftovers, but it helps that Duke Johnson was traded away, and his size and athleticism could have him taking a leap in TDs in a suddenly high-powered offense.
11. Austin Hooper, Falcons (9)
Fourth in receptions (71) among TEs last year and seventh in yards (660), Hooper might not have much room for more in Atlanta’s offense, but he figures to be a dependable source of points.
12. Delanie Walker, Titans (11)
Walker is 35 and coming off a lost season due to a broken foot, but he was a top-eight performer in each of the four previous seasons and is a decent bet to get back to that level.
13. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (12)
Rudolph has been on a downward trend the past three years (2nd-7th-8th in fantasy finishes) and that appears likely to continue, as Minnesota wants to run the ball more and spent a second-round pick on a young TE, Irv Smith Jr., in April.
14. Eric Ebron, Colts (6)
Even before Andrew Luck’s stunning retirement, just about everyone expected Ebron to come back to earth from a 2018 campaign that included 66 catches for 750 yards and 13 TDs (more than he’d scored in his first four seasons combined) on 110 targets. Ebron presumably proved his worth enough to remain a major part of the Colts’ plans, but additions at WR, in particular the TE-esque Devin Funchess, are also reasons for worry.
15. Jimmy Graham, Packers (11)
The hope for Graham, who was a major disappointment in his first season in Green Bay, is that it often takes receivers two years to fully get on the same page with QB Aaron Rodgers.
16. Greg Olsen, Panthers (7)
Olsen, 34, has been dogged by foot problems the past two seasons and has talented youngster Ian Thomas nipping at his heels. The hope is that he can put together possibly one last healthy season as a trusted option for QB Cam Newton.
17. Jack Doyle, Colts (6)
Doyle’s 2018 pain (as in an injured hip that limited him to six games) was Ebron’s gain, and it remains to be seen how big of a role the former, who had 80 catches in 2017 without Ebron around, can muster in a Jacoby Brissett-led passing attack.
18. Jordan Reed, Redskins (10)
Just when Reed was in great shape and had little obvious competition for targets, he suffered a concussion in a preseason game. A proven fantasy difference-maker when on his game, Reed could still be worth a flier when he is cleared from the league’s protocol, but the setback provided an unhappy reminder that, when drafting Reed, it is best to proceed with a high degree of caution.
19. Darren Waller, Raiders (6)
It’s not just because of his star turn on “Hard Knocks” that Waller has ascended to this ranking — Raiders coaches have been saying for months that they expect him to have a sizable role in their offense.
20. Trey Burton, Bears (6)
The best thing Burton did for his fantasy owners last year was stay healthy, as he posted just the 14th-best per-game scoring average at TE but finished seventh by virtue of playing in all 16 games. Alas, Burton has been slow to recover from offseason sports-hernia surgery, and he may sit out Chicago’s Week 1 game on Thursday.
21. Chris Herndon IV, Jets (4)
22. Dallas Goedert, Eagles (10)
23. T.J. Hockenson, Lions (5)
24. Noah Fant, Broncos (10)
25. Gerald Everett, Rams (9)
26. Tyler Eifert, Bengals (9)
27. Hayden Hurst, Ravens (8)
28. Ian Thomas, Panthers (7)
29. Benjamin Watson, Patriots (10)
30. Geoff Swaim, Jaguars (10)
31. Vernon Davis, Redskins (10)
32. Jordan Thomas, Texans (10)
33. Cameron Brate, Buccaneers (7)
34. Jason Witten, Cowboys (8)
35. Matt LaCosse, Patriots (10)
36. Irv Smith Jr., Vikings (12)
37. Blake Jarwin, Cowboys (8)
38. Will Dissly, Seahawks (39)
39. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins (5)
40. Jonnu Smith, Titans (11)