- The Chargers’ Hunter Henry (7) and the Buccaneers’ Rob Gronkowski (8) switch spots. Gronk may be more of a situational player this season than in the past, while Henry should benefit from an injury to Los Angeles WR Mike Williams.
- Chris Herndon moves up to 15 because the Jets might just come out of training camp with literally no one else available to catch passes.
- The Saints’ Jared Cook falls to 16 out of concerns over a lack of upside compared to the players ranked around him.
- The Jaguars’ Tyler Eifert (29) and the Texans’ Jordan Akins sneak into the low-end TE2 conversation.
Keep in mind that things can and will continue to change rapidly, particularly in the event of injuries, new developments with the novel coronavirus pandemic and/or personnel moves. Thus I’ve embedded my overall rankings at the bottom, and they will update frequently between now and the start of the regular season.
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.
1. George Kittle, 49ers (bye week: 11)
After going chalk with last year’s top finishers at RB, WR and QB, I had to mix things up a bit and rank Kittle over Travis Kelce. I also have a hunch that the 30-year-old Kelce, who has finished first in fantasy TE scoring in every season since 2016 except for a close second to Rob Gronkowski in 2017, is ready to cede his crown to a 26-year-old who is the closest thing we have these days to prime Gronk.
2. Travis Kelce, Chiefs (10)
I would still rank Kelce first in full PPR, and Patrick Mahomes’s favorite target represents an excellent combination of safety and upside (just five touchdowns last year after eight and 10 in the previous two) in the later part of the second round.
3. Mark Andrews, Ravens (8)
Andrews proved last season he could succeed wildly despite a remarkably low snap count, and now former first-round pick Hayden Hurst is gone. More snaps, more targets, more reasons to covet Andrews.
4. Zach Ertz, Eagles (9)
Ertz has been first or second on the Eagles in targets for the past five seasons, and there’s little evidence to suggest that won’t be the case again, even if the developing Dallas Goedert eats a little more into his workload.
5. Darren Waller, Raiders (6)
Las Vegas brought in a bevy of receiving options, but the trust Waller earned with Derek Carr last season should stand him in very good stead this year.
6. Evan Engram, Giants (11)
Sure, Engram is a major injury risk, but the reward of a healthy season could be a dynamic athlete who forces his way to the top of the Giants’ pass-catching pecking order. Another reason he is worth a roll of the dice is that if Engram does get hurt again, the depth this year at TE ensures an adequate fill-in from the waiver wire.
7. Hunter Henry, Chargers (10)
Henry reminded us last year that a) he has trouble staying on the field, and b) when he is on the field, he’s pretty good. If the Chargers wind up installing a version of the Ravens’ pistol-heavy scheme, Henry could be his team’s Andrews, which sounds pretty enticing.
8. Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers (13)
I’ll be paying close attention to training camp reports from Tampa Bay to glean hints about Gronkowski’s possible usage, not to mention his overall readiness after a year of retirement. If it seems that he’ll be a part-timer kept out of harm’s way until the postseason, I’ll move Gronk down, but for now I anticipate he’ll be a fixture in the two-TE base offense the Bucs are employing after signing his old pal Tom Brady.
9. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins (11)
The reason I’ll wind up with a lot of Gesicki this year can be summed up in two words: “Big slot.” That’s the role for which he appears to be ticketed under Miami offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, especially after the coronavirus-related opt-outs of the Dolphins’ expected No. 3 and 4 WRs (Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns). It could be a lucrative role, even if No. 1 WR DeVante Parker continues his late blooming and No. 2 Preston Williams successfully returns from a torn ACL.
10. Tyler Higbee, Rams (9)
What to put the most stock into: Hibgee’s five-game eruption to end last season or, well, his entire career up until that point? Given that he needed an injury to fellow TE Gerald Everett, who’s now back, plus a fortunate run of defenses terrible at defending his position, I’ll hedge between feeling that Higbee was a bit of a fluke and acknowledging that the Rams have probably seen enough to give him a sizable role going forward.
11. Hayden Hurst, Falcons (10)
Atlanta gave up a second-round pick to acquire Hurst from Baltimore, and the Falcons should give him every chance to at least approximate the excellent production they got last year from Austin Hooper.
12. T.J. Hockenson, Lions (5)
After the Lions used the eighth overall pick last year to make Hockenson the NFL’s highest-drafted TE since 2006, it looked like he would quickly justify the selection, as he had a big Week 1 performance. That proved to be by far Hockenson’s high point, however, and he still has to show he’s fully healed from a severe ankle injury, but his athleticism and pedigree point to a good shot at low-end TE1 status this year.
13. Austin Hooper, Browns (9)
Cleveland gave big bucks to Hooper in free agency, but it’s unclear if that will translate to big numbers. The 25-year-old appears to be no better than the No. 3 receiving option (and quite possibly No. 4, given Kareem Hunt’s expected involvement) on a team that wants to run the ball much more than the Falcons did.
14. Chris Herndon IV, Jets (11)
His second season was pretty much a wasted one for Herndon (cue the “So he had that in common with everyone else in the Jets’ organization” jokes), but his feats as a rookie were impressive enough to inspire some confidence he can rekindle his budding bromance with QB Sam Darnold. In addition, the competition for the role of No. 2 pass-catcher behind WR Jamison Crowder appear to be wide open at the moment.
15. Noah Fant, Broncos (8)
When I referred earlier to the depth this year at TE, this is the kind of thing I had in mind. Fant, a 2019 first-round pick with all sorts of receiving ability, could easily blow up — as could several TEs even further down the list — although I’m projecting him to struggle a bit for targets after Denver spent high draft picks on two WRs and a fourth-rounder on another TE.
16. Jared Cook, Saints (6)
A rate last year of nine touchdowns on 65 targets and 43 catches is likely unsustainable, but that kind of thing can happen in New Orleans’s hyper-efficient offense, to which Cook is expected to remain a key contributor despite the addition of veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders.
17. Dallas Goedert, Eagles (9)
Goedert and Ertz showed last year that they could both be top-10 fantasy TEs, and it might happen again amid continued uncertainty in Philadelphia’s WR room. If Ertz were to go down, Goedert could be a league-winner.
18. Jonnu Smith, Titans (7)
Tennessee cut ties with stalwart Delanie Walker, but that doesn’t mean Smith will immediately enjoy Walker’s annual 100-target role from 2014 through 2017. After all, Walker missed most of the past two seasons with injuries, during which time the Titans gave Smith plenty of snaps, but mostly as a blocker.
19. Jack Doyle, Colts (7)
20. Irv Smith Jr., Vikings (7)
21. Eric Ebron, Steelers (8)
22. Blake Jarwin, Cowboys (10)
23. Ian Thomas, Panthers (13)
24. Gerald Everett, Rams (9)
25. O.J. Howard, Buccaneers (13)
26. Tyler Eifert, Jaguars (7)
27. Will Dissly, Seahawks (6)
28. Greg Olsen, Seahawks (6)
29. Jimmy Graham, Bears (11)
30. Jordan Akins, Texans (8)