I shared my fantasy football quarterback tiers for 2020 last week, and now it's time to do the same for the tight end position. For this same exercise last year, I discussed how Rob Gronkowski's retirement ended the annual speculation about whether or not he was worth a high pick. Guess that was short-lived, eh?
At least this year, it's pretty universally agreed that Gronk is not worth an early pick. No argument here. Meanwhile, I would not fault anyone however for using a late first- or second-round pick on his heir apparent, George Kittle. He is an absolute stud. Nonetheless, do keep in mind that despite Kittle's monster season last year at a thin position, he still only produced as much as a WR2. If you are in a league that does not require a tight end, no tight end is worth an early pick.
However, most leagues require a tight end, so with that in mind, here are the 2020 tight end tiers.
— Tiers by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.
, San Francisco 49ers
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
Andrews barely makes the cut here, but he's a top tier TE. He "only" had 852 yards last season, but I think that's his floor this year, with his ceiling closer to 1,200 yards. If he can manage double-digit touchdowns again, he will absolutely be a top tier tight end at this time next year. And I know I don't need to make the case for Kelce, who is once again and will be one of the top tight ends in fantasy football. But I do think Kittle surpasses him this year. And you know the 49ers are banking on it, given the huge contract extension they have offered him.
Likewise, Kelce also is close to signing a new deal.
, Las Vegas Raiders
, New York Giants
, Los Angeles Chargers
, Philadelphia Eagles
If you miss out on the top tier tight ends, don't fret. There's a drop, but you should still feel good about securing any of the tier 2 options.
To be honest, I'm a little nervous about Ertz. Still, 22 touchdowns and 2,903 receiving yards over the last three years speaks for itself. Until I know he won't produce as he has, there's no reason not to take a chance on him hitting those highs again. But his floor, simply due to the presence of Dallas Goedert, is far lower than the other three options in this tier. I'm not going to reach for any of these options, but if they fall even a round later than I think they should, I will gladly grab them.
Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(Photo by Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers, courtesy of buccaneers.com)
, Atlanta Falcons
Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints
Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos
Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
I know, that last tier was a little light on analysis. But if you don't know the entire debate on Gronk by now, come back when you do. However, to make up for that, I will be very specific and tell you that I like each of the tight ends in Tier 4 to score four touchdowns this year. Every one of them has a higher ceiling than that, but each one's floor, barring injury, is four TDs. Hurst is definitely my favorite in this tier, however. Despite having to share TE targets with not only Mark Andrews but Nick Boyle, Hurst still managed to haul in 30 passes for nearly 350 yards. Now in Atlanta, Hurst will step right in and fill the slot Hooper vacated. Matt Ryan has already begun praising him, and remember, Ryan played with Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez.
(Hayden Hurst photo courtesy of @EnterSportsMgmt)
Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans
Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys
Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
Greg Olsen, Seattle Seahawks
Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers
I call this tier the "not on my teams" tier. It's not that I dislike any of them. I just know that if I don't get anyone in the first four tiers of TEs, I'm likely to wait until near the end of my draft to grab a tight end. If these players fall four or five rounds beyond market value, I might consider them. Each one has the possibility of outproducing any of the tight ends in the tier above. Is that a probability? No, but it is a very real possibility.
Chris Herndon, New York Jets
Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings
O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills
These four tight ends also have the upside to be a TE1 this season. But unlike those in the previous tier, they might not crack the top 40 TEs either. I think each one takes a step forward this year, but I like each of these far more for 2021 than for this season. Keeper and dynasty league owners absolutely need to have these four tight ends on their radar because their long-term upside is sky-high.
Jace Sternberger, Green Bay Packers
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams
Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks
Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears
David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars
Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is what I would call the "store brand clementines" tier. My two youngest children, who are both fruit lovers, love Cuties brand clementines. During the cooler months, that's their number one fruit request, and quite the insistent one. However, that brand is not always in stock, or for whatever reason, I end up buying the store brand clementines. It's not really what they want, and they might last a few more days than a bag of Cuties, but they still are happy to finish the whole bag of clementines within the week.
That's what this tier is all about. None of these TE are really going to get you excited, but they will satisfy your need at the position.
(Jace Sternberger photo by Corey Wilson, courtesy of packers.com)
C.J. Uzomah, Cincinnati Bengals
Jordan Akins, Houston Texans
Darren Fells, Houston Texans
Trey Burton, Indianapolis Colts
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
Ryan Griffin, New York Jets
Jacob Hollister, Seattle Seahawks
Nick Boyle, Baltimore Ravens
Jason Witten, Las Vegas Raiders
And this tier of TEs is like going to your grocery store the night before they get their shipments. You are just hoping and praying they have something in stock that you can use. These tight ends are going to be serviceable at best. Okay, Kmet has some upside, but tight ends typically do very little in their rookie year. We can hope possibly that can be worthy TE2s. That's about the ceiling for these options. You can probably get 'em cheap, and there's a reason for that. But if you need a bye week replacement for your stud TE, these will do.
(Cole Kmet photo courtesy of chicagobears.com)
Devin Asiasi, New England Patriots
Josh Oliver, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jeremy Sprinkle, Washington Football Team
Foster Moreau, Las Vegas Raiders
Thaddeus Moss, Washington Football Team
Or if you want to go for the "Hail Mary"/"No Guts, No Glory"/"Go Hard or Go Home" late-round options, here are five of my favorites. The ceiling on this quintet is very high. Each one has the potential to be a top-10 tight end this season. They also have the potential to finish outside of the top 50 tight ends too. The likelihood, at least for 2020, is that they finish closer to the latter. Therefore, these players are likely better left as free agency options in most redraft leagues, but for my beloved dynasty and 14-team leaguers (and deeper) looking for a second or third TE, give these options a long look.