Perhaps you play a doctor on TV, but 2019 is a breath of fresh air for the fantasy TE rankings. No need for a medical degree to determine if Rob Gronkowski's health makes him worthy of a first-round pick or not. His retirement ended that annual speculation. And he's not coming back this year. Maybe he takes a year off and comes back when the Patriots fail to win 12 games this year. Maybe. But for now, let's enjoy the simplicity of this position this year.
Because the draft strategy for tight end this year is simple. If you don't get one of the top three tight ends, wait. And wait. And wait some more. Because after the top three, every tight end has multiple "yabitts" as in "Yeah, but..." I've broken the TE rankings into over half a dozen tiers, but I could have easily broken into just two. The top three and then everyone else.
In those drafts where I fail to get one of the top three tight ends, I often wait until one of the last three rounds to grab my tight end. And you know what? I'm just as happy with the TE I end up with as the ones I could have taken in the fourth round.
Tier 1: Kelce Above All Else-ie
1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Kelce is my clear No. 1 TE. I do really like Zach Ertz and George Kittle. But I wouldn't take either of that pair in the first round and Kelce I would. Not only would I take Kelce in the first round, but I also would probably take him as high as No. 5 overall. His floor is high. He's a lock for at least 70 catches, half a dozen touchdowns, and at least 1,000 yards. Kelce also is a lot healthier than Gronk ever was, making his ceiling sky high. Given that Kelce has the consensus top-ranked quarterback throwing to him, he's a sure bet to be the first tight end taken in your league.
Tier 2: Ertz and Kittle Before We Start to Belittle
2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
3. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
Yeah, it's not exactly "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain", but it works. Etrz and Kittle are solid TEs that will be fantasy cornerstones. I actually like Kittle a little more than Ertz but that's only because I like the upside of Dallas Goedert and there are far more proven wide receivers in Philadelphia than there are in San Francisco. But that's splitting hairs. Neither has the high floor that Kelce has, but both are locks to catch more than 70 passes and top 1,000 yards.
Tier 3: The Crest Below the Peak
And we now begin the start of the great mass of "the rest." And here is where you will see the various fantasy analysts begin to diverge in their opinions, starting with myself. Many put O.J. Howard as the No. 4 TE. But not I.
4. Evan Engram, New York Giants
At the start of the summer I actually had Engram lower in my rankings, but due the number of hits that have befallen the NYG WR corps, Engram has shot up my rankings. Saquon Barkley can't do everything and if the Giants are going to score, they need Engram to contribute. He will.
5. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
No need to make this complicated. We have always known Henry is a stud. He was injured last year and now he's not. And Antonio Gates is gone. Should one of those top three TEs suffer an injury, I would not be surprised to see Henry take their place this year. His floor is lower than Engram, but his ceiling is miles above Engram.
6. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Howard is getting a lot of love in the fantasy community and I get it. Eleven TDs the past two years will do that. But one of my biggest issues is not that there's anything wrong with Howard, but I still think Cameron Brate might be one of the best second TEs in the league and therefore Howard's production is limited. Sure, he might have six TDs. But he's not catching 60 passes.
Tier 4: Plenty of Doubt
, Indianapolis Colts
The 750 yards and 13 touchdowns last year are impressive. But the most consistent thing about Ebron has been his inconsistency. If he hits double-digit touchdowns this year, I promise to rank him higher next year. I'll keep my word, but I'm not too worried about having to do so.
8. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
I like Njoku. He might even score more TDs than the four he did last year. But with OBJ now on the Browns, there is no way Njoku is seeing 88 targets this year.
9. Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints
The 2018 season was a very nice one for Cook where he caught 68 passes for 896 yards and six touchdowns. And catching passes from Drew Brees will only help. But with Alvin Kamara on the Saints, last year's numbers are Cook's absolute ceiling and it wouldn't' surprise me if Cook's numbers are half of last year's
10. Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons
Hooper is going to be targeted every game, which is not true for many TEs. He is the definition of what you should expect out of an average TE any given week. You grab Hooper knowing exactly what you are getting. There is something to be said for that.
11. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
12. Trey Burton, Chicago Bears
13. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
14. Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers
Tier 5: The All-Scars
15. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
16. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
17. Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
18. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
Tier 6: Be vewy, vewy quiet. I'm hunting sleepers!
19. Chris Herndon, New York Jets
20. Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
21. Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams
22. Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders
23. Jordan Thomas, Houston Texans
Tier 7: I'm Just Not Buying It
24. Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
Look, I have been wrong on occasion. But I am probably alone on an island with this ranking and I could be extremely wrong on McDonald. I'm just not buying the love he is getting in the fantasy community. Has anyone got more love out of one stiff arm in their life? The bulk of Antonio Brown's targets I think will go to James Washington and Donte Moncrief. And the Steelers have been running 2-TE sets for a while. It wouldn't surprise me to see Xavier Grimble surpass McDonald's production this year. I don't pay for a career year and that's exactly what McDonald had in 2018.
(Photo by Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers, courtesy of www.steelers.com)
Tier 8: Rookies and Second-Year Players
25. Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
26. Noah Fant, Denver Broncos
27. T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
28. Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
29. Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers
30. Hayden Hurst, Baltimore Ravens
31. Josh Oliver, Jacksonville Jaguars
(Photo by Gabriel Christus, courtesy of www.denverbroncos.com)
Tier 9: Don't Call it a Comeback
32. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
So I guess Witten is willing to wait an additional year to get into the Hall of Fame, huh? He'll still make it, but it's not going to be because of this upcoming year. If he catches even 40 passes or accumulates 500 yards I'll be shocked. But he's got HOF talent. When you're getting this deep, you could do worse than taking a gamble on a future HOFer.
Tier 10: The Rest of My Top 40
Even in a 16-team league, I hope you're not drafting from this tier, but each of these guys should be on your radar for one reason or another. Do yourself a favor and find out why.
33. Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals
34. Ben Watson, New England Patriots
35. Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks
36. Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings
37. Adam Shaheen, Chicago Bears
38. Charles Clay, Arizona Cardinals
39. Matt LaCosse, New England Patriots
40. Geoff Swaim, Jacksonville Jaguars
— Tiers compiled 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.
(Photo by Rod Mar, courtesy of www.seahawks.com)