Ah, the tight end position. Maybe someday, it’ll go beyond just three elite players who require high-draft capital. Maybe someday, NFL teams will invest so much in the tight end position that fantasy managers will have a plethora of good options to choose from in a draft.
Until then, however, we’ll have to deal with the reality of the position: Few elite options, young upside picks who may or may not pay off, and the streaming life (we’ve all been there).
But heroes emerge at every position — in every fantasy season — and tight end is no different. The following top-five list of 2019 has the familiar names, but it also has a pair of new names whose production completely obliterated their ADP:
1) Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs — 205.80 fantasy points
I think, at this point, it’s safe to say Travis Kelce has become fantasy’s new Rob Gronkowski. This is the third time since 2016 that Kelce has finished as the top fantasy tight end — that remaining season (2017), he finished second. Kelce delivered his fourth consecutive 1,000-plus yard season in 2019. Coincidentally, he only scored five times this season, but that just goes to show that Kelce doesn’t need a gaudy touchdown total to dominate. His 76.8 receiving yards per game and 136 total targets in 2019 are the second-highest marks of his career. He averaged six catches a game, which, as we all know, is pretty lofty for a tight end.
His best game of the fantasy season actually came in Week 2, where he showed off his explosive skillset: 9 targets, 7 catches, 107 yards, and a touchdown. A second-round ADP for a tight end might sting a little, but Travis Kelce is no regular tight end. It also pays off to be Patrick Mahomes’ favorite target.
2) George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers — 180.00 fantasy points
If there’s a real challenger to Travis Kelce in the debate of “Who is the best tight end in football?” it would be George Kittle. Along with being one of the more entertaining, exciting players to watch, Kittle broke out in 2018 (88-1377-5) and continued the excellent production in 2019. Sure, his numbers declined across the board (except for TDs — he scored five times again), but his season total was enough for the second spot on this list.
Kittle was tied with Mark Andrews (more on him later) for the most 20-plus-yard receptions (16) in the league among tight ends, an example of his unreal run-after-the-catch talent. His best performance of the fantasy season was a 21.90 point effort in Week 12 against the Green Bay Packers when he went off for six catches, 129 yards, and a touchdown. Fantasy players should expect more season-finishes like these for Kittle as he continues to make his mark on the league.
3) Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders — 176.00 fantasy points
Our first surprise on this list, Waller exploded onto the scene in 2019, completely destroying his previous career-highs in almost hilarious fashion. To put things in perspective, Waller caught 90 balls (on 117 targets) for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns. His previous high was 10-85-2 in 12 games. Waller stepped into the hole left behind by Jared Cook and wasted no time producing, collecting a 20.60-fantasy-point game in Week 3.
2019 Top-5 Series
Waller finished 2019 second in receptions, third in targets, and second in receiving yards among tight ends. He was also just one of three tight ends who completed a 75-yard catch. His best game of the season came against the aforementioned Packers: 7 catches, 126 yards, and two touchdowns.
And to think, Waller’s ADP was a stunning 120.4. That won’t repeat in 2020.
4) Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens — 175.20 fantasy points
On average, Mark Andrews was drafted just a few picks earlier (116.6) than Waller, and he ended up leading the league in touchdowns (10) by a tight end. Andrews was a direct beneficiary of Lamar Jackson’s MVP-level season as the quarterback’s top target. Yet, it was those touchdowns that buoyed Andrews on this list, as he fell far behind his predecessors in catches and yards. Nonetheless, his numbers increased exponentially in Year 2, so it’s not a stretch to predict an even better season in 2020, even if the touchdowns could regress.
Andrews started the season on an incredibly hot note, posting back-to-back 20-plus point fantasy games. He would save his best for last though, in Championship Week: 6 catches, 93 yards, two touchdowns, 24.30 fantasy points. That’s a week-winning performance.
5) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles — 171.60 fantasy points
As you might have guessed from the title of this piece, Zach Ertz — after finishing top-3 alongside Travis Kelce in 2017 and both Kelce and George Kittle in 2018 — dropped to fifth this season. Could he be outside the top-five next season? Well, let’s check out the tale of the tape.
Ertz’s numbers declined across the board after his career year in 2018. Yet, he was still second in targets and third in receptions among tight ends. Ertz’s best game of the season came at the start of the fantasy playoffs when he tore up the New York Giants to the tune of 9 catches, 91 yards, and two touchdowns. He dealt with injury in 2019 as well as the Eagles finding more usage for talented backup tight end, Dallas Goedert. Nonetheless, Ertz produced, even if he didn’t reach his lofty ceiling.
So, will we continue to see a drop for Ertz? He remains Carson Wentz’s favorite target and when healthy, he has as high a ceiling as you can find at the tight end position. His slight decline in 2019 might just be a blessing in disguise, as it will probably reduce his draft price come August.
Which tight end carried your team this fantasy season? Who let you down? Who are you targeting in 2020? Let us know in the comments below, and hit us up @YahooFantasy!