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Tight Ends That Will Rise Above Their ADP in 2021

We are literally days away from the start of the season. The last position I need to cover is the tight end position. A very deep position with values all across the board. The strategy that goes along with tight ends is very simple, take an elite guy early or wait. I think there’s a guy who goes a little after those “elite” tight ends, Kelce, Waller, Kittle, and Pitts that’ll outperform half of them. Of course, you can’t go wrong with any of those guys but you can get solid producers at the other positions by waiting on a better value.

So forget about the top guys. As I said, there will be value later on in your drafts. The difference last year in total points from TE8 to TE16 was 9.1. So basically catch another touchdown or a few more grabs in a PPR format, you can be top 8 for many guys. I don’t think it’ll be that close in 2021. The difference between those rankings was 50 points in 2019.

As always, the ADP data used is from Underdog Fantasy. Make sure you click that link below for a special offer!  So enough of the small talk, it’s time to get into my values at the tight end position.

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tight end

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TJ Hockenson, Tight End, Detroit Lions

Another Lion that I have a love for this season is Hockenson.  I already wrote about Swift in an earlier article. Two Lions that are this valuable? You got that right! The team is bad outside of their offensive line, running backs, and tight end. That means volume for Hockenson. He is currently being drafted as TE6 but he’s going to finish in the top 3. Those other guys being taken ahead of him are going in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Hockenson can be yours 3 rounds later.

After finishing 5th among TE’s in 2020, the rise to the top 3 isn’t a stretch. The Lions lost their top receivers. Kenny Golladay is in New York Marvin Jones is in Jacksonville and Danny Amendola is on a beach somewhere. Those 3 guys have left 216 targets vacated from last year. A year in which Hockenson saw 101 targets with those guys. Realistically, his target share of 18% should increase. Keeping in mind the extra game this year, Hockenson can see over 140 targets. A feat was only done by 2 guys last year, Kelce and Waller.

There’s also a new quarterback under center in Detroit. Jared Goff has been known to feed the tight end position. In 2019, he had Tyler Higbee finish as TE8. In 2020, Higbee didn’t finish as high but Gerald Everett cut into his work. If you combined Everett and Higbee, their total points finish as a top 3 TE easily. The tight end position in Detroit begins and ends with Hockenson so it’s all his!

More on TJ Hockenson and DFSnDonuts NFL Player Projections

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Jonnu Smith, Tight End, New England Patriots

Jonnu is in a new home, New England, but it’s a city that has had great success with tight ends in the past. Since the Patriots can’t seem to find elite wide receivers, I think they are going back to what worked for them a few years ago. The fantasy community hasn’t caught on to this apparently. Jonnu is being taken as the 17th tight end off the board in drafts, still in August.  Remember how I said TE8 through TE16 was so close? Well, Jonnu was TE16. He caught 8 touchdowns on a run-first team but if he caught 9, he’s top 10.

The Patriots spent $50 million to bring Jonnu to New England. He’s guaranteed to make over $15 million in each of the next 2 seasons. That means there’s a plan. Back in 2011, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez both had great success. This year, to a lesser extent, Jonnu and Hunter Henry have the potential to have success. It’s hard to look at last year because the Patriots had literally no options in the passing game outside of Jakobi Meyers. If the team is looking to get their offense clicking in 2021, it will go through the tight ends.

Jonnu averaged over 10 yards per reception in 2020 and 12.5 in 2019. He has big playability. His ability to stretch the field a little makes him a target all over the field and not just the red zone. The quarterback battle between Cam Newton and Mac Jones won’t have a large effect on Jonnu’s production. I’d favor Jones a little more since he’s a rookie and Newton hasn’t favored tight ends in his career.

Jonnu is being drafted as if he’s still in Tennessee and he isn’t the 4th highest-paid tight end. I’m taking him all day at TE17 this year. Playing on a more balanced offense that will feature the tight ends, Jonnu is a solid play in 2021.

tight end

Photo credit: Jasen Vinlove- USA Today Sports

Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins

Unlike Jonnu, Mike Gesicki is being taken as a starting tight end. The group of tight ends in this range can be very close but Gesicki has the potential to break out and create some space. He’s the TE12 off the board but I see him finishing just outside the top 5 this year. He finished 2020 as TE7.

Why is he being drafted so much lower than how he finished last year? Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller. Waddle was taken in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s also a former teammate of Tua at Alabama. Of course, there’s a concern. I love Fuller as much as the next guy but he can’t be trusted to play a full season. Parker has injury issues already but seems to be getting better. All this doesn’t scare me away.

Gesicki was the pass catcher who excelled with Tua under center. It was slow out of the gate but in Gesicki’s last 4 games, they were operating on all cylinders. In those games, Gesicki averaged 16.6 points per game. That would be 3rd best among tight ends, behind Waller and Kelce. Is that sustainable over 17 game season, that remains to be seen. The chemistry is there.

In 2020, Gesicki had a mediocre target share of 16.28%. Still put up TE7 numbers. He had some touchdowns taken away by other tight ends but it’s fluky. Tua trusts Gesicki. His other pass catchers are either inexperienced or unreliable. You can expect an uptick in usage and touchdowns for Gesicki, not the other way around. So if he’s sitting there in the 11th and 12th rounds of your draft and you need your first tight end, he’s your guy!

Make sure you check out the 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit by Team Rise or Fall  to get the edge over your opponents this season!

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