Early Tight End Sleepers (2019 Fantasy Football)
With TE becoming a very difficult place to find fantasy production, the quest to find this year’s George Kittle has become a high priority for most owners. Having an advantage over your opponent at any position is what we’re all looking for and with arguably only five TE’s putting up good numbers last year, it’s worth the effort to dig deep. Kittle saw more than double the targets last year than in 2017, and while that is extreme there are a few candidates I will discuss that may give you that edge this year. Because of injuries, Hunter Henry and Jake Butt are obvious choices, but let’s look at some other sleepers.
Gerald Everett (LAR)
Stung by his coaching performance in the Super Bowl, Sean McVay may want to add a new wrinkle to his offense in 2019. Hey, how about throwing to your tight ends? Everett and Tyler Higbee received a total of 5.2 targets per game last year (Zach Ertz alone received 9.8). A former basketball player with elite athleticism, Everett only played one year of football in high school. He may never be a polished route runner but in 2016 he led all college TE’s in missed tackles with 24 and has drawn comparisons to Jordan Reed and Antonio Gates. I don’t recall any glowing scouting reports on Robert Woods in Buffalo, but he has become an excellent WR in this offense. My money is on Everett eventually becoming a legitimate weapon in L.A.
Mike Gesicki (MIA)
Many pundits declared that Gesicki won the NFL combine last year but he really underwhelmed during his rookie season with Miami. Most players on that team had poor production for Adam “did you guys see that?” Gase and Gesicki get a fresh start with a new coaching staff. The obvious question to begin with, is who will be the quarterback, as Ryan Tannehill may have used up all of his credit at the table. Chad O’Shea is the new offensive coordinator and had great success working with the likes of Wes Welker and Julian Edelman as the WR’s coach in New England. He has been quoted as saying his scheme should fit the players on the team….hmm. I’m guessing a young, 250 lb. TE with 4.54 speed might get more than 2.0 targets per game, regardless of the QB. The Dolphins don’t have a superstar (or arguably a star) at the WR position so Gesicki could be in for a much more productive season.
Mark Andrews (BAL)
Ozzie Newsome seemed determined to draft a TE last year and may have reached on Hayden Hurst in the first round. To think he drafted the quarterback of the future (or at least near future) after that pick is a bit surprising. While Hurst did miss four games with a stress fracture, there is little doubt he was outplayed by Mark Andrews, a third round pick from the same draft. With Ozzie moving upstairs, there may be less pressure to force the issue with Hurst being a first round pick, and Andrews could very well see his targets double from the 3.1 per game clip from 2018. His Type 1 Diabetes condition may have scared some teams off, but he was the John Mackey Award winner as the top TE in college football in 2017.
Jonnu Smith (TEN)
Delanie Walker is 34 years old and coming off a nasty ankle injury. He may or may not be ready for OTA’s and I may have mentioned he’s 34. Smith himself is rehabbing a knee injury and may also miss the start of training camp but is a sprightly 23 years of age and should bounce back more quickly than Walker. Tennessee’s offense was a huge disappointment last year, but much of that may be attributed to QB Marcus Mariota injuring the elbow in his right arm and never fully regaining health during the season. Smith averaged only 2.0 targets per game and has a real chance to unseat Walker as the number one TE for the Titans. Walker was averaging 115 targets per year from 2015-17, so that could result in a huge target spike for Smith.