An NFL player’s rookie season is often a time for adjustment and learning. Rookies, no matter how talented, can often “underachieve” or fail to make an impact. This is most evident at the tight end position, where rookies almost never finish with high-end production. With a year under their belt, they can break out as sophomores, and it’s important to be aware of how second-year players may fare when evaluating draft strategy and developing rankings.
Today, we’ll dive into second-year TEs, sort them into tiers, and discuss their 2019 outlook. Players will land in Tier 1 if they have a good shot at TE1 production, Tier 2 if they have a slight chance to finish as a TE1 but will likely be streamable, and Tier 3 if they have a slight chance to be streamable. Only the most relevant players were included in this article, and the whole 2018 TE draft class was not evaluated.
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Ian Thomas (CAR)
Thomas is the most likely TE in the group to break out in 2019. He finished the season strong, racking up a 25-246-2 line over the season’s five games. Carolina’s newcomer ranked as the TE6 over that stretch, and he has the ability to carry that momentum into 2019. I know Greg Olsen is returning for yet another year and postponing his inevitable spot in the broadcast booth, but my confidence level in the injury-plagued 34-year-old is pretty low. With Devin Funchess out the door, more targets will be available for Thomas, who could be a huge late-round addition in fantasy drafts. He’s going undrafted in 12-team leagues as the TE29,
Mark Andrews (BAL)
Andrews took over a lot of the TE duties from an oft-injured Hayden Hurst last season, and the former could be in line for another solid performance in year two. Hurst is dealing with another injury, and the Ravens’ receiving corps outside of Marquise Brown is bare bones. Andrews racked up a 34-552-3 line as a rookie, leading all first-year TEs in receiving yards. He could be in for a productive sophomore season.
Chris Herndon IV (NYJ)
Herndon displayed a lot of athleticism and upside in his rookie season, and if not for a likely two-game suspension stemming from a January DWI, he would be in Tier 1. The Jets still lack talent at wide receiver, so Herndon could easily find his way to 80+ targets if he continues his upward trajectory. His 502 receiving yards in 2018 ranked just behind Andrews for the lead among rookie TEs.
Will Dissly (SEA)
Dissly finished with eight receptions for 156 receiving yards and two scores as a rookie in three-and-a-half games. That projects out to a 37-713-9 line over a 16-game season, good for TE1 production in 2018. His season was cut short by a patellar tendon tear, but he’s apparently moving steadily through the rehab process and should be ready for training camp. Dissly’s mini-breakout was not just a flash in the pan, as the Seahawks’ coaching staff still value his play and believe him to be the TE1 entering the season.
Mike Gesicki (MIA)
Gesicki is a physically and athletically gifted talent who had a terrible rookie season in 2018, barely finding the field and rarely making an impact (22-202-0) when he did. He has the tools to become a weekly contributor, but he needs to become more consistent and earn additional playing time under a new coaching staff. The upside is big, but he’s in this tier because of so much uncertainty.
Hayden Hurst (BAL)
Despite the laundry list of injuries and a very disappointing rookie campaign, Hurst is still an ultra-talented tight end. This talent made him the only one at his position taken in the first round last year. He’s ranked in Tier 3 for a couple of reasons. First, he’s dealing with a tweaked hamstring in minicamp already. Another injury isn’t a good sign after missing time last season. Second, Andrews played well in 2018. Hurst won’t be given the majority of the snaps — he’ll have to earn them. Combine a guy who presents uncertainty with his health and snap count with another talented and healthy TE on the roster, and the risk is huge.
Dallas Goedert (PHI)
Goedert may be the most talented of this bunch. Seriously, he’s that good. Unfortunately, he ended up drafted by a team that already sports one of the best TEs in the league in Zach Ertz. An injury to Ertz would vault Goedert into Tier 1 instantly, and he could be a weekly TE1 given the opportunity. Goedert finished 2018 with a respectable 33-334-4 line in a limited role, and his numbers could be much more if given the chance. For now, he’s relegated to Tier 3 because of his Pro Bowl teammate and lack of quality snaps played per game.
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Zachary Hanshew is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.