8 Tight Ends to Avoid Based on Current Rankings (2020 Fantasy Football)
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We’ve examined running backs and quarterbacks our writers are avoiding at their current cost. This week, we’ve asked our writers for tight ends that they are most likely to pass on based on our fantasy football expert consensus rankings. Here’s what they had to say.
Q: Which tight ends are you least likely to draft at their current ranking?
Hunter Henry (LAC): TE7
What can we expect from Hunter Henry in 2020 that would push him to the TE7 ranking? Owners hoping for Henry to keep trending upward might be severely disappointed in the results. The Chargers’ offense might be one to avoid completely this year. Tyrod Taylor should take over as the starting quarterback, but that doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. Taylor is a low-volume passer whose running ability outside the pocket will make Henry less effective as a check-down option. Henry has consistently battled injuries throughout his career, which gives me pause at a position that is second only to running backs in terms of physicality. I think it would take a perfect storm of Justin Herbert being named the starter, Henry staying healthy for 16 games, and the Chargers vastly outperforming their offense’s projections for Henry to return value. That isn’t a bet I am willing to make. I would much rather invest in Tyler Higbee around the same price or wait on Noah Fant, or even Rob Gronkowski, two or three rounds later.
– Jason Kamlowsky (@JasonKamlowsky)
Henry recorded career-highs last season with 55 receptions, 76 targets, and 652 yards in 12 games. In all four seasons of his career, he played with Philip Rivers. Replace him with Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert, and his outlook is on the decline. Taylor has never thrown more than 436 passes or 3,035 yards in a season; Rivers surpassed those totals every season since 2006 with the Chargers. The most pressing negative of drafting Henry to your fantasy squad has been the injuries. He has dealt with a plethora of them since 2016, missing 23 total games. Henry has had a concussion (2016), knee strain (2016), ACL tear (2018), and a tibia plateau fracture (2019). Henry is the TE7 right now, but you can make a case for Noah Fant (TE12), Hayden Hurst (TE13), and Mike Gesiciki (TE14) to finish around him in 2020. Fant and Hurst are projected for 91.0 and 90.4 fantasy points, respectively, compared to Henry’s 98.2. His ADP is 92.93, sending him to 7.08 in 12-team leagues. You can get any of the three aforementioned tight ends in the ninth round. If Henry receives his career-high 19.7% of targets (2017) in 2020, he would have 86, which would be just about in line with his projected 59.5 receptions for 691.9 yards when using his career 71.2% catch rate. The difference between Henry and the tight ends falling a few rounds behind him is minuscule, so avoid the often-injured Henry this season and wait to see how the Herbert-Taylor experience shakes out.
– Vaughn Dalzell (@VaughnDalzel)
He’s a good player, and the Chargers spent an early second-round pick on him in 2016, but Hunter Henry likely won’t live up to expectations as a mid-range TE1 this season. For starters, he’ll work with a new starting quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, rather than Philip Rivers. Given the Hall-of-Fame career former tight end Antonio Gates had with Rivers under center, the sky would have been the limit for Henry if Rivers had remained in Los Angeles. But the change in quarterback has me worried about volume. The last time Taylor was a starting quarterback was with the Bills from 2015 to 2017. His starting tight end, Charles Clay, never finished a season with more than 57 receptions, 558 yards, or four touchdowns. While Taylor has never attempted more than 438 passes in a season, Rivers attempted 591 passes last season. Los Angeles’ offense is going to look a bit different this season than it has in years past with Taylor at the helm. This could be good for the team’s outlook, but not so good for Henry’s fantasy value. With Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams still vying for targets, it’s hard to see Henry living up to his TE7 ECR. In the same price range, I’d rather have Tyler Higbee, Noah Fant, and Hayden Hurst, all of whom find themselves in better situations to garner a higher volume of targets.
– Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler)
Austin Hooper (CLE): TE11
At TE11, I am not interested in drafting a tight end that joins a pass-catching corps of Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Kareem Hunt, and Nick Chubb. Despite winning just six games, Cleveland ranked middle-of-the-pack with 59.6% passing plays in 2019. The Browns added former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as their head coach. Last year, Stefanski’s offense was extremely run-heavy. While much of that can probably be attributed to head coach Mike Zimmer demanding as much, it’s unlikely Cleveland turns pass-happy in 2020. Hooper benefited from a strong 18.5% target share in 2019 that ticked up to 25.7% in the red zone. His overall target share ranked ninth-best among TEs on the season, and it’s unlikely he’ll replicate that result in Cleveland’s less-consolidated passing attack. Hooper’s only real hope is that the pie itself expands, but it’s hard to imagine the 2020 Browns being more pass-friendly than the 2019 Falcons. I’d draft several TEs ranked behind Hooper ahead of him, down potentially as far as the TE18, Jack Doyle. However, if I’m drafting a TE in this range, I’m only interested in upside. I’m looking at Hayden Hurst, T.J. Hockenson, or Jonnu Smith all before I even think about Hooper.
– Mark Leipold (@LeipoldNFL)
Austin Hooper is currently 11th among all tight ends in the latest ECR. After signing a four-year, $42 million deal with the Browns this offseason (making him the highest-paid TE in the NFL), he will now have to share targets with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb, and Rashard Higgins. Hooper had a career year with the Falcons in 2019, hauling in 75 receptions for 787 yards and six touchdowns across 13 games. The 25-year-old averaged 7.5 targets a game, as the Falcons were in catch-up mode most of last season. As a result, he recorded 491 receiving yards and five touchdowns in the second half. Baker Mayfield will likely use Hooper as a safety valve, but I doubt he reaches a high target volume as the fourth or fifth option in the Browns’ passing game. Unless Cleveland becomes a heavy pass-first offense in 2020, it’s going to be tough for Hooper to post borderline TE1 numbers given his competition. I would rather take a chance on Noah Fant, Hayden Hurst, Mike Gesicki, or Jonnu Smith, who are all currently ranked lower.
– Brad Camara (@beerad30)
Noah Fant (DEN): TE12
Hunter Henry would be my higher-end answer, but because others have already named him, I will go a bit lower and name Noah Fant, who is 14th in expert consensus ranking in 1/2 PPR but 19th for me. Fant had a very solid rookie season overall and had an impressive 8.9 yards per target. But boy, that Denver offense just got a bit more crowded. The Broncos added Melvin Gordon, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, not to menton drafting the incredibly athletic Albert Okwuegbunam. If you take away the game against Kansas City during which Drew Lock attempted 40 passes in a futile effort to close a big deficit, Lock threw the ball an average if just 29 times per game last season. With a defense that should remain strong and Gordon adding to the running game, there’s little reason to expect a big increase in Lock’s pass attempts, meaning Denver will have a low passing volume offense with plenty of options. That leaves Fant well outside of the TE1 range for me, rather than a borderline selection as he is in ECR.
– Dan Harris (@danharris80)
Evan Engram (NYG): TE6
I have never questioned Engram’s ability, but he’s simply the new Jordan Reed. Engram is athletic, dynamic, and one of the best when healthy. However, health is a big problem. If you are not on the field, then you are not getting fantasy points no matter your athletic profile, college production, or draft capital. Engram is ranked as the sixth tight end in FantasyPros’ ECR. I find that if I don’t draft Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or Mark Andrews, I am waiting on tight end. There are so many potential diamonds much later. I’d rather stock up on more running backs or wide receivers and wait for a Hayden Hurst, Ian Thomas, Jonnu Smith, Jack Doyle, or Jace Sternberger. Grabbing two tight ends later is my approach rather than hoping a player like Engram defies history and is the key to me winning a championship.
– Marc Mathyk (@masterjune70)
Jared Cook (NO): TE9
If you are willing to draft Cook at his current rank of TE9, you better be sure there are another 20 targets for him in a New Orleans offense that just added Emmanuel Sanders. The argument here is simple. Cook was unbelievably efficient last year. That was mainly thanks to his nine touchdowns on just 43 catches. His touchdown tally will surely decrease this year, meaning that he is going to have to catch at least 10 more balls to return the same score he put up last year. Players available after him (Hayden Hurst, Noah Fant, Rob Gronkowski) have far more upside, so do yourself a favor and let someone else reach for Cook.
– Ethan Summers (@AllSummersLong_)
Darren Waller (LV): TE5
Darren Waller was an incredible feel-good story in 2019. Not only did he rise from anonymity to become a Hard Knocks fan favorite, but the 27-year-old would also go on to help fantasy players win their leagues. Over 16 games Waller commanded 117 targets, which he turned into 90 receptions for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns. There is a fantastic case to make that Waller is due for positive TD regression. However, I’m skeptical that an uptick in scoring will offset a likely decrease in target share. Put another way, I don’t expect the positive scoring regression to justify his ECR of TE5, especially when the Raiders added so many other pass-catchers this offseason. Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, Lynn Bowden, and Jason Witten are now in Vegas. While the passing game should still flow through Waller on most occasions, there is certainly more competition for targets entering 2020.
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)
Zach Ertz (PHI): TE4
I do not think Ertz is overvalued at tight end. As the fourth one off the board, that position ADP is about right given the league’s tight end situation. However, I’m struggling with his overall ADP of 47. Last year, he was the 40th-ranked skill position player with 215.6 fantasy points in 15 games. This was playing on an offense that targeted tight ends 235 times. The second-place team in that department was the Baltimore Ravens, who targeted tight ends only 180 times. This is going to be a different season for the Eagles. Last year, they had a ton of injuries at wide receiver that necessitated them throwing to the tight end that much. The Eagles have consistently liked targeting tight ends since hiring Doug Pederson as the head coach back in 2016, but I could see them reducing those targets to 180-200, which is more normal for their offense. Second, fellow tight end Dallas Goedert is not going anywhere. Targeted 87 times last year, he is going to have a significant role in this offense. There will be games where Ertz is not the leading fantasy tight end on his own team. Ertz is more likely to get the 105 to 115 targets he saw in 2015-2017 than the 156 and 135 targets he received in the last two seasons, respectively. If he goes back down to those target totals, he’ll probably finish closer to 70 receptions, 800 yards, and six-eight touchdowns. That is a great season for a tight end, but it would put him closer to the 160-180 fantasy point range. That makes him a bad value at his current ranking. He is currently valued at his ceiling, and if the Eagles do not target the tight end as much or Goedert takes away a significant amount, there is little chance Ertz lives up to his current ranking. I would rather stream tight ends against favorable matchups than take Ertz at his current ranking. If he fell to the end of the sixth round or beginning of the seventh round, I would happily draft him there. That does not appear to be in the cards given his current ADP.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)
Tyler Higbee (LAR): TE8
Tyler Higbee is currently ranked as the TE8 in PPR leagues after dominating over the final five weeks of 2019. His breakout was the clear result of the Rams running more 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends, 2 wide receivers). During that stretch, the Rams used 12 personnel 34% of the time. For context, only 8% of their 2018 plays came out of 12 personnel. They’ll likely repeat this newfound offensive strategy in 2020, fueling the excitement around Higbee while distracting from the obvious red flags. Higbee had a 15.9% target share in 2019, compared to fellow tight end Gerald Everett’s 13.9%. This is notable, as Everett played four total offensive snaps from Weeks 13-17, seeing only one target. Not so coincidentally, Higbee’s target share jumped to 26.9% in those five games. Cooper Kupp’s disappearing act from Weeks 13-16 further hints at Higbee’s production being unrepeatable. Kupp’s target share dropped from 21.8% to 14.4% during this period, and a return to normalcy would significantly impact Higbee’s ceiling. Additionally, even if the Rams continue to heavily utilize 12 personnel this season, there does not appear to be much room for growth in this area. The Eagles led the NFL in 12 personnel usage at 52%, and no other team surpassed 34%. With the Rams having thrown significantly more last season than at any other point during the Sean McVay era, there should be fewer targets to go around this season. Higbee has never scored more than three touchdowns in a season and is more likely to finish among the large group of breakout candidates ranked behind him than vault into top-five territory. Rather than spending a mid-round pick to acquire Higbee, drafters should patiently target lower-ranked options in intriguing situations such as Mike Gesicki, Hayden Hurst, or Jonnu Smith.
– Mark McWhirter (@mmcw19)