Second-Year Tight Ends to Target in Dynasty Leagues (2020 Fantasy Football)
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As discussed in my article about Mike Gesicki, tight end requires a lot of patience in dynasty leagues. The 2019 rookie class is no different. Entering the 2019 NFL draft, the hype surrounding the top tier of rookie tight ends was ultimately going to lead to immediate disappointment. Many believed T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant would go on to have fantasy-relevant rookie seasons. Aside from a few boom weeks, a dynasty owner would not have been thrilled to have either in their starting lineup on a weekly basis.
As we know, tight ends take some time to develop, and the unrealistic expectation was a bit unfair. With Hockenson and Fant garnering much of the dynasty community’s attention, it’s easy for the rest of the 2019 class to become an afterthought. At their current price, there are three second-year tight ends that I’m recommending as dynasty buys.
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2019 Rookie Tight End Statistics
Irv Smith Jr. (MIN): TE15
This should be no surprise to anybody that’s been paying attention, but Irv Smith is one of the hottest young options in the dynasty community. Entering the 2020 season at only 22 years old, he has tremendous upside in an offense that will need to utilize tight ends to compensate for its lack of wide receivers. With the Vikings moving Stefon Diggs to Buffalo earlier in the offseason, players like Smith, Justin Jefferson, and even Olabisi Johnson will have an opportunity to step up in 2020.
As you can see in the above chart, Smith was one of the more productive rookie tight ends in 2019. While the Vikings had one of the lowest pass rates in 2019 (49.5%), and that’s expected to continue under Gary Kubiak in 2020, Smith’s route participation should increase in 2020. Since he only ran routes on 56.6% of passing attempts in 2019, we have not yet seen his ceiling. At TE15 in current startups, Irv Smith is a tight end that’s on my radar, especially in tight end premium leagues.
Jace Sternberger (GB): TE24
No, you did not misread this. You might be thinking, “Oh, he had one lousy target in five games last year!” Despite his extremely underwhelming 2019, there’s hope for him yet, especially at his current price tag of TE24. The expectation was that the Packers would look to bolster their wide receiver corps via the NFL draft. As we all know, that did not happen. Even though the Packers added Devin Funchess earlier in the offseason, Jace Sternberger will see an increased opportunity in 2020 with the departure of Jimmy Graham.
According to multiple reports, it looks like Sternberger will see a significant role out of the slot, which can be highly valuable in an offense led by Aaron Rodgers. With the Packers finishing 2019 with the 15th-most passing attempts out of 11 personnel (AKA three-receiver sets), we can expect to see quite an increase in route participation for Sternberger moving forward (3.6% in 2019). If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive tight end option during this offseason, look no further than Sternberger.
Kaden Smith (NYG): UR
Why are we discussing a tight end who isn’t even getting drafted in non-tight end premium leagues? Kaden Smith might have the most potential value for a currently “worthless” tight end asset. Once Evan Engram went down with yet another injury in 2019, Kaden Smith was the TE8 from Weeks 12 through 17, and he played four games with at least 12 PPR points. During that same span in tight end premium leagues (1.5 PPR), Smith would have been the equivalent of WR14. With Jason Garrett taking over as the offensive coordinator for the Giants, and given his proclivity to utilize tight ends in his offense and Evan Engram’s injury history, Kaden Smith is a tight end to target in every dynasty league throughout this offseason.
Notes: ADP from Dynasty League Football, route information from Player Profiler, statistics from Pro Football Focus, personnel information from Sharp Football Stats, and 2019 rankings from here at FantasyPros.
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John Bauer is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from John, check out his archive or follow him @TheBauerClub.