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8 Bounce-Back Tight Ends (2020 Fantasy Football)

Jul 20, 2020

Tight end is not a glamour position in fantasy football. Only one tight end, Travis Kelce, scored more than 200 fantasy points in half PPR leagues in 2019. Only six tight ends scored more than 150 fantasy points.

When you compare that to the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver positions those fantasy point totals are fairly minuscule. There were 34 wide receivers and 26 running backs that managed to top 150 fantasy points. Matthew Stafford played only eight games last year. He scored 171.56 fantasy points last year and was 29th in total fantasy points scored by a quarterback.

Tight end is an important position for the football team, but not necessarily for a fantasy football team. A great tight end that can block can give both the running back a lane to run through and a quarterback an extra split second to find an open receiver. Those important plays for the team do not generate any fantasy points for fantasy owners. Furthermore, those clutch catches on third down that go for five yards, but extend the drive do not translate to big fantasy points for fantasy owners.

Many teams do not use the tight end in the passing game, as they elect to go with four and five wide receiver sets in obvious passing situations. There were 11 teams that did not even target their tight ends 100 times last season. The result is very few weekly fantasy relevant tight ends.

Thankfully, most fantasy leagues only require you to start one fantasy tight end per week. That means there are plenty of options on the waiver wire for fantasy owners to stream and plenty of late round picks that can end up having surprise value. Here are some tight ends that were not in the Top-15 fantasy tight ends last year that have a chance to bounce back in 2020.

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Evan Engram (NYG)
Engram was a star in his rookie 2017 season, when he recorded 141.6 fantasy points. He was a major part of the Giants passing game with 115 targets, 64 receptions, 722 yards, and six touchdowns. Injuries and quarterback instability have been a big part of his problem the last two years. He has played in 19 games and made only 14 starts the last two years. His value was stunted with Eli Manning not playing well to close his career and the Giants are now moving forward with Daniel Jones.

Engram is still only 25 years old and he does not turn 26 years old until September. Jones showed promise last year in his rookie season averaging 232.8 passing yards per game with 24 passing touchdowns and just 12 interceptions on the season. Engram has an ADP of 72 as the sixth ranked fantasy tight end. The reason for that high ranking is that many people believe he can bounce back from being the 12th ranked and 18th ranked fantasy tight end the last two years. A healthy season combined with Jones making a jump in his sophomore campaign could lead to a big fantasy season for Engram.

O.J. Howard (TB)
Howard has been a major disappointment for a team that used the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on him. In three seasons, he has been targeted 140 times, and turned them into 94 receptions, 1,456 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Last year he bottomed out with just 53 targets, 34 receptions, 459 yards, and one touchdown. He was the 29th ranked fantasy tight end in the NFL last year. Howard is currently the 24th-ranked tight end and 181st overall player, due to that bad season and the Buccaneers acquisition of Rob Gronkowski. At that ADP, he is not being drafted in many leagues.

There are two competing statistics going on with the Tampa Bay offense. Per Pro Football Focus, over Bruce Arians’ last nine seasons as either a head coach or offensive coordinator, he’s never had a tight end finish top-18 at the position in total fantasy points scored. The counter statistic is that Tom Brady loves throwing to tight ends. Brady to Gronk has scored a touchdown 78 times, which is the fifth-most prolific combo in NFL history. Arians seems to be embracing the tight end more than past seasons, he has already went on record as saying that the 12 personnel will be their base offense this season, which means both Howard and Gronkowski will be starting in 2020. If Howard is a starter in a base offense with Brady throwing the ball, he has a chance to bounce back in 2020 and be a great fantasy value.

Chris Herndon IV (NYJ)
Herndon IV looked like he was going to be destined for a breakout season last year. In 2018, he posted 56 targets, 39 receptions, 502 yards, and four touchdowns. He was supposed to be one of the stars in their passing game with an emerging Sam Darnold. He messed up by violating the league’s substances abuse policy, which cost him the first four games of the season. He ended up hurting his hamstring before he even saw the field, hurt his ribs in his first game back in Week 10 and the result was 18 snaps, two targets, one reception, seven yards, and no touchdowns in 2019.

Herndon IV is only 24-years old and he is entering his third season. The Jets seem to be high on him still and the only other tight end they have on the roster that has any fantasy value is Ryan Griffin. If Darnold can have a breakout season and if Herndon IV can stay on the field, he has a chance to build on his solid rookie campaign. As the 25th ranked fantasy tight end and 194th ranked overall player, Hendron IV has an ADP that should make him available on the waiver wire to start the season.

Eric Ebron (PIT)
Ebron was always a player that had a great chance to regress in 2019. He had an outlier season in 2018 with 110 targets, 66 receptions, 750 yards, and 13 touchdowns playing with QB Andrew Luck. He battled injuries in 2019 and finished with just 52 targets, 31 receptions, 375 yards, and three touchdowns playing with Jacoby Brissett. Ebron is changing teams this year, he will be in Pittsburgh playing with QB Ben Roethlisberger. TE Vance McDonald is the starter there, but Ebron could easily recapture his red zone role that he had in 2018 and he could be fantasy steal as the 20th ranked fantasy tight end and 152nd ranked player.

Jack Doyle (IND)
Doyle had pretty pedestrian fantasy numbers last year with 43 receptions, 448 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. The hope is that Philip Rivers taking over as the starter could lead to a much better campaign. Doyle is the 20th-ranked tight end and 162nd-ranked overall player in ADP. Unless Trey Burton significantly cuts into his target share, Doyle should be one of the most targeted tight ends in the NFL playing for a quarterback that loves throwing to tight ends.  Doyle has a chance to post big numbers in fantasy this year.

Greg Olsen (SEA)
From 2012 to 2016, you could count on Olsen being one of the Top-10 fantasy tight ends in the league. He never finished worse than seventh in those years and three times he was in the Top-5. Injuries and age have really taken their toll on him, but last year he did stay healthy and posted 52 receptions for 597 yards and two touchdowns, despite Cam Newton playing only two games. Olsen is a nice bounce back candidate playing with Russell Wilson in Seattle this year. The major concern is health, but hopefully a healthy 2019 is a sign that Olsen still has more left in the tank in 2020.

T.J. Hockenson (DET)
He is not your traditional bounce-back player, because he is only entering his second year in the league. Between being the eighth pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and posting six receptions for 131 yards and one touchdown in the season opener against Arizona, many people had high hopes for him last year. A combination of inconsistent play, an injury to Matthew Stafford after eight games, and Hockenson going on IR with an ankle injury cost him the last month of the season. He has an ADP of 15th among tight ends and 128th overall, which could make him a steal if he can bounce back from a tough rookie campaign.

David Njoku (CLE)
A broken thumb suffered in Week 1 sabotaged Njoku’s 2019 season. Even when he came back the last month of the season, he was in the doghouse with the coaching staff at that point and finished with just five receptions for 41 yards and one touchdown. The Browns insist that Njoku is a big part of their plans, even though they signed Austin Hooper and drafted Harrison Bryant this offseason. If the Browns use a 12 personnel package, it is possible that he rebounds this year playing opposite of Hooper. It is also possible he is traded to a tight end needy team before the deadline, which may help his fantasy value as well. Njoku is the 31st-ranked tight end and 257th-ranked overall player in ADP, which means that you will be able to monitor him on the waiver wire. He has shown he can be a fantasy force, in 2018 he posted 639 yards receiving and four receiving touchdowns. A new coaching staff committing to him or a new team that will use him more could lead to a bounce-back season in 2020.

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Derek Lofland is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Derek, check out his archive and follow him @DerekLofland.

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