Ranking The NFL’s Best TEs (2020 Fantasy Football)
We’re now 65 days from the start of the NFL season, which means that football is right around the corner.
In celebration of how close football is to returning, I’m continuing a four-part series highlighting the best players at each major skill position in the NFL heading into the 2020 season. After revealing the top-35 QBs in the NFL , the top-40 RBs, and the top-40 WRs, it’s time to highlight the top-30 tight ends!
I compiled and formatted this list based on several different traits and characteristics that culminates in a Madden-style rating. These traits include:
- Contested Catch Ability
- RAC Ability
- In-Line Blocking
After assigning a numeric grade for each individual player in every category, I sort them all to result in the list below; keep in mind that these are based on these players’ NFL ability and not specifically fantasy football, though I do provide fantasy outlooks for each player. Will you agree with my list? Probably not – but that’s all part of the fun.
And so here, for your reading pleasure, is my list of the top 30 tight ends in the NFL:
Brate’s a solid receiver who has shown that he can be productive when he’s given the opportunity. He’s a fluid mover in space who is also able to hold his own as a blocker.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Unfortunately, Brate is now third on the depth chart in Tampa Bay. While he could have some relevancy during the season if Rob Gronkowski and OJ Howard miss time, he’s someone who currently shouldn’t be rostered in any format.
Olsen’s steadily been one of the most reliable receiving options at the tight end position for the last decade. He’s certainly seen a drop-off in production over the past few years as he nears the end of his career, but he’s still deserving of a top-30 ranking.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Olsen might have enough in the tank for one final season in the NFL, but it’s unlikely to amount to much from a fantasy perspective. Even if Olsen sees 80-plus targets, he lacks the athleticism now to turn them into anything of value for fantasy football. He’ll be a fringe TE2/TE3 this season.
Everett has yet to string together consistent seasons of fantasy production, but he’s shown flashes of his top-end talent here or there. He’s a fluid route-runner and is able to create after the catch. He simply needs to become more consistent in order to move up this list.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Everett’s the second tight end on the Rams depth chart, but he could see enough work to be relevant in certain matchups. The Rams are going to run heavy 12-personnel sets this season, which indicates that Everett is going to be on the field. With that being said, he’s nothing more than a streamer in potential shootouts.
While Thomas is still extremely raw as a NFL tight end, he’s shown enough in his limited opportunities for me to rank him here. He’s walking into a huge opportunity this season and we get to see what he can do with it.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: With the departure of Greg Olsen, Thomas is next in line as the starter in Carolina. He’s shown potential when he’s gotten on the field previously and there are going to be plenty of targets available in this offense. With that being said, Thomas is nothing more than a back-end TE2 this season that could be streamed in plus matchups.
— NFL (@NFL) August 18, 2018
Knox is a bully on the football field. He is incredibly strong and has the ability to make highlight reel grabs. He’s dripping with upside and should steadily progress over the course of his NFL career.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: While Knox is incredibly talented, he’s unlikely to become much of a factor for fantasy football in this offense. With the addition of Diggs, and their overall low passing volume, it’s going to be difficult for Knox to see over 70 targets this season. That’s just simply not enough for fantasy and Knox is nothing more than a TE2/TE3 this year.
Moreau was one of the players that I thought was underrated in the 2019 Draft class and he’s excelled in the role he’s asked to fill so far. He’s an excellent blocker and a sure-handed receiver. He’s unlikely to ever develop into a top-15 TE in the NFL, but he’s excellent in the role that he plays currently.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Moreau is a good tight end, but with Jason Witten and Darren Waller on the roster, there’s no path for Moreau to have any fantasy value this season. He belongs on your waiver wire.
Jarwin has caught people’s attention on several different occasions, but he’s never had the opportunity to see a significant workload. With Jason Witten now gone again, Jarwin appears to be locked into the starting role for the Dallas Cowboys.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Jarwin’s walking into a great situation this season in a very dynamic and powerful offense. The addition of CeeDee Lamb certainly puts a damper on what Jarwin’s potential could have been, but he’s still going to see plenty of work. He’s going to be a fringe TE1 this season and someone you can certainly stream in the right matchup.
Smith was an exciting prospect coming out of Alabama and he showed some signs of his potential during his rookie season. He’s still raw as a NFL tight end, but he can certainly take a big step forward this upcoming season.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Unfortunately, the opportunity doesn’t exactly match the talent for Irv Smith…at least for right now. Rudolph is still ahead of him on this depth chart and this isn’t an offense that’s projected to have a high passing volume. Smith’s unlikely to have any fantasy relevance in 2020, unless Rudolph were to miss time. He can remain on your waiver wire for the time being.
Ebron seemed cemented as a top-10 tight end in the NFL after his big 2018 season with Andrew Luck. Unfortunately, his production fell off a cliff last year and injury concerns have seemingly always followed him. Ebron’s still young and has the talent to ascend back up this list, but he’s been too inconsistent to rank him much higher than here.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Ebron is now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and will have Big Ben throwing him the ball in 2020. As long as he can stay healthy, Ebron’s going to be more fantasy relevant than he was last year. However, that’s unlikely to be anything more than a mid-range TE2 that’ll be able to be used as a streamer in the right matchup.
Eric Ebron: catch of the day 🤯
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 20, 2019
Gesicki has been very inefficient his first couple of seasons in the NFL, but he has made up for it with some outstanding catches. He has the athleticism and ability, but it just needs to all click together for him to ascend into a top-15 tight end.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Gesicki has an incredible opportunity for targets in this offense this season. At the tight end position for fantasy football, there’s a ton of unknowns after the top-tier of guys and Gesicki is just as solid of a shot as some of the other guys around him in ADP. Gesicki should be relevant in 2020 and should be considered as a low-end TE1/high-end TE2.
Doyle fell behind Ebron on the Colts depth chart last season, but he’s now in line to be the starter again. Doyle’s sure-handed and is a reliable target for a QB over the middle of the field. He’s had injury concerns, but he should be able to show the NFL world what he can do again on the football field.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Doyle falls into the tier of several tight ends that could emerge and become fantasy relevant in 2020. Philip Rivers has loved throwing to his tight ends in the past and they’re a critical part of the offense here in Indianapolis. Doyle’s currently not being drafted at all, but he absolutely could be a viable fantasy option this season.
The potential is absolutely there for Njoku to be a top-10 NFL tight end. And while he’s shown bits and pieces of that talent in the NFL, he has yet to fully put together consistent performances that would vault him into that territory. He’s an extremely talented player, but he needs to become more consistent.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Njoku has reportedly requested a trade from the Cleveland Browns, which opens the doors for him to land in a much better spot for fantasy football production. Njoku was going to be irrelevant this season with Austin Hooper ahead of him on the depth chart, but a change of scenery could remedy that. We’ll have to wait and see where he lands, but if Njoku is out there on your league’s waiver wire, it would be smart to scoop him up in the meantime.
Hockenson has the draft capital to speak to what he could become in the NFL. He’s a monster in the run game, but yet is a smooth and fluid mover out in space. He struggled with injuries last season, which prevented him from truly getting settled into the NFL, but he’s going to continue to progress into one of the more well-rounded tight ends in the league.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Hockenson wasn’t able to stay on the field last year, but when he did play, he showed us how much of a weapon he can be. He still needs to progress in a lot of ways, but the future is bright for the young tight end. With that being said, Hockenson’s going to have some games where he’s a great streaming matchup, but otherwise he’s unlikely to see the necessary targets to be relevant for fantasy football. He’s nothing more than a mid-range TE2 with streaming upside in certain matchups this season.
Cook was a monster last season with nine receiving touchdowns and averaging over 16 yards per reception. He’s still one of the league’s more dynamic receiving options at 33 years old.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Cook is currently being drafted as a top-10 tight end and there’s a very narrow path for him to return that type of value in 2020. Cook was well above the league average last year in terms of yards per TD rate and he averaged an unsustainable 16.4 YPR. Those numbers are both going to be very difficult to replicate this year and that’s not even mentioning the fact that the Saints spent significant draft assets to acquire Adam Trautman. There’s more competition for targets in this offense and Cook’s being drafted at his absolute ceiling right now. I highly recommend looking elsewhere in your drafts.
Jared Cook MOSSED HIM! 😲
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 17, 2019
Hurst is one of the better tight ends in the NFL; he just simply hasn’t been given the opportunity to show everyone his talent. He has great contested catch ability, but then he also possesses another gear when he’s in the open field. He’s on the verge of breaking out in Atlanta this season now that he has the opportunity.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: There’s no bigger disparity in the NFL right now between upside and ADP than Hurst. Hurst is currently going outside the top-12 tight ends, but has a very good chance and path to finishing as a top-5 option at the end of the season. Hurst is a talented tight end who is finally going to be given an opportunity in Atlanta’s dynamic offense. He’s a home-run pick in the late rounds of your draft.
Gronk’s arguably the best TE of all-time, but the last time that we saw him on a football field, he simply wasn’t able to stay healthy. His injuries caught up to him and he wasn’t able to perform as well as previous seasons. After a year off, will he be able to bounce back to elite Gronk?
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Gronk should see plenty of targets in this offense, but he’s going to need to be incredibly productive from a touchdown standpoint to elevate himself into the top-10 TE conversation. He certainly can do it, but he’s a risky pick with his injury history and TD dependency.
Howard’s one of the most athletic and efficient tight ends we’ve ever seen in the NFL. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been given the opportunity to truly showcase his top-end talent, which makes it very difficult to put him above some of the other names on this list.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Howard’s now playing second-fiddle to Gronkowski in Tampa Bay, but they both should still be on the field quite a bit. Howard’s unlikely to be anything more than a streaming candidate at the tight end position though with the limited opportunity.
Fant is an extremely athletic tight end that has all the potential in the world. He still needs to improve in key areas across the board, but the pure talent is there.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Fant was a great streaming option in a few matchups last season, but he certainly has more competition for targets now in Denver this season. Fant has the talent to be a true fantasy star, but he may just not see enough target volume to be a consistent option week in and week out. He should finish towards the TE1 range, but it might just be on the back of a few games here or there.
The rookie TE with the most receiving yards in 2019?
— NFL (@NFL) March 11, 2020
If you put on the film, you know that Goedert is an extremely well-rounded tight end and that he’s only going to get better with experience.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: While Goedert does possess incredible talent and ability, he’s living in the shadow of Zach Ertz currently. Goedert’s nothing more than a streaming candidate this season with the limited passing volume heading his way. However, he possesses league-winning upside if Ertz were to miss time.
Rudolph has been quietly one of the most consistent options at the tight end position for a very long time. While the offense he plays in doesn’t allow him to put up consistent fantasy numbers, he’s still one of the better tight ends in the league.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Unfortunately, the offense that Rudolph plays in doesn’t exactly allow him to be a fantasy relevant player each week. He can have some big performances here or there, but they’re going to be very hard to predict. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Irv Smith Jr. ascend and take away some of his targets, as well.
Engram’s a smooth mover in space who, when healthy, can be in the top-5 tight end conversation from a pure talent perspective. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen him healthy recently, which has hurt his overall performance.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: While Engram is incredibly talented and we’ve seen him finish in the top-5 at the position before, there’s a very narrow path for him to return value on his ADP right now. There are a ton of mouths to feed in this offense and Engram’s had trouble staying on the field the past couple of seasons. The targets simply may not be there for Engram and he’s currently being drafted at his ceiling. I personally recommend looking elsewhere at the tight end position.
When he’s healthy, Henry’s a top-5 talent at the tight end position. He moves extremely well for a player of his size and combines that with incredible receiving ability. Unfortunately, just like Engram, we haven’t seen him play a full 16-game season ever, which hurts his ranking on this countdown.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Henry’s been great for fantasy when he’s been on the field previously, but his health isn’t something that you can comfortably rely on. Additionally, this offense isn’t going to be as pass-happy as they’ve been in previous seasons, which limits Henry’s overall ceiling. He should still be a fine option for fantasy football, especially at a position that has so many question marks, but I don’t believe that he offers you league-winning upside this season.
Smith has been extremely underrated up to this point of his career and he’s on the verge of truly breaking out. He’s been stuck behind Delanie Walker on the depth chart, but has shown flashes of his talent whenever he’s got the ball in his hands. He’s one of the most lethal at the position in terms of creating after the catch and he has incredible contested catch ability.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: If you’re looking for a player who’s going to be a steal in the later rounds of your draft, look no further than Smith. He should easily be second on this team in targets and he has the talent and athleticism to make it count. If you don’t get the top two or three options at the tight end position, it’s my personal recommendation to wait it out and snag Smith in the later rounds.
JONNU SMITH. 😱
— NFL (@NFL) January 12, 2020
It took a while, but Higbee finally broke out in a big way last season. Through the final five weeks of last season, Higbee never finished with less than 84 receiving yards and was one of the most consistent fantasy options at the tight end position through that time. He should continue that type of dominant performance moving into 2020.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Higbee was a fantastic waiver wire find at the end of last season and he asserted himself into the conversation as one of fantasy football’s top tight ends. However, the majority is still skeptical of the limited sample size and that’s reflected in his ADP. If you prefer to wait on tight end, Higbee’s a great option to add to your roster. This offense should remain heavy in 12 personnel and this should still be a heavy passing volume team. Everything lines up for Higbee to have a great season again in 2020.
Waller was one of 2019’s greatest storylines in the NFL. He had been previously on the Ravens practice squad and was dealing with personal battles before he got his chance with the Raiders. Waller was a fantastic find for the Raiders and he’s solidified his spot in the top-10 after potentially not even being on this list a year ago.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Waller was one of last year’s breakout stars and he helped propel several rosters to fantasy football championships. Now, his price tag has certainly gone up and you’re betting on that production repeating this season. Waller certainly has more competition for targets so he could see his total from last year drop down, but he absolutely could make up for it with an increase in touchdown production. Waller’s a fine selection in the mid-rounds, but he may not possess as high of a ceiling as he did last year.
The Falcons used Hooper all over the formation during his tenure with the team and he excelled in that role. He’s a smart route-runner and is a force to bring down after the catch. He’s one of the NFL’s most well-rounded tight ends and absolutely deserves to be in consideration as a top-5 player at the position.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: While Hooper is one of the more talented TEs in the NFL, he’s in an offense that isn’t exactly going to maximize his skills from a fantasy perspective. He’s going to be asked to stay in and block quite a bit and this offense should be one of the more run-heavy units in the league. Hooper’s a fine dart throw in the later rounds, but it’s unlikely that he finishes anywhere close to the top-5 when it’s all said and done.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) December 10, 2019
Andrews showed us flashes of his top-end talent in his rookie season, but he broke out in a big way in 2019. He’s an excellent mover in space and has a great understanding of how to gain leverage throughout his routes. He has excellent hands and should continue to be a huge part of this Ravens passing attack in 2020.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Andrews was drafted in the 12th round last season and he ended up finishing as the TE4. While Andrews’ price tag has risen considerably this offseason, he may still be worth the draft choice due to how involved he is in this offense. Hurst has been traded away, which leaves very little competition for targets behind him. There’s no reason to expect regression for Andrews this season from a targets perspective, although it might be difficult for him to reach 10 receiving touchdowns again. With that being said, Andrews is a fantastic pick as a top-5 TE in redraft leagues this year.
Ertz has been one of the most consistent receivers in the entire NFL over the past several seasons. He is able to bring in nearly anything thrown his direction and he’s become a reliable target for whoever is playing QB for the Philadelphia Eagles.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Ertz is unlikely to see the 135 targets that were thrown his way last year again in 2020, but he should get off to a great start for fantasy football. Alshon Jeffery has no timetable for his return, which creates a path again for Ertz to be the number one target in this offense right away. While he does have Dallas Goedert breathing down his neck, Ertz should be a solid option again at TE for you this season to begin the year. If Alshon does eventually come back, you’ll be able to adjust at that point.
Just like with the WRs countdown, it’s a coin toss between No. 1 and No. 2. Kittle is arguably the greatest tight end after the catch in the NFL, but he’s also one of the league’s best blocking options. He’s going to be a dominant player for a very long time.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: It’s hard to go wrong with either Kelce or Kittle in your draft. Kelce’s tied to a more dynamic offense, but Kittle could see regression to the means in terms of his touchdown production. The past two seasons, Kittle has finished with over 1,000 receiving yards, but never finished with more than 5 receiving TDs either year. There’s reason to be optimistic that that number should come up towards the league average, which would make Kittle a steal where he’s currently going in drafts. If you don’t want to play the late-round TE guessing game, Kittle’s an extremely safe option.
4th-and-2 from the wrong side of midfield with the game on the line and 39 seconds left.
George Kittle did this:
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 8, 2019
Kelce slides in as the best TE in the NFL in this countdown and it’s not very hard to see why. He’s an incredibly smooth route-runner for someone of his size and he’s developed into one of the most accomplished receivers at the position. He’s been insanely productive the past few seasons and there’s no reason to doubt that that won’t continue in 2020.
2020 Fantasy Forecast: Kelce has finished as the TE2 or better the last four seasons. Yes, you read that correctly. Even without Patrick Mahomes at QB, Kelce’s been getting the job done for fantasy football and there’s very little reason to doubt that he’s going to finish as a top-2 option again this season. If you don’t want to play the late-round TE guessing game, Kelce’s an extremely smart selection at his current ADP.