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Tight Ends To Avoid (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Brendan Tuma | @toomuchtuma | Featured Writer
Feb 23, 2021

Zach Ertz’s waning production renders him a tight end to avoid in 2021 fantasy football leagues.

This article needs to be prefaced by reminding readers that it’s still February. The Super Bowl was played this month, and we still have free agency and the draft to get through (not to mention an entire offseason of player analysis). While the below tight ends certainly stand out to me as players we might want to fade in the upcoming fantasy season, I have to add the caveat that this is a fluid situation. Situations change. Average draft positions change. Therefore, our assessment of certain players can change. That being said, the following names are ones that stick out as players to avoid early in the fantasy football prep process.

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Robert Tonyan (TE – GB)

The 2020 breakout tight end was featured in my “Dynasty Players To Sell” column from earlier this offseason. Tonyan is likely viewed pretty favorably by fantasy managers who rostered him this past year. After all, he totaled 11 touchdowns en route to a TE3 finish, finishing behind only Travis Kelce and Darren Waller.

The 26-year-old was a product of the Packers’ wildly efficient offensive campaign, as he hauled in 52-of-59 targets for 586 yards and the aforementioned 11 scores. Shouldn’t we view that red zone production and catch-rate efficiency as a positive moving forward? One could make that case, but only if it came with a major bump in targets in 2021.

This is because despite finishing as the TE3, Tonyan ranked 24th in targets among tight ends! George Kittle saw four more targets in eight fewer games, and fantasy non-factors such as Tyler Eifert and Gerald Everett each garnered more looks than Tonyan. Destined for negative-TD regression, he’s an easy fade for me at this moment in time.

*Note: Tonyan is a restricted free agent this offseason, though we expect him to remain in Green Bay. Even if he heads elsewhere most all of the above analysis still applies.

Rob Gronkowski (TE – TB)

Tight end is such a wasteland that it’s difficult writing about players to avoid at this position. Still, it’s hard to summon much enthusiasm for Gronk’s fantasy prospects entering 2021. Having played last season at 31 years old, Gronkowski had a frustratingly inconsistent campaign. He didn’t top 50 receiving yards until Week 5 and didn’t find the end zone until Week 6. Although he had some big games mixed in down the stretch, it wasn’t as if he was ever a truly reliable fantasy option.

The Super Bowl showed that he can still be a major offensive factor when needed, as Gronkowski totaled six receptions for 67 yards and two scores on his way to a fourth ring. However, we know that he isn’t leaving Tampa Bay. We also know that the Bucs will manage his reps to ensure he’s healthy come playoff time. Coming off a memorable postseason performance, my worry with Gronk is that he once again carries far more “name value” than actual fantasy value.

Zach Ertz (TE – PHI)

Things have continued to trend downward for Ertz in recent years. He was never the most efficient player, but massive volume in the passing game rendered him a difference-making tight end in fantasy football the past few seasons. After an 1,100 yard, eight-score season in 2018, Ertz followed that up with another 900 yards and six touchdowns in 2019.

Yet 2020 was a massive drop-off in production, even after factoring in all the struggles Philadelphia’s offense went through. Ertz missed five games due to injury but wasn’t even close to effective while on the field, parlaying 72 targets into a ridiculously weak 335 yards and one touchdown. Similar to Gronk, Ertz has more “name value” due to his recent high-end seasons. Unfortunately, this doesn’t look like a case of a star player looking to bounce back from an injured season. This looks like a major decline in athleticism combined with a decreasing target share.

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