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Tight Ends to Avoid (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Mar 16, 2021

 
The tight end position features a big three consisting of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Darren Waller. I’m on board with drafting any of them at their respective average draft position (ADP), and none are featured as tight ends to avoid. The tier behind them, which includes only two players, headlines the top options to avoid. A pair of NFC East tight ends selected as fantasy starters stand out as poor choices at their cost as well. The ADPs included are from 12-team BestBall10 leagues as of March 14.

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Mark Andrews (BAL): ADP 56.19
Andrews is rightfully the fourth tight end selected in fantasy drafts. I have no objection to where he ranks among his peers. I do, however, object to spending a top-60 pick on him.

Andrews averaged the fourth-most points-per-game in point-per-reception (PPR) formats last year among tight ends, according to our Fantasy Leaders page. The 12.6 points per game that amounted to wasn’t a far cry above the next wave of tight ends such as T.J. Hockenson (11.3), Robert Tonyan (11.1), Logan Thomas (10.9), Mike Gesicki (10.7), Jonnu Smith (10.7), and Dallas Goedert (10.6). Andrews is being picked more than 30 picks earlier than all but Hockenson from the previously noted group. The gap in picks isn’t worth it.

Beyond Andrews’ fantasy production in 2020 falling short of warranting the sizable gap in ADP between him and the next tier of tight ends, there are some red flags in his profile, too. He’s slid from 11.0 yards per target as a rookie in 2018, to 8.7 yards per target in 2019, and 8.0 yards per target last year, according to Pro-Football-Reference. Andrews also dipped from 10 touchdown receptions, 4.3 receptions per game, and 56.8 receiving yards per game in 15 games in 2019 to seven touchdowns, 4.1 receptions, and 50.1 receiving yards per game.

Andrews’ waning efficiency would be less problematic in a high-volume passing attack, but Baltimore’s offense is the polar opposite. The Ravens passed on only 45% of their plays last year, easily the lowest mark in the NFL (the Patriots had the second-lowest pass percentage at 49%), per Sharp Football Stats. Add in that the Ravens are prime candidates to add receiving talent through free agency and the NFL Draft, and another mouth to feed would threaten Andrews’ targets in a run-first offense.

T.J. Hockenson (DET): ADP 74.77
I included Hockenson on a list of overvalued best-ball players last month, and his ADP has risen a few picks. My previous analysis still applies to Hockenson, and he’s an easier fade with his upward climb on draft boards.

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Logan Thomas (WAS): ADP 101.03
Gamers who scooped Thomas out of the free-agent pool or added him via waivers in 2020 scored a TE5 finish in PPR scoring from him. Drafters wisely aren’t buying into a repeat, but they probably aren’t sliding him far enough down draft boards with a TE10 ADP. 

Volume in an offense led by physically limited Alex Smith fueled Thomas’s fantasy contributions. The Football Team has parted ways with Smith, cutting him. Whoever their new quarterback is, he’s essentially a lock to throw farther downfield after Smith sported the lowest average throw depth (4.8) among quarterbacks who attempted at least 150 passes last year, according to Sports Info Solutions.

Fewer short throws could be disastrous for Thomas’s target share, potentially sounding a death knell for his fantasy value given his inefficiency. He tied for 25th in targets (110), the third most at tight end, but his 6.1 yards per target was the second-lowest mark among the top-25 targeted players last year, better than only teammate J.D. McKissic’s 5.4 yards per target. Additionally, he ranked 32nd at tight end with 9.3 yards per reception and 31st in yards per route run, according to Player Profiler.

There’s a legitimate risk Thomas turns into a pumpkin in 2021. I’d rather pay a little more for Fant (89.98) or Tonyan (91.42), or wait for Gesicki (111.19), Kyle Pitts (122.72), Jonnu Smith (131.13), Irv Smith (132.42), or Hayden Hurst (133.48). 

Evan Engram (NYG): ADP 119.23
Engram is getting popped as TE12 in best-ball leagues, but he shouldn’t sniff a selection as a fantasy starter. He’s quantifiably bad at football. He tied for the 20th-lowest yards per target (6.0) out of 153 qualified players last year and had the 10th-highest drop percentage, per Pro-Football-Reference.

Remarkably, it doesn’t end there! Engram’s 51.1 Receiver Rating (the Quarterback Rating when he was targeted) tied for the worst mark among receivers and tight ends targeted a minimum of 50 times, according to Sports Info Solutions. He also ranked 21st in yards per route run. No matter how you slice it, Engram’s bad.

He set career-lows last year in touchdowns (one), receptions per game (3.9), receiving yards per game (40.9), yards per reception (10.4), yards per touch (9.9), and yards per target (6.0). There’s no reason to believe improvement is imminent in his fifth season. I’ll bypass selecting a tight end entirely and play the streaming game rather than spend a top-150 pick on Engram, let alone use a top-120 selection on him.

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Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with Starting Your Own Fantasy Football League or head to more advanced strategy – like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? – to learn more.

Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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