Mike Tagliere’s Early Top-20 Tight End Rankings (2021 Fantasy Football)
These rankings are for half-PPR leagues. You can find our full fantasy football expert consensus rankings here.
ADP – Average Draft Position
Travis Kelce (KC)
We’re getting close to the age where tight ends typically fall off with Kelce (32 in October) but he’s shown no signs of slowing down, as he just broke the all-time record for yards in a season by a tight end. The Chiefs didn’t really add anyone to the offense who should jeapordize his targets, and in fact, losing Sammy Watkins may only add to his appeal. Not only did he finish as the No. 1 tight end and give you a massive weekly advantage at an unpredictable position, but he would’ve finished as the No. 4 wide receiver. So, if drafting a tight end early scares you, just think of him like a wide receiver who you can play in your tight end slot. He’s worth a late first-round pick.
Darren Waller (LV)
I remember getting Waller in the fifth or sixth round last year, and though it never felt amazing while doing it, the end result worked out. Why didn’t it feel amazing? He’s part of the Raiders offense, that lacks potency. The targets were what we were chasing, and the targets are what we got. But when you’re paying TE2 prices in the second round, you not only need the targets, you need touchdowns. While Waller scored nine of them last year, he scored just three of them in 2019 in the same offense. There’s a reason people pay up for Travis Kelce, and while I like Waller, I just don’t have that guaranteed Kelce-like production.
Jonnu Smith (NE)
Smith’s talent was not put on display nearly enough with the Titans, as he never saw more than 65 targets in a single season. Despite that, he finished as a top-12 tight end in 2020. The Patriots were aggressive with him, signing him the first day of free agency to a four-year, $50 million deal, which tells us all we need to know: They aren’t going to hide him. The signing of Hunter Henry hurt his projection a bit, but the drafting of Mac Jones improved it a bit because once he takes over as the starter, this team will throw a lot more. Once you get outside the top five tight ends, you’re chasing upside, and Smith has plenty of it.
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