Second-Year Tight End Values (2021 Fantasy Football)
Second-year players have been a popular topic in the fantasy football community this offseason, with quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers dominating conversations. Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow have remained atop discussions for second-year quarterbacks, along with Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts. The second-year running back group of Jonathan Taylor, Cam Akers, D’Andre Swift, Antonio Gibson, and J.K. Dobbins has received a ton of buzz. As for the wide receiver position, Justin Jefferson is a desirable early-round selection, followed by guys like Tee Higgins, Brandon Aiyuk, and Chase Claypool.
But what about the tight ends that are prepared to enter their second season in the NFL in 2021? It has been well-documented that the 2020 draft class was a bit underwhelming at the tight end spot. If you were to ask some fans to recite five tight ends from the 2020 NFL Draft, they would struggle to compile a list. That being said, there are a few second-year tight ends that could return some decent value in the upcoming season due to a variety of reasons.
Rankings referenced are FantasyPros expert consensus rankings (ECR) for half-PPR scoring formats
Cole Kmet (CHI): TE19
The Chicago Bears have attempted to right their wrongs with fans this offseason by trading up to take Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft. The selection of Fields has given fantasy football players optimism when it comes to the offensive weapons on the Bears. Allen Robinson could be catching passes from the best quarterback he’s ever played with when Fields makes his first start, and Darnell Mooney should thrive as a deep threat.
Besides Robinson, Mooney, and Tarik Cohen (who is returning from a season-ending injury), there are still targets to be dispersed to the other members of the offense. Cole Kmet is a candidate to receive some of the extra targets that are waiting to be claimed next season. Kmet was the first tight end taken in the 2020 NFL Draft with the 43rd overall pick out of Notre Dame after hauling in six touchdown passes in his senior season.
Along with Kmet, the Bears inexplicably signed Jimmy Graham in free agency, creating a cloudy situation for the first-year tight end. Despite being forced to have a minimized role behind Graham, Kmet showed flashes of his potential as a rookie, accruing 28 receptions, 243 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. Even with Graham still on the roster – at least for the time being – this season, Kmet should garner a larger role in Chicago’s aerial attack. With Fields expected to start sooner rather than later, Kmet is a premier late-round value at tight end.
Adam Trautman (NO): TE27
The New Orleans Saints are an interesting team to have discourse about this offseason due to the uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position. Following the retirement of Drew Brees, will Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston be operating the offense in 2021? The ultimate decision from Sean Payton could alter how people approach players from the Saints in fantasy football, with Winston being the guy everyone wants in terms of adding value to the pass-catchers.
Every year, there’s a handful of late-round tight ends that people grow confident in if they miss out on one of the elite options at the position. One of the favorite late-round choices so far this offseason has been Adam Trautman. With Jared Cook departing in free agency to the Los Angeles Chargers, the starting job is Trautman’s to lose. In his rookie season, Trautman saw only 37 percent of New Orleans’ offensive snaps, where he notched 15 catches, 171 receiving yards, and one touchdown.
The good news for Trautman is that the Saints didn’t add much competition at the wide receiver or tight end positions, which could allow him to inherit an expanded role in 2021. Outside of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, there isn’t anyone on the roster that is going to demand targets. If Winston is named the starter for the Saints, then Trautman could be primed to smash at his current ADP. In the scenario that Hill is given the nod under center, then Trautman’s chances of exceeding expectations takes a slight hit.
Harrison Bryant (CLE): TE41
There was once a time when David Njoku was poised to be a fantasy-viable tight end for the Cleveland Browns. Those dreams were shattered when the Browns proceeded to sign Austin Hooper in free agency last offseason, and when they elected to take Harrison Bryant in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Coming out of Florida Atlantic, Bryant was a pass-catching fiend, having caught 142 passes for 2,074 yards and 16 touchdowns in his final three collegiate seasons, including a 1,000-yard campaign in his senior year.
Due to an early-season injury to Hooper, Bryant saw the field a decent bit in his rookie season. Bryant concluded his first year in Cleveland with 24 receptions, 238 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. Two of his touchdowns came in Week 7 versus the Cincinnati Bengals, but the one positive sign for Bryant was that he was on the field for 50-percent or more of Cleveland’s offensive plays in 11 of his 15 appearances in 2020.
When searching for a tight end, Bryant isn’t going to be a player that you’re looking to insert into your starting lineup on a weekly basis. However, there is upside for Bryant in 2021, especially with the Browns running 12 personnel a modest 26 percent of their plays in 2020 (ninth-most in the NFL). On top of that, Cleveland had a 62 percent pass rate in 12 personnel, which was the second-highest mark in the league last year. Seeing that Bryant is going undrafted in 12-team drafts, there’s absolutely no risk in stashing him on your bench, or keeping an eye on him when the waiver wire arrives.
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