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Do Not Draft List: Tight Ends (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Jeff Bell | @4WhomJBellTolls | Featured Writer
Jul 19, 2021

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Previously I discussed the subject of average draft position in my QB article. It shapes our perception of value while building draft boards for standard selections. Understanding the difference in ADP between sites is one of the most exploitable advantages of fantasy football. Housing personal ranks allow for flexibility and an edge in any situation.

TE is a complicated position. Elite difference makers at the top in Travis Kelce and Darren Waller can shape the entire complexion. But the cliff is steep, and the remaining field is full of landmines. A frequently cited stat is citing the 5.2 PPR ppg difference between TE2  Waller and TE4 Mark Andrews. The next step is always showing the 2.2 point gap between Andrews and TE12 Jonnu Smith.

The picture is clear, miss on an elite TE, and you are left choosing among a pileup. But how to attack this group? More importantly, who to avoid?

As to who to draft, follow the example of Waller, who saw an ADP at TE5 due to the new additions in the Raiders receiving room and his one-year track record of success, look for targets who can emerge as the primary receiving options with situations driving their price down. Concerns about the talent level in Detroit leave TJ Hockenson at ADP 57, and he certainly can capitalize as the clear go-to target to ascend into the elite TE tier.  

What about TEs to avoid?

Average Draft Position (ADP) referenced is FantasyPros consensus ADP for PPR formats

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Dallas Goedert (PHI) TE7, ADP 76

We lead off with a player that could see a dramatic value change before this article is even published. Goedert has indeed flashed at points in his career. A small three-game sample between weeks five and seven saw him post 14 PPR points per game, close to pushing into the same tier as George Kittle. The talent is here.

The hang up is Zach Ertz. After a disastrous 2020 that saw Ertz start the season upset about a contract before ineffective play and injuries cratered his value. Now in July, on the eve of training camp, Ertz is still an Eagle. The team has cleared several offseason milestones between the draft and the June 1st cut date.

Goedert’s ADP reflects Ertz’s departure from the team. With a new coaching staff, that almost sure departure could be up in the air. The Eagles could decide to keep Ertz through the camp, waiting for an injury to another team to increase the desperation level. They could cut him at any moment. But the worst possible outcome for Goedert at his current value is Ertz plays out the season with the Eagles.  

We have a three-year track record of Goedert and Ertz together in the offense. Given a new coaching staff, a new first-time QB, and Ertz continued presence on the roster, his ADP is highly aggressive. 

Logan Thomas (WAS) TE9, ADP 85

Logan Thomas was one of the feel-good stories of 2020. After converting from TE in high school, to college QB, to NFL TE, Thomas spent six years in and out of the league and on three different teams before finally breaking out at age 29. His physical ability and 2020 production can stoke excitement but cover concerns.

In his breakout season, he averaged 11 ppg to finish at TE6 on a per-game basis. That per-game average was only one point higher than TE12 Smith. To draft him at his current ADP would be buying in on the potential of a one-year wonder at his ceiling.  

Washington has spent this offseason changing the potentially available workload for Thomas.

First, in free agency, the team brought in former Carolina Panther Curtis Samuel to reunite with his old coaching staff. Next, the team selected North Carolina WR Dyami Brown in round 3. For a franchise struggling to come up with the second option in 2020, Washington made a point of emphasis to add targets. You can wait much later to draft a player with a similar ceiling.

Evan Engram (NYG) TE14, ADP 121

Engram’s breakout rookie year is looking like a mirage. Between injuries in 2018 and 2019 and finished fourth in drops in 2020, the Giants look to have reached their limit. They made a massive splash with Kenny Golladay in free agency and an under-the-radar signing with Kyle Rudolph. They doubled down, selecting WR Kadarius Toney in the first round. The team did everything short of releasing for trading Engram.

It is hard to see how Engram fits into a meaningful fantasy role in this offense. Golladay and Rudolph present traditional red-zone targets, while Toney and Sterling Shepard provide more reliable options in the middle of the field.  

TE14 may seem low enough to take a shot on his pedigree, but at an ADP of 121, players with much higher upsides like Jonnu Smith, Darnell Mooney, or Mike Williams are still on the board. The Giants do not want to ride the Engram roller coaster again, and neither should you.

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