Tight Ends: Buy, Hold, & Sell
Prior to the start of the 2020-2021 NFL season, I wrote an article on tight ends to buy, hold, and sell. Today we are going to revisit and review those tight ends, and name a few new ones for this offseason. Let’s get to it.
Chris Herndon / Hayden Hurst
I am willing to take the L and admit that I was way off on Chris Herndon. But stick with me here because we need to trust the process even if the results don’t always align. Herndon was set up for success in a big way, but the Jets were so dysfunctional that nobody stood out for gang green. Herndon finished the season with just 287 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps with Adam Gase gone and potentially a new quarterback, Herndon will find life next season. I hope so because Chris Herndon might just be the drug that I cannot quit.
While I am not taking a victory lap on the Hayden Hurst call, it wasn’t a bad call either. I essentially said that I expected Hurst to come close to matching the production that Austin Hooper had in his last year with Atlanta when Hooper finished as tight end seven. Hurst finished as tight end 10 this year in PPR scoring, so while he wasn’t too far off, he did fall 200 yards short of Hooper’s total from 2019-20. Hurst finished with 571 yards and six touchdowns and should notch similar production next season. However, the position appears to be deeper than ever which will likely push Hurst out of the TE1 rankings.
2020 Buys But Be Patient
Dallas Goedert / Irv Smith Jr.
If you listened to the Buy But Be Patient category, it paid off for you. The window to buy low on Dallas Goedert has started to close as he appears to have passed up Zach Ertz as the TE1 in Philadelphia. However, I have him as my dynasty tight end five whereas others might not be as bullish on him, so there is likely still a window there to get him before his price elevates even more. He finished with 524 yards and I expect him to ascend well beyond that next season.
Irv Smith Jr. still might require some patience, but he showed flashes this past season and looks to be trending upwards. Unfortunately, Kyle Rudolph is under contract for two more seasons which limits Smith’s upside a bit. Smith is the far superior pass catcher and with Adam Thielen aging and often injured the Vikings need those, so we may see more targets from the kid next season. He finished with a healthy 68% snap share compared to Rudolph’s 77%, but Smith saw just 43 targets and Rudolph 37. Smith was utilized in the red zone as he notched 12 red-zone targets and five touchdowns to go with 365 yards. I expect the Vikings to feature Smith more heavily sooner or later, and he should still be a dynasty target of yours.
Dallas Goedert / Irv Smith Jr. / Cole Kmet / T.J. Hockenson / Kyle Pitts
As you can see, Dallas Goedert and Irv Smith Jr. remain buy candidates for the reasons stated above.
Jimmy Graham is a likely cap casualty of the Chicago Bears, which is one of many reasons Cole Kmet finds himself on this list. Graham led Bears tight ends with 456 yards and eight touchdowns but Kmet was more involved in the offense down the stretch. Kmet saw 34 targets through the final six games, good for 5.7 targets per game while Graham saw just 17 targets during that stretch for 2.8 targets per game. Kmet posted just 243 yards and two touchdowns on the season, but for a rookie playing behind a veteran like Graham, that’s solid production. 165 of those yards came in the last six weeks along with one of the touchdowns. You can see how the Bears started to utilize Kmet more and more as the season went along and they gained confidence in him. Kmet has ideal size and metrics to succeed at the NFL level, no matter who is throwing him the ball next season.
(Photo Credit: Player Profiler)
Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola are all free agents and there is a good chance none of them return to the Lions. If that is the case, the team will be vacating 216 targets from last season. Golladay missed 11 games, so he only garnered 32 targets, but that is still an extremely high number of targets that will be up for grabs. Hockenson already registered 101 targets last season, turning them into 67 receptions, 723 yards, and six touchdowns, good enough for a TE5 finish in PPR formats. Hockenson was already a focal point of this offense, and they will certainly bring in other pass-catchers, but it’s not crazy to think that he could be the primary pass catcher in this offense. The Lions will be trotting out a new QB, of course, but Goff targeted tight ends 126 times last year, so he will certainly be looking Hockenson’s way early and often.
Okay, I’m kind of cheating here by adding a rookie that hasn’t even been drafted yet but I’m telling you now, do what you need to do to get Kyle Pitts on your roster heading into next season. At 6’6” and 240 pounds, Pitts is built like Darren Waller and possesses the route running abilities and soft hands that we see from Waller every Sunday. Pitts absolutely dominated college competition in his Sophomore and Junior seasons at Florida.
(Photo Credit: Pro Football Refrence)
Pitts finished as a top 10 finalist in the Heisman Trophy voting, and deservedly so, becoming the first tight end to finish in the top 10 in 43 years. With a stellar breakout age of 18.9 putting him in the 95th percentile, a college dominator of 32.3% good enough for the 91stpercentile, and 17.9 YPR landing him in the 96th percentile, Pitts was as dominant as they come.
Rookie tight ends typically take some time to develop and make their mark in the NFL but I see Pitts being the exception. And even if he does start slowly, it’s only a matter of time before he explodes onto the scene.
Mike Gesicki / Darren Waller
As revisionist history would suggest, Darren Waller clearly should have been a buy, and if you can still do so at a reasonable price, he is very much worth it. But suggesting him as a hold wasn’t bad advice either. I have Waller as my dynasty TE2 and considered putting him at TE1. He’s that good.
Mike Gesicki was in the right place as a hold. He didn’t take the leap to elite territory like some thought he would, but he did finish as TE7 in PPR scoring with 703 yards and six touchdowns. The uber-athletic Gesicki still has the potential to become one of the games best, but I’m not buying him at that price, thus he remains a hold for 2021.
Mike Gesicki / Noah Fant / Evan Engram
As mentioned, Gesicki remains on this list for 2021. He has tremendous athleticism and potential, I’m just not ready to buy at his current price tag.
Noah Fant is in a strong place to be considered a hold. He is an extremely talented and athletic tight end. Just look at the workout metrics and best comparable.
(Photo Credit: Player Profiler)
Fant had a strong season overall despite spotty QB play, totaling 62 receptions for 673 yards and three touchdowns. The reason he remains a hold is that there are so many weapons on this offense and for now, questionable QB play. Fant will fight for targets with the likes of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Tim Patrick, and even Melvin Gordon out of the backfield. If they do bring in an improvement at the QB position, or if Lock takes a leap, then I like Fant’s outlook a bit more, but he still has to battle for targets in a crowded group of pass-catchers.
More often than not you will find Evan Engram on the sell list, but I’m holding. Engram, also wildly athletic and talented, has battled injuries throughout his career which is what gives me pause more than anything. Despite playing through injuries in a mostly inept offense, Engram still notched 654 yards to go along with one touchdown. He tallied 109 targets and the Giants made concerted efforts to get the ball in his hands. With Barkley returning to action next season, the threat of a running game should help open things up, and while I like Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, and Sterling Shepherd to an extent, none of them are true alpha number one WR’s. We’ll see what the Giants do in the offseason, but for now, Engram is set up with a healthy target share in an offense that should improve. 2020 Sells
Tyler Higbee / Austin Hooper / Jared Cook / Zach Ertz
This is the spot that was most on point last season, as none of these guys exceeded or even maintained their value through the season. Higbee was a trendy breakout pick but ended up finishing as TE17. He becomes somewhat interesting again if Gerald Everett leaves in free agency and a revamped offense with Stafford under center, but I still don’t love the player.
Austin Hooper missed some time due to injuries but struggled to the tune of 435 yards and 4 touchdowns in a run-first offense. I hope you sold high last season.
Jared Cook finished as TE18 and is on the brink of retirement, while Zach Ertz’s future is a major question mark.
There is a decent chance that Ertz gets moved and becomes interesting again, but it seems his time as a TE1 has come and gone. 2021 Sells
Robert Tonyan / Logan Thomas
Robert Tonyan and Logan Thomas are the only two guys who stand out to me as players whose perceived value may be higher than where I have them valued.
The Packers have been in desperate need of pass-catchers beyond Davante Adams for some time, and Tonyan stepped up in a big way in 2020. However, his finish as TE4 overall can be somewhat misleading.
He recorded just 52 receptions, the fewest of any tight end to finish in the top 12. He tallied 586 receiving yards, the second-fewest of any top 12 tight ends. The main reason he finished as TE4 was due to his 11 touchdowns. Now, we know many tight ends create their value in the end zone but the top dogs at the position are consistent because they see a high volume of targets, receptions, and yards in addition to the touchdowns. Tonyan does reside in a great offense, but that touchdown total is likely unsustainable. Especially when the Packer's offseason shopping list certainly includes a pass-catcher or two. Move on from Tonyan before it’s too late.
I love Logan Thomas the player. I even bought into him last season and scooped him up before others were able to do so in many leagues. The unfortunate truth is that he is a converted QB who will be 30 next season and has played on four teams in five years without any real success. I do think he has found a home and will still see consistent targets next season, but the Football Team must address the pass-catching situation. They will add a WR or two and might even look at adding another tight end. Thomas saw 110 targets last year, but I don’t see him sniffing a triple-digit target number in 2021. I still like the player, and he makes some sense on contenders or in two-tight end leagues, but if somebody is willing to pay up for a 30-year-old tight end with one good season on a team who will add multiple pass catchers this offseason, then I am more than willing to sell.