TE Fantasy Football Rankings 2021: Top Tight End Draft Picks
Nate Hamilton ranks his top TE fantasy football rankings heading into the 2021 season. Which tight ends have the most value this season? Considering skills and system, Nate ranks 35 tight ends for 2021 fantasy football leagues.
TE Fantasy Football Rankings 2021: League Settings
- Lineup: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB/WR/TE Flex, 1 PK, 1 DT
- 0.5 PPR scoring
- 1 point per 10 Rush/Receiving yards
- 4 pts Pass TD
- -1 pt Interception
- 6 points all other TDs
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Check out the rest of Nate Hamilton’s fantasy previews for detailed tier breakdowns and positional rankings:
- 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 300 Players
- 2021 QB Fantasy Football Rankings
- 2021 RB Fantasy Football Rankings
- 2021 WR Fantasy Football Rankings
- 2021 PK Fantasy Football Rankings
- 2021 DT Fantasy Football Rankings
TE Fantasy Football Rankings 2021
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TE Fantasy Football Rankings: Tier Breakdown
What else can be said about the top-tier tight ends? They are the most reliable and consistent options in a sea of volatility at the position.
Travis Kelce has the best quarterback in the league throwing to him and has been the No. 1 tight end in every season since 2016. His numbers appear to get better each year, too. Darren Waller has cemented a role as Derek Carr’s No. 1 target. He’s basically a wide receiver with tight end attributes. George Kittle is coming back from an injury, and the quarterback situation in San Francisco could cause him to underperform a bit. Regardless, he remains a top-three TE.
T.J. Hockenson is expected to take a step forward in 2021 as the best target for Jared Goff in Detroit. Considering the other receiving options in a dismantled Lions offense, Hockenson will see the majority of targets and scoring opportunities.
Logan Thomas finished as the TE6 in .5 PPR and the TE3 in full PPR in 2020. Yes, the Washington Football Team added Curtis Samuel, but Ryan Fitzpatrick provides fantasy value to most of his targets. I’m expecting Thomas to see valuable red zone targets from Fitzpatrick this season.
It took 6 weeks for Rob Gronkowski to get his groove back after his time away from football, yet he still finished as the TE8 in 2020. He is a trusty target for Tom Brady, especially in red zone looks.
Noah Fant’s target share was impressive in his sophomore season, finishing with 93 targets — second only to Jerry Jeudy among Denver’s receiving options. Fant was targeted 5 or more times in 12 games last year. There’s no doubt he’s a big part of the gameplan for 2021 as well.
Tier 3 may feel a little low for Kyle Pitts, but having him projected at the TE9 in his upcoming rookie season is still impressive. I understand the talent of Pitts is unquestioned, however, there is something to be said about the inherent risk of expecting an elite season out of a rookie tight end. Even with Julio Jones gone, there are still veteran pass catchers in Atlanta’s offense for Matt Ryan to target.
Speaking of Julio Jones, he’s the reason Anthony Firkser isn’t higher in my rankings. Jones immediately insets himself in the Titans offense as a top target for Ryan Tannehill. I’m also expecting Tannehill to target Jones more in the red zone, which negatively impacts the fantasy value of most tight ends.
I want to rank Blake Jarwin higher, but there is just so much happening in the Cowboys offense. I can’t imagine Jarwin sees enough targets with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard getting their fair share. Jarwin’s teammate and fellow tight end, Dalton Schultz, is a decent pass-catcher as well.
The lower ranking for Dallas Goedert is based on the lack of confidence I have in the young Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. There are a lot of young, talented wide receivers for Hurts to target, and we can’t forget that Zach Ertz is still on the team.
The drop off happens quickly at the tight end position. Every player in tier 5 and 6 has potential upside, so I will try not to repeat myself.
Cole Kmet is the next TE expected to take a step forward in the Bears offense, but at age 34, Jimmy Graham will still hinder Kmet’s ceiling. It is likely Kmet will surpass Graham in targets in 2021, especially once Justin Fields takes over at QB.
Tyler Higbee shared targets with Gerald Everett in 2020. Both tight ends came in right around 60 targets on the season. With Everett out of Los Angeles, Higbee will see more quality targets with a better quarterback in Matthew Stafford in 2021.
Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry are both very interesting options in 2021. They each have amazing talent, but find themselves on the same team. It wouldn’t be a surprise for both to have productive seasons, but it’s unlikely both will be consistent options.
There are some old but reliable options in tier 6.
Eric Ebron finished just shy of 100 targets last season, coming in at 91. I expect that number to come down in 2021 considering the talent at WR in Pittsburgh. One positive for Ebron is that Ben Roethlisberger targeted him the most in the red zone in 2020, tying JuJu Smith-Schuster with 18 targets. Red zone targets are gold for tight ends, and Ebron could still be one of Roethlisberger’s top options in 2021.
People are quick to forget about Hayden Hurst because of the addition of Kyle Pitts, but it’s worth keeping in mind that Matt Ryan has established chemistry with Hurst which will hinder Pitts’ target share in his first year. That being said, Hurst takes a major blow to his fantasy value due to the presence of the rookie.
Zach Ertz is still on the Eagles. My concerns for him are still based on Jalen Hurts, but more so with Dallas Goedert and the fact it feels like Ertz has one foot out the door.
There is plenty of love going around for Adam Trautman, and he will likely move up in my rankings as we get closer to the season. With the injury to Michael Thomas, it automatically increases Trautman’s opportunities, at least to begin the season. I would just like a clearer picture at the quarterback position before I’m comfortable with him rising in my rankings.
We’ve reached the bottom of the barrel. None of these players should be targeted unless you’re in super deep roster leagues.
Ian Thomas could develop chemistry with his new quarterback, Sam Darnold. The problem is that there are at least four other players Darnold would be better off targeting in the Panthers offense.
Dawson Knox played in just 12 games in 2020, but was targeted just 3.6 times per game on average. The Bills flourished without the heavy presence of a tight end all last season, and I don’t anticipate them changing their offensive approach.
If new Colts quarterback Carson Wentz finds himself targeting a tight end in this offense, he would likely favor Jack Doyle. We’ve seen how effective Doyle can be when seeing a healthy target share in the past. However, there are just too many uncertainties in this passing attack to give Doyle strong consideration when drafting.