Best tight end picks for fantasy football

2019 Fantasy TE Rankings: Top tight end draft picks, sleepers

There’s no way to avoid how top heavy our 2019 fantasy tight end rankings are. Either you get one of the three top-tier options, or you wade into the mystery section of your cheat sheet trying to find this year’s top TE sleeper or breakout candidate. As a result, your draft strategy can really go one of three ways.

The first: Take one of Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz or George Kittle somewhere in second, third, or fourth rounds. They’re studs. They get a ton of targets, catch touchdowns, and make plays after the catch.

Option two can work, but only if you’re patient: If you don’t get one of the best three, wait a while for one of the TEs in the Nos. 4-12 range. These guys have talent and are mostly proven commodities, but their week-to-week production can fluctuate wildly, making them shaky early-round investments. Someone has to take Trey Burton — and he could very well emerge as a top-five guy this year — but there’s no need to reach for him with so many other similarly skilled TEs available.

If your league is deeper, option three might work the best: Just don’t worry about tight end until the latter half of your draft. Pick up two guys in the middle/late rounds and bail quickly if they stink. Maybe Jordan Reed stays healthy; maybe Mike Gesicki finds a way to succeed in Miami; maybe Greg Olsen gets hurt and Ian Thomas breaks out in Carolina. Who knows? A late-round TE won’t kill you, but the opportunity cost of reaching for a non-Kelce/Ertz/Kittle TE could.

With plenty of position battles at this position, keep an eye out here as we update these rankings and provide more analysis throughout the preseason.

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2019 Fantasy Rankings: Tight end

Rankings based on standard scoring leagues

DRAFT STRATEGY AND RANKINGS TIERS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST

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1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs. It didn’t seem like Kelce could become a more clear-cut top tight end. Then he became the favorite target for Patrick Mahomes in the breakout of all breakout seasons. Regardless of whether Tyreek Hill is around or not, Kelce should be the best tight end in all of fantasy football again. Another season of 100 catches, 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns is a hard thing to call a lock, but in Kelce’s situation, it’s pretty close
2. Zach Ertz, Eagles. It didn’t really matter last season whether Nick Foles or Carson Wentz threw to Ertz. He had a few of his best outputs with Foles and a few with Wentz. A full 16 games with the superior Wentz throwing to him should only increase his numbers, though. He finished with 10.3 standard-league fantasy points per game (FPPG) in 2018, and that double-digit mark should be the baseline again in ’19
3. George Kittle, 49ers. If you knew a lot about Kittle before last season, kudos. He finished as the No. 2 fantasy tight end. He should remain top three again this season, and it might not matter whether Jimmy Garoppolo lasts the full season. Kittle did the majority of his damage with secondary passers and could surely do that again. When you can run after the catch like Kittle does — he led all of the NFL with 870 yards after catch in 2018 — you can make it work with anyone.
4. Evan Engram, Giants. Engram scored 7.4 standard-league fantasy points per game last season, and that’s with three of his weeks featuring fewer than 52 percent of snaps played. The potential knock on Engram comes around the goal line, where he hadn’t been a popular target for Eli Manning in past seasons. But with Odell Beckham, Jr. gone, maybe that changes for Engram, and his ability to break off long catches over the middle has never been in question.
5. O.J. Howard, Buccaneers. Talent-wise, Howard fits in with the four names above him. But he simply won’t get as many chances as long as fellow tight end Cameron Brate plays with him in Tampa Bay. (And you never know what type of QB play he’ll be dealing with.) While his 2018 was shortened by injury, he scored the fifth-most standard FPPG when on the field. As long as Brate’s in town, the five spot might be Howard’s ceiling.
6. Jared Cook, Saints. Coming off the career year so many were waiting for, Cook has moved on to New Orleans from Oakland. With Cook on the wrong side of 30 and in a new place, there’s a bit of uncertainty. But Drew Brees has used his tight ends when he’s trusted them — think Jimmy Graham and Ben Watson. In one of football’s highest-powered offenses, Cook should get plenty of shots at touchdowns, if nothing else.
7. Hunter Henry, Chargers. Considering that the Chargers felt good enough about Henry to bring him back for the postseason, last preseason’s torn ACL shouldn’t be a concern. Antonio Gates is finally gone, and Henry gets a chance to be Philip Rivers’ next trusty tight end. Even with Gates around in 2017 when Henry was healthy, the youngster finished 10th in standard-league FPPG. With no Gates and two healthy knees, Henry can top that this season.
8. Trey Burton, Bears. Burton was the darling of many analysts before the 2018 season. And while he ended the season ranked sixth in TE standard-league points, he somehow felt like a disappointment. Here’s your case for optimism: Burton caught 11 red-zone passes last season but only turned five into touchdowns. That’s a worse percentage than Kelce, Ertz and Ebron, and it came in a small sample size that can be improved upon.
9. Eric Ebron, Colts. Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce received the most red-zone targets among tight ends in 2018. Third place was held down by Ebron, though. Ebron turned 21 targets inside the 20-yard line into 11 touchdowns. He’s made for the Red Zone Channel. (Who doesn’t like seeing their tight end catch a score or two?) (Update: Andrew Luck’s retirement has docked Ebron a couple spots here.)
10. Delanie Walker, Titans. Walker will turn 35 before the season and is coming off a season-ending ankle injury he suffered in Week 1. So, there’s risk. But as the 10th TE off the board, there’s reason to believe. Walker was targeted more than 100 times each season from 2014-’17. No other tight end in the NFL can claim that. That makes him worth a chance as a back-end starter in standard leagues.