The tight end position features only a handful of truly elite options heading into 2020. Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller, Zach Ertz, and Mark Andrews were the only five tight ends who scored more than 200 fantasy points last year. Fantasy football owners who cannot land one of those five options (and Evan Engram and Hunter Henry) must be on the lookout for the right TE sleeper or potential breakout later in their draft, even if that means drafting a backup.
Here’s a closer look at 10 potentially undervalued TEs, from those who will go in the middle rounds to those who might not be drafted at all.
2020 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
6 QBs | 16 RBs | 14 WRs | 5 D/STs | One from each team
Fantasy Football TE Sleepers
Hayden Hurst, Falcons
Hurst won’t have to share targets in Atlanta as the main option, and that increased role should lead to more production with Matt Ryan. Hurst’s reliability is a huge plus. He had 43 catches on 62 targets – a catch percentage of 69.3 — the past two seasons. Expect career highs in receptions, yards and TDs, perhaps even on par with Austin Hooper’s averages the past two seasons in Atlanta (73 catches, 92.5 targets, 723.5 yards, five TDs).
Jonnu Smith, Titans
Smith is another reliable target, catching 35-of-44 targets last season. There is a boom-or-bust-factor at work, as Smith also had four games with no catches in 2019 and relied on big plays in other games to pad his stats. Still, the increased consistency in the second half of the season showed his potential, and with Delanie Walker officially out of town, he should see a big uptick in targets. Given his explosiveness, that could mean big things at a traditionally touchdown-reliant position.
2020 PPR RANKINGS:
Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Superflex | Top 200
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins
Rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is going to need a safety valve when he eventually takes over, and Gesicki fits that description heading into his third season. Gesicki put up 20 catches, 49.6 yards per game and three TDs in Miami’s final five games in 2019 – a consistent run of production that would make him an every-week starter over a full season.
Ian Thomas, Panthers
Thomas put up modest totals with revolving-door quarterbacks in his first two seasons with the Panthers, but the addition of Teddy Bridgewater — and more important, the official exit of Greg Olsen — gives the third-year tight end a new-found opportunity. Thomas might be a better fit in PPR leagues early in the season, and he’ll need to score more TDs to be an every-week option. Still, he won’t cost much on draft day and has big upside in Carolina’s ball-control offense.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2020 cheat sheet
Chris Herndon, Jets
Herndon was a legitimate sleeper pick heading into 2019, but he missed most of last season because of suspension and a fractured rib. He averaged 12.9 yards per catch with four TDs as a rookie, and the key will be recapturing that rapport with third-year quarterback Sam Darnold. Some of that sleeper shine has worn off Herndon, but that could make him a sneaky post-hype value pick in the later rounds.
Blake Jarwin, Cowboys
Jarwin gets the chance to emerge in Dallas’ offense now that Jason Witten, who signed with the Raiders, is out of the picture. That means more receptions and yards, but that’s not the biggest upside to taking Jarwin. Seven of Jarwin’s 31 receptions last season went for 20 yards or more, and he will continue to be a down-field threat and red-zone target given the receiving talent the Cowobys have around him.
2020 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Superflex | Top 200
Irv Smith Jr., Vikings
Smith had two games with more than 50 yards receiving as a rookie, but he is poised to make the jump in his second season. A 76.6 catch percentage shows that Smith makes the most of his targets. Smith still is fighting for looks with veteran Kyle Rudolph, however, so the key will be taking advantage of red-zone opportunities and converting big plays when given the chance. Given his athleticism, Smith Jr. has major upside.
C.J. Uzomah, Bengals
Uzomah’s production slipped last season, but the good news is he no longer has to split targets with Tyler Eifert, who left for Jacksonville. That, coupled with the addition of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, should lead to a more prominent role in the offense. If Uzomah can revert to his 2018 form and tack on a few more TDs, then he will emerge as at least a streaming option in standard leagues.
DRAFT STRATEGY AND RANKINGS TIERS:
Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End | D/ST
T.J. Hockenson, Lions
Hockenson was a major disappointment after a huge Week 1 last year, and while we can chalk some of that up to Matthew Stafford’s injury, there’s no doubt last year’s top-10 pick needs to get more consistent. Hockenson has all the tools to be a steady fantasy producer, so it really comes down to whether the Lions utilize him properly and he can execute, but he has as much upside as any TE outside the “starters” tier. — Matt Lutovsky
MORE FANTASY FOOTBALL:
Auction values | IDP Rankings | Projections | Mock draft simulator | Team names
Taysom Hill, Saints
Hill is now listed as a tight end/flex play in ESPN leagues for 2020, and that adds to his switch-blade appeal in any format. Hill had 19 catches on 22 targets last season, and he scored seven TDs on just 46 offensive touches. Hill had more than 50 total yards in just one game, but the TD appeal at the position is nice.