Tight end is a premium position in fantasy. Most years, there are only a couple of great options at the position, and most tight ends are touchdown-dependent. Aside from Travis Kelce, who has finished as the TE1 for the past 5 seasons, the top 5 tight ends are pretty volatile. Since 2017 Kelce, Waller, Kittle, and Ertz are the only players to appear in the top 5 two or more times. On average the other 3 at the position did not appear there the year before. Kelce, Kittle, and Waller will likely go early in your drafts, and for good reason.
They all offer a scoring and security advantage at the position. However if you can’t grab one of the top players, I’m here to help you find some guys that could end up in the top 10.
Anthony Firkser, TEN
The next man up in Tennessee, Anthony Firkser has all he needs to be a great fantasy tight end. The departure of Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and Jonnu Smith, leaves 224 targets up for grabs. Last year Jonnu Smith finished with 41 receptions for 448 yards and eight TDs in the air and one TD on the ground. He finished at TE16 with roughly 10 PPG, while playing only 14 games, with Firkser filling his role while he was out. At his pace from last season, Smith would have finished at TE7 behind Mark Andrews.
When Smith was taken out of a game due to injury or missed week 13 against the Browns, Firkser took advantage, scoring 7+ points 4 times and scoring double-digits twice. Smith scored double-digit numbers 8 times out of his 14 games, so Firkser has the opportunity to score and be a fantasy-relevant tight end. Given the opportunities and good scheme, Firkser could be a top tight end in 2021.
Tyler Higbee, LAR
The sky’s the limit for Tyler Higbee next season. With Gerald Everett gone, Higbee will hopefully replicate the success he had at the end of the 2019 season. Many people drafted Higbee this season in hopes of him replicating his success at the end of the 2019 season. During his last 5 games, he scored 107.2 points and averaged 21.44 PPG during that period. However, many people don’t realize that Higbee was doing that with Gerald Everett injured, and against some bad defenses, which is why he didn’t repeat his success in 2021.
The trend of Everett being inactive can also be seen in his game log in 2021 where he scored 28.4 points against Philly when Everett received 0 targets. Now that Everett left in free agency to be a Seahawk, and the Rams have 176 vacated targets, Higbee should have increased opportunities in the passing game next year. The addition of Matthew Stafford also bodes well for Higbee, as Stafford has a good record for producing relevant fantasy tight ends, which can be seen with the next guy on my list. If Higbee can get targets in the new and improved Rams offense he’ll hopefully repeat his success and be a top late-round target in your drafts
T.J. Hockenson, DET
The Lion’s offense next season will run through D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson.
Hockenson is one of the main guys you want to target if you miss out on Kelce, Kittle, or Waller. The Lions have the most vacated targets in the league, and more targets equal more opportunities to score. The game script will probably also dictate them to pass more to stay competitive. Although Jared Goff is a quarterback downgrade from Stafford, he should still be able to get the ball to the former Hawkeye, as he’ll likely be his top receiving option.
Last year he had a solid season and is likely to improve more this next year. He was top 10 in points and targets per game in 2020. Even though the Lions’ offense as a whole may not perform well, Hockenson can improve their scoring ability. He had the 25th ranked touchdown dependency, so positive regression is likely to come. As one of Goff’s only weapons, Hockenson will be a big target and safety blanket, so I think he finishes top 5 next year in 2021.