The tight end in fantasy football is a very unique position for fantasy football. If you have a top end tight end on your team it leads to a major positional advantage week in and week out. However if you do not have one of the top guys you become a member of the tight end casino and are gambling each week of who might score a touchdown. Let’s dive into the top 10 dynasty tight ends heading into the 2021 fantasy football season.
Dynasty Fantasy Football Tight Ends: Tier 1
TE1 | Travis Kelce
Despite being the oldest player on this list at 31, Travis Kelce is still the number one tight end in dynasty. The consistency he has put up in recent years is unmatched by anyone else at the position. Last season he saw less than six targets in a game only once and saw ten or more targets in nine out of his 15 games. That volume is unheard of when it comes to the tight end position.
Kelce is set up to continue his dominance over the next few years due to having Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback. Mahomes and Kelce have a chemistry that is undeniable on the field, and Kelce is treated as a true weapon in the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive schemes. Kelce is putting up numbers equivalent to the elite wide receivers in fantasy football, and if he is on your fantasy team, he gives you a real advantage over your opponent on any given week.
TE2 | George Kittle
The one tight end who can come close to matching Kelce from a weekly volume and production standpoint is George Kittle. Kittle has shown the ability to be just as dominant as Kelce from the tight end position. He can make big plays after the catch and receives a large volume of targets in the San Francisco 49ers‘ scheme. Kittle saw seven or more targets five out of the eight games he played last year.
The one thing holding Kittle back from taking the number one spot from Kelce is that San Francisco is a less explosive offense than Kansas City. The Chiefs are more likely to put up points and tend to throw the ball more, which leads to more targets and opportunities for touchdowns for Kelce.
Whereas Kittle needs to rely slightly more on efficiency and making plays after the catch. We have yet to see how the trio of Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk all work together. If Samuel and Aiyuk start to take targets away from Kittle, it could hurt his fantasy value and put a more significant gap between Kittle and Kelce for the best tight end in fantasy football.
Dynasty Fantasy Football Tight Ends: Tier 2
TE3 | Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts is a rookie in the 2021 NFL draft class and, before even stepping on the field, has the potential to be the best tight end for dynasty football within the next couple of years. Some may say having Pitts ranked at three before even playing is high, but as I have watched the tape on Pitts, I become more and more sold on how well he will transition to the NFL and become a dominant force on the field.
In dynasty, in particular, grabbing a prospect like Pitts who can be a game-changer at the tight end position is worth the value and any dynasty team should consider him in their rookie drafts.
Pitts is 6-6 and weighs 246 lbs; this is nearly the same height and weight as Kelce. Despite having the size and weight of a tight end, Pitts moves like a wide receiver. He has the speed to break away from any defender. As a tight end, he will be near impossible to cover with a linebacker, and even safeties and corners can struggle with his speed. He’s the ultimate mismatch for fantasy football.
Even if Pitts does not create separation with his speed, he can do so with his excellent route running. All this athleticism would go to waste if Pitts did not have exceptional ball skills to bring in the football when targeted. However, Pitts has shown at Florida an incredible catch radius and the ability to bring down contested catches with ease. The landing spot for Pitts in the NFL draft will have an impact on his value in fantasy football, but on talent alone, Pitts can enter the NFL and be a weapon from day one.
TE4 | Darren Waller
Another tight end who can become the best tight end in fantasy football is Darren Waller. Over the last two years, Waller has exploded onto the scene. Much like Kelce and Kittle, he sees a large volume of targets, leading to his fantastic production on the field. Last season, Waller saw less than six targets only twice and saw ten or more targets seven times out of his 16 games. This volume matches that of Kelce.
Waller has acted as the primary passing game weapon for Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders and should continue to be a central piece in the offense. However, we could see his role change as the Raiders’ young receiving core continues to develop. Last year the Raiders spent a first-round pick on Henry Ruggs, in which, he was not used much at all and a non-factor for fantasy football.
If Ruggs and fellow second-year receiver Bryan Edwards develop and become apart of the offensive gameplan more, it could pull targets away from Waller. If the volume does slightly decrease for Waller, he will still be one of the best tight ends in fantasy football due to the efficiency he has shown with his targets, but it does take away from his potential to become the tight end one in fantasy football.
Dynasty Fantasy Football Tight Ends: Tier 3
TE5 | T.J. Hockenson
T.J. Hockenson has all of the tools to be a dominant fantasy football asset and has shown flashes of his potential. Hockenson has been held back by the offense he has been on in recent years. Going into 2021, the Detroit Lions really lack playmakers for new quarterback Jared Goff. Right now, Hockenson is the best receiving threat at Goff’s disposal.
This should lead to an increase in volume for Hockenson this year, and Goff has shown the ability to support a viable fantasy football tight end. If Goff and Hockenson develop a strong connection, then Hockenson will provide value to teams right away. However, if Goff struggles with his new team, Hockenson is still young enough that he will continue to be a value for dynasty fantasy football as the Lions rebuild and find their quarterback of the future.
TE6 | Mark Andrews
From a talent perspective, Mark Andrews is right up there with Kelce and Kittle at the tight end position. However, the offense that Andrews is in limits his season-long upside. The Baltimore Ravens are a primarily run-based offense which limits the opportunities Andrews presents. On a week-to-week basis, Andrews presents a ceiling due to his work in the RedZone and his efficiency with the targets he receives.
Over the past two seasons with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, Andrews has been the primary target in the passing game. However, he has yet to top 100 targets on a season or 1000 yards receiving. Meanwhile, the other top tight ends go over these numbers year in and year out.
Kelce has topped 100 targets in each of the last six seasons and 1000 yards in the past five. Kittle and Waller each have two years of over 100 targets and 1000 yards receiving. Even Hockenson broke the 100 target mark last season. Until the Ravens passing volume increases and raise the season-long value for Andrews, he will be a middle-of-the-pack tight end one for fantasy football.
Dynasty Fantasy Football Tight Ends: Tier 4
TE7 | Irv Smith Jr.
Irv Smith Jr has recently made a jump up the tight end rankings for dynasty football. The Minnesota Vikings just released Kyle Rudolph, which paves the path for Smith to take over as the starting tight end. Smith is an incredibly athletic tight end who has shown potential to be a dominant tight end in the NFL, and he is only 22, which means he has many years to continue to develop into a top-tier tight end.
Last season Smith showed his talent and the ability he has on the football field. Smith is a red zone threat which he showed with two different games with multiple touchdowns. Smith is also efficient with his receptions averaging 12.2 yards per reception over the year. Now that he is the starting tight end in Minnesota, he will see an increase in his targets, and as long as he maintains his efficiency and continues to be used as a red-zone target, he will have a breakout season in 2021.
TE8 | Jonnu Smith
At the start of last season, Jonnu Smith showed the potential to be an elite tight end in fantasy. In his first four games last year, Smith had 27 targets, 18 receptions, and five touchdowns. If he had maintained this production throughout the season, he would have finished the year as a top-three tight end. However, Smith started to take a backseat in the Tennessee Titans passing game. Smith was held in as a blocker after week five, which limited the routes he ran and the targets he received.
Moving into 2021, Jonnu Smith is a free agent, and his landing spot will be important. If Smith lands back with the Titans, we will need to return to the role he had in the early 2020 season. The Titans’ offensive line will need to improve to free Smith up to run more routes, which should happen with Taylor Lewan‘s return. However, if Smith leaves, it could increase his fantasy value should he land in an offense with a higher passing volume than the Titans.
TE9 | Robert Tonyan
Robert Tonyan broke out last season and established himself as a reliable option for fantasy football. Tonyan was an incredibly reliable receiver for Aaron Rodgers. Tonyan was able to catch 88% of his targets; this consistency allowed for a trust to be built between the two. Rodgers has shown that if he can trust the receiver, he will continue to target them. Now that Tonyan has built that trust, he should continue to show his role grow. As long as Rodgers is the Green Bay Packers‘ starting quarterback, Tonyan will be an excellent fantasy option.
Some significant factors could impact Tonyan this year and in the near future. The first factor is if the Packers bring a better option to be their wide receiver, two opposite of Davante Adams. If they bring in a player like Allen Robinson or Will Fuller, they will pull targets away from Tonyan and limit his upside.
The other significant impact on Tonyan’s value is how much longer Rodgers will be the Packer’s quarterback. The Packers drafted Jordan Love last year, and if they decide to move onto him soon rather than later, it will harm Tonyan’s value. In my opinion, Rodgers still has many great years left in him, but if the Packers think otherwise, Tonyan will drop in my dynasty rankings.
TE10 | Hunter Henry
Hunter Henry has all the talent to be a dominant tight end for fantasy football but has yet to put together an entirely healthy season. Going back to his rookie season in 2016, we can see the potential he presents. Henry averaged 13.3 yards per reception and had eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, since that season, he has declined in his efficiency, and touchdown production and injuries have played a significant role.
The positives moving forward for Henry are that he is still young and has the talent to be a dominant force for fantasy. Another important note for Henry is the fact that he is a free agent this year. His landing spot will impact his fantasy value. One of the best-case scenarios is that Henry stays with the Los Angeles Chargers. He can continue to grow and develop chemistry with Justin Herbert. However, if Henry does leave a tight-end friendly offense like the Indianapolis Colts could also boost his fantasy value.
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