At first glance, our 2020 fantasy TE rankings look deep, but it's important to remember that this position remains one of the toughest to navigate on draft day. The very top tier is generally reliable, but most fantasy football owners don't want to spend the high draft picks required to get them. The middle tier always seems overpriced, and the lower tiers are a gamble.
Of course, at least one or two players from those tiers rank among the very best tight ends at the end of the season (see Darren Waller last year), so many owners try to hit on a big sleeper. There's nothing wrong with that (especially if you draft two players from those tiers), but ask owners who have gone down the Ricky Seals-Jones and Austin Seferian-Jenkins rabbit holes one too many times how that can work out. Getting one reliable, if unexciting, veteran and one high-upside lotto ticket is often the way to go if you don't want to pay up for a stud.
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But just who qualifies as a "reliable veteran?" Does that label still apply to Rob Gronkowski? After a year off and multiple injury-plagued seasons, we don't think so, ranking him outside the starting tier. He could still score a good amount of touchdowns, but even that is in question. Jared Cook is also lower in our rankings than most sites after the Saints acquired yet another possession receiver in Emmanuel Sanders. Cook is still a borderline starter, but breakout candidates Jonnu Smith, Hayden Hurst, and Tyler Higbee seem to have more upside.
Fortunately, there are a lot of sleeper candidates. Guys like Noah Fant, Chris Herndon, Ian Thomas, Blake Jarwin, and Irv Smith Jr., among others, could easily finish well ahead of our rankings and their average draft positions. At tight end, a hot start and simply staying healthy goes a long way, which is why it's a good idea to grab a backup during your draft. This position is more than "touchdown-or-bust," so don't settle.
We'll update these TE rankings throughout the preseason, so check back for updates and individual analysis.
2020 Fantasy Football TE Rankings
The following rankings are for non-PPR leagues. Individual player analysis by Jacob Camenker.
10Austin Hooper, Browns. Hooper ranked fourth among TEs in targets per game with 7.5, and he continued his trend of getting better with each passing season. He set career-best marks in catches (75), yardage (787), and touchdowns (six). His upside is a bit lower with the Browns because they run the ball more than the Falcons, but Hooper should still have plenty of opportunities to get open for Baker Mayfield.
|1||George Kittle, 49ers. Over the past two years, Kittle has been the most productive tight end in the NFL. He is averaging 92 catches, 1,296 yards, and five touchdowns per 16 games, and at just 27 in October, he should only continue to get better. He should also be the No. 1 target for San Francisco early in the season as Deebo Samuel recovers from a foot injury and Emmanuel Sanders suits up for the Saints.|
|2||Travis Kelce, Chiefs. No tight end in the league was targeted more than Kelce last season. He saw 136 passes go his way, and as long as Patrick Mahomes is quarterbacking the Chiefs, Kelce's upside will be sky-high. Kelce has averaged eight touchdowns per year since 2017, and he should have a chance to post his fifth-consecutive 1,000-yard season.|
|3||Zach Ertz, Eagles. Ertz came up just shy of Kelce's top mark for TE targets at 135, but it's worth noting that Ertz did that in one fewer game than Kelce. Ertz should continue to see a high volume of targets from Carson Wentz and will eclipse the 100-target mark for a sixth-straight year if healthy. That said, Ertz comes in just a hair lower than the top two because he only has one 1,000-yard season and has never scored more than eight times in one campaign. He'll also have to contend with Dallas Goedert eating into his target share/snaps. He's a PPR monster but is a bit tamer in standard.|
|4||Mark Andrews, Ravens. Only one player in the NFL had more receiving TDs than Andrews last season (Kenny Golladay, 11). Andrews grabbed 10 scores and became Lamar Jackson's favorite overall target, which explains why Andrews was targeted fifth-most among TEs. He will continue to be a solid option at the position and should be a top-five TE thanks to his scoring upside, though he loses a bit of value in PPR leagues.|
|5||Evan Engram, Giants. Engram played in just eight games last season but nearly matched his output from 11 games in the season before. If you extrapolate Engram's '19 numbers to a 16-game slate, he'd have 136 targets (T-1 in the NFL among TEs), 88 catches, 934 yards, and six TDs. Those are TE1 numbers that he should have a chance to post...if he can stay healthy.|
|6||Darren Waller, Raiders. Waller came out of nowhere last season to post the second-highest yardage total among tight ends (1,145) and saw the third-most targets (117) at the position. If he can build a stronger rapport with Derek Carr, Waller's numbers could improve, as Carr loves throwing the ball short and over the middle of the field. That said, Oakland invested in two talented WRs in this year's draft (Henry Ruggs III and Bryant Edwards), so Waller could lose some target share.|
|7||Hunter Henry, Chargers. The departure of Philip Rivers stings a little bit, but Henry is still one of the more talented tight ends in the league. He averaged nearly 12 yards per catch last season and posted career-high numbers in catches (55) and receiving yards (652). If he can stay on the field for a full 16 games, something that he has never done in four NFL seasons, he should have a chance to crack the top five at the position.|
|8||Hayden Hurst, Falcons. Last year, Austin Hooper was the No. 1 fantasy tight end for quite a while working with Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Now, Hurst will get to take on that role. Hurst had 30 catches for 349 yards and two scores last year despite being in a three-man tight end rotation with Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. As the top dog in Atlanta, he should produce and is a big-time sleeper you can get a little later in your fantasy drafts.|
|9||Tyler Higbee, Rams. Higbee had what was far and away the best season of his career last year, logging 69 catches, 734 yards, and three TDs for the Rams. He really came on at the end of the season and was targeted an average of 12 times per game in the last month. He probably won't see that many looks per game on a 16-game slate, but it's safe to assume that he'll continue to be one of Jared Goff's favorite targets.|
|10||Austin Hooper, Browns. Hooper ranked fourth among TEs in targets per game with 7.5, and he continued his trend of getting better with each passing season. He set career-best marks in catches (75), yardage (787), and touchdowns (six). His upside is a bit lower with the Browns because they run the ball more than the Falcons, but Hooper should still have plenty of opportunities to get open for Baker Mayfield.|
|11||Jonnu Smith, Titans. Last season, Smith came on for the Titans in the wake of an injury to Delanie Walker. He averaged 12.3 yards per catch and actually ran for 78 yards on the season. The Titans will find creative ways to use the athletic, multi-faceted weapon, and he should benefit from a full season of playing with Ryan Tannehill after Marcus Mariota barely targeted him at the start of last season (3.6 targets per game with Tannehill, 1.3 per game from Mariota).|
|12||Jack Doyle, Colts. Eric Ebron is no longer around to take touches from Doyle. Instead, his running mate will be Trey Burton. That figures to be good news for Doyle, who averaged 4.5 targets per game and logged 43 catches, 448 yards, and four touchdowns last season as Indy's top TE. Philip Rivers loves throwing to his tight ends, so Doyle could be in for the best season of his career.|
|13||Jared Cook, Saints. Cook led all tight ends last season with a career-best 16.4 yards per reception in New Orleans. He also logged nine TDs. Will he be able to repeat those numbers? We have our doubts. That's why he just misses the TE1 cut, though he is a worthwhile top backup and streaming option.|
|14||Eric Ebron, Steelers. Ebron caught 13 TDs in '18 but was only able to grab three in 11 games last season. That said, his 12.1 yards per reception average was the best of his career, and Ben Roethlisberger has enjoyed throwing to tight ends over the years. Expect Ebron to be solid, but with so many other weapons to compete with along with his penchant for drops, he's better served as a top backup.|
|15||Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers. Gronk is a big name, but which version of the tight end will we get? Is it going to be the player who had 1,084 yards and eight TDs during an All-Pro season in '17, or will it be closer to the player who had 682 yards and three TDs in '18? After a year of retirement, you'd hope to see something closer to the former, but he'll be competing for touches in a stacked Bucs offense. Gronk can still be a big TD threat and may end up being a top-10 TE, but his injury history and the Bucs' wealth of pass-catchers make him a boom-or-bust pick.|
|16||T.J. Hockenson, Lions. After logging six catches for 131 yards and a score in his NFL debut against the Cardinals, it looked like Hockenson was on his way to quickly becoming a fantasy stud. However, he averaged just 21.5 yards per game in his next 11 games before ending the season on IR. With a healthy Matthew Stafford back, Hockenson has more potential, but he'll need to prove that he can be consistent against good defenses to work his way into the TE1 category.|
|17||Mike Gesicki, Dolphins. Over the final nine weeks of the regular season, Gesicki saw at least five targets in every game and averaged 7.1 per contest. He also logged all five of the TDs he scored on the season during that span. This could be a sign of things to come for Gesicki, but since he's playing for the Dolphins, who figure to be one of the NFL's weaker teams this year, he still comes with worries.|
|18||Noah Fant, Broncos. Fant was second in the league among tight ends in yards per reception last year, logging a whopping 14.1 as a rookie. He had a couple of 100-plus receiving games and was a dynamic receiving option at times. The only reason he comes in low on this list is that he still needs to build a rapport with Drew Lock, who only targeted him 2.8 times per game in his five starts to close the season.|
|19||O.J. Howard, Buccaneers. Howard didn't live up to the hype in his third season in the league, as he grabbed only one TD and had as many catches in 14 games as he did in 10 games the previous year (34). With Rob Gronkowski joining the fold, Howard's TD potential continues to decrease. Howard's a dynamic athlete, so he should have some good games, but inconsistent snap counts and TD opportunities will be enough to drive fantasy owners crazy.|
|20||Dallas Goedert, Eagles. Here's something you probably didn't know: Goedert was targeted 87 times last year, ninth-most among tight ends, and he tied for the sixth-most TDs at his position with five. Here's something you certainly did know: Goedert is Philly's No. 2 tight end behind Zach Ertz. It's simply hard to trust No. 2 tight ends to be top fantasy contributors, but look out for Goedert as a big-time sleeper if Ertz needs to miss time or the team suffers more injuries at the receiver position.|
|21||Chris Herndon, Jets. After a promising rookie campaign in which he grabbed 39 passes for 502 yards and four scores, Herndon totaled a single catch for seven yards during his second season. He missed time due to a four-game suspension and then a season-ending injury suffered in his first game back. He's a big-time sleeper that could pan out, but he'll have to battle Ryan Griffin, who caught five TDs last year, for playing time.|
|22||Blake Jarwin, Cowboys. Jarwin performed well in '19, catching 31 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns. The impressive part of that is that he did all of that while being the team's clear-cut No. 2 TE behind Jason Witten and playing just 38.7 percent of the snaps. With Witten gone, Jarwin's snap share could double which should afford him a chance to have a career year. Of course, Dallas' other offensive weapons could limit his upside, but Jarwin deserves consideration as a sleeper.|
|23||Irv Smith Jr., Vikings. Smith may be in a frustrating timeshare with Kyle Rudolph at the position, but the second-year player and 2019 second-round pick should be ready to take on a bigger role after catching 36 passes for 311 yards and two scores as a rookie.|
|24||Ian Thomas, Panthers. With Greg Olsen gone, Thomas feels like a shoo-in for the No. 1 TE spot. He didn't do a lot playing behind Olsen last year, but he is just 24 and Teddy Bridgewater likes throwing to his tight ends. If Thomas can average the 5.0 targets per game he got over the last five games of last season, he could be a modest contributor and solid streamer for '20.|
|25||Greg Olsen, Seahawks. Seattle has a lot of tight end talent and Olsen is 35, so it's hard to trust him as a borderline TE1 as he has been in year's past. That said, his 597 yards last year were his most since '16, and playing with a better quarterback in Russell Wilson does give him hope to be a productive player once again.|
|26||Dawson Knox, Bills. Knox made some big plays as a rookie and he averaged 13.9 yards per reception last season, good for third-most among tight ends. He'll need to earn more than 50 targets to be anything more than a big-play threat, but the upside is there for Knox is Josh Allen improves. Knox may not be draftable in standard leagues, but he could be a sneaky late-round pickup in best-ball formats.|
|27||C.J. Uzomah, Bengals. Somebody will have to step up and start at tight end with Tyler Eifert now in Jacksonville. Uzomah had a productive '18 campaign as a full-time starter, logging 43 catches for 439 yards and three TDs. He's not the flashiest player and '19 second-round pick Drew Sample could push him for the starting job, but he's worth watching as a potential streamer with Joe Burrow now leading the Bengals.|
|28||Taysom Hill, Saints (ESPN). This could be a fun pickup in ESPN leagues if you're not worried about angering your leaguemates. Hill is a Swiss army knife for the Saints and had 390 scrimmage yards with seven TDs last year while also posting 55 yards through the air. For fantasy purposes, he's TD-dependent consideration at TE. But if he somehow starts a game at quarterback, look out.|
|29||Jace Sternberger, Packers. Sternberger's first year in the league was a disappointment, as he played in only six games while dealing with injury issues and didn't make much of an impact. Still, the '19 third-round pick was a good college receiver, and if he starts, he could catch a handful of touchdowns from Aaron Rodgers.|
|30||Jimmy Graham, Bears. Graham's presence on these rankings is more about name recognition than ability at this point. Last year, Graham posted one of the worst seasons of his career, grabbing 38 catches for 447 yards and three scores. The former two numbers were his lowest totals since his rookie year. Maybe Graham can reinvent himself in Chicago as a TD threat, but downgrading from Aaron Rodgers to Nick Foles/Mitchell Trubisky seems likely to hurt him.|
|31||Kyle Rudolph, Vikings. Rudolph is more of a name-recognition fantasy option at this point as well. He did grab six TDs last year, but he averaged only 3.0 targets per game. If Irv Smith Jr. does take the next step that many are hoping him to, Rudolph's value could be limited mostly to his red-zone potential.|
|32||David Njoku, Browns. Kevin Stefanski loves running two-TE sets, so Njoku should get some chances to produce. But after an offseason where Cleveland signed Austin Hooper, drafted John Mackey Award winner Harrison Bryant, and saw Njoku demand a trade, we're not too optimistic about him. After all, he had just five catches for 41 yards last year.|
|33||Cole Kmet, Bears. Kmet logged a career-high 515 yards and six TDs last year at Notre Dame before performing very well at the NFL Scouting Combine. The problem for him is Chicago's crowded tight end group and the presence of Jimmy Graham, who could vulture some TDs from the 6-foot-6 rookie. And again, the Foles/Trubisky combo doesn't help his cause.|
|34||Darren Fells, Texans. Fells was second among TEs in TDs last year with seven. He's also 34 and averaged just three targets per game for Houston last year, so he is a bit too TD-dependent to be anything more than a streamer in good matchups.|
|35||Will Dissly, Seahawks. Uncle Will is coming off a torn Achilles', his second serious season-ending injury in as many years in the NFL. He is averaging 50 catches for 669 yards and 10 TDs per 16 games, but it's too tough to trust him because of his injury history and Seattle's plethora of TE options (most notably, Greg Olsen, Jacob Hollister, and rookie Colby Parkinson).|
|36||Tyler Eifert, Jaguars. For the first time in his career, Tyler Eifert played a 16-game season. He had 43 catches for 436 yards and three TDs while playing on a Bengals team that posted the worst record in the NFL. Now, he joins a Jaguars team that could well be the worst in the NFL. Reuniting with Jay Gruden helps a little, but frankly, the Jaguars aren't very good and Eifert has too much trouble staying healthy to be trusted.|
|37||Trey Burton, Colts. Burton's stint with the Bears didn't work out and after catching 14 passes for 84 yards in '19, he was released. He landed in a good spot with the Indianapolis Colts, a team that runs a lot of multiple TE sets, but Jack Doyle should still get far more targets than him.|
|38||Devin Asiasi, Patriots. The Patriots had a gaping void at the TE position last year, so they drafted a couple of rookies to take over there. Asiasi had 641 yards and four TDs at UCLA and the Pats will hope he can reinvigorate a lackluster receiving corps. Still, it's hard to trust an unproven rookie in a shortened offseason without preseason games.|
|39||Vance McDonald, Steelers. The Steelers' other tight end is a fine play but doesn't figure to do much in fantasy formats.|
|40||Logan Thomas, Washington. Washington has a gaping hole at tight end that Thomas will look to fill. The 29-year-old had 16 catches for 173 yards and one TD for the Lions last year so unless his volume increases substantially, he won't be a fantasy-relevant player except as a contrarian, spend-down option in DFS tournaments.|
|41||Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos. Big O had 23 TDs in three years at Missouri, but he's stuck behind Noah Fant in Denver's TE room. Maybe he makes an unexpected impact, but there may not be enough targets to go around to make him fantasy relevant this year.|