We’ve finally made it to the Shuffle Up series for the new fantasy football draft season. The dollar values you'll see below are unscientific in nature but reflect how I see the clusters of talent at the tight end position. Use these tiers however you like.
The other main positions (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers) will be shuffled in the next couple of weeks.
Have some disagreements? Good, that’s why we have a game. I welcome your reasoned disagreement over at Twitter: @scott_pianowski.
The Big Tickets
$25 Travis Kelce
$21 Mark Andrews
$18 T.J. Hockenson
$15 Dallas Goedert
$15 George Kittle
$15 Kyle Pitts
Kelce’s fantasy profile is too good to be true; consider his finishes over his last seven years: TE1, TE2, TE1, TE1, TE1, TE2, TE1. I suppose there’s a mild concern of him entering an age-34 season, but given that he’s tied to Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid — this scheme loves to cook up short touchdowns for Kelce in the red area — the floor remains awfully high, and the ceiling keeps Kelce in the first round.
Andrews graded as the TE5 last year despite missing two games (and missing Lamar Jackson for several others). Andrews has a wide receiver skill set and is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Baltimore’s offensive scheme is getting a fresh coat of paint (new OC Todd Monken) at the right time.
Hockenson has a good setup in Minnesota, where he’ll always be one of the priorities for Kirk Cousins, but defenses will be primarily worried about superstar wideout Justin Jefferson. It’s interesting, though, that Hockenson has never scored more than six times in any season, and his yards per catch fell from 15.2 with the Lions to 8.7 after the trade to the Vikings. Ultimately, he feels like a safe pick because the volume is safe.
Legitimate Building Blocks
$14 Darren Waller
$11 Evan Engram
$11 Pat Freiermuth
$10 David Njoku
$10 Tyler Higbee
$8 Cole Kmet
Okonkwo showed downfield juice and was an efficiency darling on limited opportunities last year. A workload spike is expected, even with DeAndre Hopkins joining the wide receiver room.
Waller is coming off two injury-wrecked seasons and is now changing teams into his age-31 season. The best coaches work talent to scheme, not the other way around, but we also have to consider Brian Daboll offenses have rarely prioritized the tight end. Then again, look at how scant the Giants receiver room is. Waller should be a target hog in 2013.
Freiermuth had a low touchdown count last year, which was the story with everyone in the Pittsburgh passing game. But Kenny Pickett showed flashes of being at least competent at the end of the year — with a whiff of upside — and Freiermuth has the type of physical profile that should lead to plenty of red-zone opportunity. I'm bullish on this passing game.
I wouldn’t say he’s a league-winner or anything, but I’m warming up to Higbee. He’s coming off a career-high 72 catches, and the Rams receiver room is absurdly thin after Cooper Kupp (and there’s a fair chance Kupp won’t get through a full season). Higbee probably sets a new career high for both catches and yardage this year, a good value where he’s currently available.
Kmet’s TE7 finish was driven by touchdown deodorant, but now he has to deal with a healthy Darnell Mooney and new acquisition DJ Moore. Kmet could easily add 20 targets to last year’s total and still see his end-of-year rank come down.
Talk Them Up, Talk Them Down
$5 Greg Dulcich
$4 Hunter Henry
$4 Dawson Knox
$3 Irv Smith Jr.
$3 Taysom Hill
$3 Sam LaPorta
$3 Noah Fant
Dulcich was a tier higher when this list debuted, but his snap share is far from guaranteed, given that the Broncos also have Sean Payton favorite, Adam Troutman. The Denver offense has also looked sluggish in the preseason.
Johnson has a reasonable path to lead the Saints in receiving touchdowns; Chris Olave is the only difference-maker dragging significant targets from the wideouts.
Schultz doesn’t offer much vertical playmaking, and the Houston offense is a major step down from Dallas; we can’t expect C.J. Stroud to take off immediately, and we don’t even know if he’s the opening-day starter.
Generally, we want to watch rookie tight ends but not draft them for fantasy purposes, but the Bills have been glowing in their early praise for Kincaid. Perhaps we have a rule-breaker on our hands.
$2 Trey McBride
$2 Zach Ertz
$2 Mike Gesicki
$2 Hayden Hurst
$1 Jelani Woods
$1 Logan Thomas
$1 Cade Otton