Austin, Matt, Derek, and Jacob project out the top 15 TEs for 2021. We’ll go pick by pick reviewing things like off-season moves, upcoming strength of schedule, and analytics from past seasons to justify our ranks. This partners with the recent 365 Fantasy Football podcast episodes on the top 15 TEs and mirrors the articles on the top 20 RBs and top 25 WRs for this year: Backs… to the Future and Gotta Catch’m All. As always follow along to the end for the 365 guys consensus ranks.
- Derek – Cole Kmet
Kmet had a great season for a rookie TE especially down the stretch, and with Justin Fields taking over he should be upgraded even further.
- Austin – Gerald Everett
Wilson loves TEs and hasn’t had a good one that’s in his prime in many years. Coaching staff is extremely high on him and said he’s got the playbook down and is the best TE they’ve ever had.
- Matt – Jonnu Smith
New home in New England after leading the TE position in YAC. Bill like’s his TEs so with or without Henry involved, he should have a productive season.
- Jacob – Logan Thomas
Simply put his 2020 efficiency makes me believe that his best year is behind him. He was Mr. Necessary for the team last year as the only passing game option next to McLaurin. With upside guys like Dyami Brown and Curtis Samuel on the outside and underneath. And the development of pass-catching dual threat Antonio Gibson in the run game, next to J.D. McKissic spells regression. He finished as the PPR TE4, and is new to the TE position so the light remains on despite being 30.
- Derek – Dallas Goedert
The Eagles were really bad last year, and Goedert was in and out with injuries, if he faces similar injury struggles and Hurts doesn’t progress well then he won’t live up to his ADP. But he’s a veteran presence who should be relied on in the passing game.
- Austin – Dallas Goedert
Again, a TE that could be the second read in the offense – can Hurts take a leap in terms of passing ability.
- Matt – Tyler Higbee
A lot of people got burned in 2019 and are shying away from Higbee as a result. He only had a couple boom weeks but there should be more of those with Everett gone.
- Jacob – Adam Trautman
What happened to Logan last year could easily happen to Trautman this year. What concerns me is the role of Taysom Hill whether as QB or otherwise. He’s detrimental to other assets because of his heavy red zone usage. But Trautman unlike Logan Thomas was uber efficient in very limited action. With Cook and Sanders out and little shown from Callaway and Smith WR2/TE1 could be lucrative (and buy before the blow-up in dynasty).
- Derek – Irv Smith Jr.
With Kyle Rudolph gone, he gets a chance to establish himself as a primary redzone weapon. Opposing Defenses will have a lot else to worry about so he should be able to consistently win one on ones. With news from camp on him being underwhelming he’s subject to a move back (or two).
- Austin – Adam Trautman
Graded #1 at position for blocking as a rookie. He’s going to be on the field and without any threat on the depth chart, Trautman could be the second read as well – potential steal!
- Matt – Hunter Henry
I agree with the team here, that Henry should have a more consistent (predictable volume) role in the offense than Jonnu. Some of us dynasty owners have been waiting for a long time to see his ceiling.
- Jacob – Mike Gesicki
I’m really not a Gesicki fan but his athletic profile and size can’t be denied. With the addition of two speedsters in Waddle and Fuller it’s not necessarily true that he’ll see heavy target regression. In fact, imagine a world where Parker moves on and he plays the big bodied seam, possession, and red zone role. If you draft him, keep one eye on rookie Tight End Hunter Long.
- Derek – Jared Cook
People forgot Jared Cook, but he’s only a year removed from really healthy production numbers consistently. A Herbert led offense should mean tons of upside.
- Austin – Evan Engram
Too many mouths to feed now. Kenny G and his contract will demand the first read in the offense. There’s a world where Engram might be the 4th option in the offense.
- Matt – Logan Thomas
He was used a ton last year, which by itself says that he earned a spot on the offense, and there is close nothing else there at the TE spot.
- Jacob – Gerald Everett
West Coast Higbee North. Everett jumped to Seattle joining new OC Shane Waldron who held various roles for the Rams offensive coaching staff including Tight Ends coach back in 2017. He’s been an offseason hype-machine and has a strong athletic profile to go with his nice efficiency if he gets the work behind DK, Lockett, and the RBs.
- Derek – Evan Engram
More mouths to feed in Toney and Golladay. I’m not worried about Rudolph taking snaps away from him as Engram is a size speed freak who should be out there when healthy.
- Austin – Hunter Henry
One of the most talented. Not worried about splitting PT with Jonnu – only question for me is who’s the QB going to be?
- Matt – Rob Gronkowski
Last year was almost like pre-season for this year for Gronkowski who improved as the season went on, there are a lot of mouths to feed but he’s what elite tight ends are made of. Let’s see if he has another top 10 finish in only his 32nd year.
- Jacob – Cole Kmet
Despite still having Jimmy Graham in town, Kmet gets the nod over Trautman because of his higher draft capital and 2020 passing game involvement (averaged 6 targets over the last five games). The Bears need playmakers to pair up with Monty and Arob.
- Derek – Noah Fant
Fant is really good, but I like the passing options they have in Jeudy and Sutton. I think he’s talented enough to get it done for Fantasy, but a little worried about the volume with Bridgewater (or worse Drew Lock).
- Austin – Logan Thomas
Thomas has the talent as shown in 2020. But his volume was due to injury. Particularly in the absence of Gibson – on pace for 88 targets. With Gibson – only 52. Plus more WRs in 2021.
- Matt – Irv Smith Jr.
I had a couple of guys that I think can finish here but I chose Smith because I think he will have a breakout year in an offense that I think will surprise some people. He’s not a big guy but he does run good routes and can get open and now doesn’t have Rudolph standing in his way. I expect a big year from him.
- Jacob – Hunter Henry
Hunter Henry is an experienced receiver and boasts a better route tree than Jonnu smith. His proven ability and off-season contract could land him heavy pass game involvement. Pats could roll out a ton of 12 personnel with Jonnu lined up tight, and Henry either in the slot or flexed out wide.
- Derek – Mark Andrews
Not sold on the Raven’s offense especially the passing game with Lamar Jackson, who I have as more of fringe than elite.
- Austin – T.J. Hockenson
T.J. Hockenson legitimately has a shot to be the first read this year. They brought in some veteran WRs, but they aren’t the most talented group. T.J. may be Mr. Necessary this season.
- Matt – Mike Gesicki
He’s one of the most under-appreciated TEs in fantasy football in my opinion. He just goes out there every week and catches the ball and moves the chains and no one ever really talks about him. With the two speedsters they added in the offseason that will play on the outside, the middle of the field should open up for Gesicki, we just need Tua to get it to him. He’s a big, athletic guy that runs good routes and makes tough catches; if this offense is as good as we expect, I think Gesicki will be a big part of that.
- Jacob – Dallas Goedert
I have him lower in my heart but am appeasing the consensus with this pick. He’s talented on a terrible offense, with a terrible passer.
- Derek – Hunter Henry
Love this matchup for Henry and New England. I think the offense mimics Gronk and Hernandez (obviously not to that extent). With N’Keal potentially traded/released, big bodied options in the passing game will be needed.
- Austin – Tyler Higbee
When there’s one TE on the field in McVay’s offense, that TE produces at a high rate. Higbee was that dude when Everett went down in 2019 and balled out. Everett is gone and he’s the TE1.
- Matt – Kyle Pitts
I hate putting rookies this high in preseason ranks because we haven’t seen them play a snap at the NFL level and have no idea how they will handle it but Pitts is different and people know it. I think by the time the season starts, Julio will be gone and the passing game will mainly be Ridley and Pitts, which will force the rookie to mature quickly. The talent is there, the opportunity should be there, it’s up to him to turn it into fantasy success.
- Jacob – Mark Andrews
Is a primary target in this lower volume passing offense, but there are more mouths to feed with Bateman (and maybe Wallace).
- Derek – T.J. Hockenson
Same as the other guys, potential for the number 1 read. How long can he withstand that type of attention though, where he’s struggled with injuries already. Even on a bad offense, I think 7 TDs is his floor. He and Swift are the team.
- Austin – Mike Gesicki
I love Gesicki’s talent and initially had him at 4, but with the addition of Fuller and Waddle, I’m afraid the days of him seeing 80+ targets in MIA are gone. Will get tons of RZ work though.
- Matt – Dallas Goedert
With Ertz gone (he’s not as I write this but should be before the season starts) it helps Goedert take over that primary TE role on this team. I think Hurts is going to have to lean on him quite a bit for him to be successful and they now have two threats on the outside that defenses need to worry about.
- Jacob – Robert Tonyan
Near Kittle in efficiency without looking at his tremendous red zone proficiency/usage.
- Derek – Mike Gesicki
Agree with Austin’s points – but want to add that they won’t take Tua’s security blanket away from him going into his first full season. Big body, easy to see :).
- Austin – Noah Fant
Bridgewater will get the not to start, as he should, so Fant gets the upgraded QB. Might not have a ton of work with so many mouths to feed, but the work he gets will be meaningful.
- Matt – Noah Fant
He is due for his breakout year! I think that if he could have gotten some better QB play last year, that would have been his breakout year but because of the inconsistent play of Lock, the whole passing offense suffered. If Lock can take a step forward or if they can find a way to bring in Watson or Rodgers, Fant could take off because we know he has the talent and athleticism, he just needs someone to get him the ball.
- Jacob – Noah Fant
Fant is athletic and efficient, there are some nice names in front of him on the depth chart, and Albert O. is no slouch on his heels, but Fant is really really good.
- Derek – Kyle Pitts
Everybody knows Kyle Pitts this offseason. Julio’s gone and I think they’ll force-feed the number 4 pick as much as they can. He’s been comp’d to every elite pass catcher in history at this point. I think the offense runs through he and Ridley.
- Austin – Mark Andrews
Inconsistent with his play – very much a boom or bust type of guy, but he’s undoubtedly a weekly starter on an offense that looks to take a step forward. And he’s Lamar Jackson’s security blanket.
- Matt – Mark Andrews
I believe, with the additions the Ravens have made at wideout this offseason should help Andrews get back to his 2019 form. He still had a pretty good year last year but the whole passing offense took a step back. With all of these able receivers that defenses now have to worry about, they won’t be able to just key on guarding Andrews.
- Jacob – T.J. Hockenson
No reason for him not to lead his team in receiving this year. There is no reason… but why do I suspect Detroit is going to try to find a way?
- Derek – Logan Thomas
Fitzmagic season baby. Not afraid of Gibson eating too much of targets, where Fitz will improve the offense overall. He finished at TE4 last year and gets a huge QB upgrade. The man needs to be shown some respect.
- Austin – Kyle Pitts
Incredible athlete with the opportunity to be the second option in a pass heavy offense.
- Matt – T.J. Hockenson
There are really only two fantasy relevant players on the Lions in my book and they are Swift and Hockenson. Both of those guys should have big years, as long as Goff doesn’t hold them back too much, because they are by far the most talented players on the offense. Hockenson broke out last year and, like Waller, he IS the pass catcher on this offense so because of volume alone he should finish here.
- Jacob – Kyle Pitts
At this point he must be considered closer to the top three than the guys behind him. Was graded out by most analysts as this draft’s best pass catcher (ahead of Chase and Smith). Julio out, Pitts in is the narrative. I heard the GM say Arthur Smith (formerly Jonnu’s OC) is excited for the options Pitts presents.
- Derek – George Kittle
George Kittle is just George Kittle.
- Austin – George Kittle
Talent, offense, scheme, upgraded QB and ground game.
- Matt – George Kittle
Arguably one of the funnest guys to watch on a football field right now, the guy just needs to stay healthy. He can do it all for the 49ers and he might have to if they decide to let their rookie QB play this season. He’s a YAC monster which means he doesn’t need to catch the ball very far away from the line of scrimmage to score big points.
- Jacob – George Kittle
Wrote a ditty on Yards per Catchable Target (TE YpCT: here) and Kittle is not surprisingly elite in efficiency. Give him another healthy season and he could be next year’s dynasty TE1.
- Derek – Darren Waller
Darren Waller at his size was clocked at something like 21.48 mph. They’re absolutely not taking him off the field.
- Austin – Darren Waller
Number 1 option in the offense – the possession receiver that plays TE – Fantasy Gold.
- Matt – Travis Kelce
It was hard not putting him #1 after he broke records and blew away the tight end field last year but he’s another year older on a team that doesn’t need to rely on him as much as they used to. I still think he will still get his catches and be a very productive tight end, I just don’t think he will repeat what he did last year.
- Jacob – Darren Waller
Being a team’s #1 receiving target with a TE designation is the promised land. They still only have slot and stretch receivers, pending Edwards development behind Waller. Until then, “Whenever There’s Trouble you call D. W.”
- Derek – Travis Kelce
Mahomes, the Chief’s offense… it’s Kelce… who doesn’t like Travis Kelce?
- Austin – Travis Kelce
We know why – 178 targets – over 1700 yards and 14 TDs – astronomical production at the TE position
- Matt – Darren Waller
Talent, opportunity and an offense built around him will lead him to outperforming all other tight ends this year. Waller was the passing offense for the Raiders in 2020 and they didn’t do much this offseason to change that for 2021. The only thing I see that could be different for the passing attack on this team is Bryan Edwards emerging and becoming more of a factor but I think that only helps Waller, it doesn’t hurt him.
- Jacob – Travis Kelce
Year 1 with Josh Allen was nice. He’s a possession receiver, who has his complete route tree versatility and dominance. He’s the first and second read for last year’s best QB.
That’s it, below is our consensus ranks.
Top 15 TE’s of 2021
1. Travis Kelce
2. Darren Waller
3. George Kittle
======= tier =======
4. Kyle Pitts
5. T.J. Hockenson
6. Mark Andrews
7. Noah Fant
======= tier =======
8. Mike Gesicki
9. Logan Thomas
10. Dallas Goedert
11. Hunter Henry
12. Tyler Higbee
13. Irv Smith Jr.
14. Evan Engram
15. Robert Tonyan
Notables: Cole Kmet, Rob Gronkowski, Gerald Everett, Adam Trautman, Jared Cook, Jonnu Smith
Cover Photo Credit: https://www.hogshaven.com/2020/9/18/20972244/the-5-oclock-club-logan-thomas, Greg Fiume/Getty Images