Fantasy: Reviewing the TE landscape after 2018

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It's important to remember these articles are not intended to be tiers for drafting. You can view our complete 2019 tight end rankings here.

2018 Fantasy Reviews

Elite trio

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Travis Kelce, Chiefs - Kelce broke Rob Gronkowski's single-season receiving yards record for a tight end, only to have George Kittle top it later the same day. However, Kelce hauled in 15 more receptions and five more touchdowns, propelling him to his third straight finish as the No. 1 fantasy tight end in PPR. He deserves to be locked in as a second-round pick in fantasy drafts.

George Kittle, 49ers - Kittle took a massive leap in his sophomore season, emerging as the 49ers' top pass-catcher. The 25-year-old brings big-play ability rarely seen from his position. He totaled 70 yards or more 11 times in 2018 and has solidified his spot among the best tight ends playing the game today.

Zach Ertz, Eagles - In a year when the Eagles' offense failed to recapture its Super Bowl form, Ertz set or matched career highs in catches (116), yards (1,163), and touchdowns (8). He saw the most targets (156) by any tight end, a number that rivaled premier wide receivers. Kittle is ranked above him in our early 2019 fantasy rankings, but this trio stands well ahead of the pack.

Glorified wide receivers

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Eric Ebron, Colts - My bold prediction that Ebron would be a top-five tight end on the back of double-digit touchdowns turned out to be one of my best calls of the season. With the Colts lacking receiving options behind T.Y. Hilton and with Jack Doyle injured for part of the year, Ebron immediately became Andrew Luck's favorite red-zone weapon. His TD total will regress, but until the Colts address their WR depth, he'll remain a strong fantasy starter.

Evan Engram, Giants - Engram is certainly more receiver than tight end, but he's a hard player to project considering he did most of his damage while Odell Beckham Jr. was out of the lineup. After amassing top-five fantasy stats with OBJ sidelined in 2017, Engram eclipsed 75 yards in all four games Beckham missed in December. When your draft comes around, keep in mind that Engram's ceiling isn't quite as high when his teammates are all healthy.

Ready for more

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David Njoku, Browns - While most Browns players saw considerable gains once Freddie Kitchen took over the offense in the middle of the season, Njoku stayed fairly consistent. He finished comfortably inside the top-10 at tight end with 56 catches, 639 yards, and four scores. If the offense maintains the momentum it built in the second half of the year, a breakout for Njoku is sure to follow.

Trey Burton, Bears - With injuries and ineffectiveness plaguing his position, Burton had the sixth-most fantasy points among tight ends in standard leagues and eighth in PPR formats; respectable totals that could have been far higher if the Bears looked his way more often. He was 11th in tight end targets with 76, well behind the likes of Ebron, Kittle, Kelce, and Ertz, who were all over 110. Mitch Trubisky's development in Matt Nagy's offense will be the key to unlocking Burton's upside.

Vance McDonald, Steelers - McDonald was a decent replacement-level option for fantasy owners scrambling at tight end. His room for growth will depend on the outcome of the Antonio Brown trade rumors. If Brown is shipped off, McDonald will take on a much larger role in Pittsburgh's offense.

Chris Herndon, Jets - After a slow start to his rookie season, Herndon posted top-10 fantasy numbers from Week 6 on. Hidden on a bad Jets offense, he went overlooked most of the year, which will lead to him being a discounted breakout candidate in 2019.

Road to recovery

Reinhold Matay / USA TODAY Sports

O.J. Howard, Buccaneers - Had Howard remained healthy, we'd be discussing him as one of the best tight ends behind the aforementioned elite group. Foot and ankle injuries cut short his breakout season, but he's expected to be fully recovered by OTAs and should be on your list of tight ends to target in 2019.

Hunter Henry, Chargers - A torn ACL, even one suffered in May, normally ends a player's season. Henry nevertheless made a miraculous return to the field in the divisional round. He only played 14 snaps in the game, but it's an excellent sign that he'll be 100 percent come training camp and right back on our radar as a rising star at the position.

Delanie Walker, Titans - Walker suffered one of the most gruesome injuries of 2018 when he broke his ankle in Week 1. Coming off a serious injury is difficult at any age, but the 34-year-old could find it particularly challenging, especially with the younger Jonnu Smith waiting to usurp him.

Jack Doyle, Colts - A kidney injury hospitalized Doyle after Week 12 and ultimately sent him to injured reserve. The Colts didn't release the details of the procedure he underwent to fix the issue, though they're optimistic Doyle will be back for 2019. On the latest episode of theScore Fantasy Football Podcast, Virginia Zakas of Inside Injuries voiced her concern over Doyle's lingering hip injury and questioned whether he'll require surgery. If he does go under the knife, he could miss the start of the season.

Nearing the end?

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Rob Gronkowski, Patriots - Gronk looks like a player who's had three back surgeries. Heading into his age-30 season, the decline phase of his career has begun. While other fantasy owners continue to draft him on name value, it's time to pivot away from the once-great tight end. We also might see an early retirement for Gronk, who has floated the idea of joining the WWE in the past.

Greg Olsen, Panthers - Olsen was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury for the second straight year, this time electing to undergo surgery that's supposed to have him ready for camp. Despite flirting with a broadcasting career last offseason, the soon-to-be 34-year-old said he wants to keep playing. Even if he does, you should be looking elsewhere for a tight end starter.

Jimmy Graham, Packers - As the latest victim of Green Bay's tight end curse, Graham was atrocious in 2018 with just two touchdowns on the year. Graham's production got progressively worse as he was held under 35 yards in seven of his final eight contests. Don't be shocked if the Packers choose to part ways.

Living on the edge

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Austin Hooper, Falcons - Hooper isn't a player who will win you many weeks, but with serviceable tight ends being a tough commodity to uncover in 2018, he cracked the top-10. There's also some variables leaning in his favor for the coming season, including his age (24), his increased production for three consecutive campaigns, and the fact that 2019 is a contract year. Another low-end TE1 result is possible.

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings - Rudolph has taken a massive backseat in the offense with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs soaking up the majority of targets in Minnesota. The man formerly known as the Red-Zone Reindeer, only scored four times and two of those came in Week 16. Don't be lured in by Rudolph's name, he's a streaming option at best.

Jordan Reed, Redskins - Reed stayed healthy for most of the year, but an ineffective offense combined with a wave of injuries around him capped his upside. Reed managed just two touchdowns and will be hard to deploy confidently in fantasy unless the Redskins can solve their problem at quarterback.

Looking for work

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Jared Cook, Raiders - Cook has always been enticing in fantasy, but this may have been the first year that wasn't a letdown. Playing on a discombobulated Raiders team, Cook notched career highs with 68 receptions, 896 yards, and six touchdowns. Depending on where he signs, the 31-year-old will be worth a late-round investment in 2019 drafts.

Tyler Eifert, Bengals - The 28-year-old, who was once a promising fantasy threat, could also fit into the "Road to recovery" and "Nearing the end?" sections. Injuries have held Eifert to eight games or fewer in four of the last five seasons, which could make it difficult to find a home in free agency. He needs a sustained period of good health before he can be trusted by fantasy owners.

Late-season risers

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Blake Jarwin, Cowboys - After Geoff Swaim went down in Week 11, Jarwin posted the fifth-most fantasy points among tight ends the rest of the way. Swaim is headed to free agency, which clears the path for Jarwin to start unless the Cowboys try to find an upgrade in the offseason.

Mark Andrews, Ravens - Andrews was the second tight end the Ravens drafted in 2018 but ended up being the team's most productive player at the position. Even with a more run-centric approach behind Lamar Jackson, Andrews continued to deliver as a borderline TE1 over the final eight games. His battle with Hayden Hurst at camp will be one to monitor given Baltimore's reliance on its tight ends.

Ian Thomas, Panthers - Drafting Thomas proved to be a wise move by Carolina's front office. With Olsen missing the end of the season with another foot issue, Thomas finished the year as the TE6 in fantasy over the last five weeks. If Olsen steps aside, Thomas will be an intriguing late-round selection.

Don't sleep on them

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Dallas Goedert, Eagles - Goedert has all the skills required to be a star tight end in the pros, and yet his upside is limited on a roster that also features Zach Ertz. Depending what the Eagles do at receiver in the offseason, Goedert's target share should increase in Year 2, but he'll need an injury to Ertz if he's going to reach his fantasy ceiling.

Hayden Hurst, Ravens - The first-round pick suffered a stress fracture in his foot during training camp, which kept him off the field in the opening month. Despite generating buzz in the offseason, he never really seemed comfortable after the injury. If he can stay healthy, he'll be back in the mix for the starting role this season.

Gerald Everett, Rams - Competition for targets can be fierce when you play in one of the league's best offenses. Everett was able to put up low-end TE1 fantasy numbers in the second half of the season when Cooper Kupp was sidelined. With Kupp returning in 2019, Everett's fantasy projection takes a hit.

Ricky Seals-Jones, Cardinals - Seals-Jones will have a chance to redeem himself after a disappointing 2018 season. An already thin receiving corps could lose Larry Fitzgerald to retirement and the new coaching staff favors a pass-heavy attack.

Hope for the best

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Cameron Brate, Buccaneers - Brate failed to top 40 yards in any game this season. Fortunately, Jameis Winston seems to always look for him around the end zone, maintaining Brate's status as a touchdown-dependent streamer in fantasy.

Mike Gesicki, Dolphins - Rookie tight ends often take time to develop, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the second-rounder was held to just 22 catches, 202 yards, and no touchdowns in his debut campaign. He can stay off your fantasy radar until we begin to see an evolution in his game.

Jonnu Smith, Titans - Smith initially struggled to fill the void left when Walker was lost to injury early in the year. However, in the five weeks before Smith was also placed on injured reserve, the 23-year-old was a top-five fantasy tight end. His performance over that stretch restores hope that Smith can make an impact once Walker calls it a career.

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