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The third and final feature of this draft capital trilogy is the tight ends. If you missed the running back article, click here and if you missed the wide receiver article, click here! What we did was look back over the last 10 years (2011-2020) to see how many consistent fantasy contributors came out of each round of the NFL draft. We aren’t going to be talking about one hit wonders. Instead, we are highlighting the players who were able to sustain some level of fantasy success over their careers.

In this article we are reviewing the tight end position. The benchmark used was 6.5 points per game (PPG) in half point per reception (PPR) for their career. Even with the extremely low point total of 6.5 you will see very few tight ends ever become consistent fantasy contributors. Another key factor why the benchmark is a lot lower for tight ends is how poorly they perform as rookies. For example, notable tight ends George Kittle (5.7) and Mark Andrews (5.6) and T.J. Hockenson (5.4) all failed to hit 6 PPG in their rookie seasons.

Below you will find a chart breaking out draft capital by round for tight end. The chart is broken out into four columns:

  1. Round Drafted – Identifies the round in the NFL draft that the tight end were drafted
  2. Total tight end drafted – This is the total number of tight end drafted in that round over the past 10 years
  3. Career 6.5 PPG in .5 PPR – This column represents how many tight end drafted in that round hit the benchmark of 6.5 PPG for their careers in .5 PPR
  4. % Hit Rate – The final column shows what percentage of the tight end drafted in that round hit that benchmark

Feel free to just review the chart only and take what you want from it. If you want some additional insight on how we feel about 2021 prospects based on this data, it will be included later in the article!

Round
Drafted
Total Tight Ends
Drafted
Career
6.5 PPG in .5 PPR
% Hit Rate
18675%
218528%
324417%
42414%
51915%
62115%
72500%
Total1391813%
Total after Rd 38933.40%

 

Tight End Takeaways

The tight end position is an interesting one as they are evenly drafted throughout, but the drop-off in hit rate is massive. The first round tight end hit rate at 75%, only trails first round running backs who are at 79%. Meanwhile the second round tight end hit rate at 28% comes in way lower than 2nd round wide receivers (38%) and running backs (45%). This bigger drop-off and lower hit rate for second round tight ends is probably a bigger reflection on how difficult the position is to pick up. However, once you factor in day three picks the 13% overall hit rate for all rounds is only a few % points behind running backs (17%) and wide receivers (15%).

 

Round
Drafted
Total Tight Ends
Drafted
Career
8 PPG in .5 PPR
% Hit Rate
18113%
218211%
324313%
42414%
51915%
62115%
72500%
Total13996%
Total after Rd 38933.40%

 

When you bump up the benchmark to eight PPG you see an immediate change in hit rate. Based on the data above even first round tight end hit rate falls to 13%. That 13% is no better than tight ends drafted in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. The first round tight ends that failed to reach eight PPG benchmark but did meet the benchmark for 6.5 PPG were Eric Ebron, T.J. Hockenson, O.J. Howard, Tyler Eifert and Noah Fant. A handful of these players including Hockenson, Fant and Howard could make the jump to eight PPG with a solid season in 2021. If two of Hockenson, Fant and/or Howard do cross the threshold of eight PPG that hit rate for first rounders to be “elite” would jump to 38%. 

 

2021 Rookie Tight Ends

Player: Kyle Pitts

Team: Atlanta Falcons

Round: First

Historical Hit Rate: 75%

 

The trade of Julio Jones has opened the door for Kyle Pitts to make an immediate impact. However, the question is how big of an impact can he make for fantasy football? Evan Engram was the only rookie tight end in the modern era to crack the top 5 at the tight end position. That season Engram led the team with 115 targets which was 30 more than the next highest receiver on the Giants. This was mostly due to multiple injuries in the receiving core. That influx of opportunities resulted in 9.4 PPG in .5 PPR. That would have been good for the tight end 6 in fantasy in 2020. Overall Pitts is in line for 100 targets with Julio gone, but becoming enough of a difference maker to justify a TE4 ADP as a 5th round pick might be a stretch.

 

Player: Pat Freiermuth

Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

Round: Second

Historical Hit Rate: 28%

 

The landing spot for Pat Freiermuth is questionable as the outlook beyond 2022 is uncertain at best. For 2021 Freiermuth will sure be playing behind veteran Eric Ebron which will limit his usage year one. After this season the door should open for him as Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Eric Ebron will all be free agents. However, will Big Ben return, and if not who is the starting quarterback in 2022? These questions will need to be answered before investing in Freiermuth for fantasy purposes.

 

The Third round tight ends

Player: Hunter Long (Dolphins), Tommy Tremble (Panthers) and Tre’ McKitty (Chargers)

Round: Third

Historical Hit Rate: 17%

 

The lower hit rate of 17% means that it’s not a guarantee that any of these tight ends become fantasy viable. Hunter Long does have a similar situation as Pat Freiermuth as the tight end one in Miami Mike Gesicki will be a free agent in 2022. This means Hunter Long could be the starting tight end as soon as next year.

Tommy Tremble enters a Carolina pass game that only targeted current tight end Ian Thomas 31 times in 14 games. Thomas did run the 9th most routes among tight ends in 2020 so maybe Tremble could carve out a bigger role when he gets his shot in the future. 

Finally, Tre’ McKitty enters a situation that will probably see him play behind veteran Jared Cook. Cook has experience under new Chargers OC Joe Lombardi so McKitty will likely have to wait until 2022. That being said Lombardi’s offenses in New Orleans secured TE1 seasons from Jimmy Graham, Ben Watson and Jared Cook so McKitty could be an asset down the road.

Sources: Razzball.com, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Football Outsiders and FFToday.com