Fantasy Football Draft Season is at its peak with the NFL season kick-off right around the corner! I recently posted a draft strategy article focusing on where to target quarterbacks in your draft and broke the position down into “pockets.” The article had some great interactions and a few people even reached out to me on twitter saying that they liked the way it was broken down into pockets and asked for more. As I mentioned in the previous article, it is extremely important to have a plan when you enter your draft room to be successful. We know the guy who just prints out the rankings list five minutes before the draft usually is not the league winner!
What we will do today is break down the tight end position. Again, the most common leagues are 10 or 12 team redraft leagues where you start 1 TE each week. Depending on the size of your roster and how many bench spots you’re allotted, you will most likely draft either 1 or 2 tight ends in your draft. I will take injury risks into consideration, but do not rank based on possible injury. I don’t have a crystal ball and none of us can predict injury, so it won’t weigh too much on what pocket I put a player in. What I am going to do here for you is break down the tight end position into pockets, so you have a road map of where to target drafting your tight end.
By formulating a plan in pockets, you don’t go on tilt if someone snipes the one player you were targeting from you. If you are looking for breakdowns of the players, or rankings and projections, check out some of our amazing tools like Donkey Teeth’s rankings and Rudy Gamble’s projections! Also consider Rudy’s great in season tools subscription which starts at only $17.99 for the whole season! Let’s take a look at the TE pockets and nail down a plan on when to go after your guy!
Pocket 1 – Kelce, Kittle
Like the QB pockets, the TE pockets start out with the 2 best tight ends in the league, going in drafts way earlier than I like to target tight ends. Kelce and Kittle are both studs and are focal points in their offenses. I would love to have them on my team, but in order to get them you will most likely have to spend a 1st or 2nd round pick on them in a 12 team league as both have ADPs of 24 or lower. At this point in the draft, I’m focusing on RB so I won’t be paying up for this pocket. If you love them you can but know that you’ll be having to make up for the pick by finding value at RB later.
Pocket 2 – Andrews, Ertz, Waller
The second pocket of tight ends is in the 50-70 ADP range according to NFFC. This pocket is usually being drafted in rounds 4 to 6 or 7. Andrews and Waller busted onto the scene last season and proved to be go-to targets in their respective offenses. Ertz is also a go-to guy on a team with tons of issues at wide receiver. All 3 players in this pocket have a great path to targets and is why theyre being drafted so early. I am usually drafting wide receivers in this range of the draft, but if one of these guys falls to me in a spot that I don’t love the receivers around them I would consider scooping them as my “lock and load” TE with the volume I expect them to get.
Pocket 3 – Engram, Higbee, Henry, Hurst, Gesicki
Pocket 3 is the group we have been seeing drafted in rounds 7-10. The guys in this pocket all have considerable upside but aren’t as “elite” as the pockets above. All the tight ends we’ve seen so far have a clear path to targets and are on good passing offenses but once we get to this pocket there are caveats. Engram has top 3 upside but has a strong injury history. Hurst has a new team and Henry has a new QB so the chemistry is yet to be seen. Higbee has Everett to compete with at his same position on his team. Gesicki is largely unproven but does split out for a lot of his snaps and runs a lot of routes and that should increase more with limited receiving options on his team. This pocket all comes with risk, but all comes with solid reward as well. If I can get one of these guys around the round 10 mark, I generally take it for the upside it gives me after hammering the skill positions early.
Pocket 4 – Gronkowski, Cook, Hooper
This is a “meh” pocket for me. I do like the touchdown upside you get with Gronk, but with all those mouths to feed there wont be a lot of receptions. All 3 of these guys in this pocket are on offenses with a lot of weapons and won’t be primary targets. They all offer touchdown upside, but won’t have the path to targets that many other tight ends have and that’s what I am looking for when drafting a tight end. These guys generally go in rounds 10-12.
Pocket 5 – Goedert, Hockenson, J. Smith, Herndon, Jarwin, Fant
Some “hot” names in this pocket with a lot of talk surrounding guys like Smith, Herndon and Jarwin this offseason. This is a pocket that you can generally draft in rounds 12-14 and is a good spot to find some value if you’ve been hammering the skill positions and are just now looking for your first TE. This is also a good pocket to grab a second TE with some upside if you’re in a 12 team league with a deep bench and have your TE1 already.
Pocket 6 – I. Smith, Ebron, Doyle, Thomas
This is my extra value TE sweet spot pocket! These are guys who have been being drafted in rounds 14-16 in most cases and all have some sweet paths to targets which I’ve said is a key factor for me in choosing my tight ends. Irv Smith, Ebron and Doyle are all in situations with older, smarter QBs who like their tight ends. They are also on teams with limited wide receiver depth. The targets will be there for these guys and I love the upside of picking them late in my drafts.
Pocket 7 – Everett, Knox, Eifert, Graham, Olsen, Arnold, Howard
This is a pocket that you probably won’t be drafting, and a lot of these guys will be sitting on your waiver wire. If you’re in a deep league with big benches these are guys that you could grab and stash in rounds 16-20 and keep on your bench for bye week and matchup fill-ins as they will all have a role on their teams.
*Bonus* – Keep an eye on Jordan Akins in Houston. He will likely go undrafted in your league but put him on your watch list as a deep sleeper. I believe he establishes himself as the primary TE option there and will score 7 or 8 TDs this season. Especially with the injury history of the wide receiver group there, he could be a reliable target for Watson.
Hopefully reading this article helps you to plan for your draft strategy. Having the tight end position broken into pockets should give you a better understanding of where you can target the position in your drafts. Good luck to you all and happy drafting!