The tight end position is similar to QB in fantasy, in the sense that only an elite player really turns tides for your team. Most TE production is replaceable week in and week out. In 2019 the top 7 tight ends ranged between 16.6 and 13.6 in PPR points per game before a 1.3PPG gap to TE 8. The elite tier was even more dramatic in 2018 when the top 2 TEs averaged 3 PPG more than TE3.

Because of this, in most leagues the TE position is an afterthought on draft day. In dynasty rookie drafts it is difficult to know how to value a TE because 1) they take a while to develop for fantasy and 2) they are so often replaceable compared to other positions. If you are going to take a rookie TE, it better be in an attempt to land a whale. 

I once again went back to Peter Howard’s (@pahowdy) spreadsheet with collegiate data on every tight end selected since 2003 then grouped the players into buckets based on fantasy production (>3 top 5 fantasy finishes in career, at least 1 top 5 finish, and never a top 5 finish). I looked at the medians for every stat in the data base and noticed there were some large differences in the top 5 TE group vs. all comers.  

What Should We Look For?

  N Draft Round Career Receptions Career Yards Average collegiate receiving market share  BMI Forty Verticle (in) Weight adjusted Speed Score (WaSS)
All 290 6 66 833 9.7% 30.4 4.74 33.1 98.6
>3 top 5 career finishes 9 2 77 1215 15.6% 30.3 4.56 35 108.1
At least 1 top 5 finish 22 3 88 1223 14.6% 29.9 4.65 34.3 107.8
Non-top 5 268 6 65 805 8.8% 30.6 4.76 33 97.4

One of the most interesting things was that contrary to what we’ve seen in WRs, a larger BMI did not seem to matter. In fact, in the subgroups of TEs with >3 top 5 finishes and at least 1 top 5 finish, the median BMI was actually lower than the average for the group of TEs who never registered a top 5 fantasy finish. 

As you can see in the table, statistical dominance in college is important like with any position, however athleticism follows top TE producers more than any other position I have studied this offseason. Testing metrics did not seem to filter good NFL running backs and the same goes for receivers.  However I will pay more attention to the athleticism marks put up by tight ends going forward.

Taking all this into account, on to the pre-draft TE rankings!

The List!

Rank  Name School Career Yards Average College Market Share Forty WaSS Projected Draft Round
TE1 Brycen Hopkins Purdue 1945 13% 4.66 103.4 2-3
TE2 Adam Trautman Dayton 2295 24% 4.8 96.8 2-3
TE3 Cole Kmet Notre Dame 691 7% 4.7 106.8 2-3
TE4 Harrison Bryant Florida Atlantic 2137 16% 4.73 97.9 4+
TE5 Albert Okwuegbunam Missouri 1187 12% 4.49 129.6 4+
TE6 Hunter Bryant Washington 1343 14% 4.74 95.2 4+
TE7 Colby Parkinson Stanford 1162 12% 4.77 100.7 4+

Tier 1 – Close Enough

TE1 – Brycen Hopkins

This Purdue product comes closest to checking all the boxes I am looking for. Hopkins was plenty productive in college but he falls just short of an ideal market share and WaSS.  He appears to be a pretty well rounded prospect and by all accounts will be selected in the top 3 rounds of the NFL draft. He strikes me as a safe rookie TE pick with upside. 

TE2 – Adam Trautman 

The most dominant tight end in this year’s class hails from FCS school Dayton, a place most known for their occasional basketball tournament runs. Trautman led his team in receiving 3 years in a row en route to a career 24% market share which is simply insane for a tight end. Some of his athleticism scores leave a lot to be desired, although his agility marks were better than the forty time. Outstanding college production and day 2 draft position land him as my second tight end in this class. 

TE3 – Cole Kmet

Scoring your first touchdown in your junior season is usually the stuff you see from undrafted free agents, but yet again a late blooming golden domer is getting the benefit of the doubt (see: Boykin, Miles and Claypool, Chase). What keeps him afloat in my rankings is the all powerful draft capital as he will likely be the first tight end off the board and is a lock for day 2. It’s not all bad, Kmet tested as an outrageous athlete so maybe there’s more here than meets the eye. 

Tier 2 – Patience Required

TE4 – Harrison Bryant

The former Owl checks in with an enticing profile, but like many TEs in this class did not show the requisite athleticism I’d like to see. Generally college production would trump some of the combine metrics but he just came in as an average athlete and his draft capital won’t carry him over the finish line. It will be hard to spend a rookie pick on a tight end who gets selected after the 3rd round, because it’s unlikely they get meaningful playing time in year 1. I would earmark this Bryant as a stash in deeper leagues. 

TE5 – Albert Okwuegbunam

If I had to pick one TE in this class to shock everyone and blow up as a rookie it would be Albert O.  Despite a disappointing junior season, he still came very close to the college production metrics I’m looking for and then obliterated the forty coming in with a 99th percentile speed score. A QB change at Missouri could have played a part in his final season coming up short, but that is baked into his discounted ranking. As a player who was tracking in all the right ways prior to 2019, he could be a nice late flyer for your dynasty team. 

TE6 – Hunter Bryant

I had heard a lot about “the other” Bryant before sitting down to make these rankings, but was disappointed at what I found. He is a bit short for a TE at 6’2″ and didn’t test as an above-average athlete to make up for it. Hunter was productive at Washington but not enough to overlook some of these deficiencies. Finally despite some twitter love, the fact that I haven’t seen him mentioned as a day 2 pick at all really hurts his potential for me. 

TE7 – Colby Parkinson

Of the also-rans at the position, Parkinson stuck out as a poor man’s Brycen Hopkins. By that I mean he gets close to checking every box but doesn’t quite get therefor any single category. The good news is he’s not severely lacking in any metric, which I can’t say even some of the top prospects on this list. In leagues where TE has some enhanced value, I’d try him as an end of the bench stash.

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