YAC Monsters, Route-Running Monsters, and just…MONSTERS! A Tale of Three Tight Ends
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
Bo McBrayer @Bo_McBigTime
I love fantasy football: its competitive spirit, its community-oriented and charitable levity, and its burgeoning supply of analytical nerdery. These are all wonderful things that have wrapped me in their embrace since I was a whiskey-pounding freshman at Butte Community College, the alma mater Hall-of-Famer Larry Allen and future Hall-of-Famer, Aaron Rodgers.
The one thing about fantasy football I like more than ANY OTHER THING, however, is drafting! Snake drafts, auction drafts, fast drafts, and slow drafts (there should be a Dr. Seuss book)…I love them all. I adore talking copious amounts of trash in draft chat rooms. I get giddy when I snipe one of my buddies on a player they were itching to get. Setting lineups, trading, and working the waiver wire are great, don’t get me wrong, but they pale in excitement to the anticipation of getting a value on a player who slipped through the cracks or reaching a bit to “get your guy.”
Each season has a unique set of circumstances. Sometimes, the value of a position is based on scarcity of talent. Drafting can get tricky when one position is loaded with talent, while others have treacherous pitfalls between tiers.
2020 has already seen a tumultuous, albeit interesting buildup to Kickoff Weekend. There are a good many skill players primed for huge seasons that we could bounce around the first two rounds interchangeably without gnashing teeth too much. My focus today is to examine the tight end position and compartmentalize these guys to better understand who we should target in our drafts, versus who we should let float away with their helium.
Tight ends are all generally built similarly. They are tall, strong, and have physical traits similar to an edge rusher. Long gone are the days of plodding tight ends that acted as a third tackle and rarely ran routes. The vast majority of them have evolved into gigantic, glorified wide receivers. I have taken the liberty and divided all fantasy-relevant tight ends into three categories: Monsters, YACkers, and Stout-on-the-Routes. Monsters, of course, being the unicorn guys that are elite at getting open and then breaking big plays once they get the ball in their hands.
Understanding what a guy is (or isn’t) should go a long way to break down a position that, on the surface, looks like three or four at the top, followed by 28 guys with top 10 potential. Many before me have broken them into tiers, so since I didn’t think that really helped me draft tight ends in 2020, we’re trying a different approach.
George Kittle: Dude is an all-around freak. No debate. Get him on your team ASAP
Travis Kelce: See above. Not as elite after the catch anymore, but still top two.
Jonnu Smith: We saw the acrobatic toe-tapping catches later in the season, led the position in YAC average. Can get this freak a lot later than the other two because of questionable ?volume?
Rob Gronkowski: One year off to get his body right and healthy is a huge green flag for me. He’s still the best tight end of all time and is only 31. He’s no longer an early round guy, but he’s worth a TE1 look in redraft because who doesn’t want to root for the guy?
Evan Engram: He’s a monster IF he’s on the field. Big if, but his production will be top tier in a Jason Garrett offense that made Jason Witten’s corpse a TE1.
Darren Waller: Looks like a wide receiver on tape. Chucky loves to funnel targets to his tight ends. Good at making first tackler miss. Love him as a TE1 after filling up a few RB/WR spots.
Noah Fant: Super talented in the open field. Suddenly in a crowded receiving situation, but might be worth a later pick because he makes big plays on the regular.
Mike Gesicki: Came into his own later last season with Miami missing WRs with injuries. Look for him to see a tick up in volume once Tua takes over.
Tyler Higbee: Legendary five game stretch last season. Still has to share snaps with Everett, but is primed to be a solid option in an exciting passing offense.
Blake Jarwin: Talk about a crowded route tree! Despite the obvious talent around him competing for Dak’s attention, Jarwinis a big play waiting to happen. We do know that defenses will not be able to key on him at any point this season and he can burn them.
Others: Irv Smith, Jr, Jared Cook, Ian Thomas
Zach Ertz: This “almost monster” is ALWAYS open. He’s a better athlete than people realize and understands spacing in coverage at an elite level. Best value at the position currently in 2020.
Mark Andrews: Another guy who will be seeing even more snaps and passing volume as Lamar Jackson’s pacifier. For his size, is elite at getting downfield into open pockets and has a massive catch radius.
Austin Hooper: An oft-injured, but always open in the red zone guy. He got PAID to be a touchdown machine in arguably the most TE-friendly system in the game, under Stefansky.
Hunter Henry: Meet him in the end zone. Can’t seem to stay healthy and is missing a QB that would shoe horn passes to him on third down and goal-to-go situations, but you can’t deny that he will score a good amount of TDs if he can avoid getting dinged.
Hayden Hurst: Perhaps this former first round pick was simply a product of the best trade of the offseason. Atlanta lost Hooper to Cleveland, but sent a second rounder to Baltimore for a player eerily similar to Hooper. Hurst is primed to slot right into the role and has massive upside without a Mark Andrews to share tight end snaps with.
Others: TJ Hockenson, Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Dallas Goedert, Dawson Knox, Chris Herndon, Greg Olsen