Tight ends for your dynasty team aren’t an important need for some fantasy players. The logic that is tossed around would be if you can’t get Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or George Kittle, to wait and draft your tight end later and build depth at running back and wide receiver. It’s an understandable argument considering in the 2020 season, Kelce and Waller were the only tight ends to score more than 200 fantasy points for the season. Kittle was hurt, missed 8 games, and still scored 125.1 fantasy points. For the purposes of this article, we will look at non-tight-end premium scoring.
The fantasy players that have Kelce, Waller, or Kittle in their starting line-ups would have a leg up on the rest of the teams. The tight end that scored the third-highest fantasy points last season, because of Kittle’s injury, is Washington’s Logan Thomas, who scored 176.62 points. New Orleans’ Jared Cook was the 18th highest scoring tight end, with 127.4 fantasy points. That is just an average of 2.6 points per game between the third and 18th tight ends from the 2020 season.
Travis Kelce has been consistent over the years but will be 32 this year. George Kittle will turn 28 during the season, but has missed 10 games over the last 2 years. Darren Waller will turn 28 during the season, and only Green Bay’s Davante Adams had more Red Zone targets in 2020, but has some younger players like Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards to take some of his targets away. Basically, the top three tight ends could change sooner than expected. Finding the next big star at a young age could help put your team over the top for years to come.
Here is a look at 5 tight ends under the age of 26 to target. For the purposes of this article, I did not include Atlanta Falcons’ rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. I believe that his pre-draft hype made him a player that would be difficult to acquire unless you were fortunate enough to draft him.
1. Noah Fant
Noah Fant would probably be one of the two top-priced players on this list. He will turn 24 during the 2021 season which is his third season. Fant didn’t have the normal rookie struggle transitioning to the NFL, as he has started 25 of his first 31 games played and caught 102 of his 159 targets for 1,235 yards and 6 touchdowns. Noah Fant also accomplished this while having questions at the quarterback position. 2021 will be his first season playing with both Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. While some could be worried about his targets, I see lighter coverage and dump-off passes headed Fant’s way, making him a possible top 5 option at tight end.
2. TJ Hockenson
TJ Hockenson is Noah Fant’s former college teammate and is in an interesting situation to say the least. This off-season, Hockenson lost Matthew Stafford at quarterback and former Los Angeles Ram Jared Goff will be stepping in under center. Hockenson also lost Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones at wide receiver. That is 207 targets from the 2019 season, as Golladay was hurt most of last year.
Now, I am not at all saying Hockenson will receive 266 targets from Jared Goff during the 2021 season, but he should see an increase in targets. He could also see the most attention from defenses in the passing game as Detroit didn’t do much to help replace Golladay or Jones. Last season he caught 67 passes for 723 yards and 6 scores, and I would expect him to see a slight increase in those numbers.
3. Irv Smith Jr
Irv Smith Jr was fourth on the Minnesota Vikings in targets with 43 during the 2020 campaign. Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, and Dalvin Cook all had more targets from Kirk Cousins, while former teammate Kyle Rudolph also saw 37 targets from the tight end position. Smith will see an increased workload with Rudolph heading off to the “Big Apple” in 2021, and he should see an increase on his 30 receptions for 365 yards and 5 touchdowns. Smith scored all of his touchdowns in the Red Zone last season as he caught 7 of 10 passes for 49 yards and 5 scores.
The receiving corps and Dalvin Cook will get a lot of attention from opposing defenses, leaving Smith to see a decent amount of one on one coverage. Irv Smith will turn just 23 years old during the season and will be one of the tight ends that should benefit your dynasty fantasy football team for years to come.
4. Cole Kmet
Second-year Chicago Bears’ tight end Cole Kmet might be a surprising name on this list when considering his stats from his rookie season, as he caught 28 of 44 passes for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kmet, however, had a couple of things happen this offseason to benefit him. The Bears drafted Justin Fields in the first round of the NFL draft and signed free agent quarterback Andy Dalton. Both would be a step up from the Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky ran offense from last year.
The second thing that happened for Kmet was tight end Jimmy Graham retired, clearing the path for Kmet to get more snaps and ultimately for targets in the passing game. Graham was also tied for fifth most in Red Zone targets last year with 19, meaning Kmet could benefit inside the 20 with Graham leaving. Graham finished with 50 receptions for 456 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2020.
Cole Kmet should see increased production due to both of these factors and should be one of the sneaky tight ends that you could buy now and have pay off in the future.
5. Anthony Firkser
Anthony Firkser’s perceived value might have taken a hit with the Julio Jones trade. However, the Titans lost their second and third most targeted players in 2020 in Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith. Firkser was fourth on Tennessee with 53 targets, and he turned those targets into 39 catches for 387 yards and 1 touchdown. Smith had 41 receptions for 448 yards and 8 scores from the tight end position last year. Smith also had 17 targets in the red zone.
Julio Jones will receive some attention and targets from Ryan Tannehill, but the defenses will have to cover both Jones and wide receiver AJ Brown on the outside. That will leave the middle of the field more open for tight end Anthony Firkser. Firkser is a tight end that you should be able to buy right now that shouldn’t cost you a lot and help your dynasty team for years to come.