Way Too Early 2019 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends

Mike Fanelli | January 12th, 2019

The 2019 NFL season is still several months away but it’s never too early to get ready the fantasy season. With free agency, trades and the NFL draft still to come, many of these players’ fantasy value will change for the upcoming season. In a four-part series, I take a shot in the dark and rank the top quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends for 2019 redraft leagues. Check out the previous parts herehere, and here.

Players are ranked with where they finished at their position last season in PPR and four-point passing touchdown scoring.

The Top 12:

  1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs (1st): What can you say about Kelce other than he is the TE1 for as long as Patrick Mahomes plays at an elite level. Kelce finished first or second in every statistical category for tight ends this season. The 2018 season marked the third straight year Kelce finished as the TE1.
  2. Zach Ertz, Eagles (2nd): While Travis Kelce is clearly the TE1, Ertz is clearly the TE2. Ertz led the league among tight ends in targets and catches while finishing in the top three in receiving yards and touchdowns. Ertz played better with Carson Wentz under center than Nick Foles but he was still a consistent TE1 regardless of who was throwing him the ball.
  3. George Kittle, 49ers (3rd): I was flat out wrong on Kittle entering the 2018 season, calling him a bust and I won’t make that mistake again. Kittle broke the NFL record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end with 1,377 receiving yards. My only concern with Kittle is if the 49ers trade for Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. in the offseason, if they don’t, Kittle is a top 40 pick in 2019 drafts.
  4. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots (11th): Despite a down year battled by injuries and all the talk about retirement after the season, Gronkowski is still a top-five tight end. Hopefully, the Patriots bring in a true number one wide receiver to take the defense’s focus off Gronkowski and he spends the offseason getting healthy. I think depending on how much “hate” Gronkowski gets from fantasy owners in the offseason, his ADP next season could be a steal.
  5. Hunter Henry, Chargers (N/A): Henry didn’t play a single snap in 2018 despite what Stephen A. Smith said, but Henry had a strong 2017 season, finishing as the TE11 on a points-per-game basis. The Chargers offense have several good weapons but have lacked an impact tight end this season as Antonio Gates is 38 years old. As the clear number one tight end for the Chargers in 2019, I expect Henry to have a breakout season.
  1. Eric Ebron, Colts (4th): The former Lions cast off, Ebron had a career season with Andrew Luck, leading the league in receiving touchdowns among tight ends with 13. However, Jack Doyle missed 10 games with injuries and will be back in 2019. In the games that Doyle played, Ebron was on the field for just 41.6% of snaps compared to 64.3% with Doyle injured. The Colts love to use their tight ends, but I expect Ebron to regress some in 2019.
  2. Austin Hooper, Falcons (6th): In his third year in the league, Hooper had career highs across the board. Hooper had just 92 targets in his first two seasons combined but had 88 this season. Despite the tight end position being a mess this season, Hooper finished as a TE1 six times this season, including as a top-four tight end three times. Entering a contract year in 2019, Hooper should continue to build on his recent success.
  3. Jack Doyle, Colts (35th): On a points per game basis, Doyle finished the year tied for the TE9 with Rob Gronkowski. Unfortunately, Doyle was only able to play six games this year because of injuries. Doyle should be 100% for the start of the 2019 season but I believe the starting role now belongs to Eric Ebron. However, Doyle will still have enough of a role to be a mid/low end TE1 next season because the Colts love to use two tight end sets a lot.
  4. David Njoku, Browns (9th): Njoku had a bumpy second year in the league and a lot of that had to do with the team around him. Having two quarterbacks and two offensive coordinators made life difficult for Njoku this season. However, tight ends tend to take a step forward in their third season and assuming the Browns can keep offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, Njoku could finish next season as a top-five tight end.
  5. O.J. Howard, Buccaneers (14th): Prior to landing on injured reserve with an ankle injury, Howard was having a good season, averaging 12 fantasy points per game; which would have been the TE6 for the season. Despite missing six games, Howard was tied for seventh among tight ends in receiving touchdowns with five (same as George Kittle in 16 games). 2019 is a big year for Jameis Winston and the entire Buccaneers offense and Howard could easily finish the year as a top five guy.
  6. Jared Cook, TBD (5th): Cook is scheduled to be a free agent in the spring and given how he acted in the season finale against the Chiefs, I don’t think he will be a Raider in 2019. However, Cook is coming off a career year and will be the top tight end in free agency. My ideal landing spot for Cook this spring would be the Saints.
  7. Greg Olsen, Panthers (25th): Back-to-back seasons that landed Olsen on injured reserve with a foot injury is a big concern after not missing a game since 2007. With Olsen soon to be 34 years old may he consider retirement in the offseason? The Panthers offense has shifted to feature Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel‘s open-field playmaking ability, so even if Olsen returns in 2019 his role will be seriously reduced.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Delanie Walker, Titans (N/A): Despite breaking his ankle in week one, Walker reportedly hasn’t resumed running yet, which is concerning. Hopefully, Walker is ready to go for the 2019 season but he will be 35 years old at the start of the season and the Titans could move on from Walker in the offseason. However, I don’t think that will happen but I am concerned that Corey Davis is the number one option and Marcus Mariota isn’t a franchise quarterback, both impacting Walker’s upside.
  • Evan Engram, Giants (13th): Coming off a great rookie season, Engram seriously struggled in 2018, dealing with injuries and regression. With Saquon Barkley and a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. around in 2018, Engram was turned into a role player. If the Giants change quarterbacks and upgrade the offensive line in the offseason, Engram has a chance to jump into my top 12 tight ends.
  • Trey Burton, Bears (8th): I was high on Burton coming into the 2018 season and while he did finish as the TE8, he was wildly inconsistent as was the whole Bears’ offense. Burton was tied for fourth among tight ends in touchdowns but didn’t rank in the top nine in any other major statistical category. The Bears’ other tight end Adam Shaheen only played in five games this season and should have a bigger role next season.

Questions and comments?

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