June 11, 2021

2021 Fantasy Football TE Tiers

The 2021 NFL fantasy football season is closing in and our coverage never stops. We want you to feel so confident and comfortable entering your draft that you know you'll win your league and have bragging rights over your friends, family and coworkers. 

It all starts with ranking the fantasy football talent. Having a great plan starts with understanding the value of each position. Reaching on the wrong position or player can be devastating to your team.

Getting a top-tier tight end is expensive. We look at whether it's worth the cost to spend on one or if you can find a cheap alternate and still win.

We're breaking down every tight end who matters into five tiers. Let's get into it.

Fantasy Football Tiers: QB | RB | WR

Tier 1: The Hands-Down Ballers

Travis Kelce | George Kittle | Darren Waller

The most unique position in fantasy is the tight end spot. There's a small pocket of elite performers, and they're dramatically more expensive than their peers. The only way to guarantee yourself at least 160 or more points is to spend a pick in the first three rounds on Kelce, Kittle, or Waller.

There's room even within this group of ballers. Kelce almost led the NFL in receiving last year and incredibly broke the 200-point barrier. Expecting him to do that again might be unfair but he has the market share to get there.

Waller finished at 172 points after averaging almost 11 fantasy points per game. That's fantastic and he should rival that in 2021. Kelce averaged just under 10 points per game but was still almost two points per game above anyone else.

Spend wisely, but this group is worth their price. 

Tier 2: The Stars

Kyle Pitts | Robert Tonyan | Mark Andrews | Mike Gesicki

Here's another tier defined by points per game. This one has players who averaged over seven points per game last year or project to this year. It's a small list thanks to a lack of high-end talent at and it's not quite a priority for most offenses

The scheme must cater to a highly athletic playmaker. There's not a ton of big guys who run smoothly and catch consistently. It's that simple.

Tonyan, Andrews and Gesicki are returning producers who fit all of the criteria. Both Andrews and Gesicki have more competition around them as their offenses invested heavily into receivers. But their QBs favored them for good reason and the scheme will continue to feature their talents.

Pitts is a projection, of course. The loss of Julio Jones makes him a near-lock to end up in this company, if not a little higher. I'm continuing the buy the hype on him even if it'd be rare for a tight end to be this good in his rookie year.

Tier 3: The Good, Not Great

T.J. Hockenson | Logan Thomas | Rob Gronkowski | Jimmy Graham | Jared Cook | Noah Fant | Eric Ebron | Tyler Higbee

For players who don't want to pay a premium for a tight end will likely settle for a player in this tier. This isn't an easy tier to decipher, though. 

Forgoing a decent investment will cost fantasy players several points per week and may end their season prematurely unless their roster is completely stacked. 

The most notable omissions are the New England tight ends. I have both Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in the fourth tier because I have no idea what to expect from either due to their QB situation.

This group will average around six points per game based on 2020 and projecting them forward. While Hockenson should see plenty of targets, he gets downgraded due to his quarterback situation, whereas Cook, Higbee and Thomas get a little boost. So there's nuance to consider because Hockenson is two rounds more expensive than Thomas, for example.

You can't wait much longer than the ninth round with this tier. By the end of August, we'll see Higbee rising, too, which makes him a buy in dynasty formats. 

Tier 4: Upside, But Uncertainty

Jonnu Smith | Hunter Henry | Hayden Hurst | Dalton Schultz | Evan Engram | Dallas Goedert | Zach Ertz | Irv Smith Jr. | Austin Hooper | Chris Herndon | Adam Trautman

There's fluidity between Tier 3 and Tier 4 because of the uncertainty with either the offense, quarterback, or team in general for some of these guys. There's no question Smith, Henry, and Ertz are talented enough to be much better. But how do the Patriots prioritize both playmakers, and where does Ertz get traded to?

We have questions throughout this tier. Both Hayden Hurts and Austin Hooper disappointed last year after their respective teams invested heavily in them. They need bounce-back years to continue being fantasy-relevant.

We'd love a leap from young talents, too. My favorite young guys are Schultz, Engram, Smith Jr., Herndon, and Goedert. I like their roles enough to put them as a solid upside play. Having one as your starter is risky but they'd be elite backups who can give you the flexibility to make a trade later.

Tier 5: Waiver Wires and Backups

Anthony Firkser | Dawson Knox | Dan Arnold | Gerald Everett | Mo Alie-Cox

A lot of Tier 5 comes down to preference. Most offenses can't sustain a good fantasy tight end, so we'd be betting on the offense or pure talent of the player. These five guys are my best guesses as far as finding the balance at some point.

Getting a good matchup tight end who can cover your starter for a bye week is usually only worth a waiver wire add. However, I do think Firkser and Everett are talented enough to be rostered all year. Now they need to prove it or be cut a month into the season for a more worthy backup.

Make sure you leave a comment with your favorite tight ends across the league. This is the hardest position to nail down, in my opinion. 

Photo: Getty Images