Tight end rankings might be the easiest to separate into tiers in all of fantasy football. One reason for making tiers is an uncertainty within a grouping of players of who will emerge as the best. That’s definitely how tight end feels, with players who could just as easily be sleepers as busts littering cheat sheets and causing varying draft strategies depending on your personal projections and preferences.
Since even the separation within tiers can be so confusing at the TE position, we attempt to clear some of that up in our analysis. But it also leaves some of the decision-making up to you, the drafter. Wade into each grouping on this list and figure out which players suit your preferred drafting style.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2019 Fantasy Cheat Sheet
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TE Rankings Tiers: Who are the best fantasy TEs?
“Top heavy” — we keep saying it, so we might as well just get right to it. If you want one of the best options at tight end, look no further than our three Tier 1 guys. After them, there’s a noticeable dropoff before anyone else is worth drafting.
Within this tier, Travis Kelce is the obvious top dog. With the best quarterback in fantasy football (Patrick Mahomes II) throwing to probably the most gifted TE, you’ve got a connection impossible to look past.
Zach Ertz and George Kittle aren’t quite as automatic, but they’re’ not far off. Kittle actually finished ahead of Ertz in fantasy points in 2018. The biggest source of Kittle’s production comes from yards after the catch, and it seems likely he’ll regress after a historic season in that category. Ertz provides a more prolific pass-catcher as Carson Wentz’s favorite target. Then again, Kittle should get a fuller season of Jimmy Garoppolo throwing to him.
Based on FantasyPros’ composite average draft position (ADP), you’d have to pick Ertz or Kittle in the third or fourth round of 12-team standard leagues. Kelce will cost you a second-round pick. That’s a steep price to pay for a TE, but given the level of production and dropoff further down the list, all three appear worth it.
1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
2. Zach Ertz, Eagles
3. George Kittle, 49ers
Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: When should you take a second-tier tight end?
Tier 2 of the TE pool is kind of like driving through a torrential downpour and trying to get off at the right exit. First off, it’s just plain annoying because you can barely see in front of you and there’s inevitably a car trying to go way-too-fast in the left lane. It’s not clear at all which TE in this tier is the way to go, and a few will probably be selected too early.
And, oh yeah, you can barely see in front of you. Is that Exit 36 or 38? Is the right choice Hunter Henry or Trey Burton? You can probably take solace in the fact that unlike with driving, there’s no expectation that you’ll pick the perfect player out of this tier. That won’t really help when you select a guy who finishes as the No. 20 TE this year will it, though?
Just put your windshield wipers on super fast, maybe click on your hazard lights, and cross your fingers that the name you land on leads to a relatively happy ending rather than further annoyance. All of these guys have talent, and it’s possible one of them (O.J. Howard? Evan Engram? Hunter Henry?) will be in Tier 1 next season, but the relative unproveness/inconsistency are worries.
Many of these players will likely be overdrafted, but the fact is someone has to draft them. Ideally, you’d get them in the seventh round or later, but they’ll likely start coming off the board in the fifth.
4. Evan Engram, Giants
5. O.J. Howard, Buccaneers
6. Jared Cook, Saints
7. Hunter Henry, Chargers
8. Trey Burton, Bears
9. Eric Ebron, Colts
Fantasy TE Tiers: Borderline Starters
Because of how murky the second tier is, Tier 3 presents itself as a just-as-unclear alternative to filling your tight end slot. Some of these names will probably finish the season as worthy starters. Others might deserve to sit on the waiver wire all season but will keep getting picked up by an owner who simply can’t find the right answer at TE.
The name worth singling out here is Jordan Reed, who had the highest PPR-scoring average among tight ends in 2015. Yeah, that’s a long time ago. The Mets and Royals played in the World Series that year. Reed staying healthy in 2019 and having a stellar season is certainly more likely than a repeat of that World Series anytime soon (although that’s not saying much).
Tier 3 offers a classic example of how rankings can be misleading. We have Vance McDonald 14th, while other sites have him in the top 10. We really don’t see much of a difference between 10 and 18, so expect these names to go off the board in any order. Some will fall too far while others will get wildly overdrafted. It’s all about staying patient and having a game plan. There isn’t a huge difference between these players on paper, and it’s not a bad idea to grab two back-to-back in the middle rounds to give yourself options.
10. Delanie Walker, Titans
11. Jimmy Graham, Packers
12. David Njoku, Browns
13. Greg Olsen, Panthers
14. Vance McDonald, Steelers
15. Jack Doyle, Colts
16. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
17. Jordan Reed, Redskins
18. Austin Hooper, Falcons
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2019 Fantasy Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Tight End Sleepers
This tier might as well be renamed the sleeper tier. The majority of these names are features in our TE sleepers article. For semantic reasons, it’s still Tier 4, But if you’re down here looking for a tight end to add to your roster late in your drafts, know that most of these guys have some upside.
Benjamin Watson and Chris Herndon will both be overlooked because of their four-game suspensions to open the season. C.J. Uzomah and Ian Thomas both have questions about their potential offensive opportunity, but they could end up with big enough roles to perform. T.J. Hockenson might be overdrafted like he was in real life, but the Lions took him in the top 10 for a reason, so he could produce more than most rookie TEs.
Jason Witten is…Jason Witten. We’re not expecting big numbers, but he has PPR upside as a short-yardage security blanket for Dak Prescott. Also: What if Gronk comes back?
A few of these players might not even be drafted in your league, but all make for worthwhile backups/stashes if you have the space, particularly Herndon. They’re the first names to know if your team is dealt an unfortunate hand of injuries or busts.
19. T.J. Hockenson, Lions
20. Jason Witten, Cowboys
21. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
22. Benjamin Watson, Patriots
23. Chris Herndon, Jets
24. Mark Andrews
25. C.J. Uzomah, Bengals
26. Ian Thomas, Panthers
Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Should you draft a backup TE?
Tier 5 is the final grouping of TEs with even a passable chance of becoming standard-league fantasy relevant in 2019. Most likely won’t be drafted, but it doesn’t hurt to hurt to know they exist. Especially with the younger guys in this section, there’s always a chance they break out sooner rather than later and are worthy of your attention.
If you’re in a deep league you can take a shot on one of these guys, but you should get your backup from the tier above. You don’t necessarily need to draft a backup TE, especially if your starter has a late bye, but given the fickleness of this position, it’s usually a good idea to have a high-upside backup waiting in the wings — as long as you don’t overdraft.
27. Tyler Eifert, Bengals
28. Mike Gesicki
29. Josh Oliver, Jaguars
30. Hayden Hurst, Ravens
31. Noah Fant, Broncos
32. Cameron Brate, Buccaneers
33. Ricky Seals-Jones, Cardinals
34. Dallas Goedert, Eagles
35. Geoff Swaim, Jaguars
36. Darren Waller, Raiders
Fantasy Tight End Tiers: Do-Not-Draft TEs
If your fantasy team has slotted one of these players into a starting TE spot at any point in 2019, your leaguemates may kick you out for tanking. Either that or Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins, both in Houston, find a way to combine themselves into super Jordan and take the league by storm.
37. Gerald Everett, Rams
38. Matt LaCosse, Patriots
39. Nick O’Leary, Dolphins
40. Tyler Kroft, Bills
41. Jacob Hollister, Seahawks
42. Will Dissly, Seahawks
43. Jordan Thomas, Texans
44. Nick Boyle, Ravens
45. Jordan Akins, Texans
46. Tyler Higbee, Rams