Tight End Tiers & Contact Pricing

Updated: April 10th 2020

We all love our Player Rankings & Projections, but Draft Day Auctions and RSO Dynasty Leagues involving contracts require a bit more prepwork if you want to maximize value.  Implementing a Tiering system is a must.  Here is a breakdown of the Top 20 TEs I anticipate being on our radar in 2020.  I used 5 stats in particular to determine their grouping: Yard Per Catch Avg, TDs, Catch Rate, Target to Snap Ratio and First Down to Target Ratio.  The last 2 are less commonly used in the fantasy world, but I believe they paint a vivid picture of intent, trust and execution.  Quality over quantity type stuff.  I have also included recommended pricing for each player, operating on the assumption that this is Year 1 of your dyansty league to help avoid conflicts with Rookie contracts.

The Faves: This group will land the biggest contracts.  I strongly support spending here.  Securing a Top-5 TE gives you an even bigger edge in Dynasty than it does in Re-Draft leagues.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Travis Kelce
22-26 mil
254.3 981 97 136 13.9% 12.7 5 71.3% 47.8%
George Kittle 
18-22 mil
222.5 815 85 107 13.1% 12.4 5 79.4% 49.5%
Darren Waller
16-18 mil
221 940 90 117 12.4% 12.7 3 76.9% 45.3%
Zach Ertz 
16-18 mil
215.6 953 88 135 14.2% 10.4 6 65.2%

37.0%

Within this range, you are essentially playing a low-tier RB1 to high-tier RB2 at TE.  Nick Chubb scored 255 points, while Kenyan Drake and Le’Veon Bell finish with 215.  I like all 4 players, but I am somewhat hesitant about Zach Ertz.  Based off this table, we can clearly see he is trailing his counterparts in multiple categories.  If it weren’t for his massive Target to Snap Ratio, he wouldn’t even be included in this group.  Ask yourself this.  Was there ever a point last year where you mistook a Dallas Goedert TD for an Ertz one?  There’s a reason for that.  It isn’t just that there numbers (88 and 86) are so similar.  They are both 6’5 and 250 lbs.  Plus, look at this.  Goedert’s Avg., Catch Rate and First Down to Target Ratio are nearly identical to Ertz.  In fact, Goedert is slightly better in all 3.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec

Tgt

Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Dallas Goedert 
8-12 mil
144.7 781 58 87 11.1% 10.5 5 66.7% 37.9%

That is why I am planting my flag firmly in the Dallas Goedert stock this year.  If he and Ertz are essentially the same player, why not get the cheaper one.  The only thing that seperates the two is targets, and Ertz is one nagging hamstring injury away from that no longer being the case.

The Flag Plants:  I am targeting these players in all formats.  They provide the best combination of value and trust.  Landing these players on their low end as oppose to The Faves on their high end is a no brainer for me.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec

Tgt

Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Mark Andrews
16-18 mil
207.2 467 64 98 21.0% 13.3 10 65.3% 44.9%
Jared Cook 
10-14 mil
167.5 513 43 65 12.7% 16.4  9  66.2% 49.2%
Hunter Henry
12-16 mil
150.2 621 55 76 12.2% 11.9 5 72.4% 47.4%

Mark Andrews is my #3 TE after Kelce and Kittle.  Nobody does more with less, made evident by his 10 TDs, 13.3 yard per catch average, and league leading 21% Target to Snap Ratio.  His low snap count (41.2%) could leave just enough of an impression on owners to keep his bid price reasonable.  Believe it or not, Andrews was 3rd in TE snaps on his own team.  This should change dramatically with Hayden Hurst now in Atlanta.

Jared Cook is another extremely effiecnt option.  Of the Top-10 TEs last year, there were 60 instances in which a player saw 6 or less targets in a given week.  Jared Cook accounted for 11 of those games, and thanks to his wide receiver-esque 16.4 average and 9 TDs, 7 of those 11 games ended in double digit fantasy points (63.6%).  The remaining 9 TEs managed the feat only 14 times in 49 outings (28.6%).  The doubters will cite the Emmanuel Sanders addition as reason to downgrade Cook in 2020, but faithful RSO readers will know better and take advantage come Auction Day.

Hunter Henry’s Avg., Catch Rate and First Down to Target Ratio all fall in line with the likes of Travis Kelce.  The issue?  He was playing with a 38-year old, noodle-arm quarterback who still possesses the aggressive nature of a 25-year old.  Philip Rivers’ 2019 season can best be summed up with his week 10 performance against the Raiders.  Down 2 points, the Chargers received the ball on their own 25-yard line with 62 seconds left and all of their timeouts remaining.  With ample time and three chances to stop the clock, Rivers repeatedly threw deep rather than trying to steadily move the ball with easy completitons.  He went 0 for 8 with a game ending interception.  They failed to gain a single yard.  Whoever the Chargers turn to in 2020, odds are it will result in more targets for Henry.

On the Fence: Aka The “Too Many Mouths to Feed” Section.  This group proved in 2019 that under the right circumstances, they can be weekly staples in our lineups.  I’m not currently comfortable paying the auction prices these names will attract, but that could change in time.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Austin Hooper
8-12 mil
191.7 743 75 97 13.1% 10.5 6 77.3% 42.3%
Tyler Higbee 
6-8 mil
160.4 710 69 89 12.5% 10.6 3 77.5% 40.4%
Greg Olsen
4-6 mil
123.7 805 52 82 10.2% 11.5 2 63.4% 41.5%
Evan Engram 
8-12 mil
109.4 454 44 68 15.0% 10.6 3 64.7%  33.8%

Austin Hooper was the definition of a safety blanket in Atlanta.  Despite having the most dynamic RB and WR tandem in the league, the Browns finished 26th in 1st Downs and 20th in 3rd Down Conversions.  Aside from canning Freddie Kitchens, it is clear the Browns believe Hooper is their answer to sustaining drives in 2020 and beyond.  As impressive as his catch rate is (77.3%), I just don’t see him repeating his consistency in Cleveland.  Baker is not Ryan.  Freeman is neither Chubb nor Hunt.  Ridley is neither Beckham nor Landry.  Like all Jason Witten impersonators, Hooper needs volume to be relevant.  I am not comfortable spending the 10+ mil he’ll likely receive just to endure multiple 3 catch 30 yard games.

Tyler Higbee was phenomenal once Gerald Everett went down.  Before that?  He was useless.  Referring back to the 6 or less targets stat, Higbee accounted for 8 of those 60 games.  He only achieved double digit points in 1 of them (12.5%).  What goes for Hooper applies even more so for Higbee, which is fitting considering their numbers are near mirror images.  Unless the Rams deal Cooks, I will be avoiding this touchdown deprived, 5th wheel.

Greg Olsen is still doing his thing and the Seahawks have been clamoring for a Jimmy Graham replacement.  An 11.5 yard per catch avg at age 34-35 tells me Olsen will continue getting open until the day he hangs em up.  I’m just not sure how often Wilson will need to look his way with Lockett, Metcalf and Carson around.

Evan Engram played in 1 game last year in which the entire WR corp was available – Week 5.  It just so happened that Barkley was out that week, and his replacement, Wayne Gallman, lasted all of 6 snaps before leaving the game with an injury of his own.  In total, Golden Tate missed 4, Sterling Shepard missed 3, Darius Salyton missed 2, and Saquon Barkley missed 2 of the 7 full games Engram started and finished in 2019.  There simply is no way of knowing how the Colts will divvy up the target share once everyone is healthy.  Engram was also touted as this WR/TE hybrid.  His 10.6 avg would suggest more of a TE/FB hybrid.  Where are the explosive plays?

The Fliers: In the event that I miss out on both The Faves and Flag Plants due to cap restrictions, I believe a Flier/Engram or Flier/Hooper pairing is the ideal contigency plan.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Kyle Rudolph
4-6 mil
113.7 807 39 48 5.9% 11.5 2 81.3% 50.0%
Noah Fant 
6-8 mil
111 703 40 66 9.4% 14.1 3 60.6% 34.8%
Jonnu Smith
2-4 mil
104.7 718 35 44 6.1% 12.5 3 79.5% 36.4%
Eric Ebron
4-6 mil
86.5 328 31 52 15.9% 12.1 3 59.6% 38.5%

Kyle Rudolph snatched us Saints fans’ hearts out in Wildcard Weekend.  Well…not really.  They were on the 4-yard line in OT, and I am pretty sure the entire Who Dat Nation knew what was coming when we saw 6’0 195 lb Cornerback P.J. Williams lined up against the 6’6 260 lb TE.  That is, of course, excluding the actual players and coaches.  The ball did wind up going in the direction of the pitiful size mismatch, and the Vikings ended the Saints season for a 2nd time in 3 years with what might just be the easiest passing score of the entire NFL season.  Rudolph had the lowest Target to Snap Ratio (5.9%) in this entire pool, but he countered that with the #1 Catch Rate & the #1 First Down to Target Ratio.  50% of the time Cousins targeted him, the play resulted in a 1st down.  You’ve got to think the team is aware of this data, and now that Diggs is gone, they will exploit the obvious size mismatch more often in 2020.

Noah Fant averaged 14.1 yards a catch and topped 550 yards as a rookie.  The hell with all the other numbers.  Get this guy on your team.

Jonnu Smith is the biggest gamble of them all, and his recommended pricing reflects that notion.  He’s on an ultra conservative run-first team that could see Derrick Henry rush for 2,000 yards this season.  The good news is the Titans finished tied for 8th in Passing TDs with 29.  Jonnu scored twice in the fantasy playoffs and once in the actual playoffs.  Between his impressive catch rate (79.5%) and respectable avg (12.5), I could see him being used in a pinch or a juicy matchup.

Eric Ebron had about as lousy a follow up season as we have ever witnessed for a TE.  His yardage and receptions were literally cut in half, and his TDs plummeted from a league leading 13 to 3.  Him missing the final 5 games was actually a blessing in disguise, because it meant owners would not be tempted to start him.  All that being said, he is going from Jacoby Brissett to Ben Roethlisberger.  That 59.6% catch rate will need to improve to ensure playing time (Vance McDonald is still a factor), but he could easily reclaim his reputation as a redzone virtuoso.

Fading: Limited upside.  Regardless of contracts, I ultimately view this group as a wasted roster space.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Mike Gesicki 
4-6 mil
136 705 51 89 12.6% 11.2 5 57.3% 28.1%
Jack Doyle
4-6 mil
111.8 811 43 72 8.9% 10.4 4 59.7% 40.3%
O.J. Howard 
2-4 mil
83.9 793 34 53 6.7% 13.5 1 64.2% 43.4%
T.J. Hockenson
4-6 mil
80.7 539 32 59 10.9% 11.5 2 54.2% 32.2%

Mike Gesicki finished the season on a high note, scoring 5 times in his final 6 games.  As encouraging as that is, he only caught 23 of his 46 targets in that time frame.  He will more than likely be competing with Devante Parker, Preston Williams and a CeeDee Lamb/Jerry Jeudy for targets from a Rookie QB.  I’m not willing to predict a significant progression in catch rate for Mike.

T.J. Hockenson is a less athletic version of Mike Gesicki, playing with better weapons at the WR position.  There is no question T.J. will have to improve leaps and bounds in terms of finding soft spots in the coverage and his catch rate.  It’s hard to envision Matt Stafford forcing the ball his way at the expense of Golladay and Marvin Jones.

Jack Doyle and O.J. Howard both suffer from a case of low target share and old quarterbacks.  Howard is a downfield threat who performed quite well when called upon in 2019.  You cannot expect me to endorse the notion that Tom Brady, king of the screen pass, will be looking Howard’s way more than the 30 for 30 Gunslinger himself, Jameis Winston.  Jack Doyle looks like Kyle Rudolph, but catches like Eric Ebron.  I do not recommend investing in that combination.

More Analysis by Grant Viviano