Tight Ends 2021

The Year 2021. The Rise of the Tight End Market

Every second year we have multiple wide receivers breakout and display their talents. Lately with the way the tight end market has been, it rarely works that way. This is the year we see more consistency at the tight end position. There is plenty of value in the tight end market and at the position in 2021. In addition, you can get your shares early with some of these selections listed below. 

Kyle Pitts (APD:63)

Currently being drafted as a top-six tight end, Pitts is sure to hit on that value. Julio Jones, amongst others, leaving town vacates 195 targets to go around in Atlanta. The Falcons have high draft capital invested in Pitts and intend to make him the number two option in this passing offense. It will be up to Arthur Smith and company to scheme him open while moving him all over the field.

In addition, the 2020 Falcons defense finished as one of the worst in the league. In 2020, without many new free agent signings or draft capital invested, the Falcons must pass to stay in games. A similar number of passing attempts is likely to happen again in 2021.  

The biggest argument against Pitts as to why he won’t finish as a TE1: he is a rookie. Statistically speaking, the rookie tight end market does not produce in year one. According to an article released by CBS Sports, we have to date back all the way to the year 2002 to find a time where a rookie tight end – Jeremy Shockey – finished with more than 800 yards receiving. However, in a barbaric time of tight end utilization, Shockey still would have finished at the TE7 in 2020 with only two touchdowns.

As a focal point of the Falcons offense, Pitts should easily eclipse 800 yards and two touchdowns finishing 2021 as a top-five tight end.

Best Rookie Tight End finishes since 1961 according to CBS Sports

Standing at 6’6″ and weighing 245 pounds, Pitts has a noticeable athletic frame. In 2019, he finished second in receiving yards and receptions for the Florida Gators. He then continued his dominance in 2020 with another spectacular season. Pitts was able to top his receiving yards by over 200 and lead the team in touchdowns (12).

Pitts (20) is younger than Jeremy Shockey (22) was in his rookie campaign and was drafted higher (round 1, pick 4) A lot of analysts have also failed to mention the Falcons declined Hayden Hurt fifth-year option, which means the Falcons could really use the second half of the season to evaluate their investment.  

Tight End Market Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts Gets Up for the Reception

Mark Andrews (ADP: 52)

Consistency is all you can ask for at any position for your fantasy football team and that’s exactly what you get with the Ravens Mark Andrews. In two straight seasons Andrews has posted at least 700 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns per season. In addition he has averaged 53 yards per game throughout his career. According to Adam Maya, “Andrews is one of six tight ends in league history with 2,000-plus receiving yards and 20 touchdown receptions over his first three seasons.

Although he isn’t the greatest blocker, Andrews is still on the field at a high percentage. Last year alone, Andrews tripled the second tight end on the Ravens in routes run and targets. 

Mark Andrews 2020 Routes Run Statistics according to Rotowire

Currently being drafted as the TE4, Andrews has the potential to finish as a top-three tight end this season and is well worth a mid-fifth round value. Baltimore has not had any luck on their side to start the 2021 season. They lost J.K. Dobbins to an ACL tear and Rashod Bateman is starting the year on IR due to core-muscle surgery. After new contract extension of $56-million will tie him to the Ravens for the next four seasons as the team’s undisputed WR1 yet again.

Mark Andrews with a nice catch and run touchdown pass from Lamar Jackson

T.J. Hockenson (ADP: 55)

T.J. Hockenson is a legitimate threat to finish as the overall TE1 this year. He has the athletic frame, smooth hands, and a number of vacated targets available in Detroit. Hockenson was able to hold a 17.9-percent target share in 2020. According to Aaron Larson, “There are now a total of 360 vacated targets in Detroit.”

Jared Goff, who is now The Lion’s new quarterback, used Kupp and Woods as his security blanket to throw the ball down the middle of the field. This will give Hockenson plenty of opportunities to serve as the team’s WR1 and obliterate his 2020 season numbers. 

T.J. Hockenson catching a pass from Stafford up the middle of the field for a long gain

Coming into his third season, Hockenson will look to match numbers from the group of elite tight ends we all know as Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Darren Waller. From 2019 to 2020, Hockenson was 11 yards shy of doubling his receiving yards and still tripled his receiving touchdowns. If his trend continues, he is sure to finish as a TE1. 

At the age of just 24 years old, Hockenson is the youngest (non-rookie) tight end in the league that comes with “elite” potential. Perhaps one of the most significant ways of how Hockenson can truly prosper is under former tight end and head coach Dan Campbell.

The Lions open the season where Hockenson will face two top tight ends in George Kittle and Mark Andrews. This will hopefully give him some motivation to start out the season strong. 

T.J.Hockenson Career Statistics Per Pro-Football-Reference
Tight end Market Value George Kittle
George Kittle Career Statistics Per Pro-Football-Reference

Robert Tonyan (ADP: 93)

Robert Tonyan was an absolute beast in 2020 with a catch rate of 88.1% while averaging nearly 10 yards per reception (9.9). Tonyan appeared in all 16 regular-season games, but only started eight. He is sure to see his role increase in 2021 and could be Aaron Rodger’s second option behind Devante Adams.

Robert Tonyan Career Statistics per Pro-Football-Reference

Tonyan only saw 59 targets in the 2020 season, however, he caught 52 without a single drop. His numbers are not mind-popping, but he did seem to develop a rapport with Rodgers last season. Tonyan converted 71.7-percent of his targets within the ten for seven touchdowns. Four came inside the five for a 100-percent conversation rate. Tonyan will continue to be the next best option for Rodgers in the red zone—the first being Adams.

Tight End Market Robert Tonyan
Aaron Rodgers targets Tonyan in the red zone for a touchdown

Consider him a massive value as he’s the TE9 behind Logan Thomas and Noah Fant who currently hold question marks for the 2021 season. Anytime you can develop chemistry with a future hall of fame quarterback you are setting yourself up for success.

In conclusion, the tight end market has been scarce and the position is usually streamed each year. This will finally be the year where you can find a consistent number of options. Feel free to go after the big three early in drafts or wait on value later in rounds. Either way, better days await the tight end position in fantasy football.

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