2020 Tight End Sleepers

2020 Tight End Sleepers

While many of the names at the top of the tight end position held up in 2019, we did see the value of players like OJ Howard and Eric Ebron drop, while Mark Andrews, Austin Hooper, and Tyler Higbee ended up being league winners by the end of the season.

Our TE sleepers article from last season correctly identified Austin Hooper (TE 4), Darren Waller (TE 5), Mark Andrews (TE 2), and Mike Gesicki (TE 11) as our top values at the position. As always, there was a swing and miss with Chris Herndon who was not only hurt when he made this article last season but never recovered from that preseason hamstring injury.

Before we identify the five tight ends we think could dramatically outproduce their current ranking, let us know who your pick would be at their current ranking:

 

Which TE offers the most value at their current ranking?

sleeper tight end picks for 2020 fantasy football season

Our list for this season includes players like Hockenson who will look to rebound in year two, Herndon who will look to rebound from injury, and Hurst who has consistently been one of the highest-rated tight ends on Pro Football Focus. Each of these players is in position to see their production skyrocket in 2020.

We wrote in our WR sleeper article that we felt much stronger about this group than the others, and that does include both our QB sleepers and RB sleepers.

PlayerPos.TeamCons. RankOur Rank
T.J. HockensonTELions158
Chris HerndonTEJets2113
Hayden HurstTEFalcons279
Jace SternbergerTEPackers2814
Dalton KeeneTEPatriots5220

Our Favorite Sleeper Tight Ends for 2020

It seems like a different group of late-round tight ends jumps into the top 10 each season. Last year that group included guys like Mark Andrews, Tyler Higbee, and Dallas Goedert. Who will make the leap this season? Here are five sleepers we think could end up being fantasy football TE1’s by the end of the 2020 NFL season.

T.J. Hockenson

TE   |   Detroit Lions   |   Current Pos. Rank: 14
While Hockenson’s rookie season was undeniably disappointing for fantasy owners, it is important to keep in mind that rookie tight ends are never good. Most great fantasy tight ends are not great in their rookie year. Kittle put up only 43/515/2 in his rookie season, all-time great Antonio Gates put up 24/389/2 in his rookie season. Both guys were considerably better in year two, and that will be the case for Hockenson as well.

Hockenson started the season hot catching 6 of 9 targets for 131 yards and a touchdown but disappeared down the stretch before finishing the season on IR. He finished the season with 32/367/2 in 12 games. Clearly his numbers would have been considerably better had Stafford not gotten hurt, and had he not missed 4 games with an injury.

I think we can expect to see considerable growth from Hockenson in year 2, and would not be surprised to see him finish 2020 with a 65/900/6 stat line.

Both Golladay and Jones are big targeted air yard guys (15.4 for Golladay and 13.2 for Jones despite Stafford missing 8 games) which opens up a ton of space and opportunity for Hockenson to work underneath. It is also worth noting that Hockenson averaged a red zone target per game in games Stafford started, giving him double-digit touchdown upside as well.

chris herndon te sleeper 2020

Chris Herndon

TE   |   New York Jets   |   Current Pos. Rank: 21
As we mentioned in the Hockenson breakdown, rookie tight ends almost never produce. This, along with the Adam Gase hiring, is why we were extremely bullish on Herndon heading into the 2019 season.

A hamstring injury ultimately ended his 2019 season before it even began. Ryan Griffin stepped in to have the best fantasy season of his seven-year career, despite missing the last three games of the season.

Herndon will return this season and returns to an offense with plenty of targets up for grabs. The Jets clearly missed Herndon last season and lost Robby Anderson (96 targets) this offseason. While they added Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims, there is still plenty of room for Herndon to thrive in Gase’s system in 2020.

We have Herndon projected for a slight uptick in production from his rookie season, moving from 6.7 FPPG to 7.8 FPPG, making him a low-end TE1 in 2020. While that alone is vastly better than his current TE21 ranking, we love his overall upside and think he could have double-digit touchdowns as the Jets go-to red-zone weapon.


Hayden Hurst

TE   |   Atlanta Falcons   |   Current Pos. Rank: 28
Hayden Hurst already made our best overall sleepers for 2020 list, so it should come as no surprise to see him here as well.

No offensive coordinator uses the tight end position more than Dirk Koetter, who had two fantasy-relevant tight ends in Tampa, provided a massive uptick in production to Austin Hooper, and now gets to work with one of the more underrated players at the position in the league.

When Dimitroff initially announced the deal, the first thought that jumped into my head was that Hurst is actually an upgrade over Hooper. And not just because Hurst will make nearly $10 million less than Hooper this season.

Like Hooper, Hurst was also a first-round draft choice. However he is bigger, stronger, faster, and a better blocker than Hooper. He just needed an opportunity to be more involved in the passing game, something that never happened to play alongside Mark Andrews in the run-heavy Ravens offense.

He will certainly get plenty of opportunities here in Atlanta, and will drastically outplay his current TE 28 ranking. We think Koetter has yet another top 10 TE here and Hayden Hurst is the tight end that most dramatically outplays his 2020 ADP.

jace sternberger fantasy sleeper 2020

Jace Sternberger

TE   |   Green Bay Packers   |   Current Pos. Rank: 28
Something has to give at the tight end position in Green Bay this season. We know that the coaching tree Lafleur comes from utilizes the tight end position as much as anyone.

Whether we talk Jay Gruden with Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, Sean McVay with Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, or even the 20% bump in production the Bengals tight ends saw in an atrocious first year under Zac Taylor. The tight end position will eventually be a big part of this offense.

Then there is the season we saw Jimmy Graham put up in 2019. By far the worst of his career, playing in Lafleur’s system, with Aaron Rodgers at QB, and one of the worse WR groups in football around him. Clearly the Packers think that had something to do with Graham because he is gone and Sternberger is in.

With only one career reception at Kansas before his first and only season with Texas A&M, Sternberger dominated the SEC putting up 48/832/10 in 13 games. Clearly the Packers liked what they saw because they took him 75th overall in the 2019 Draft, making him the highest TE drafted by the team since Bubba Franks in 2000.

While Sternberger is arguably the least athletic tight end to make our 2020 sleeper list, the Packers staff loves him as a pass catcher and view him as an integral part of their passing attack in 2020. We think he sees 25-30 more targets than Graham did here last season and finishes somewhere around TE15. Well ahead of his current TE28 ranking.

dalton keene patriots 2020 fantasy value

Dalton Keene

TE   |   New England Patriots   |   Current Pos. Rank: 52
We warned fantasy footballers world wide about the dangers associated with betting on rookie tight ends in the NFL. It rarely, if ever, works out… regardless of the player or team.

The Patriots used two third-round picks on tight ends in the 2020 NFL Draft, and it seems like a lock that at least one will have a role in their offense this season. While the experts currently have Devin Asiasi ranked higher (makes sense as they drafted him 10 picks earlier), I like Keene’s upside and versatility considerably more.

Keene’s athleticism rivals that of a guy like Brycen Hopkins, with a 4.7 40, the highest vertical in the class, and decent size at 6’4″ 253 lbs. He had only one drop at Va Tech and caught over 83% of his targets in his three seasons with the Hokies.

So why did he fall into the late third round? The combination of a three-star recruit with only 71 career targets makes him a gamble. His averages are great, 83% catch rate, 13 YPC, 8.5 YAC, only one career drop, but he was criminally underutilized by the Hokies and we simply don’t have enough film to know for sure what he will be in the NFL.

I have seen enough of Matt Lacosse and Devin Asiasi to know there is little value there. If a Patriots TE is going to have a breakout season, it’s going to be Keene. Otherwise, I think we can expect a repeat of 2019’s performance from this group.

It is a stretch to think either guy will be usable on your favorite DFS app this season, but if you are a dynasty player, it’s worth getting a share of one or both of these tight ends.

Updated List of TE’s to Opt-Out of 2020 Season

COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the 2020 fantasy football season, and not even the blue-collar tight end position is safe. Below is an updated (and hopefully final) list of tight ends to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season. We will continue to add names as announcements come.

PlayerPos.Team
Matt LaCosseTENE
Cole WickTENO
Jason Vander LaanTENO

Current TE Depth Chart for All 32 NFL Teams

One of the key factors to consider when analyzing a sleeper’s potential role is the depth chart around him. For instance, we love both Rams tight ends but both guys are pass-catching players on a team loaded with weapons… the targets will be hard to come by. On the other side of that coin is a guy like Hayden Hurst who has essentially no competition at the position and plays in as TE-friendly of a system as there is in the NFL.

TeamPosTE 1TE 2TE 3TE 4
AFC East
Buffalo BillsTEDawson KnoxTyler KroftLee SmithTommy Sweeney
Miami DolphinsTEMike GesickiDurham SmytheChandler CoxMichael Roberts
New England PatriotsTEMatt LacosseDevin AsiasiDalton KeeneRyan Izzo
New York JetsTEChristopher HerndonRyan GriffenDaniel BrownRoss Travis
AFC North
Baltimore RavensTENick BoyleMark AndrewsCharles ScarffEli Wolff
Cincinatti BengalsTEDrew SampleCJ UzomahCethan CarterMason Schreck
Cleveland BrownsTEAustin HooperDavid NjokuPharaoh CooperHarrison Bryant
Pittsburgh SteelersTEEric EbronVance McDonaldZach GentryKevin Rader
AFC South
Houston TexansTEDarren FellsJordan ThomasJordan AtkinsKahale Warring
Indianapolis ColtsTEJack DoyleTrey BurtonMo Alie-CoxMatt Lengel
Jacksonville JaguarsTETyler EifertJosh OliverJames O’shaughnessyCharles Jones
Tennessee TitansTEJonnu SmithAnthony FerskerMyCole PruittCole Herdman
AFC West
Denver BroncosTENoah FantJeff HeuermanNick VannettAlebert Okwuegbunam
Kansas City ChiefsTETravis KelceDeon YelderRicky Seals-JonesNick Keizer
Las Vegas RaidersTEDarren WallerJason WittenFoster MoreauDerek Carrier
Los Angeles ChargersTEHunter HenryVirgil GreenAndrew VollertStephen Anderson
NFC East
Dallas CowboysRBBlake JarwinDalton SchultzBlake BellCole Hikutini
New York GiantsTEEvan EngramKaden SmithLevin ToiloloEric Tomlinson
Philadelphia EaglesTEZach ErtzDallas GoedertJoshua PerkinsAlex Ellis
Washington RedskinsTEJeremy SprinkleRichard RodgersLogan ThomasHale Hentges
NFC North
Chicago BearsTECole KmetDemetrius HarrisAdam ShaheenJesper Horsted
Detroit LionsTETJ HockensonJesse JamesIsaac NautaHunter Bryant
Green Bay PackersTEMarcedes LewisJace SternbergerRobert TonyanEvan Baylis
Minnesota VikingsTEKyle RudolphIrv SmithTyler ConklinBrandon Dillon
NFC South
Atlanta FalconsTEHayden HurstKhari LeeJaeden GrahamCarson Meier
Carolina PanthersTEIan ThomasChris ManhertzTamarrick HemingwayCollin Thompson
New Orleans SaintsTEJared CookJosh HillAdam TrautmanGarrett Griffin
Tampa Bay BuccaneersTERob GronkowskiOJ HowardCameron BrateTanner Hudson
NFC West
Arizona CardinalsTEMaxx WilliamsDarrell DanielsDan ArnoldDylan Cantrell
Los Angeles RamsRBTyler HigbeeGerald EverettBrycen HopkinsJohnny Mundt
San Francisco 49ersTEGeorge KittleRoss DwelleyDaniel HelmCharlie Woerner
Seattle SeahawksRBGreg OlsonWill DisslyLuke WillsonColby Parkinson

9 Replies to “2020 Tight End Sleepers”

  1. How does Dawson Knox not make this list. Did you watch him last season? He is a beast and is just getting started.

    1. I love Knox. The problem is the Bills were 24th in the NFL in pass attempts last season and added Stefon Diggs this offseason. With John Brown, Cole Beasley, and Devin Singletary all likely to also have large roles in the passing game, I don’t see how Knox’s 50 targets makes a big enough jump to make him a consistent fantasy option in 2020.

  2. This is exactly the list I’m targeting. The ADP’s on most of these guys shot way up already though :(. Maybe take the article down until after my draft?

    1. Hockenson and Hurst are so far out in front of the poll that I would assume they will be right at value by the time drafts roll around. We had Godwin as our top WR sleeper in the sixth round this time last year and I ended up having to draft him in the late second round in some of my competitive leagues.

  3. Pats rookies looking even better with Lacosse opting out.Although we will have to see if Cam can even get the ball to them.

    1. Well, it is the Pats and we get no preseason so they don’t come without risk. Neither is going in any sort of fantasy draft right now. Asiasi is currently TE32 and Keene is TE48.

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