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Devy: Introducing the 2021 TE class

@Glosser13 Introduces you to the newest names at the TE position for the 2021 college football season.

Introduction

The tight end position in dynasty fantasy football is very thin, especially at the top tier. As analysts, we often recommend that if you don’t get one of the top four guys to avoid spending high draft capital on one. Many seasoned dynasty players have adopted this strategy. This has made trading at the TE position a bit more difficult, especially in offense-only leagues.

The dynasty community has adjusted over the last few years, with more leagues adopting a TE-premium approach. In this scoring typically your TEs would gain 1.5 to 2.5 points per reception. Trying to bring more value to the position, and it creates a different strategy for building your offensive roster. This was a great response to help avoid an already thin TE position becoming practically extinct from a dynasty perspective. In the year 2021, if anyone is not playing in at least one TE-premium league they should be looking to change that. 

Dynasty TEs

Recently I had the pleasure of reading a very cool article on TE hit rates by Rob Sullivan of rotoheat.com. He does a great job defining what a “hit” is, and what percentage of players fell into that category based on round drafted. If you’re interested, I encourage you to read that here.

There are two big takeaways from Rob’s findings that I’ll share with you before we get into the 2021 TE class. First, he concluded that of the 67 tight ends drafted since the 2016 season, only 13, which is less than 20%, have had at least one TE1 season. Secondly, since the 2010 season, a TE that averages nine points per game would finish the season as a TE1. Across TE-premium leagues in 2020, Jared Cook was the only TE to average less than 10 points per game and finish in the top 20. 

Now let’s get to what you came here for the 2021 TE class. I’ll introduce you to the potential future stars of the NFL at the TE position. I’m speaking from an experienced Devy league fantasy football player’s point of view. I’ve been known to build with a TE-heavy approach in a dynasty startup draft. I am here to give you a little bit of knowledge on eight of the newest names on college campuses this fall.

Credit: 247Sports.com

Jake Briningstool, Clemson

6’5″ and 215 pounds

The number one ranked TE in the 2021 class is Ravenwood High School’s Jake Briningstool. He is the 60th ranked player in the class with a 247Sports composite score of 0.9715. Also, the number one player in the state of Tennessee. Briningstool played both offense and defense, scoring 13 touchdowns (12 receiving, one via kick return) of offense. While adding seven sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble on defense.

Although he has a slender, thin build, he has some impact-level blocks on his high school tape. It remains to be seen if Briningstool will be able to move defenders like this in the ACC. But it’s nice to see from him given his size. I love his understanding of the game at an early age whether it’s blocking at the point of attack or setting up his defender to create separation. As a receiver, he can do it all. He’s able to find the spots in the zone and become a big available target for his QB.

I have zero doubts about Briningstool’s talent level, he has all the tools to be a major weapon for D.J. Uiagalelei and the Clemson offense. Braden Galloway is listed as the starter. He had a breakout season in 2020 with 27 receptions, 369 yards, and two touchdowns. Davis Allen was also a factor scoring four touchdowns on 16 receptions. The top two tight ends on the depth chart are upperclassmen. Regardless, neither has the talent to keep a player like Briningstool off the field. Assuming a non-redshirt season, I believe Clemson will find a way to get the freshman TE some looks in 2021. 

Credit: 247Sports.com

Thomas Fidone, Nebraska

6’5″ and 225 pounds

Fidone ranks as the second-best TE in the 2021 class, with a 247-sports composite score of 0.9595. He totaled over 100 receptions, 1,500 yards, and 20 touchdowns in his high school career. Fidone was the only TE on the 2020 Sports Illustrated All-American First Team. The future star TE for the Cornhuskers averaged over 80 receiving yards a game while scoring 10 touchdowns as a senior. He is the highest-rated recruit for Nebraska since 2008. 

An All-State selection in 2020, it’s clear when you turn on the tape what a difference-maker he is. Fidone saw a majority of his reps as an outside WR, and given his size, he made defenders look silly. His QB stared him down on nearly all of his receptions that I watched and he still managed to come down with the ball. Fidone is absolutely a player you have to gameplan around. He will draw a crowd wherever he goes and he loves to go up and get it. Fidone will need to bulk up and prove he can get in the trenches and block especially with Nebraska’s offense. He didn’t show it much in high school, but given how effective he was as a pass-catcher, it’s understandable.

Unfortunately, Fidone suffered a torn ACL in the spring and is currently recovering from that. Nebraska has not ruled out a late-season return. With Austin Allen heading the depth chart, it’s more likely a medical redshirt will be issued for Fidone. It would have been interesting to see him onfield early, Nebraska needs all the big play weapons they can get.

The Cornhuskers only averaged 6.6 yards per pass attempt last season, which was 93rd in the country. This is a potential situation where the young TE could be a good buy low. If one of your Campus 2 Canton league-mates is going for the win on the college side, you can potentially flip a proven asset for the upside of Fidone. Dynasty managers could stash him on your IR all year that could pay off huge a year from now. 

Credit: dawgpost.com

Brock Bowers, Georgia

6’4″ and 225 pounds

A native of Napa, California, and the third-ranked TE by 247Sports, Brock Bowers is what NFL offensive coordinators dream of. Listed anywhere from 205 lbs to 240 lbs, I’m guessing he’s somewhere in the middle, all we know is he’s very fast and very explosive. Brandon Huffman’s High School scouting report on 247Sports.com has him clocked at a 4.5 40-yard dash and a 40-inch vertical. According to dawgnation.com, 14 of Bower’s 39 receptions last year were touchdowns, while he averaged nearly 30 yards per catch. 

The newest addition to the Georgia TE room has loads of potential, and although he enters a crowded depth chart, it’s clear the coaching staff has a plan for him. Bowers played WR, TE, RB, DE, and returned kicks during the 2019 season. He ended the season with nearly 1,500 all-purpose yards including a school-record 14 touchdowns. The future star TE for the Georgia Bulldogs will be giving SEC defensive coordinators headaches for most of the next three seasons. Bowers is too fast for linebackers and too physical for defensive backs. It will be interesting to see how the Georgia coaching staff uses him. 

As a dynasty manager, if you miss out on the top two TEs in this class, Bowers is a great consolation prize. The Georgia Bulldogs have Darnell Washington and recently transferred former TE turned WR Arik Gilbert. While it will be tough to break out as the starter as a true freshman, I can see a scenario where Bowers makes a difference in his first season. Washington hauled in seven receptions for 166 yards and a 23.7 yards per catch average as a freshman last season. Two TE sets featuring Washington and Bowers could be lethal. Especially for a Georgia offense that has a deep RB core and lost their best outside WR, George Pickens, for the season. 

Michael Trigg, USC

6’3″ and 230 pounds

Trigg is a two-sport athlete committed to playing football for the USC Trojans. Despite receiving offers to play basketball, after averaging over 22 points per game in 2019. Trigg is the fourth-ranked TE in this class and the 130th ranked player overall by 247Sports, his composite rating is 0.9402. The TE from Tampa, Florida, is one of 14 four-star commits to enroll at USC this season, giving them the seventh-ranked recruiting class in the country.

Michael Trigg is very explosive that is evident as much in his basketball highlights as his football highlights. Trigg was used mostly on the outside as a WR in the tape I watched. But he surely draws a crowd anytime he’s on the field. His limited route tree on the high school level hurt his production a bit. He was still easily able to get over the top of defensive backs routinely. He has plenty of work to do before he’s a complete TE, but he’s more than willing to get in the trenches and put a defender on his back. 

USC only played six games in 2020 with Erik Krommenhoak leading all TEs with nine receptions for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Trigg had 82 receptions, 1,232 yards, and 16 touchdowns in 13 games in 19’-20’ according to maxpreps.com. Trigg will likely be given a chance to develop and prove himself to the USC coaching staff but they won’t be able to ignore his talent and difference-making ability as a pass-catcher. The uncertainty of who will step up after Amon-Ra St. Brown left for the NFL and off the field issues with Bru McCoy opened up opportunities. There’s a chance that if Trigg makes the most of his early snaps, he will earn himself a starting role at TE. 

Credit: scoopduck.com

Maliki Matavao, Oregon

6’6″ and 240 pounds

There are very few programs in the country that recruit as well as Mario Cristobol and the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks turned into the sixth-best class in 2021 with 19 four-star commits including TE Maliki Matavao. He ranks as the number five TE in this class and the top prospect out of Nevada with a 247-composite ranking of 0.9324. Matavao was unable to play his senior season due to COVID-19. He posted a 46/718/7 stat line as a junior, including three 100-yard games. 

When looking for his film, I came across a video where Zach Ertz was breaking down his tape; I couldn’t help but see some similarities in their games. The understanding of the game and coverages is so rare in such a young player. Matavao’s size, athleticism, and body control are all things that are noticeable when you watch him play. There’s no surprise that he held 34 offers from Division I schools to play football. 

Oregon’s offense looked explosive in 2020 under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead. The use of more RPO and tempo fit the players they have well. Matavao should be a newly added weapon that can help the Ducks become even better in 2021. The TEs for the Ducks combined for 24 receptions, 174 yards, and six touchdowns last season. If Matavao can see some playing time early, I like his chances to be a part of the Ducks offense consistently. If this doesn’t happen in year one don’t be afraid of holding him. We have to remember he hasn’t played football since the 2019 season. He is a very talented player so give him time. 

Credit: californiagoldebblogs.com

Jermaine Terry, California

6’4″ and 235 pounds

Terry enrolled at California in January, as the sixth-ranked TE in the 2021 class and the 18th ranked player from the state. Terry chose Cal over Alabama and Ohio State, it appears staying close to home meant a lot to him. He ranked as the 203rd best player nationally in the 2021 class by 247Sports, despite his senior season being postponed by COVID-19. 

He played both offense and defense at Kennedy High School. His defensive highlights are as impressive, if not more, than his offensive ones. Terry collected 9.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2019, while posting a stat line of 19/317/5 as a pass-catcher. There’s potential that if things don’t work right away on offense he could switch to defense but that seems unlikely at least in his first season. 

The young TE chose to commit to Cal because of the wealth of NFL experience in coaches Bill Musgrave and Geep Chryst; each has over 20 years in the NFL. This could be the perfect situation for a young player to learn from. With experienced coaching, as well as a veteran TE group that has three seniors entering the 2021 season. 

Elijah Arroyo, Miami

6’4″ and 210 pounds

It wouldn’t be a true TE class without discussing a player from ‘Tight End U’, the Miami Hurricanes. Arroyo ranks as the seventh rated TE from the 2021 class with a composite score of 0.9170. Miami Head Coach Manny Diaz has been quoted as calling Arroyo “the real deal”. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to watch his senior tape, it will be hard to disagree with that statement. 

Arroyo had a ton of offers and chose Miami, I believe he will see playing time right away and be featured in Rhett Lashlee’s offense much like Brevin Jordan was. In 2020, Arroyo had 28 receptions for 628 yards and found the endzone 12 times. The newest addition to the Hurricanes offense is very athletic and can flat out run away from defenders when he gets the ball in his hands. Arroyo wins in ways that Brevin Jordan did while at Miami. With quick routes and bubble screens to let him make defenders miss and get first downs. It’s likely he will struggle with blocking in his first year, as he wasn’t asked to do that much at the high school level. However, Arroyo did spend time at DE, so he’s no stranger to engaging in the trenches. 

One of the best values in college dynasty fantasy football is Will Mallory, who played alongside Brevin Jordan for the past few seasons. Mallory will be the starter this year and is a more complete TE than any other Hurricane on the roster. Arroyo is the next man up and will have opportunities as a freshman barring a significant injury. He’s worth an early pick in college drafts especially those that have TE-premium scoring. 

Ja’Tavion Sanders, Texas

6’3″ and 235 pounds

The number one athlete among the 2021 class, and the 13th best player overall according to 247sports, Sanders is a five-star prospect out of Denton, Texas. He looks like a video game-created player on film, he almost doesn’t look real. Sanders is the top prize of Texas’ 15th-ranked recruiting class in 2021. If you can picture what Zion Williamson would look like in pads; that’s a bit of what Sanders reminds me of. 

This is a player deserving of covering because he can be equally as dominant as a defender or TE. Texas Head Coach Steve Sarkisian has said that Sanders will start his career on offense. But there’s no denying how good he was as a defender at the high school level. The Texas prospect has made bone-crushing sacks and one-handed touchdown catches that have both gone viral. Midlands Region Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports, Gabe Brooks, has compared him to New England Patriots TE Jonnu Smith and given him a future first-round NFL Draft grade. 

If Sanders sees success at Texas as an offensive weapon, I think we are looking at a potential top-five pick. He has the size and speed to dominate at the college level as he did in high school. As a senior, he played 14 games, finishing with 61 receptions, 1,161 yards, and 16 touchdowns. The top athlete in the 2021 class is going to be very fun to watch over the next couple of years. I’ve luckily been able to acquire multiple shares across my few Campus 2 Canton leagues and I encourage you to do the same. 

Conclusion

So often the TE position is forgotten about in dynasty fantasy football, especially on the devy side. As a good dynasty manager or someone who loves any form of college fantasy football, it’s important to be knowledgeable on all positions, not just the ones that score the most points. Knowing the top TE prospects before they ever play their first college snap is important. Using the hit rates discussed in Rob’s article can help you improve your process of determining how well a TE will translate into NFL fantasy production. 

Jon Glosser

@Glosser13

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