In the second part of the Five Guys series, I explore the tight ends with the most at stake in the 2021 NFL Draft. I’m not predicting that all of these teams will draft a tight end, but it’s in the cards for all of them. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
*All fantasy finishes are in point-per-reception scoring formats.
Again, I’ll lead off with the most obvious choice. Atlanta Falcons TE Hayden Hurst had a solid season last year. He tallied 56 receptions for 571 receiving yards and 6 TDs on 88 targets; It led him to a TE9 finish in fantasy.
All-in-all, you could say that this isn’t an area of weakness for the Falcons or an area of need, and you’d be right. However, as an avid Falcons fan, it’s safe to say you can throw any logic out of the window when it comes to the NFL Draft.
This is one of those times where I’m 99% certain of something. That something is that the Falcons will select TE Kyle Pitts at number four overall. My goal isn’t to predict a draft pick in this series, but I feel confident in this pick. The Falcons are always looking to add weapons for QB Matt Ryan, and Pitts is as good a weapon as you’ll find.
When this happens, not if, expect Hurst’s value to tank as you’d expect. He’ll have some value in case Pitts fails to see the field much in year one. Outside of that, I wouldn’t expect much else. Although he’s only been in the league for a few years, Hurst’s already 27 years old and will be 28 on opening day in 2021. I’d try to sell Hurst for anything you can get. It doesn’t matter what, just get out while you still can.
Los Angeles Chargers
As we learned last season, the tight end position will be a valuable one for fantasy on a team led by QB Justin Herbert. As a whole, the tight end position received 130 targets from Herbert last season. Even in a new offense, I expect the tight end position to be heavily involved.
Last year, the main cog at that position, Hunter Henry, departed and signed with the New England Patriots over the offseason. As a result, the Los Angeles Chargers signed Jared Cook to a one-year contract worth $4.5 million. In 15 games with the New Orleans Saints this past season, Cook had 60 targets that led to 37 receptions for 504 yards and 7 TDs.
It’s certainly possible that the Chargers avoid drafting a tight end. However, they could just as easily pick one up early in the draft, especially considering the top-end talent available at the position.
No matter what, I expect Cook to be a valuable option for your dynasty fantasy football teams this year. If the chargers hold off on drafting a tight end, Cook will be a top-eight option at least next year. However, if they pull the trigger and draft one, Cook will be a matchup-dependent option. Regardless, I would sell him before the draft comes around if you’re a rebuilding team. You might find a desperate win-now team that needs a tight end for next season and get a late second-round pick in return for Cook.
Dawson Knox of the Buffalo Bills may finally get his chance next season. Last year, Knox played in 12 games for the Bills, starting in just seven of them. He recorded 24 receptions, 288 receiving yards, and 3 TDs.
For much of the season, he was an afterthought at his position. However, 2021 could be a different story for him, but that will depend on the Bills. The team doesn’t have a lot of gaping holes on their roster. One of those weaknesses might actually be the tight end position as Knox has only flashed potential, but nothing else.
Thus, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them add another weapon for QB Josh Allen to throw too at tight end. They have the draft capital needed to invest in the position.
I see this as a win/lose situation for Knox because he could become a viable top 12 option at tight end for several years. However, if they draft his replacement, he would become a footnote in the Bills’ plans and have to wait until his contract expires to get another chance.
There’s not much you’ll get for Knox if you tried to trade him right now. He hasn’t done enough to warrant trading much for him, and that’s understandable. At this point, you’re along for the ride.
New York Jets
Now, this one would hurt. I want to see New York Jets TE Chris Herndon get his chance in an offense not led by head coach Adam Gase and QB Sam Darnold. We may finally get that in 2021.
However, I wouldn’t put that down in sharpie. I think it’s incredibly likely that Herndon enters the 2021 season as the Jets lead tight end. However, I’ve seen a few tight ends mocked to the Jets recently. Enough of them that I’m now sitting on the edge of my seat.
The Jets are in dire need of weapons, so any addition is a good one. If they avoid drafting a tight end, I’m putting both feet back on the hype train, and we’re setting off on our journey. As the lead tight end, Herndon will become a top-six option at his position. However, he could fall flat on his face if the Jets bring in another option.
I wouldn’t sell Herndon; I’d only look to acquire him. He’s worthy of a late second-round pick, but you won’t even have to give up that with rookie fever at an all-time high. Start with a third-round selection and work your way up if you get rejected.
Washington Football Team
It’s been well documented just how much newly signed Washington Football Team QB Ryan Fitzpatrick loves his tight ends. With the Miami Dolphins the past two seasons, Fitzpatrick fed the starting tight end for his team.
In 2019, Fitzpatrick targeted TE Mike Gesicki 89 times. That trend continued in 2020 as Gesicki had 30 targets spread across six games with Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Then, he was replaced by rookie signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa.
All that to say that Washington’s TE, Logan Thomas, could once again repeat his TE3 performance with Fitzpatrick at quarterback. However, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Washington aim to draft a tight end.
For those unaware, Thomas is on the final year of his deal and is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 season. So, Washington may look to draft his replacement in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Regardless, I expect Logan Thomas to be a TE1, but he won’t have top-three upside if the team were to draft his replacement. Thus, I would look to package Thomas in a trade for fellow TE George Kittle. It would allow you to upgrade at tight end without any worry that comes with Thomas. If you aren’t able to swing that, then hold tight. At the very least, you’ll have a TE1 with the ability to be a top-five tight end on a new team if Washington drafts his replacement.
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