2019 TIGHT ENDS - Rookies and Redshirts

Fantasy4um is back! Get ready for this year's draft with 2019's fantasy football rookie and second year tight ends.  Value picks, keepers, and sleepers to be had.   The next Kittle or Kelce could be in this post!

Round 1, Pick 8, 8th overall (Detroit Lions): T.J. Hockenson, TE, University of Iowa
23 games played
RECEIVING: 73 receptions, 1080 yards, 14.8 yards per reception, 9TD
RUSHING: 1 attempts, 4 yards, 4.0 yards per carry (ypc), 1TD

Anyone who's seen Hockenson's tape knows he deserves to go in the first round.  At 6'5", 251lbs, he's a big, fast, explosive tight end who ran a 4.7 40 at this year's combine.  For reference, Zach Ertz ran a 4.76, and he's one of the NFL's best tight ends.  Hockenson is a quality route runner who knows how to get open and tracks the ball well.  In addition, he's not afraid to put his hand in the dirt and fight in the trenches.  He's a nasty run blocker who finishes his blocks and he does great in pass protection.  There's no shortage of film where he stands up defensive ends and linebackers, and he picks up safety blitzes.  He's currently nearly identical in height and weight to Zach Ertz, but scouts say he can pack a bit more onto his slender frame, and get even more physical.  The Lions took him this year at 8th overall, and it's easy to see why.  They don't have a lot of receiving options, and Stafford desperately needs pass catchers.  There hasn't been someone to catch the short and intermediate stuff since Golden Tate left.  Amendola's health issues have kept him off the field, which means Hockenson could seize the opportunity and step in and be an immediate solution to this problem.  The Lions have a quality route runner and pass catcher who can double as a sixth offensive lineman.  Hockenson will obviously not be drafted with Ertz, Kelce, Kittle, and Ebron, but he could go as high as the 8th round given the lack of depth at the position.  He could easily finish as a top 10 fantasy tight end this year.

Round 1, Pick 20, 20th overall (Denver Broncos): Noah Fant, TE, University of Iowa
30 games played
RECEIVING: 78 receptions, 1083 yards, 13.9 yards per reception, 19TD
RUSHING: 4 attempts, 0 yards, 0 yards per carry (ypc), 0TD

If Hockenson was the swiss army knife that did everything in the Hawkeye's offense, Noah Fant is the pass catching specialist who will become a matchup nightmare and redzone specialist.  Fant more than doubled Hockenson's touchdown total.  He ran a 4.5 40 6'4", 249lbs and basically has a 40-inch vertical thanks to his basketball and high-jump specialties.  He's an explosive, all-around athlete who knows how to get open in the endzone, and will be a threat to score on any route he runs anywhere on the field.  He's basically a big, physical receiver who's asked to block occasionally.  He has great hands, a decent catch radius, and can reel in just about any catch thrown his way.  However, his strengths also play into his weaknesses.  Fant is a pass catching specialist who will be asked to catch occasionally.  His presence on the field could draw additional coverage from opposing defenses, especially inside the 20 yard line.  Critics also say he gets bumped off his route, which could be bad for a pass catching specialist.  The Broncos have plenty of pass catching options including Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and DaeSean Hamilton, but Sanders was out for the majority of last year, and Sutton, Patrick, and Hamilton didn't make much of an impact in 2018.  Yes, theoretically there are plenty of mouths to feed on this Broncos offense.  However, Fant could stand out above the rest and be this year's deep sleeper.  No, he's not the all-purpose tight end Hockenson is, but hopefully Fant will develop into a reliable pass-catching target Denver needs.  He's a dart throw and should be the second tight end drafted in most fantasy teams.  Of note, Fant will battle Jake Butt and Jeff Heuerman for snaps.

Round 2, Pick 18, 50th overall (Minnesota Vikings): Irv Smith, TE, University of Alabama
24 games played
RECEIVING: 58 receptions, 858 yards, 14.4 yards per reception, 10TD
RUSHING: 0 attempts, 0 yards, 0 yards per carry (ypc), 0TD

Smith isn't the tallest tight end out there.  At 6'2", 242lbs, he's a stocky weapon who can be used a number of different ways.  He didn't actually get the start until his junior year.  Even then, he didn't get many chances to develop his skill at the position because Bama just didn't use him a ton.  His skillset at the position is still raw, but he did get a good start in a good program.  He has good hands, good speed down the seam, and he can be used as a slot receiver.  It's hard to see why the Vikings drafted him in the first place.  They have plenty of receiving options including tight end Kyle Rudolph in addition to Thielen and Diggs, so there may not be enough targets to go around.  At the moment, Smith is a depth add for the Vikings who will play the fullback or lead block role, and he may catch the occasional pass out of the backfield.  However, he can be left on the wire at the moment.

Round 2, Pick 20, 52th overall (Cincinnati Bengals): Drew Sample, TE, University of Washington
31 games played
RECEIVING: 46 receptions, 487 yards, 10.6 yards per reception, 5TD
RUSHING: 0 attempts, 0 yards, 0 yards per carry (ypc), 0TD

At 6'5", 255lbs, Drew Sample if it's the physical mold of an NFL tight end. He is a complete, all around weapon who can block for the runn game, help out in pass protection, and occasionally stretch the field with his 4.7 40 speed and reliable hands.  His quiet demeanor and get to work attitude are two things that NFL coaches have to love.  He earned a Pac-12 honorable mention by snagging 25 targets for 252 yards and 3 scores during his senior year.  There has been criticism that he's not "nasty" enough and that he doesn't have that killer instinct that's required of an NFL tight end at times, but he more than gets the job done.  Sample actually slides up the depth charts as a result of AJ Green's injury. Tyler Boyd has historically not been has productive on the field when AJ Green is absent.  This means that the Bengals will need additional pass catchers.  Eifert has played just 14 games throughout his last 3 seasons.  Uzomah has filled in admirably but is not the long term solution.  Sample is more physically gifted and he could take this opportunity to develop into a long-term weapon for Cincinnati. He could be a sneaky add at the end of most drafts especially and keeper and dynasty leagues, but he also has a chance to make an immediate impact and pan out this season.

Round 3, Pick 5, 69th overall (Jacksonville Jaguars): Josh Oliver, TE, San Jose State University
30 games played
RECEIVING: 98 receptions, 1067 yards, 10.9 yards per reception, 7TD
RUSHING: 0 attempts, 0 yards, 0 yards per carry (ypc), 0TD

The first thing that jumps out about Josh Oliver is his size and speed.  He ran a 4.63 40 at 6'5", 249lbs which means this kid can move.  The next thing that jumps out about him is his ball skill and his hands.  Put these two together and his potential owners have a pass-catching specialist who can work all three levels of the field.  He couldn't get up field in a hurry and use his catch radius and reliable hands to high point the ball and bring in a lot of passes.  ASJ couldn't do it, and Julius Thomas was under-utilized.  Chris Conley, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, and DJ Chark aren't the most intimidating receiving threats either.  Nick Foles has always had a reliable tight end he could throw to in Zach Ertz.  The Jaguars will try to be more balanced on offense and Oliver could be a part of that game plan.  Unfortunately, his blocking in the run game and in pass protection could use a lot of work. Oliver is a project tight end who is ready to get on the field and assume pass-catching duties, but opposing defenses might be able to tell it's a pass play.  Oliver will need to work on his blocking abilities before he can earn more time on the playing field.  However, the opportunities could be there thanks to the Jaguars' lack of consistent receiving options.  He's worth monitoring in deep leagues and worth drafting in deep dynasty leagues.

**UPDATE** Oliver suffered a significant hamstring injury during practice. He will remain out for the foreseeable future as he continues to rehab the injury.

Round 3, Pick 12, 75th overall (Green Bay Packers): Jace Sternberger, TE, University of Texas A&M
15 games played
RECEIVING: 48 receptions, 832 yards, 17.3 yards per reception, 10TD
RUSHING: 1 attempts, 4 yards, 4.0 yards per carry (ypc), 0TD

Sternberger is basically a really big wideout.  He was a two-sport athlete in high school where he played basketball and football.  At 6'4", 251lbs, he uses his body to grab a lot of rebounds with his reliable hands and large catch radius.  He's a great route runner who's able to make small adjustments to catch just about anything thrown even remotely close to him.  He mostly works the short and intermediate routes, but he does have enough speed to work deep in the secondary where he's a matchup nightmare for most defensive backs.  He garnered first-team All-SEC honors after he lead Texas A&M with his receiving performance during his senior year.  Now, there are some faults here.  His blocking needs a lot of work.  He'll help out with the occasional chip and he'll block smaller linebackers, but there's a lot to be desired with his ability to seal the edge or be the lead blocker on run plays.  Nevertheless, Aaron Rodgers can make him a superstar if the 2 can get on the same page.  Randall Cobb is now in Dallas, Jordy has been retired, Geronimo Allison struggled with injuries last year, and Jimmy Graham is in the twilight of his career.  The Packers liked what they saw out of Sternberger as a pass catcher, which is why they drafted him where they did.  He's worth a late round flier if where the Packers drafted him is indicative of his future use.  Continue to monitor training camp for further developments.

Round 3, Pick 23, 86th overall (Houston Texans): Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State University
19 games played
RECEIVING: 51 receptions, 637 yards, 12.5 yards per reception, 8TD
RUSHING: 0 attempts, 0 yards, 0 yards per carry (ypc), 0TD

Warring is a size-speed guy who will be a matchup nightmare for years to come.  At 6'5", 252lbs, he's an exceptional athlete, as illustrated by his NFL Combine measurables.  The former basketball player loves to use his 4.6 speed to get downfield and his 36 inch vertical and reliable hands to high-point the ball and reel in strikes.  His blocking could use a couple of tweaks, but otherwise it's all there.  He's the complete tight end, which is the reason the Texans took him in the third round of this year's draft, despite drafting Jordan Thomas in the sixth round last year.  Here's the thing.  The Texans haven't had a good tight end since Owen Daniels.  While he didn't post superstar numbers like Kelce and Ertz do today, he was reliable.  Fiedorowicz retired after just 4 years of football, Griffin did his best, and Thomas just didn't cut it.  Watson was the most sacked QB in the league last year, and Houston desperately needs help with their blocking up front and a big target with good hands that Watson can dump the ball off to in a hurry.  Warring offers big upgrades over Thomas and Griffin, so he should win the starting job easily.  He's a sneaky add at the end of most drafts.

Round 3, Pick 33, 96th overall (Buffalo Bills): Dawson Knox, TE, University of Ole Miss
18 games played
RECEIVING: 39 receptions, 605 yards, 15.5 yards per reception, 5TD
RUSHING: 0 attempts, 0 yards, 0 yards per carry (ypc), 0TD

Dawson Knox is a gym rat, if anything.  He is a project tight end that will require some time to develop. However, his size and his strength both show up on tape.  He does a decent job blocking and positioning himself to catch passes.  At 6'4", 254lbs, the former quarterback-turned-tight-end how's a good base to develop his position skill sets.  He walked on and redshirted as a tight end at Ole Miss.  With a bit of work and coaching, he can turn into a quality weapon. However, he's been riddled with injuries throughout his football career which is part of the reason he gave up throwing the ball.  He hasn't spent much time at tight end, but at least his football knowledge might help him understand and read coverages when he's running his routes.  He joins a very young Buffalo Bills team whose pass-catching options include John Brown, Zay Jones, Cole Beasley, and Robert Foster.  He sits behind Tyler Kroft at the moment on the depth chart at the moment, but he can move up thanks to Kroft's injury history.  Knox a bit of a long shot to make fantasy impact at the moment thanks to his raw quarterback Josh Allen and the other receiving options currently on the roster. However, he's certainly worth monitoring moving forward given the lack of depth at the tight end position.

**UPDATE** Knox is currently nursing a hamstring injury. Tyler kroft appears to be ahead of him in terms of recovery and on the depth chart.


MARK ANDREWS, Baltimore Ravens
Mark Andrews might be the tight end fantasy sleeper of the year.  Hayden Hurst may have been the Ravens first round draft pick in 2018, but Andrews is the player who made a big impact.  The former Sooner was a big part of Baker Mayfield's Heisman Trophy campaign.  He started 14 games and reeled in 62 catches for 958 yards and 8 scores.  He went on to win the John Mackey award that year for the best tight end in the NCAA.  At 6'5", 256lbs, he's a big target for his young quarterback Lamar Jackson.  Andrews isn't the biggest or most explosive guy, but the thing that sets the former wideout-turned-tight-end a apart is his understanding of coverages.  On tape, he is constantly open.  He knows how to find a soft spots in coverage.  Then he just sits in those spots and waits for the pass or Lamar will drop a dime and hit him in stride.  He used his knowledge and receiving chops to produce 552 yards and 3 touchdowns on 34 receptions during his rookie campaign.  This will play directly into his quarterback's style which should pay dividends for fantasy owners of both Jackson and Andrews.  There aren't many receiving options for the Ravens either, so the opportunity should be there.  His current ADP puts him roughly in rounds 14 or 15 in 12-man leagues.  He's certainly worth drafting at least as a backup tight end.

Herndon is an exceptional athlete through and through.  There's no shortage of highlights of him using his speed to get upfield to allow Sam Darnold to hit him in stride.  At 6'4", 253lbs, he's big, fast, and he can catch it in traffic or in the open field.  He's tough to bring down after the catch too.  He's been dubbed a matchup nightmare who stays on his feet after contact and he can get upfield in a hurry.  While he's not as explosive as Andrews, he certainly has the wheels for a guy his size to house it.  He has plenty of run after the catch ability which will help him with all of those checkdowns and tight end screens.  This should be a big help to his fellow sophomore Sam Darnold.  Herndon should excel in new head coach Adam Gase's conservative system.  Herndon posted 502 yards and 4 scores on 39 catches last year.  He's already developed a rapport with Darnold and should take a step forward this year.  He's suspended for the first 4 games of the season, but he's certainly worth a late round add in most leagues, and a waiver wire stash in week 3 thanks to the lack of depth at the position.

IAN THOMAS, Carolina Panthers
Here's the thing.  Greg Olsen hasn't been played a complete season since 2016.  He's not a major contributor even when he's on the field because he's limited by his foot injuries.  It didn't take long for his handcuff, Ian Thomas, to get on the field.  The 6'3", 260lb fourth rounder out of Indiana got his first start in week 2 after Olsen left with an injury.  He's a raw talent, but be put together an impressive body of work during the last 5 weeks of the season, catching 25 passes for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He's a good, all-around player who can block for the run game, but he can also attack up the middle of the field.  He can catch it in traffic and reel in contested catches.  He's a raw talent, but he can contribute in all the ways that a tight end should be able to and he should continue to develop.  Olsen is in the twilight of his career and Funchess has moved on to the Colts.  Cam has altered his throwing motion as a result of his shoulder injury which means he may avoid the deep shot to DJ Moore and just check it down to Thomas.  This could be the case more often than not with Cam's modified throwing motion and reduced velocity.  Thomas was ranked TE32 at the time this was published, and his overall ADP was 292.  He's certainly worth adding at the end of the draft.  Greg Olsen's owners should roster Thomas as sort of a handcuff as well.

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