2021 Fantasy TE Sleepers: 7 TEs To Draft In Later Rounds If You Miss Out On Travis Kelce Or Other Studs
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: Eagles TE Zach Ertz.
So, you’re not ready to spend an arm and a leg on a stud tight end like Travis Kelce or George Kittle. Don’t worry, we’ve still got you covered!
Our trio of fantasy experts — including Sean Koerner, the No. 1 draft ranker of 2019 — break down just which TEs you should be watching out for on draft day.
Some of these TEs saw their stock drop after disappointing 2020 campaigns, while others are on the verge of a huge breakout with more targets looking to head their way this season. Players are listed below with their ADP as of Aug. 26, according to Bestball 10s.
TE2 Sleepers Going Outside the Top 10
Sean Koerner: Irv Smith Jr. TE13 (Vikings)
My opinion here hasn’t changed: Smith is the TE to target out of the top 10. With Kyle Rudolph out of the picture, all signs point to a Year 3 breakout for the Alabama product.
The Vikings are big on two wide receiver sets, meaning Smith will emerge in a sort of WR3 role often. Additionally, Adam Thielen is due for some touchdown regression after he scored a career-high 14 last season — Smith should be able to pick up any pieces there.
Chris Raybon: Evan Engram TE15 (Giants)
Engram is a nice buy-low candidate to roster if you miss out on the top six tight ends. He finished fourth among TEs in targets last season, but scored only one TD. He also dropped eight passes, including three multi-drop games. He should be in line for some serious positive regression. The presence of Kyle Rudolph is unlikely to hurt Engram too much. In all likelihood, Rudolph will allow the Giants to go with more two TE sets and free Engram up to run routes instead of block. Engram never ran fewer than 77% of the routes in a game last season and has never averaged fewer than 74% of routes run in a season.
Samantha Previte: Adam Trautman TE18 (Saints)
I’ve been big on Trautman for a while, talking him up as a guy who could find himself inside the TE1 tier now that Michael Thomas is going to miss significant time recovering from an ankle injury.
Receiver Tre’Quan Smith is an obvious beneficiary from the Thomas injury — but so is Trautman, especially now that Jared Cook is gone. There would be less appeal for Trautman if Taysom Hill were to win the starting quarterback job, but right now Jameis Winston is the favorite to be the team’s Week 1 starter — which is good news for all the Saints’ pass catchers.
It looks like Trautman escaped any major injury after being carted off the field during a preseason game, but be sure to keep monitoring him there.
Deep TE Sleepers Going Outside the Top 20
Raybon: Zach Ertz TE23 (Eagles)
Carson Wentz was terrible last season, and Wentz’ poor play combined with an injury conspired to cause Ertz to bust in a major way from his top-five TE status. But Ertz still ran a route on 74% of dropbacks per game last season and is likely to operate in a similar capacity this year for as long as he’s on the Eagles (Dallas Goedert is the better blocking TE, but the Eagles will use more two-TE looks as long as Ertz remains on the team). If Ertz gets traded, it will likely be to a team where he is the starter, so I don’t see much downside in betting on a bounce-back season for a TE who was going as a top-five option just a year ago.
Previte: Zach Ertz TE23 (Eagles)
Ertz burned a bunch of fantasy managers last year after being drafted super high going into the year. He appeared in 10 games and finished as the 33rd-best TE and is now consensus ranked as TE23 in half PPR. There’s still an off chance he’s traded to somewhere like Buffalo — which would skyrocket his value — but even if he stays on the Eagles, I can still see him having a role in this offense. That is bad news for Dallas Goedert truthers.
Koerner: Hayden Hurst TE27 (Falcons)
The Falcons drafting Kyle Pitts No. 4 overall was a crushing blow to Hurst’s value, but don’t let that distract you from the Year 4 TE still having first-round talent.
Consensus ranked at TE27, Hurst is probably going way too late this year even with the addition of Pitts. The Falcons could see more 12 personnel formations under new head coach Arthur Smith. Not to mention the fact that Julio Jones is gone, leaving plenty of targets up for the taking.
All said, don’t count Hurst out in Atlanta — he could still see plenty of passing work with Pitts active and would provide massive upside should Pitts miss any time.
Previte: Dawson Knox TE29 (Bills)
Knox is entering Year 3 and barring a major trade before Week 1 (à la Zach Ertz), he is one of the cheapest ways to invest in a high-octane Buffalo offense. He will compete with Jacob Hollister on the team’s depth chart, but I like Knox to finish higher than his half PPR ADP.
Previte: O.J. Howard TE30 (Buccaneers)
Howard is a bit of an afterthought after suffering a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 4 last year, but what we did see of him and his connection with Tom Brady was encouraging.
The former first-round pick outproduced Rob Gronkowski while he was healthy and with Gronkowski on the wrong side of 30, there’s a clear path to Howard stepping up into a larger role if he can stay on the field. He’s also getting drafted as the TE28 (undrafted in most leagues) so he’s more of a guy to keep an eye on for waivers.