2021 Best Ball Rankings, Tiers & Draft Strategies For TEs

2021 Best Ball Rankings, Tiers & Draft Strategies For TEs article feature image
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Getty Images. Pictured: Darren Waller, George Kittle, Travis Kelce

It’s officially time to kick off fantasy football draft season with the first edition of my best ball tiers.

Since the highest-scoring players automatically compose each week’s starting lineup in best ball, this format is all about the draft. And to help you prep for it, I’ve used my very early projections to rank tight ends into tiers.

These tiers also factor in Best Ball Points Added (BBPA), which is a metric I created to evaluate which players offer the most value in this format. Each point a TE scores more than a given week’s TE12 is counted toward their season-long BBPA score while any TE13 performance or worse in a given week is scored as a zero since “dud” (or even missed) games don’t have as big of a negative impact in best ball. (Click here to skip ahead to BBPA scores for every TE.)

Keep in mind that these tiers are based on projections that are bound to change as the rest of the offseason unfolds. But for now, let’s run through my initial TE tiers for best ball!

Note: All ADP data is via Best Ball 10s.


More Best Ball Tiers: QB | RB | WR


Best Ball Rankings: TEs

Click this dropdown to preview the full set of TE tiers
Tier TE
1 Travis Kelce, Chiefs
2 Darren Waller, Raiders
George Kittle, 49ers
3 Mark Andrews, Ravens
T.J. Hockenson, Lions
Kyle Pitts, Falcons
4 Dallas Goedert, Eagles
Noah Fant, Broncos
Logan Thomas, Washington
5 Robert Tonyan Jr., Packers
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins
Tyler Higbee, Rams
Irv Smith Jr., Vikings
Hunter Henry, Patriots
Evan Engram, Giants
Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers
Jonnu Smith, Patriots
6 Blake Jarwin, Cowboys
Austin Hooper, Browns
Cole Kmet, Bears
Anthony Firkser, Titans
Adam Trautman, Saints
Jared Cook, Chargers
Eric Ebron, Steelers
7 Gerald Everett, Seahawks
Hayden Hurst, Falcons
Zach Ertz, Eagles
Chris Herndon, Jets
O.J. Howard, Buccaneers
Dawson Knox, Bills
Mo Alie-Cox, Colts
8 Dan Arnold, Panthers
Jimmy Graham, Bears
Jack Doyle, Colts
Will Dissly, Seahawks
Jordan Akins, Texans
C.J. Uzomah, Bengals

Tier 1

Travis Kelce, Chiefs

Kelce is worthy of a top-five pick when you consider how big of an edge he offers over the entire position. He finished inside the top 12 TEs at a ridiculous 93% rate last season, and his 104 BBPA were more than double the third-ranked TE (the Packers’ Robert Tonyan at 49).

Tier 2

Darren Waller, Raiders
George Kittle, 49ers

The TE position drops off another cliff after this tier, making these two worth a second-round pick.

Waller is the safer pick of the two, but Kittle has the higher ceiling. If Kittle can stay healthy for all 17 games and benefit from positive touchdowns regression (he’s never scored more than five in a season), he would be able to push Kelce for the overall TE1.

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Tier 3

Mark Andrews, Ravens
T.J. Hockenson, Lions
Kyle Pitts, Falcons

Andrews is much more valuable in best ball than in season-long head-to-head formats as he can provide spiked weeks (43% top 12 rate) while also having a low weekly floor (29% DUD rate).

Hockenson should be a target monster this season as the Lions have arguably the worst WR depth chart in the NFL.

And while rookie TEs typically take a few years to achieve fantasy relevance, Pitts will be the exception — I expect him to be a borderline top-five TE out of the gate.

Tier 4

Dallas Goedert, Eagles
Noah Fant, Broncos
Logan Thomas, Washington

It seems likely that Zach Ertz will be traded away before the start of the 2021 season, which makes Goedert a steal at his current ADP (TE9). I expect him to settle in as the TE7 once it’s official that Ertz will be playing for another team.

Meanwhile, Fant comes with built-in upside since he could be catching passes from Aaron Rodgers this season. If Rodgers ends up staying in Green Bay, though, I would expect that Fant and Robert Tonyan will flip spots in my rankings.

nfl 17th game-impacts-schedule-strength-2021
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images. Pictured: Noah Fant

Tier 5

Robert Tonyan Jr., Packers
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins
Tyler Higbee, Rams
Irv Smith Jr., Vikings
Hunter Henry, Patriots
Evan Engram, Giants
Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers
Jonnu Smith, Patriots

Higbee was drafted as the TE7 in best ball last season based on his strong finish in 2019, but he ended up being a massive bust as he split time fairly evenly with Gerald Everett. With Everett now in Seattle and Matthew Stafford replacing Jared Goff at quarterback, Higbee is a great bet to bounce back this season.

Similarly, Smith will benefit from Kyle Rudolph’s departure. The talented TE is entering Year 3 and should break out in a big way as I expect him to be the Vikings’ No. 3 target in 2021.

Tier 6

Blake Jarwin, Cowboys
Austin Hooper, Browns
Cole Kmet, Bears
Anthony Firkser, Titans
Adam Trautman, Saints
Jared Cook, Chargers
Eric Ebron, Steelers

Firkser looks like a steal at his current ADP (TE25). The Titans lost Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith to free agency, creating a massive opportunity for Firkser this season. We can reasonably project him to run a route on 55-60% of passing plays and to have around 50-60 receptions.

You could do much worse at this point in the draft.

Tier 7

Gerald Everett, Seahawks
Hayden Hurst, Falcons
Zach Ertz, Eagles
Chris Herndon, Jets
O.J. Howard, Buccaneers
Dawson Knox, Bills
Mo Alie-Cox, Colts

Everett was held back in his four seasons on the Rams due to Higbee’s presence. However, Everett has a chance to be Russell Wilson’s top TE in 2021. The Seahawks also lack a true No. 3 WR, which means Everett comes with a ton of upside.

Tier 8

Dan Arnold, Panthers
Jimmy Graham, Bears
Jack Doyle, Colts
Will Dissly, Seahawks
Jordan Akins, Texans
C.J. Uzomah, Bengals

Arnold may be worth a late-round flier if he’s able to leapfrog Ian Thomas and become the Panthers’ main pass-catching TE. Akins comes with a similar upside if he can beat out what feels like 30 tight ends currently on the Texans’ roster.


Best Ball Points Added: TEs

“Duds” represent weeks that a TE finished outside of the top 24 at the position.

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