Tight End Sleepers for 2021 Fantasy Football Drafts

By Anthony Haage in Fantasy Sports
| July 26, 2021 5:39 am PDT

Everyone knows who the best tight ends in the NFL are. Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle are the studs of the league, while Kelce is one of the best fantasy football picks in 2021 in general.

But what do you do if you’re unable to snag one of the top options? That takes you to tight end sleeper territory, and you’ll want to know which options are worth investing in.

To help you navigate the murky tight end waters, let’s break down the best fantasy football tight end sleepers for 2021.

Logan Thomas – Washington

Thomas is being taken as the 10th-12th overall TE so far. This is sort of odd considering how involved he is in the Washington offense. Thomas had the 25th most targets in the entire league last year and 3rd among TEs with 110 targets.

Just look at what he did in 2020, basically coming out of nowhere.

Targets Receptions Yards Touchdowns
110 72 670 6

All of that was good for TE7. The only other TEs more involved in their offense were Darren Waller and Travis Kelce, who were both targeted 145 times each.

The Washington Football Team had a revolving door at quarterback with Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, and Kyle Allen all making starts, but Thomas remained a consistent piece in their offense throughout the year.

Thomas’ quarterback this year appears to be journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he isn’t a safe bet to start the whole year.

Logan Thomas still looks like a valuable pick in the late rounds of drafts if you don’t land a top tier TE early. He should be able to be among the top tight ends in targets again and he compliments Curtis Samuel and Terry McLaurin very well in that offense.

Mike Gesicki – Dolphins

Mike Gesicki had a solid year last season and finished as TE6. He comes into this year being drafted right around TE 9-12.

Gesicki should be able to at least return his draft value with Tua Tagovailoa entering his second season and new weapons in their offense.

Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle add more speed to that offense, which will open up the middle of the field for Gesicki. The Dolphins also have Jakeem Grant, who has tons of speed.

Gesicki has been a solid TE in the past two seasons, scoring as fantasy TE11 in 2019 and TE6 in 2020.

Year Targets Receptions Yards Touchdowns
2019 89 51 570 5
2020 85 53 703 6

Gesicki should be able to produce along the same lines as he has the past two seasons, but he could also have a career year in a new look offense.

Evan Engram – Giants

If Evan Engram is able to play a full season, he should easily reach 100+ targets. In his career, he averages around 7 targets per game (356 targets in 50 career games). Over a 16-game season, that would give him around 112 targets.

Engram is an elite talent from a physical perspective, and it played into him getting voted to the Pro Bowl last year. If he can limit his drops, he may have an impressive ceiling.

His drops were a big problem last year. See where he ranked in that department in 2020.

Stat Result Rank
Drops 11 2nd
Drop % 10.1% 8th

The good news? Engram is talented, and he saw 109 targets a year ago.

The Giants added one of the bigger named free agents in Kenny Golladay and him and Engram should be a very underrated WR-TE duo. The Giants also get Saquon Barkley back from injury, so Engram could benefit from the defense focusing on stopping Barkley and forgetting about Engram.

Tyler Higbee – Rams

Higbee should get some more looks this season due to an upgrade at quarterback and the departure of the Rams’ other tight end Gerald Everett.

Everett had 62 targets last season for the Rams for 41 catches, 417 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Most of that production should go to Higbee, who now is the lone starting tight end in LA.

Higbee has had two decent years in a row now and 2021 could be his third straight season as a top 16 TE season.

Year Targets Receptions Yards Touchdowns
2019 89 69 734 3
2020 60 44 521 5

Higbee has breakout potential with Stafford now at quarterback for the Rams. Stafford helped T.J. Hockenson elevate to TE5 last year, which could suggest Higbee’s ceiling is rather high.

Given that Higbee finished as TE9 in 2019, the arrival of Stafford probably makes his current 12th round ADP a bit silly.

Anthony Firkser – Titans

The Titans lost Jonnu Smith to free agency and added Julio Jones via trade. This should be great news for Anthony Firsker. With one of the best WR duos in the league on the outside for Tennessee, the middle of the field should be open often for Firkser.

The Titans offense featured Smith and Firkser pretty evenly last year, with 65 targets going to Jonnu Smith and 53 going to Firkser.

Firkser will now be the most targeted tight end on the Titans.

The question now turns to how Jones will impact the offense.

Normally having a good WR-TE pair means that both players will complement each other. There is potential for that with the WR group in Tennessee and Firkser.

Firkser isn’t going to get any serious yardage being basically the 4th option on that offense, but he could still get around 500-700 yards with good touchdown potential.

That’s all you can ask for with a late-round tight end.

Zach Ertz – Eagles

There is a lot of question marks coming into this season for Zach Ertz. He was a top 5 tight end from 2017-2019, but 2020 was a completely different story.

Year Targets Receptions Yards Touchdowns
2017 110 74 824 8
2018 156 110 1,163 8
2019 135 88 916 6
2020 72 36 335 1

Ertz’s impressive run came to a screeching halt in 2020. He only caught 50% of his targets and finished as TE35 in 11 games played.

His position-mate Dallas Goedert is being drafted within the top 8 TEs this year, but Ertz could end up on the waiver wire in some leagues. It is especially weird to see that Ertz out targeted Goedert (72 versus 65), yet Goedert is being drafted way higher than Ertz.

Ertz’s name has also been thrown around in trade rumors, so he could be on the move from Philadelphia before the season even starts. For what it’s worth, there have been recent reports suggesting he may stick around.

It is hard to say if that will hurt or help his fantasy value because of where he might land, but he should be good for another 60-target season in Philly regardless. Maybe more if he shows flashes of his 2017-2019 self, he could get even more targets.

Ertz is forgotten about in 2021 fantasy drafts and you could get him for dirt cheap.

Rob Gronkowski – Buccaneers

Gronk has been one of the best fantasy tight ends ever. He has been TE1 overall 3 different times in his career. Now, he isn’t the same player as back then because of injuries and a brief retirement, but he still managed to be TE8 last year.

He had a slow start in 2020, but he got right back into Gronk form after about week 4. He was mainly being used as a blocker early in the year, only getting 14 targets in the first 4 weeks with zero touchdowns.

After a slow start, Gronk showed us that he is still capable of being an effective tight end in the NFL.

Gronk scored all 7 of his touchdowns from weeks 6-15 and he added 2 more touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl victory.

It was an impressive stretch for Gronk and he is back for 2021, along with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Tom Brady, and potentially Antonio Brown. That offense can provide a lot of touchdown opportunities for Gronk again.

Jared Cook – Chargers

Jared Cook has been very consistent in the past four years. He’s currently being drafted around TE18-20, but he’s been a top 15 TE for the past four seasons.

Just look at the production and ranking he’s enjoyed over the last four years.

Year Targets Receptions Yards Touchdowns
2017 (TE15) 86 54 688 2
2018 (TE5) 101 68 896 6
2019 (TE6) 65 43 705 9
2020 (TE12) 60 37 504 7

Cook was amazing in 2018 with Oakland and 2019 with New Orleans. This year he goes to Los Angeles to play with the young rising star, Justin Herbert.

Cook joins an underrated offensive group with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, and Jalen Guyton. Cook should be in for another productive year in an offense that should be able to give him some good scoring chances.

Despite his consistency, Cook is being drafted in round 14 in most drafts. The change at quarterback is worrisome, but he still looks like one of the best 2021 tight end sleepers.

Other Fantasy Football TE Sleepers for 2021

  • Irv Smith Jr. – Vikings (Round 13)
  • Gerald Everett – Seahawks (Round 14)

With Kyle Rudolph leaving Minnesota, the athletic Smith profiles as one of the better 2021 fantasy tight end sleepers. Everett’s departure from L.A. opens the door for a big year for Higbee, but it also could mean big things for him in Seattle.

If you don’t believe in drafting a top-tier tight end in the early rounds of drafts, these 2021 fantasy football tight end sleepers are for you. They won’t be super expensive when it comes to the draft, but they can turn in some useful players as the year goes on.

Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Darren Waller will be off the board early, but these tight ends prove that you don’t need one of those top 3 to win your league. It is also smart to prepare to be without one of them, as only 3 teams out of an average of 10 in a league will get them.

Here are some other fantasy articles to help you get ready for the 2021 NFL fantasy season!

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