Finding Hidden Gems At Tight End

Examining the late-round tight ends with the greatest chance of making a top-5 fantasy impact.

If you were paying attention to the right details last season, you waited to draft a tight end and reached into the late-single-digit rounds to scoop George Kittle. The results couldn’t have been more perfect. Kittle broke the NFL record for tight end receiving yards in a season, on his way to a top-3 finish, despite an affordable 12th-round ADP. The term “league-winner” gets thrown around a lot in fantasy football these days, but Kittle was the true definition.

Unfortunately, Kittle now carries a third-round price tag, which is reasonable but high enough to price him out of consideration for tight end value-seekers. Instead of paying top-dollar for actual-Kittle in 2019, our focus should shift to identifying the next Kittle -- a player who can realistically provide top-5 tight end production from the double-digit rounds.

Striking gold on a late-round tight end enables you to invest more of your premium picks at running back and wide receiver (fantasy football's most important positions), which builds roster depth needed to withstand injuries and allows for the inevitability one (or more) of your early-round picks will bust.

It’s unlikely another tight end will emerge from the late rounds to rewrite the record books this season. But it’s worth looking back on the thought process that led us to Kittle in 2018 to see if there are tight ends in this year’s player pool who check the same boxes:

  • Bargain ADP
  • Young and athletic
  • Quietly impressive rookie-year production
  • A quarterback capable of elevating his pass-catchers (Kittle managed to succeed in spite of this one after Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL)
  • Guaranteed snaps and targets
  • A tight end-friendly scheme
  • Red-zone potential

Dallas Goedert - 6/7 Boxes

Bargain ADP: Check
Goedert is currently the TE17 on DRAFT, usually making him available in Round 12 (we’ll use Best Ball ADP for this exercise since those are currently the only redraft leagues where entrants have some skin in the game).

Young and athletic: Check
We don’t have a 40-time on Goedert because he tore his hamstring right before the 2018 Senior Bowl and didn’t work out at the scouting combine. At his pro day, Goedert elected not to run the 40 but finished close enough to Kittle in the explosion and agility drills. Goedert isn’t nearly as fast as Kittle on tape, but his game isn’t built on speed and separation. He’s using his massive 6’5’’, 265 lbs. frame and high-point ability to win balls in the air.

Quietly impressive rookie-year production: Check
Goedert’s 33-334-4 receiving line didn’t set the world on fire last year, but it was impressive for a rookie stuck behind an elite tight end of the depth chart. He played on at least 55% of Philadelphia’s snaps in just eight games last season. But if we extrapolate his numbers in those games over a full season, he would have finished as the TE8 last year.

A quarterback capable of elevating his pass-catchers: Check
Carson Wentz has supported consecutive top-three finishes at tight end from Zach Ertz while also keeping Alshon Jeffery (and Nelson Agholor at times) in the weekly WR2 discussion. Wentz’s willingness to throw the ball up for grabs dovetails nicely with Goedert’s ability to pluck jump balls out of the air.

Guaranteed snaps and targets: Nope
The problem with Goedert emerging as a top-five tight end is Ertz -- the player with more receptions than anyone at the position over the last two seasons. While snaps and targets are a concern for Goedert, it’s worth noting five of the aforementioned eight games in which he recorded a minimum 55% snap-share came in the last six games of the season.

As things started to click for Goedert as a rookie, the Eagles were more inclined to run 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends) to keep defenses guessing whether a pass or run was coming when both Ertz and Goedert were on the field together. With early buzz Goedert’s off-season development has been phenomenal, we have every reason to believe the late-season trend will continue.

A tight end-friendly scheme: Check
Either Ertz or Travis Kelce have been at Doug Pederson’s disposal in five out of his six seasons as an offensive coordinator or head coach. It’s therefore unfair to say the Eagles have a tight end-friendly scheme, but we can check this box on the assumption Pederson knows how to leverage tight end talent when he has it on his roster.

Red-zone potential: Check
Not surprisingly for a player with his size and skill-set, Goedert was quick to make a red zone impact as a rookie. Three out of his four touchdowns came from inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in 2018. If we assume Goedert’s playing time will pick up where it left off last season, he’s going to eat into Ertz’s red zone looks and is a darkhorse candidate for double-digit touchdowns, even in a timeshare.

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