5 Divisive Tight Ends, and When to Draft Them

5 tight end situations where our experts have a wide-range of opinions, and how you should handle them on draft day.

You don’t need us to tell you Travis Kelce is great. Even if we made the case Kelce is overrated (which we’re not doing), you probably wouldn’t listen to us and would happily draft him at or near his average draft position. Why? Because the vast majority of analysts in the industry see Kelce as, at worst, one of the two best tight ends and, more commonly, the No. 1 option.

In a similar vein, it’s within the range of possibilities Dawson Knox emerges as a viable fantasy option, but it’s a long shot, and everyone agrees. Whether we see him as TE25 or TE30 isn’t relevant to you on draft day. Knox will be a waiver pickup if he shows something in nearly every league.

But what about those tight ends where we don’t have a consensus view? At Footballguys, unlike many sites, we allow all of our staff to share their rankings. In fact, we encourage it. But the reality is most subscribers focus on the consensus of all of our disparate viewpoints. With someone like Kelce, where 14 of 15 rankers have him No. 1, our individual opinions don’t matter much. But what about the players you’re targeting who we see quite differently?

Those are the picks that can make or break your draft. When you’re on the clock, and someone we have ranked at No. 10 is on the board, do you reach for him a round earlier than ADP, or do you lean toward letting him fall?

With the draft season underway, here are the highest-variance tight end debates and how you should handle them.

Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rank Name Avg Median St Dev Min Rank Max Rank Difference bw Min Max
11 Rob Gronkowski 11.3 11.0 3.88 5 19 14

The Details: 15 staff members rank Gronkowski 11.3, on average, in PPR formats. The highest ranking put Gronkowski 5th at the position, while the lowest ranker has him 19th -- essentially undraftable. Four staff rank him 11th, which is the median and in line with his overall consensus ranking. He has the highest standard deviation of ranking among the consensus Top 12. And he's currently being drafted 7th, on average.

The Upside Case by Phil Alexander: The fantasy football demise of Rob Gronkowski is a fallacy. History is on the side of elite tight ends in their age-31 season, and Gronkowski is the best the position has ever seen. Even if the presence of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate limits Gronkowski to a modest 60% of the offensive snaps he can still finish with 85-90 targets, which is possible (if not likely) given his familiarity with Tom Brady. Assuming Gronkowski's targets per snap, catch rate, and yards per reception remain in line with his career norms (they did in 2018), we would be looking at about 60 catches, 800 receiving yards, and of course, 8-10 touchdowns -- numbers that approximate what Mark Andrews put up in 2019.

The Downside Case by Chris Allen: Gronkowski's target share was as high as 23% during his time with Tom Brady in New England. The targets and touchdowns were why Gronkowski was a part of the first-discussion three or four seasons ago. But, his situation (and health) has drastically changed. Instead of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola being the primary receivers, Gronkowski is competing with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for targets. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate couldn't top 60 targets with Bruce Arians in 2019. Brady might prefer his former teammate in the redzone, but that won't help him meet his current draft cost as his weekly target share will likely take a hit.


The future Hall of Famer may have his moments, as the only receiver on the roster who Tom Brady knows and trusts. But we think you should pass on him unless he falls multiple rounds beyond ADP. 14 of 15 staff rank Gronkowski below his average draft position. While one staffer has him TE5, only two others see him as TE8 or higher.

T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

Rank Name Avg Median St Dev Min Rank Max Rank Difference bw Min Max
13 T. J. Hockenson 12.8 13.0 3.88 6 20 14

The Details: Hockenson has an average ranking of 12.8 in PPR formats, per 15 staff members. He ranges from TE6 for the most optimistic staffer, and bottoms out at TE20 from his biggest pessimist. His 3.88 standard deviation is as volatile as Gronkowski, only two spots lower in the rankings and just outside the Top 12. Five staff members rank him 13th, which is both the median ranking and in-line with the consensus outlook. And he's currently being drafted 15th, on average.

The Upside Case by Jason Wood: Hockenson's pedigree is unassailable. The game tape at Iowa answered every question both as a blocker, receiver, and in the open field with the ball in his hands. His university has a storied history at the position, including George Kittle, Hockenson's predecessor. Most scouts who watched them both saw Hockenson as the better player. His measurables back up what we saw on tape, as did his dynamic training camp and preseason last year. But, his 2019 regular season wasn't great. But we shouldn't have expected otherwise. Pick a great NFL tight end from your stack of Topps cards, and chances are they had a forgettable first year. It's the rite of passage at the position. Hockenson's rookie numbers were nearly identical to what all the best ever to play the game delivered. And yet that same group went on to dominate starting in their second seasons. As long as Matthew Stafford is healthy, there's no reason Hockenson should markedly improve. If he matches his comp group, you're getting a top-3 fantasy tight end at a bottom-20 cost.

The Downside Case by Andy Hicks: T.J. Hockenson had a nice season for a rookie until it ended with an ankle injury. Most of his good numbers, though, came in Week 1. After that breakout game, he only exceeded 31 yards twice and barely averaged two catches a game. By the way, his sore ankle still isn’t right nine months later. Maybe it will be fine by the start of the season, maybe it won’t. Good luck getting a straight answer before your draft.

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