Identifying Late-Round Tight End Breakouts

How to see a tight end breakout coming before it happens and this year's top-5 candidates.

Last week, our Chad Parsons laid out four tight end strategies to win your league. With respect due to Chad and the great work he did digging into this year’s tight end tiers, only two strategies exist if you want to win the tight end position in your draft:

  1. Draft Travis Kelce or George Kittle in Round 2

  2. Ignore any tight end being drafted inside the top-100 picks (unless one falls) and swing from your heels on a couple of tight ends in the late rounds

The gap in weekly fantasy production from Kelce and Kittle to the No. 3 tight end (take your pick of Zach Ertz or Mark Andrews) is wide enough to justify their respective ADPs. A sweet spot for receiver value in Rounds 5-8 enables you to mix Kittle or Kelce in with a running back-heavy start to your draft and still field a wide receiver group that can compete with any of your opponents each week.

On the other hand, drafting Andrews or Ertz in Round 4 comes at the cost of running backs like James Conner and David Johnson, who could realistically touch the ball 300 times in above-average offenses. The opportunity cost remains significant in Rounds 5-8, where drafting a tight end means passing on potential low-end WR1s like Robert Woods, Terry McLaurin, T.Y. Hilton, D.J. Chark Jr, A.J. Green, and Brandin Cooks.

If you’re averse to spending a premium pick on Kelce or Kittle, fortunately, you don’t have to swing blindly on a late-round tight end. Focusing on the correct details led us to Kittle’s breakout season in 2018, as well as Andrews’ last year.

This year, the process is refined to eliminate overlapping categories, and the field extended to include more candidates since there haven’t been this many attractive tight ends available late in drafts in recent memory.

The three traits we’re seeking from the ideal late-round tight end:

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