3 late Round Tight Ends You Can’t Afford to Pass On
Waiting until late in the draft to select a tight end has become commonplace for many fantasy drafters and the strategy is largely viable because of the hit-rate of these players. The best tight end performances typically come from the very top-end players being drafted at the position but after that, the results become much more unpredictable. Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz have been high-floor options for years but the tight ends who get drafted in the middle rounds have been bad bets. Not only are they losing propositions but by drafting them you also forgo better selections at a position like wide receiver. This means that unless you get an elite option at tight end, the second-best avenue to production is through the later rounds and likely with multiple shots in leagues with deep rosters. So, who are the premier options to pick as your late-round tight end?
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos, TE13
The Broncos selected Noah Fant with the 20th overall pick in 2019 and were in a period of transition. They began the season starting Joe Flacco and their next option was Drew Lock, a second-round rookie, and developmental prospect. Despite playing on a team that was not set up to win in his first season, Fant shattered expectations by posting 562 yards on 40 receptions while scoring three times. These didn't make him a dominant fantasy tight end during his rookie campaign but they did set him on a historic path. Fant's receiving yardage total was the sixth-most for a rookie since the year 2000.
Over that span, nine rookie tight ends have finished between 500 and 600 yards and seven of those nine played more than a single game in the sophomore season. These seven averaged 61 receptions for 814 yards and seven scores in the second professional season. That would have been good for the TE7 overall finish last year. Among these precocious talents are George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski, and Mark Andrews. Production at a young age is a good indicator of long-term success at any position and across many different professions but it is especially informative at the tight end position. Fant's rookie season tells us he's set to post big numbers sooner rather than later. His college resume backs this up as well.
At Iowa, while competing with fellow first-round tight end T.J Hockenson, Fant went over 500 yards and scored seven times as a junior. He scored 11 times as a sophomore. At the combine, Fant ran a 4.5 Forty-Yard Dash and finished the weekend with a 94th-percentile athleticism score (per PlayerProfiler). He is one of the all-time Blue Chip prospects and his first NFL season doubles down on this fact. Fant's TE13 price in drafts is the floor.
Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins TE14
Mike Gesicki's season totals from 2019 draw striking similarities to Fant's. Gesicki caught 51 passes for 570 yards and scored six times. His season was not as much fueled by efficiency (like his Denver counterpart) as it was based on volume. His 89 targets were seventh among tight ends but his 910 air yards were fourth overall. This was because of his 10.2 average depth of target and 13 total targets, marks that ranked fourth and third respectively. Gesicki was used often but he was also used in a way that's conducive to chunks of yardage and big plays. If a tight end could be a deep threat, he would look like Gesicki.
This should come as a surprise to no one as Gesicki left the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine with a 4.54 Forty-Yard Dash and an overall athleticism score in the 97th-percentile. At 6'6" and 247 pounds, he is one of the best size-adjusted athletes on the field whenever the Dolphins are on offense.
He also faces less competition for targets than Fant. The Denver tight end was competing with a big, alpha receiver with Courtland Sutton on the field in a very similar way to Gesicki fighting for targets with DeVante Parker. However, the Dolphins only major change at receiver will be the return of Preston Williams, an undrafted wideout who impressed in eight games before suffering an ACL injury last season. Fant, on the other hand, now has to fend off another stud receiver in Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Denver's second-round pick K.J. Hamler. Plus, the Broncos added an ultra-athletic tight end prospect in Albert Okwungbunam to the mix. With more good play from Ryan Fitzpatrick or bad enough play from the veteran that Tua Tagavailoa gets the starting nod, Gesicki also has a high floor in the quarterback department. The same can't be said for Fant with Lock at the helm.
Fant is undoubtedly a more precocious talent and was a better prospect when entering the league. Gesicki is talented in his own right but draws his edge via his superior situation. No matter your philosophy on talent versus opportunity, there's a late-round tight end for you between these two.
Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys, TE20
Blake Jarwin should only be used as a backup selection at tight end but as far as deep sleepers at the position go, none has more upside than Dallas's ascending tight end. After being a priority practice squad player as a rookie, the Cowboys got right to integrating Jarwin into their offense over the past two years despite the presence of Jason Witten. Jarwin posted 307 yards on 27 catches in his second season and then topped that with 365 and 31 last year. He also played on a slightly higher percentage of the team's snaps. Now Witten is out of the picture and the Cowboys' previous tendency to expand Jarwin's role is going to take full form as he becomes an every-snap player.
That may not result in a 100-target season as he could be competing with the best wide receiver trio in the league: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb. It could still net him a massively efficient season on modest target volume though. The Cowboys led the league in yards per play last year, added a first-round receiver, and then fired their notably conservative and bumbling offensive mind at head coach, Jason Garrett. Jarwin is more likely to produce a TE1 season by being on the field often for a prolific offense and that's fine. Fantasy points are fantasy points and he has the makings of the next touchdown producer like Eric Ebron or Jared Cook in recent years.