The tight end position was very top heavy for fantasy football purposes in 2018, with a huge divide between the top tier and the rest of the players at the position. Two of the three players in the top tier were unsurprising names in Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce, who were both being drafted in the first 50 picks last season.
George Kittle, on the other hand, broke out after being a late-round flier, going outside the top 150 selections in fantasy football. Kittle had shown some promise as a rookie in 2017, but he really took off in 2018, finishing third (behind only Kelce and Ertz) at the position in targets, receptions and fantasy points.
A breakout that extreme is always going to be tough to predict, but with such a big gap between the elite and non-elite fantasy tight ends in 2019, everyone will be looking for this year's version of Kittle. Here are three TEs that could turn out to be breakouts this coming season.
3. T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
Going with a rookie tight end is always a gamble, but it's also not often we see a team spend a top-10 pick at the position. The Detroit Lions obviously needed TE help after not targeting anyone at the position even 25 times in 2018, and T.J. Hockenson should have no trouble stepping in as the day-one starter. Three of the Lions' six target leaders from 2018 are gone (vacating 30.9 percent of their targets), leaving a big void for Hockenson to potentially help fill.
2. Trey Burton, Chicago Bears
Last season was Trey Burton's first year a full-time starter, and he finished fourth in targets on the Chicago Bears with 76. His 1.9 fantasy points per target ranked fifth among tight ends with at least 50 targets on the year, and that efficiency ranked one spot ahead of Kittle. He's still fighting an uphill battle for volume, having finished fourth on the team in targets in 2018, but his athleticism and efficiency could point to some big-time upside.
1. Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
Vance McDonald offers the potential for both top-end volume and efficiency with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019. He missed the season opener and spent some time banged up in 2018, but still finished with 73 targets in a crowded offense. With Antonio Brown's departure freeing up 168 of the team's 676 targets from last year, McDonald has a real chance to join the elite ranks of the 100-target tight ends. As icing on the cake, he also finished with 1.8 fantasy points per target in 2018, building on his 1.6 from his first year in Pittsburgh.
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Jason Schandl is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Jason Schandl also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jaymun. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.