The Duel

Breakout Tight Ends to Draft in 2020 Fantasy Football

Max Staley
Chris Herndon's fantasy outlook has him going way too late in fantasy drafts.
Chris Herndon's fantasy outlook has him going way too late in fantasy drafts. / Steven Ryan/Getty Images
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The tight end position is especially tricky to evaluate this season. Once the top-tier options like Travis Kelce and George Kittle are off the board, fantasy managers are left with more unreliable, boom-or-bust choices like Evan Engram or Hunter Henry.

Don't panic if you miss out on those top-tier players, however, as there are plenty of value options that aren't even being drafted as starters. With that in mind, let's take a look at four breakout candidates currently being drafted outside the top 12 at the position.

Note: All average draft position (ADP) data is from FantasyPros.

4. Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: TE21)

Blake Jarwin fantasy outlook makes him a breakout candidate.
Blake Jarwin fantasy outlook makes him a breakout candidate. / Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Blake Jarwin was efficient in 2019. Vying for snaps behind Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Witten, Jarwin averaged 8.9 yards per target. That was the sixth-best mark at the position. With Witten gone, Jarwin's 39 percent snap share should be in for a massive spike this year. The biggest knock against him is the three-headed WR trio he's playing with, but there's still room for him to see plenty of targets. Witten still saw 83 targets while Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb saw a combined 315. Likely to see a significant uptick in volume, Jarwin's fantasy value will explode if he can maintain the efficiency we saw in 2019.

3. Chris Herndon, New York Jets (ADP: TE20)

Chris Herndon fantasy outlook makes him a breakout candidate.
Chris Herndon fantasy outlook makes him a breakout candidate. / Mike Stobe/Getty Images

There have only been four tight ends in NFL history that tallied more than 500 receiving yards on at least 9.0 yards per target as a rookie. As you might've guessed, Chris Herndon became one of those four in 2018. The other three all made at least one Pro Bowl in their career (Rob Gronkowski, Mark Andrews and Ken Dilger). New York Jets fans were robbed of the chance to see what Herndon would do for an encore in 2019, as he missed all but one game last season. That has left him significantly undervalued in 2020, though. The Jets' pass-catching group is completely bereft of talent, and Herndon has a real chance to be Sam Darnold's No. 1 or No. 2 option alongside Jamison Crowder. We've already seen what he can do when healthy, and if he sees enough volume, he's got breakout written all over him.

2. Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans (ADP: TE19)

Jonnu Smith fantasy outlook makes him a breakout candidate.
Jonnu Smith fantasy outlook makes him a breakout candidate. / Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The case for Jonnu Smith is basically Blake Jarwin on steroids. Jarwin is efficient, but Smith takes that to the next level. His 10.0 yards per target was the second-best mark at the position and had him tied for the ninth-best mark in the league (alongside Amari Cooper). Plus, his productivity and playing time both surged once Ryan Tannehill took over (Week 7). Prior to that, Smith had a snap share below 70 percent in all six games, but he was above that threshold in each of his next nine. Accordingly, he went from being irrelevant in fantasy to being the TE13 over that nine game stretch. Smith is also a 6-foot-3, 248-pound freak who ran a 4.62 40-yard dash. Reportedly tearing up Titans training camp, Smith could be in for a monster campaign.

1. Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins (ADP: TE15)

Mike Gesicki fantasy outlook makes him a breakout candidate.
Mike Gesicki fantasy outlook makes him a breakout candidate. / Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Mike Gesicki probably has the best chance to breakout of anyone on this list. He already kind of did last year, finishing as the TE6 in PPR formats over the final six weeks of the season. If that's not enough of a sample size, he was the TE10 over his final 12 games (Week 6-17). Plus, his opportunity could spike this season. During that same 12-game span, Gesicki had a target share of 16 percent, tying him for the 13th-best mark at the position. Both Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson opted out this year, and they combined for 99 targets during that span. Gesicki should be in line for more volume than he saw last year, and he already proved he can produce at a high level. He has a real shot to crack the top-5 TEs in 2020.


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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. 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.

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