George Kittle and Evan Engram Fantasy Football Upsides Tied to Big-Play Ability

Jason Schandl
Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers
Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers / Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The tight end position has become a different animal in recent years. Long gone are the days of blocking being a priority, and TEs are finding themselves lining up in the slot and working as wide receivers at an increasing rate.

There has been an influx of top athletes playing the position, and this added a ton of big-play ability to the mix. We saw this play out in a major way in 2019, with tight ends dominating the league's yards after catch (YAC) rankings.

The trend stands out as clear as day, as the three highest YAC averages in the NFL in 2018 belonged to tight ends, with George Kittle and Evan Engram also distancing themselves from the third-ranked Vance McDonald.

Generally, we see YAC correlate very strongly to target depth — it's easier to run after short catches than deep ones. This shows for Engram and McDonald, who both ranked in the bottom six for target depth among the 41 TEs with at least 30 targets last season. Kittle was a complete outlier though, sitting in the middle of the pack at 23rd in target depth.

That rare, big-play ability gives Kittle the kind of upside that could pay off for a third-round pick that his current average draft position (ADP) of TE2 (31st overall) commands.

Engram doesn't offer the same massive ceiling that Kittle does, but even with a short target depth, it's hard to write off what he was able to do after the catch in 2018.

Volume shouldn't be hard for Engram to come by in 2019 either. Over the last two seasons, Engram's targets per game have jumped from 5.6 when Odell Beckham Jr. was on the field to 7.8 when Beckham sat, which would represent a difference of more than 35 targets over a 16-game season. Golden Tate is suspended to start the year, and behind Tate and Sterling Shepard, the New York Giants' receiving corps is rather barren.

The tight end position is very deep in fantasy football for 2019, with plenty of options all the way from the early rounds to the late-round sleepers. That depth makes upside even more important, since a less exciting, high-floor player will likely be easier to replace on the waiver wire.

With Kittle and Engram's ability to combine yards after the catch with high target volume, both of them should fit the bill with huge 2019 fantasy football upside.

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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.