Top Sleeper Tight Ends for 2021 Fantasy Football Season
By Max Staley
Tight end is a very shallow position this year. After the top three (or four, depending on how you feel about rookie Kyle Pitts), there's a significant drop-off.
That's how it played out last year, too. TE1 Travis Kelce outscored TE7 Mike Gesicki by 153.46 PPR points in 2020. That's an insanely large gap. Essentially, the difference between TE1 and TE7 would've finished as TE8 last year.
If you miss out on the stars like Kelce, George Kittle or Darren Waller, you're probably better off taking a couple low-risk, high-reward flyers rather than reaching for a mid-tier tight end. With that in mind, here are three of the best sleeper tight ends this season.
Sleeper TE 2021
Note: Only tight ends with an average draft position (ADP) of TE10 or higher, per FantasyPros, were considered for this list.
4. Honorable Mentions
- Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints (ADP: TE37)
- Pat Friermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: TE25)
3. Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears (ADP: TE24)
Cole Kmet started to come on toward the end of his rookie season. He averaged 6.0 targets per game across his final five regular-season appearances. That may not sound like a ton, but only 11 tight ends averaged more than 6.0 targets per game last year. That kind of opportunity could give him top-12 upside if it carries over into next year. And if Justin Fields hits the ground running, Kmet could really take off.
2. Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings (ADP: TE11)
Irv Smith Jr. hasn't been asked to do much in his first two years as a Minnesota Viking. But that should all change this year with Kyle Rudolph gone. And Smith has flashed big-time talent when given the opportunity. He played four Rudolph-less games down the stretch last year, averaging 5.0 targets for 45.8 receiving yards per game with 3 touchdowns in that time. He has a chance to be a real red-zone threat for Minnesota this year, and he should be considered the favorite to be the No. 3 option in the Vikings' passing game.
1. Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots (ADP: TE14)
The New England Patriots shelled out big-time money to the tight end position this offseason, signing Jonnu Smith to a four-year, $50 million deal. It's safe to assume they didn't spend big for a blocker. Bill Belichick likely saw what many Smith fantasy managers saw last year – an athletic, pass-catching freak who deserves a bigger role. The former Titan averaged 5.8 yards after the catch per reception last year, the fifth-best mark among all tight ends. He also was second among all tight ends in 2019 with an average of 10.0 yards per target (good for 11th best in the entire league). Despite the efficiency, Tennessee really didn't utilize him much. Smith only ran 275 routes (No. 26 among tight ends), and ran a route on just 65.8% of his team's pass plays (No. 22). Even with Hunter Henry also on the team, that's unlikely to happen again in New England. On talent alone, Smith is probably the best pass-catcher on this team. He's an athletic freak with a real shot to emerge as the Patriots' No. 1 target. That's a fantastic gamble at his current ADP.
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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.