After years of dominant play and elite production (when he was healthy, anyway), Rob Gronkowski is no longer a part of the fantasy football equation now that he's retired. So, how does this year's group of tight ends stack up without the future Hall of Famer among them?
Here are The Duel's top fantasy football tight ends with the 2019 NFL season set to kickoff next Thursday.
* The staff of The Duel ranked the top 15 fantasy TEs for the 2019 NFL season. These top 10 are based off the average score of those rankings. These projections are based off six-point touchdowns, half-point per reception and one point per 10 yards receiving. *
10. Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts
Eric Ebron was one more mediocre season away from being labeled a bust. However, the 26-year-old found new life in Indianapolis and finally lived up to his first-round billing. The tight end hauled in 66 passes for 750 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns (most among TEs) in 2018. Ebron has established himself a big-time red zone threat (22 red zone targets), meaning he should continue to put up top-10 TE numbers in 2019, even though he he'll have Jacoby Brissett and not the recently-retired Andrew Luck throwing him the ball.
9. Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
Vance McDonald showed us a glimpse of his fantasy potential last season when he hauled in 50 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns. Antonio Brown is no longer in Pittsburgh and considering there isn't much in the Steelers' receiving corps outside of JuJu Smith-Schuster, McDonald could see enough volume in the passing game to have a top-10 fantasy season in 2019.
8. Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints
Jared Cook had the best season of his NFL career with the Oakland Raiders in 2018, setting career highs in receptions (68), receiving yards (896) and touchdown catches (six) en route to his first Pro Bowl. The 31-year-old's fantasy stock rose even higher after signing with the New Orleans Saints this offseason as he'll will now be catching passes from Drew Brees. In a far more potent offense with the Saints, there's a good chance he puts up similar, if not better, numbers this coming season.
7. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
Hunter Henry didn't see any game action last year while he recovered from a torn ACL, but there's a lot to like about the young tight end heading into the 2019 season. The fourth-year player built a solid rapport with quarterback Philip Rivers and was heavily utilized in the red zone in his first two seasons (12 touchdowns). Now healthy, and with almost no competition to speak of for the starting job, Henry could be in for a high-end TE1 fantasy campaign.
6. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
O.J. Howard hauled in 34 passes for 565 yards receiving and five touchdowns through the first 10 games of 2018. Unfortunately, what looked to be a breakout season was ultimately cut short due to an ankle injury in Week 11. Despite the unfortunate end to his 2018 season, Howard proved that he can produce no matter who's throwing him the ball. With Bruce Arians now the head coach of the Buccaneers, it's safe to expect a big year out of the young tight end. He should be a cusp top-5 TE option every week.
5. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
After a so-so rookie season, David Njoku made huge strides in 2018, catching 56 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns. The Browns' offense saw a major influx of talent this offseason, namely Odell Beckham Jr., which could potentially draw coverage away from Njoku. If the tight end can make the best of what the defense gives him, he should be in the top-five TE1 conversation each and every week in 2019.
4. Evan Engram, New York Giants
Staying healthy has been an issue for Evan Engram, but when he's on the field, he's been a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. The 25-year-old tight end was excellent in the 11 games he played in 2018, catching 45 passes for 577 yards and three touchdowns. With Beckham now in Cleveland, Engram is bound to see more passes thrown his way in 2019. And more passes should lead to more output, making Engram a TE1 with top-three upside.
3. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
Zach Ertz made history during the 2018 season, setting a single-season record for receptions by a tight end with 116. He also racked up a career-high 1,163 receiving yards to go along with eight touchdowns. While another record-breaking reception total in 2019 will be tough to come by, the two-time Pro Bowler will continue to see more than enough volume to continue producing at an elite level. Plus, the return of Carson Wentz should bode well for the Eagles' tight end. You can't go wrong with Ertz or any of the other three top tight end options here, but he comes in at No. 3 on this list.
2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
Not to be outdone by Ertz, George Kittle had his own record-breaking season, racking up 1,377 receiving yards in 2018, the highest single-season total by a tight end in NFL history. Kittle will enter 2019 with a lot more offensive talent around him, but the tight end remains an integral part of the 49ers' offense. Kittle will be vying for the No. 1 TE spot this season with a now-healthy Jimmy Garoppolo back under center in 2019.
1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Who else would you expect to top the list? Travis Kelce has been the most consistent fantasy tight end in recent history and had his best season to date with NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes throwing him passes last year. The two-time All-Pro tight end hauled in 103 passes for 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018, all of which were career highs. A vital player in an explosive Chiefs offense, Kelce could be in line for a fantasy season for the ages. He has the best odds to lead the league in touchdowns in 2019, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and is our TE1 for the NFL's 100th season as well.
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Mike Esposito is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Esposito also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username espo6891. 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.