Tight end always seems like a frustrating position to fill, especially if you don’t own one of the truly elite. Each week it feels like a guessing game as to who will step up and thrive and who will struggle. So who are the tight ends to trust? Who are the ones to gamble on? Let’s take a look at how our preseason rankings currently look:
- Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs (1) – With Rob Gronkowski retired, is there any question who the elite tight end is? Kelce has three straight seasons of at least 83 receptions and 1,038 yards (including 103 catches and 1,336 yards last season). Throw in 18 TD over the past two seasons, and with Tyreek Hill potentially suspended the opportunities will continued to be there.
- Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles (2) – Could Dallas Goedert eat into the opportunities for Ertz? Possibly, but there should be more than enough to go around. Ertz is coming off a year where he racked up 116 catches and 1,163 yards, plus he’s scored 8 TD in each of the past two seasons. He’s one of the elite and is going to continue to be one of the focal points of the offense. You could argue Kittle has a higher upside, though Ertz is the “safer” option.
- George Kittle – San Francisco 49ers (3) – Big things were expected in his sophomore season and he delivered, despite underwhelming quarterback play (88 receptions, 1,377 yards, 5 TD). Now imagine what will be possible with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo and an improved running game?
- Evan Engram – New York Giants (4) – With Odell Beckham Jr. sidelined over the final four games Engram came into his own, totaling 22 catches (on 31 targets) for 320 yards and 1 TD. Now that Beckham is in Cleveland there’s a chance Engram’s role grows even more, and with more opportunity could come elite results.
- Jared Cook – New Orleans Saints (5) – He had 66 catches for 896 yards and 6 TD playing for Oakland, so now what happens in an offense run by Drew Brees? Granted it’s an offense that is fueled by the running backs, but as the third option behind Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas there should be ample opportunity.
- O.J. Howard – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6) – Howard only played in 10 games last season but showed signs of emerging as one of the elite, with 34 catches for 565 yards and 5 TD. With Bruce Arians coming in as the head coach and a healthy Jameis Winston under center, Howard could take the expected meteoric leap in his third NFL season (as long as he can stay healthy).
- Hunter Henry – Los Angeles Chargers (7) – He missed all of 2018 and has never been a pillar of health (he had missed three games over his first two NFL seasons). However there’s no questioning the upside (12 TD in 29 games) and the potential opportunity, especially with Tyrell Williams now in Oakland and little competition for the role as lead TE.
- Eric Ebron – Indianapolis Colts (8) – He had 66 catches (on 110 targets) for 750 yards and 13 TD last season, but that was with Jack Doyle missing significant time. That said a healthy Doyle didn’t stop Ebron from consistently finding the end zone, and while there is some risk of a shared role there’s too much upside to ignore.
- Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins (13) – If Reed could only stay healthy… That’s been the typical narrative, but when healthy he’s proven to be a productive option (and early word is that he’s over the foot/ankle injuries that have plagued him the past two years). Considering the state of Washington’s quarterback, with a chance that rookie Dwayne Haskins opens under center, Reed should be an important safety valve with the potential to put up big numbers.
- Vance McDonald – Pittsburgh Steelers (10) – He saw a significant spike in his role in ’18 (50 catches for 610 yards and 4 TD), and with Antonio Brown now in Oakland there are targets for the taking. Don’t be surprised if he once again sets career highs across the board.
- Mark Andrews – Baltimore Ravens (18) – He’s been given a lot of praise this preseason and could be primed to take a significant step forward in his sophomore season. While we wouldn’t want to trust him as a TE1 on draft day, he has the potential to become one before long.
- Delanie Walker – Tennessee Titans (15) – We aren’t far removed from Walker being among the elite tight ends in the game, but he’ll be 35-years old by the start of the season and missed the bulk of ’18 due to injury (1 game and 4 receptions). As it is he scored just 3 TD in ’17 and the risk may outweigh the potential reward.
- David Njoku – Cleveland Browns (9) – He took a step forward in his sophomore season (56 receptions, 639 yards, 4 TD) and with defenses forced to focus on Odell Beckham Jr. and with Baker Mayfield gaining a year of experience, Njoku could have a huge season. Of course there are also a lot of alternatives in the offense, so he’s no guarantee to produce.
- T.J. Hockenson – Detroit Lions (20) – Rookie tight ends are always tough to trust, and we don’t want to read too much into preseason hype. Let’s not forget that Detroit head coach came from New England, where Rob Gronkowski thrived, so it’s easier to envision Hockenson making an immediate impact.
- Austin Hooper – Atlanta Falcons (11) – Maybe he can’t maintain the impressive numbers he posted last year (71 receptions, 660 yards, 4 TD), but this is an offense that’s going to throw the football and that means there should be continued opportunity.
- Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings (12) – He’s been a productive option each of the past three seasons, and while he hasn’t matched his career best 83 receptions and 840 yards he set in ’16, he’s averaged over 60 catches per year in each of the past two seasons. The problem here is the emergence of a dynamic wide receiver duo, which will likely limit the opportunities.
- Trey Burton – Chicago Bears (14) – While he had some ups and downs, over the final four weeks he was at least getting regular opportunities and managed to rack up 54 catches for 569 yards and 6 TD overall. With Mitchell Trubisky a year more experienced and a wide receiving corps that is hardly a lock to produce, could Burton finally explode and emerge as a TE1? We’d feel better if he was currently healthy, but missing the preseason could easily set him back.
- Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers (16)
- Noah Font – Denver Broncos (19)
- Jimmy Graham – Green Bay Packers (22)
- Darren Waller – Oakland Raiders (NR)
- Chris Herndon – New York Jets (23)
- Jack Doyle – Indianapolis Colts (17)
- Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys (24)
- Dallas Goedert – Philadelphia Eagles (25)
Dropped off Rankings – Benjamin Watson (NE, 21)
Make sure to check out all of our 2019 preseason rankings: