One of the most exploitable inefficiencies in dynasty fantasy football is the difference between where players are selected in startup drafts and their 2021 projection. High-priced players are more long-term bets, so their 2021 projection is less significant than lower-priced players with much lower long-term hit rates. For the later picks, in particular, players projected to outscore their draft position should be targeted. Below are four tight ends we project to beat their draft cost and two we project to miss their current dynasty cost according to our consensus projections.
Tight Ends Projected to Beat Draft Cost
Jared Cook (Dynasty ADP: TE25.5, Our 2021 Projection: TE16)
Jared Cook is in a year-to-year window at this point in his career. While changing teams at his age is not a great sign, Cook followed Joe Lombardi from the Saints to the Chargers, where Lombardi will be the offensive coordinator. Cook’s familiarity with the offense and his ability to add a vertical element to the Chargers gives Cook plenty of opportunity to outproduce his draft cost. Cook has a top 10 seasonal finish firmly in his range of outcomes.
Rob Gronkowski (Dynasty ADP: TE25.5, Our 2021 Projection: TE17)
Rob Gronkowski, like Cook, is a TE3 cost with fringe TE1 projection in our consensus projection. With a more crowded receiving corps than Cook, Gronkowski will likely need an injury or two in the offense to reach a difference-making TE1 performance.
Austin Hooper (Dynasty ADP: TE24.5, Our 2021 Projection: TE18)
In year one, Austin Hooper’s transition to Cleveland was a disappointment, but we have some optimism as Hooper has the 12th-highest projection of receptions in our consensus projections (53.2). Hooper’s range of outcomes is likely lower than both Cook and Gronkowski in terms of veterans capable of significantly outproducing his draft cost. Hooper is more of a floor play, particularly in 2TE leagues or TE premium leagues where tight ends are flex viable.
Tyler Higbee (Dynasty ADP: TE15, Our 2021 Projection: TE10)
Tyler Higbee could be a beneficiary of the new-look LA Rams offense. Since 2017, Tyler Higbee has played 57 games. In the 49 with Gerald Everett also playing, Higbee had a 16-game pace of 55 targets, 38 receptions, 437 yards, and two touchdowns. In the eight games without Everett, Higbee had a 16-game pace of 116 targets, 90 receptions, 1008 yards, and 10 touchdowns, which would have been TE3 in 2020. Everett was signed in free agency by Seattle, leaving Higbee without a major competitor for the tight end workload. Matthew Stafford's addition, along with Everett's departure, could raise the floor and ceiling for Higbee in 2021, with a top 6 finish in his range of outcomes.
Tight Ends We Project to Miss Dynasty Cost
Cole Kmet (Dynasty ADP: TE17, Our 2021 Projection: TE24)
Cole Kmet is on the wrong side of the projections, with a TE24 projection at a TE17 cost. With the Chicago offense in flux and questions at quarterback and wide receiver, there is a real chance the offense goes off the rails in 2021. Kmet is projected at TE17 in receptions (50.3), but the presence of Jimmy Graham, projected with 36.1 receptions, caps Kmet’s production. If Graham is a surprise cut or is traded before the season, Kmet’s price and projection should rise.
Adam Trautman (Dynasty ADP: TE14.5, Our 2021 Projection: TE19)
Adam Trautman is being thrown into a big opportunity in his second season, but our projections are behind the market perception of Trautman’s value. Trautman caught 15 passes in 2021 while playing behind Jared Cook. With Cook leaving in free agency and Michael Thomas expected to miss the start of the season, Trautman has a big opportunity for volume in an offense without established options behind Alvin Kamara. We project Trautman’s reception total to triple (46) along with 554 yards, but this blends in more than stand out at the tight end position.