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The top-heavy tight end class left many veterans without immediate competition from the NFL Draft. Below are five tight ends in a better position after the NFL Draft.
The Miami Dolphins were a frequently projected landing spot for Kyle Pitts pre-NFL Draft. Atlanta’s decision to select Pitts helped secure Gesicki’s role in the Miami offense. Gesicki has averaged 5.6 targets per game over the past two seasons and his yards per target improved from 6.4 to 8.3 in 2020. Miami selected Hunter Long in round three of the NFL draft, and with Gesicki is entering a contract year, his contract situation should be a storyline to monitor before the season in dynasty formats. He should be on the TE1 radar in 2021.
Anthony Firkser finished the 2020 season in the Top 5 in yards per route run amongst tight ends with 20 or more targets. Tennessee let fellow tight end Jonnu Smith and second-year wide receiver Corey Davis walk in free agency, and did little to add receiving weapons in free agency nor the NFL Draft. Firkser is undersized and was undrafted out of college, but has performed well in small sample sizes with Tennessee. His efficiency presents optimism he can take major advantage of the opportunity in 2021. An 80+ target season on the TE1/2 fringe is well within his range of outcomes.
Logan Thomas led the league in tight end routes run in 2020. His volume overshadowed his poor efficiency in 2020, as he aggregated his way to a TE3 finish. Washington was a candidate to select a tight end on day two of the draft but did not address the position until selecting John Bates on day three. Washington added Curtis Samuel and drafted Dyami Brown, who should pose a threat to Thomas’s targets in 2021, but Thomas is locked into the TE1 role in the offense with new starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even with a reduction in volume, Thomas can still muster a TE1 finish if healthy.
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. Higbee has a depressed market perception, but without a major target threat past Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Cam Akers, Higbee could approach 100 targets in 2020.
While Detroit was never seriously mocked to select Kyle Pitts in the NFL Draft, the decision would have been a fascinating watch if Pitts was available at the seventh pick when Detroit was on the clock. From a fantasy perspective, T.J. Hockenson may have been the biggest winner in the draft, because the Lions did not select any pass-catchers before Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round. With Marvin Jones Jr and Kenny Golladay leaving in free agency, Detroits projected leading wide receivers are Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams, leaving Hockenson and D'Andre Swift the two best passing options on the roster by a wide margin. Hockenson was sixth in tight end targets per game last year (6.3), and can easily push for 7 to 8 targets per game, which would be in the top three at the position. If Hockenson is healthy in 2021, he has big volume opportunities in the Detroit offense.