I hope 2019 is treating you better than yours truly. My fantasy dreams have been on hold for a while now due to all the medical $#^&@! I’ve been going through, but the news today is positive. I’m on the mend. And so is the Rotobahn computer department (my Mac), after a brutal c-drive failure that cost me a great deal of film notes and a few scouting reports to boot.
The good news is that I’ve managed to put most of Humpty Dumpty (my rookie rankings/work) back together again. Thankfully, during all of my down time, I was able to watch a lot of film.
Don’t worry. I come to you well armed.
I’ll have the quarterbacks for you at some point tomorrow and the receivers should drop sometime on Tuesday or maybe early Wednesday. The RBs will drop on Wednesday. There will also be a few pods coming soon and some huge post-draft pods on landing spots and rankings/tiers adjustments as we head into our rookie drafts.
It’s all happening.
So without anymore windup, here are my rookie tight end ranks as we head into the draft. As I will say repeatedly throughout all these rankings, they are coming from a fantasy perspective.
To those folks celebrating Easter or Passover this weekend, I hope your holidays and time with family are wonderful. I’m off to see mine now. Enjoy!
|1||T.J. Hockenson||Iowa||6-4 6/8||251||I almost want to use the L-word here but as many of you know I had all of my scouting emotions removed surgically several years ago. TJH is a beast who plays the position in the spirit of Gronk, and it would not shock me one bit if New England tried to find a way to get this guy. He’s a pure 2-way tight end who can play the game any way his OC wants him to. He’ll be pricey to acquire for the team that drafts him, so I doubt he’ll be used primarily as a blocker, but he’s good enough to do it. He’s also good enough to run a route on every down. Hopefully we don’t get a landing spot that gives us any kind of pause. Hockenson is my number one guy going into the draft and it’s going to be tough to knock him off that perch. Noah Fant could conceivably pass him if the fantasy gods smile upon him and frown upon TJ. While Hockenson performed well at the combine, his value can be best seen by rolling the tape. He’s just one of those guys who wins for his team a really high percentage of the time regardless of what he’s asked to do. He plays with passion on every down. As a receiver, he’s lethal after the catch but he’s also gifted at making the catch. He tracks well and has soft hands. He reacts very well to poorly thrown balls. He’s going to be some NFL QB’s best friend very soon. If you’re not targeting him in your TE-premium dynasty leagues, you’re doing it wrong.|
|2||Noah Fant||Iowa||6-4 1/8||249||Is he really a tight end? Who cares. Fant will be listed as such and for our purposes that ends the debate. Fant reminds me a bit of Evan Engram though he’s more than a bit less polished as a route runner. Fant’s a touch bigger and Engram’s got the speed edge but they are both guys who are capable of playing X or big slot. They are tight ends who can take the top off of defenses. They are both Unicorns of sorts but as we’ve learned with Engram, a mediocre landing spot can make things difficult. Almost 15 years ago we saw the same thing with Vernon Davis in San Francisco. QBs matter. Systems matter. Fitting into a system matters. Play-calling matters as well. So Fant’s early value is still tough to gauge as we speak. He could be the Dallas Goedert of 2019 but he could also do big things in the right spot. And, while he’s really not a tight end by my eyes, he can do some good blocking here and there. He gives good effort but he’s a bit of a stiff athlete at times which shows up in his routes as well.|
|3||Irv Smith||Alabama||6-2 3/8||242||I keep hearing negative vibes with Smith but I think he’s a potential gem for dynasty leagues that value the position. His lack of size may make him less desirable as a full-time in-line guy but we don’t REALLY want him to be that guy anyway. We want routes run and we want talent. Smith is a good bet to earn plenty of the prior and he’s steeped in the latter. Smith weighs 8 pounds more than Evan Engram did at the combine and 6 more than Jordan Reed. Don’t let people use his size to scare you away.|
|4||Josh Oliver||San Jose St.||6-4 5/8||249||Very, very interesting player. It’s not so much that I worry about his landing spot as I worry about how his new team plans to use him. That may be a distinction without a difference to some, but my point is that he could be viewed as a project in-line tight end and that could delay his arrival by a year or more. I’m just not that impressed with him as a blocker. Oliver’s stats do not look great on their face, but they do reflect his somewhat original journey as a college player. Oliver came into SJSU as a defensive end—a pass rusher, and you can still see some of those instincts at times. This is a player who has a chance to improve significantly more than his peers over the next few seasons. This is a big point to understand for dynasty GMs. You never know what path a player will take, but this guy has elite fantasy starter in his range of outcomes so he’s going to be on my board in all of my leagues. He has the potential to be a better version of Jared Cook—a version who runs more routes. If he finds the “right” team, he could be the nexus between Cook and Jordan Reed. How does that grab you?|
|5||Alize Mack||Notre Dame||6-4||249||Mack is what we sometimes call a propaganda prospect in the Rotobahn war room. If I wanted to create a video that sold his most positive attributes, you might think he’s the next superstar tight end, but as you know, we watch the film here—all the way through. This player’s potential outpaces, by a big margin, his production. Nevertheless, he’s got potential as a blocker though he has a ways to go, and IF he can do that, he could have a long career as a two-way tight end. The even better scenario would have him developing into a catch-first tight end who is often slotted or used out wide. He has the talent to be developed that way as well. The bad scenario has him failing to make strides and end as a role player or out of the league. This guy is an upside play, and for fantasy, the upside is significant.|
|6||Jace Sternberger||Texas A&M||6-4||251||He’s a guy we’ve liked throughout the process and I see that he’s getting some love around the interwebs now. Sternberger’s had to bounce around—going from Kansas (2 years) to Northeastern Oklahoma (1 year) to Texas A&M, where he played his final and, by far, best collegiate season. Once again, we have a tight end who we project as more of a receiver than a blocker though he can certainly do both. He could play in schemes that put a premium on the ability to block both in-line and in space. Think Kansas City and New England. Think New Orleans and Philadelphia, though the latter would be a rough landing spot. His college resume has the look of a guy who will not make it, but I think the Kansas situation was more about bad fit than bad play. This kid has some legit good traits. His routes are better than we generally see from college tight ends and particular ones who bounced around not due to off-field stuff. I want to say something like “Kittle Lite” but that’s not really fair or accurate, but he does have that feel of a guy who could do something early if he gets a good landing spot.|
|7||Kahale Warring||San Diego St.||6-5 1/8||252||Warring is not the kind of tight end I typically target in my rookie drafts. He’s a pure tight end in terms of how I project him, rather than a move tight end or Joker. He’s still raw in terms of his learning curve. He learned to play TE while at SDSU and did not play much football prior to college. SDSU likes to pound the football and we got to know Warring pretty well watching him open holes for Rashard Penny in 2017. I’d be surprised if this guy failed as a NFL player due to anything other than injury. He’s clearly made big strides in a short period of time. He has the blocking chops to stay employed while he puts it all together. And, we know that traditional tight ends can have long learning curves. Warring is a player to target in leagues where you can stash him for a year or two. He’s sort of the 2019 version of Adam Shaheen, but not as much of a size/speed outlier. On the other hand, Warring’s film shows a better blocker and he’s received superior coaching at SDSU versus what Shaheen received at Ashland.|
|8||Dawson Knox||Mississippi||6-4 3/8||254||Knox is a player whose stats and film tell a slightly different story. The ex-Quarterback has the look of a catch-first tight end, so I’m intrigued. He’s got above average ball skills and runs good routes though he needs to learn to sink his hips into his breaks. It’s understandable as he’s a guy who converted to tight end as a collegian. The stats are meager but remember that Evan Engram owned the position until 2017. Knox has posted 605 receiving yards in the two seasons since Engram left. Nothing to write home about but then again nothing to sneeze at in an offense that’s been dominated by NFL-capable receivers like DK Metcalf, AJ Brown and DaMarkus Lodge. Knox could be a nice sleeper in deeper leagues where you have a developmental window. He’ll need a premium landing spot to produce early in his career.|
|9||Caleb Wilson||UCLA||6-4 2/8||240||Wilson has potential and is more receiver than tight end like Chris Herndon was last year and I could see Wilson making a similar impact if he finds a niche the way Herndon did, but the odds are not with him. Remember, Herndon stepped into a TE vacuum with the Jets. His stats were as much about that situation as his play, which improved as the season progressed. Wilson has some nice traits, like his wingspan and his speed. They show up on film too. He can also make some nice catches and shows off better than average body-control as a receiver. The problem is that he’s generally raw at a position that can be slow developing. Landing spot is huge here.|
|10||Dax Raymond||Utah St.||6-4 6/8||255||Watching Dax block is like watching Mark Sanchez trying to read a defense. It’s not fun. That being said, he’s not a bad receiver. He can run a bit and has big soft hands. Where his blocking lacks any sort of predatory instinct, he’s more aggressive going after the football. Still, barring a perfect marriage of skill set, opportunity and scheme, he’s probably a journeyman type guy. He does have the receiving skills to do some good things but we’ve seen plenty of guys like him before.|
|11||Drew Sample||Washington||6-4 6/8||255||Projects as a classic 2-way tight end with a chance to start somewhere in time as such. I doubt we’ll ever see elite fantasy digits but he has a shot at becoming a serviceable option in deeper leagues that emphasize the position.|
|12||Foster Moreau||LSU||6-4 1/8||253||His film shows a consistent blocker who makes an impact consistently and wins most of his matchups. I liked the way he consistently finds his man in space. This is a guy who could block in a lot of different schemes and that gives me some hope that his measurable could bear fruit at some point. Moreau is raw as a receiver, but I think some of that is about his obvious ability as a blocker. The SEC is not a developmental league. These coaches are trying to win and this guy was a big part of LSU’s run game and their protection schemes. In time, he could use his 4.66 wheels to become an offensive weapon. He’ll have that chance, because his blocking will keep him in the league.|
|13||Kaden Smith||Stanford||6-5||255||He’s an NFL player and if he catches a break or two, he could start somewhere someday, but you are looking at a traditional tight end growth curve. If Smith hits, it will be as a classic in-line 2-way tight end. He’s pretty solid all around but he excels in no area. He’d make a good backup NFL tight end by my eyes. He definitely has the ability to contribute as a receiver. He’s a fighter in traffic and is willing to use his size. He tracks the ball pretty well and can lay out when necessary.|
|14||Keenen Brown||Texas St.||6-2 4/8||250||This guy intrigues me. There’s the obvious concern that a developmental tight end is a non-starter in dynasty league, but if you play in a deep league with friendly taxi squad restrictions and or tight premium scoring, Brown is a tight end to know about. His game is similar to Antonio Gates, who came late to the position but improved quickly. Brown is an ex wide receiver and you can see those skills when he lines up outside. He’s also built to block but needs more refining as he’s still somewhat new to playing tight end. In my view, Brown’s natural size and strength plus his low center of gravity could make him a tough cover if he gets his total game together. Hoping for Antonio Gates Lite here.|
|15||Isaac Nauta||Georgia||6-3 2/8||244||He’s a guy to know about but as I said in our pre-combine rankings, Georgia doesn’t feature guys the way other teams do. To see his impact you need to watch full games, not just cut ups. I see Nauta as having a solid chance but he should have a typical TE growth curve 3-4 seasons. I do not envision big early returns.|
|16||Neiko Creamer||Eastern Kentucky||6-4||230||Here's a guy worth knowing about, but from what we can see he is a long term project despite some impressive measurables. Creamer transferred to E Kentucky from Tennessee and never did a whole lot but he’s making a transition to tight end and that’s an attention-getter when you consider that he’s as fast as Noah Fant. The NFL will weigh in on him and they have better film than I do—for sure. If he gets drafted, then he’s worth a look late in leagues that use TE-premium scoring.|
|17||Trevon Wesco||West Virginia||6-3 4/8||267||He’s big and strong and has a lot of ceiling as a blocker, and this could give him time to develop his receiving chops—an area he showed improvement with in 2018. A really good landing spot could make him viable in certain formats, but he’s mostly a tight end to know about for future applications.|