Future Top-Ten Tight Ends

Jacob Feldman

The regular season has come and gone and it is fantasy playoff time! Hopefully, that means you are still fighting for the title in your league’s playoffs. However, it also means that about half of us are sitting at home, looking over our rosters, and trying to figure out what went wrong. Whether it was injuries, players under-performing, bad luck, or something entirely different, it is time to dust ourselves off and get ready for the next phase of the dynasty season!

To help you out with that, I’m writing to highlight a few players who are on the younger side and have a better chance than most to turn into every week starters at their respective positions. I define “every week starters” as being top ten quarterbacks, top 20 running backs, top 30 receivers, and top ten tight ends. I’m going to avoid taking the easy way out, so I’m not going to pick any rookies to be the next great thing. We all know that TJ Hockenson is a tight end to target. Instead, I’m going to try and pick players who are a ways away from every week starter status, meaning they could be relatively cheap additions to your roster, especially if they do turn into an every week starter for your team next year!

Let’s take a look at the potential starters as well as the pros and cons for each one, in order of their current DLF positional rankings.

Gerald Everett, TE LAR

Current DLF Positional Ranking: 16

Pros: When you talk about Everett, the first thing that comes to mind is that he is an athletic freak. Even though he came from a smaller college, he was drafted in the second round largely due to his athletic profile. There have been plenty of plays in his NFL career so far where he has flashed that ability, but he has struggled with consistency. He was very raw coming out of college and he is slowly becoming a more complete tight end. His usage has also been trending upward. Through just two thirds of the NFL season, he has already set career highs in every area other than touchdowns. Even more promising is that he has had three games so far this season with at least 10 targets and four out of eleven games with 14 or more fantasy points, showing off the upside he possesses.

Cons: My biggest concern with Everett is that the Rams as a team seem to be trending in the wrong direction. The once high flying offense has really hit a snag this year. The question is if the 2018 or the 2019 Rams will be the team of the future. There is also some concern about his ceiling since Tyler Higbee is on roster and seeing a large number of snaps. He has been more of a blocker to Everett’s pass catching role, but he is still getting some looks. The other concern the Rams offense brings is that Everett does tend to disappear a lot in games. He has been rather boom or bust with five or fewer fantasy points in seven of his eleven games this year.

Ian Thomas, TE CAR

Current DLF Positional Ranking: 18

Pros: At 6’4” and 260 pounds, Thomas has the size to be an every down tight end in the NFL. He showed in college as well as last year in the NFL that he can be a red zone weapon for his offense. In college he scored on about 20 percent of his receptions. During his rookie season in the NFL, his final five games he had a stat line of 25/246/2. That projects to a season long stat line of roughly 80/787/6. While it is difficult to project from such a small sample, it is encouraging that he did that as a rookie. The other major plus for him is that Greg Olsen won’t be around much longer, and Thomas is the clear heir on a team which uses the position a lot.

Cons: Out of all of the tight ends on this list, Thomas is the least gifted in terms of athletic ability. I’m not saying he is a complete dud, I’m just saying he doesn’t have the upside of some of the other players on this list. If he does make it into the top ten tight ends, I think it is going to be by a very slim margin. The other major concern is that if he really did have TE1 potential, I think the Panthers would find a way to get him on the field with Olsen. Instead he has logged a total of about half a game worth of snaps so far this season and just a single catch. Of the four tight ends on this list, I’m the least confident in Thomas.

Mike Gesicki, TE MIA

Current DLF Positional Ranking: 20

Pros: If you want to talk about upside, Gesicki is arguably the best prospect at the entire position. The 2018 NFL Combine featured two of the best performances we had ever seen at their respective positions by college teammates Gesicki and Saquon Barkley. Barkley was the headliner due to his college production and draft pedigree, but Gesicki has the most impressive athletic profile of any tight end since the great Vernon Davis. Aside from the athletic potential, he is starting to figure out the position at the NFL level as well. As a result, his snap count has grown from playing about a third of the offensive snaps to now playing about 90% of them, which is about as good as it gets for a tight end. He has learned enough in the last two years to be almost a full-time player. Of the four tight ends on this list, he is my favorite target.

Cons: The obvious concern here is the mess that is the Miami Dolphins. Gesicki obviously can’t throw the ball to himself. They even messed up their clear and obvious attempt at tanking by winning a few games. Regardless, they have a massive amount of draft picks coming their way, which should allow them to retool their offense by getting a franchise quarterback and some other weapons. However, the Dolphins have shown an inability to move in the right direction with new coach after new coach messing things up. The situation doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but eventually they need to get it right, don’t they?

Jonnu Smith, TE TEN

Current DLF Positional Ranking: 24

Pros: The Titans have been a bit of an offensive surprise since they switched to a new quarterback, and they have been one of the better offenses in the league. They also have an aging tight end who just can’t seem to stay healthy. Smith seems to be the heir apparent. He stepped up last year into the starting role, scoring or having six catches in four out of five games. Smith was highly productive in college, so we know he can do it. He has the frame to be an every down tight end, and the athletic ability to be a mismatch for defenses when running routes.

Cons: Smith has shown his own tendency to land himself on the trainer’s table, missing games or off-season activities due to injury in each of his three seasons. As a result, his route running hasn’t progressed as quickly as we had hoped. This has resulted in relatively low usage in most of his games. Granted, he was playing second fiddle in a lot of those, but in his week 12 game of this year he didn’t even have a target in the passing game as the starting tight end. That isn’t a good sign. The Titans obviously don’t feel super comfortable with him, and I worry that he could end up being an afterthought as the offense progresses with other young players instead of him.

My rankings in terms of how excited I am about their futures and their chances of becoming an every week TE1:

  1. Mike Gesicki
  2. Gerald Everett
  3. Jonnu Smith
  4. Ian Thomas

Other players I considered but ultimately decided against with the reasons stated are: Chris Herndon (injury, competition), Will Dissly (injury), Blake Jarwin (lack of production)

I’ll be back soon with a look at some of the other positions. Good luck in the playoffs!

jacob feldman