5 upside TEs to draft in 2021


With this article, I continue my upside fantasy saga. It’s exactly like the Star Wars Skywalker saga, except more valuable and with a better ending.

In my first two pieces, I highlighted 10 upside running backs and 10 upside wide receivers I like for 2021 at their average draft positions.

In this piece, I look at five upside tight ends I like based on their current cost (per our FTN ADP tool).

Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (TE7)

One of my 10 bold predictions for 2021 is that Dallas Goedert will be a top-four fantasy tight end this year.

As Tyler Loechner notes in his piece on tackle-breaking tight ends, Goedert last year was No. 1 at this position with 0.22 forced miss tackles per touch (among all tight ends with 30-plus touches, per our Elusive Rating Tool).

Goedert has massive yards-after-catch potential and could see a significant increase in target volume, given that the Eagles are still expected to part with tight end Zach Ertz this season and have an unproven collection of wide receivers in DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

Derek Brown has a great section on Goedert in his Eagles coaching and coordinator breakdown (slightly edited for length):

“Goedert stepped forward as the leading tight end for this club, edging out Ertz in target share (17.3% to 17%) with quarterback Jalen Hurts at the end of the season. Goedert ranked ninth in yards per route run (1.75) among all tight ends and screams as a player deserving of more work. The upside is immense under head coach Nick Sirianni, who utilized tight ends heavily in the red zone with Indy. In 2020 the Colts tight ends garnered 31.0% of their red-zone targets.”

Do yourself a favor and check out the entirety of Derek’s NFL coaching and coordinator series.

Even though the Eagles are only +10000 at DraftKings to win the Super Bowl, I think they could exceed expectations, and Goedert is one of the main ways I want to invest in their offense.

To see the bets I’ve made for the upcoming NFL season — including a side or total for every Week 1 game — check out our FTN Bet Tracker.

Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots (TE16)

Jonnu Smith is often a frustrating player to roster. His talent is apparent: Among all tight ends with 50 targets per year over the past three seasons, Smith is No. 8 with 8.0 yards per target, and over that time he’s No. 5 at the position with 15 touchdowns. He’s an explosive playmaker.

But to this point in his career, he is yet to earn usage commensurate with his talent, and he now enters an uncertain situation in his first year with the Patriots. Last year, quarterback Cam Newton almost never targeted his tight ends, the pass-catching unit in New England has been completely overhauled, Smith might play behind tight end Hunter Henry, and we don’t know whether Newton or rookie Mac Jones will open the year at quarterback.

Hilariously, Derek Brown highlighted New England as one of the worst fantasy landing spots for Smith before free agency — and of course that’s where he signed — but I’m still intrigued.

Uncertainty creates possibility, and regardless of whoever plays at quarterback for the Pats, Smith might emerge as the No. 1 receiver in the offense, because in comparison to Henry and wide receivers Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers, he truly might be the best all-around and most efficient player on a per-route basis.

No one has any real idea how the Patriots will distribute targets this year or how voluminous the passing game will be. If Smith finds himself with 100-plus targets, he could be a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown monster.

Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints (TE19)

One of my favorite new podcasts is the Primetime Fantasy Football show with high-stakes dominators Nelson Sousa and Matthew Davis.

In their most recent episode, Sousa and Davis look at the tight end market, and Sousa specifically identifies Adam Trautman as a player he likes:


One of Sousa’s late-round fantasy football draft targets, Trautman is poised to take a big step forward this year. Tight end Jared Cook is gone, so Trautman is expected to earn all the starting snaps in 2021, and wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) has been placed on the PUP list and could miss a significant chunk of the season. On top of that, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders left the Saints in free agency.

A massive target void exists in New Orleans, and if Trautman progresses as a second-year pro, he could easily earn 120-plus targets for the receiver-deficient Saints. 

Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers (TE25)

I’m not a proud man, so it’s not too much for me to admit that, yes, I’m high on Jared Cook this year. As I highlight in my piece on my 2021 fantasy football PPR rankings, Cook is my TE11:

“Over the past four years, Cook has averaged 698.2 yards and six touchdowns receiving in 15.3 games per season. That’s not elite, but that easily makes him a TE1, and there’s little reason to think he can’t approximate those numbers again. He’s on the older side at 34, but for a tight end that age is not ancient, and he’s partnered with an ascending quarterback in Justin Herbert and a familiar playcaller in offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. At his low ADP of TE25, Cook offers massive value.”

In his piece on tight ends with boom-ability, Tyler Loechner notes that Cook tied Travis Kelce and trailed only Robert Tonyan and Mark Andrews last year with his two touchdowns of 20-plus yards.

In Lombardi’s offense, Cook has averaged 9.7 yards per attempt over the past two years: The veteran is still athletic enough to be a playmaker.

Anthony Firkser, Tennessee Titans (TE26)

Although Anthony Firkser has scored just three touchdowns over the past three years, he has been an explosive contributor for the Titans with 8.4 yards per target, and last year he split time with teammate Jonnu Smith, amassing 53 targets as a part-time contributor.

Now Smith and slot receiver Adam Humphries are gone, so Firkser could see a significant boost in targets, especially inside the red zone line, where Smith last year had 18 targets and one carry, which he leveraged into nine touchdowns.

With the enhanced potential for targets and especially touchdowns, Firkser is a low-cost, high-ceiling option.

To Derek Brown …

… Firkser is a potential stud.

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