Ranking players by position is an integral part of fantasy football preparation, but grouping them into tiers is crucial to identifying the value you might be leaving on the draft board. For example, if you're on the clock and looking at several tight ends in the same tier, it could make sense to wait until the next round — someone equally as worthy will probably be available with your next pick.
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Tiers can also help group players with similar expectations based on upside and floor. Most importantly, we don't want to pay more than the next drafter for a similar player.
- Scoring format: PPR
- YPRR = yards per route run
- TPRR = targets per route run
- ADOT = average depth of target
Last Updated: April 4, 2:00 p.m.
|1C||9||Rob Gronkowski||Free Agent|
|2A||16||Irv Smith Jr.||Vikings|
|3A||29||Trey McBride||NFL Draft (60)|
TIER 1A – ELITE TE1 TALENTS WITH LIMITED TARGET COMPETITION
Travis Kelce posted his sixth consecutive 1,000-plus yard season with 1,125 yards and nine touchdowns and finished as the TE2 in 2021. Historically, he has been a best-ball cheat code, and he should remain the focal point of the Kansas City Chiefs‘ offense with Tyreek Hill now in Miami.
The 33-year-old saw his lowest target share (19%), TPRR (21%) and YPRR (1.84) figures since 2015. We have seen great tight ends continue to post strong fantasy finishes at later ages than running backs and receivers, but Kelce is at the point where we have to consider opportunity costs. He is currently going off the board at Pick 1.07 in FFPC best-ball contests (tight end premium scoring), according to fantasymojo.com.
Mark Andrews has always demanded targets when on the field, but he ran a route on just 45%, 58% and 71% of pass plays in his first three NFL seasons. In 2021, that number surged to 84% (elite), and his No. 1 fantasy finish followed.
The Baltimore Ravens‘ dropback rate climbed from 50% in 2020 to 63% in 2021. However, the team battled multiple running back injuries, and their defensive secondary was also compromised. We can probably expect a figure between 2020 and 2021 next season, and the offensive efficiency could improve.
Kyle Pitts posted a juicy 81.6 PFF receiving grade in his rookie season — the fourth-best rookie mark at the position since 2011 (minimum 200 routes) behind Jordan Reed, Hunter Henry and Zach Ertz. In addition, he ranked second in routes per dropback (81%), third in target share (19%) and fifth in YPRR (2.02) out of all tight ends in 2021.
The second-year tight end should be the clear-cut focal point of the Atlanta Falcons‘ offense amid Calvin Ridley‘s suspension and Russell Gage‘s departure in free agency. The low-quality Atlanta offense could cap Pitts' touchdown upside, but a 150-target season is feasible given his elite underlying rookie-season metrics.
TIER 1B – ELITE TE1 TALENTS WITH TARGET VOLUME CHALLENGES
Darren Waller registered career-lows in PFF receiving grade (72.4), YPRR (1.74) and TPRR (23%) last season while playing in only 11 contests. However, he will be just 30 years old, and the wear-and-tear isn't as much of a concern since 2019 was his first full-time season. Additionally, he will have expanded target competition with the arrival of Davante Adams and the emergence of Hunter Renfrow. Still, the Raiders could be more pass-happy in 2022 in a loaded division under new head coach Josh McDaniels.
George Kittle collected the No. 1 PFF receiving grade among tight ends with at least 200 routes last season (91.2) and ranked first in YPRR and TPRR. He is still playing at the peak of his game but battles Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk for looks in a run-first offense in San Francisco. His current ADP is as cheap as we have seen in years as the fifth tight end off the board.
The 29-year-old has offensive environment concerns, but his underlying metrics are still some of the best. Last season, similar concerns pushed Mark Andrews down boards, and he finished as the No. 1 tight end. Kittle could do the same in 2022.
TIER 1C – PROVEN EVERY-DOWN TE1 OPTIONS
In his third season, T.J. Hockenson hit a career-high in fantasy points per game (11.9), ranking seventh among tight ends with at least 200 routes. The 25-year-old has already established a steady floor with back-to-back 21% TPRR figures and heavy route participation. He has yet to approach similar underlying metrics as the elite options, but the former first-rounder could still get there at his age.
Rob Gronkowski sits at the bottom of this tier just in case he decides not to play. However, if he re-signs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he becomes a borderline Tier 2 option. The 33-year-old rebounded in a huge way with an 86.7 PFF receiving grade, 2.09 YPRR and 22% TPRR in 2021 — all of which are elite numbers. He is currently the No. 14 tight end coming off the board, and gaining exposure at that price is one way to create an edge in early best-ball drafts.
TIER 1D – ASCENDING TE1 TALENTS IN CROWDED OFFENSES
Albert Okwuegbunam is in line for career-high route participation with Noah Fant now in Seattle. The third-year tight end hasn't seen extended action (170 routes in 2021), but his underlying metrics compare favorably to the best tight ends in the game. He ranked sixth in YPRR (1.94) on his limited sample in 2021 and tied for first in TPRR (24%) — making him a Tier 2 arbitrage play as the 13th tight end off the board.
TIER 2A – YOUTHFUL TE2 IN QUESTIONABLE SITUATIONS
Dawson Knox is currently the ninth tight end off the board in FFPC drafts after finishing as TE11 in his third season. He has steadily improved his fantasy points per game each season (5.3, 5.9 and 10.8), but his underlying data points suggest caution.
|PFF Receiving Grade||55.3||56.6||63.6|
In 2021, the average top-12 tight end averaged 1.78 YPRR, 20% TPRR and a 79.4 PFF receiving grade. Knox finished below all of these marks, but he was also by far the worst in each.
The former third-rounder resides in an elite pass-first offense, which helped buoy his fantasy rank — and that's the allure to drafting him. However, his targets could easily flow elsewhere depending on how the Bills handle the draft at receiver. Knox is more of an ancillary piece in the offense than a driver to success.
TIER 2B – VETERAN TE2 OPTIONS WITH EVERY-DOWN POTENTIAL
Logan Thomas tore his ACL late in the 2021 season but has a shot to be ready for the beginning of the 2022 campaign. The 31-year-old veteran has never posted elite underlying metrics, but he could still operate as high as the No. 2 option in the Washington Commanders‘ attack in 2022 — a role that bolstered him to a No. 4 tight end finish in 2020.
TIER 2C – VETERAN TE2 OPTIONS WITH ROUTE PARTICIPATION CHALLENGES
Hunter Henry was in a route on 69% of the New England Patriots‘ pass plays in 2021, which is below the 80% threshold we are seeking. However, he still finished as a top-eight fantasy tight end thanks to a career-high nine receiving touchdowns.
The seventh-year veteran's 1.50 YPRR and 18% TPRR figures were above average for the position, meaning he has upside should he earn more routes.
TIER 3A – POTENTIAL OPPORTUNITY EXPANSION TE3 OPTIONS
With Jack Doyle retiring, Mo Alie-Cox has an opportunity to register more routes in Indianapolis. His career route sample is small (577), but his 1.63 YPRR and 18% TPRR marks are respectable. Kylen Granson figures to get some work, but there is plenty of room for players to earn more targets in this offense behind Michael Pittman Jr.