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Ranking the top four rookie tight ends for dynasty leagues

A lot of work goes into my dynasty rankings.

I'll say this to my editor, as he anxiously awaits an article to be filed, and he'll just nod his head and then walk away.

No, really. A lot of work goes into my dynasty rankings.

Early on, I try not to be influenced by subjective factors like industry mock drafts, rumors regarding 40-yard dash times, and so on. Instead, I focus solely on the objective — a player's cold, hard, brutally honest numbers. I'll run each player's college statistics through my model (which focuses only on the most predictive metrics for each position) for an initial ranking. Who leads their position in this class? How does that player compare to the leaders of previous classes?

Then, these rankings get updated after the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. Each participant's numbers then get parsed through a second model that focuses only on the most predictive combine events for each position. This second model has a small (probably much smaller than imagined) but real impact on the first model.

The actual NFL Draft then has the biggest impact on these rankings, as draft position is the variable that has the single-most predictive power.

After that comes the subjective, and small tinkerings will be made. How enticing is this landing spot for a fantasy player? How accurate is the quarterback? How run-heavy (historically) is the offensive play-caller?

Countless hours will be spent watching post-draft press conferences with a team's head coach, offensive coordinator and/or general manager. Why did they draft this player? Do they like this tight end more as a receiver or a blocker? Do they think they can contribute immediately in Year 1?

In this week's series, I'll be walking you through the first step in this process. I'll be breaking down my top tight ends, wide receivers and running backs according to my pre-combine model. In today's article, we'll be focusing on the top tight ends of the 2020 NFL Draft class.

Top Fantasy Tight Ends of the 2020 Class

Jan 21, 2020; Mobile, Alabama, USA; South tight end Harrison Bryant of Florida Atlantic (40) during Senior Bowl practice. Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

1. Harrison Bryant, FAU (Age: 21.8)

Where he ranks: According to our model, Bryant is the best small-school tight end prospect to come out since at least 2015. He ranks just slightly ahead of Dallas Goedert in that regard.

Why he ranks here: The single most predictive metric for a tight end prospect is yards per route run average, and Bryant easily dominated that statistic. His 2019 season (3.04 yards per route run) was the best we've ever recorded during the PFF College era, and his 2018 season (2.62) ranked sixth-best. Even though his age-19 season in 2017 failed to qualify (only 151 routes run), it was equally as impressive (2.74). Our second-most predictive metric is receiving yards in a tight end's final season, and Bryant's 1,004 yards last season led the class.

Bryant was also seen as elite by a number of other metrics. Among 512 qualifying seasons, Bryant ranks third (92.7, 2019), fifth (92.2, 2017) and 19th (90.2, 2018) in terms of single-season PFF receiving grade. No other tight end has had even two seasons ranking in the top 20. He also averaged 10.0 yards after the catch per reception in 2019, which ranked second-best of 195 qualifying seasons, sandwiched between David Njoku's 2016 and Evan Engram's 2014).

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