(CBS Local)- The 2021 NFL season is on the horizon and that means it’s time to prepare for your fantasy football draft. After an offseason and summer of transactions and changes around the league, it can take a minute to refresh your memory before you’re on the clock.
With that in mind, we took a look at the CBSSports.com expert rankings for each position from Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard and Heath Cummings and have compiled top 10 lists for each based on what a player’s average ranking was across the three lists. Today it’s time to look at the tight ends where Travis Kelce still retains the top spot but the battle for second is a tight one.
1) Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (Avg. Rank 1)
Projected Fantasy Points- 216, 12.7 per game
Kelce has reigned at the top of the tight end list in fantasy since the 2018 season and that’s not expected to change this season. The 31-year-old posted his second career 100 reception season in 2020 and had career highs in yards (1,416) and touchdowns (11) as well. He enters 2021 as part of a Chiefs offense that completely remade the offensive line in an attempt to give Patrick Mahomes more time to operate and find Kelce, Tyreek Hill and others.
The projections have Kelce in line for 123 catches 1,532 yards and 11 touchdowns putting him in line for career highs thanks to the added 17th game.
2) Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders (Avg. Rank 2.3)
Projected Fantasy Points- 141, 8.3 per game
Waller and Kittle are the 2A and 2B in the guys’ rankings with Waller rankings second in two of three lists and Kittle second in the third. The soon to be 29-year-old Waller has broken out in the last two seasons becoming a major receiving threat for the Raiders with back-to-back 90+ catch, 1,100 yard seasons. He finished second behind Kelce for most fantasy points by a tight end with 171 last season. Heading into 2021, the projections have him dropping back a bit with two fewer touchdowns (7 instead of 9) but still over 1,000 yards.
3) George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers (Avg. Rank 2.6)
Projected Fantasy Points- 182, 10.7 per game
Kittle played in just eight games in 2020 dealing first with a sprained MCL and then a foot fracture that put him IR late last season. In the games he did play, he averaged 9.5 points per game in standard leagues just behind Waller (10.7). Assuming a healthy season, despite a potential quarterback change in the Bay, Kittle is expected to retake the second spot by the projections. He’s slotted in for 120 catches, 1,502 yards and seven touchdowns.
4) Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens (Avg. Rank 4.3)
Projected Fantasy Points- 130, 7.6 per game
Andrews was the fourth-best fantasy tight end last season behind Green Bay’s Robert Tonyan, pulling in 112 points (8 per game) in standard leagues. His projections this year over a full 17-game season have him increasing his numbers, to 68 receptions for 852 yards and nine touchdowns. There is some question though if the target share will be the same in Baltimore this year. The Ravens added Sammy Watkins as well as first round pick Rashod Bateman. After Andrews and Marquise Brown combined for 188 of the 392 targets (47.9%) last season, will the ball get spread around more? Will the Ravens throw the ball more? Andrews should be productive, just a question of whether those additions eat into his production.
5) T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (Avg. Rank 4.6)
Projected Fantasy Points- 109, 6.4 per game
Hockenson was fifth last season among tight ends in fantasy points, collecting 108 over the course of the season (6.8 per game). He was second on the team in targets behind Marvin Jones and with Jones now in Jacksonville, he’s likely to be the top option for new QB Jared Goff. Projections have him right around 110 targets this season with 68 catches for 888 yards and five touchdowns.
6) Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons (Avg. Rank 6)
Projected Fantasy Points- 111, 6.5 per game
Big things are expected of the rookie Pitts after the Falcons selected him fourth overall in the Draft. It’s easy to see why given his dominant season at Florida in which he scored 12 touchdowns in eight games. He proved with the Gators that he’s a force to be reckoned with in the red zone, capable of making tough, contested catches, which could lead to him being a favorite target in that area. It’s all projection here since this is the first time we’re seeing Pitts at the NFL level but he’s listed for 63 catches, 818 yards and seven touchdowns.
7) Noah Fant, Denver Broncos (Avg. Rank 8)
Projected Fantasy Points- 94, 5.5 per game
Fant finished last season 13th at the position in fantasy points and we’re now in the range where you’re expecting similar outcomes from a lot of guys. For Fant, it’s unclear who will be under center and depending on how his chemistry develops with Teddy Bridgewater, his target share could change. Last season, he was second on the team in targets (93) behind Jerry Jeudy and led the team in receptions (62). He’s projected for a similar season this year with 61 catches for 740 yards and five touchdowns.
8) Irv Smith, Minnesota Vikings (Avg. Rank 8.3)
Projected Fantasy Points- 86, 5.1 per game
Smith is an interesting case and more of a projection here based on the fact that Kyle Rudolph is no longer in Minnesota. A second round pick out of Alabama in 2019, Smith finished fourth on the Vikings in targets last season behind Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook despite starting just seven games and playing in 13. Now the presumed starter, there’s a possibility for more targets in 2021. He’s slotted in for 53 receptions 599 yards and six touchdowns in the projections.
9) Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (Avg. Rank 8.3)
Projected Fantasy Points- 89, 5.2 per game
Goedert likely would be higher on this list had the Eagles been able to move Zach Ertz this offseason. Since Ertz is still on the roster, despite the teams plans to start Goedert, his potential targets is lower than expected. He’s projected to finish inside the Top 10 with 62 receptions for 690 yards and five touchdowns.
10) Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers (Avg. Rank 11)
Projected Fantasy Points- 87, 5.1 per game
Tonyan was a breakout star in fantasy last season, finishing third at the position with 124 total points on the season thanks mostly to his 11 touchdown grabs. That number seems unsustainable particularly given that he had just 52 total receptions so his touchdown grabs accounted for 21% of his catches last season. He certainly proved a capable red zone threat and as we’ve seen, when Rodgers trusts guys, he will consistently go to them. So, the projections still have Tonyan set for a solid season of 46 catches for 488 yards and eight touchdowns.