09 May 2021 TE Rookie Rankings
2021 TE Rookie Rankings
This was a very odd year for the Tight End position in the NFL Draft. It is indisputable that the top prospect ever at the position is in the class, in Kyle Pitts. However, there was some considerable talent that seemed to not be valued as much as perhaps it should be. After Pitts went 4th overall to Atlanta the next player did not go until 51 picks later, towards the end of the 2nd round. I think most NFL scouts and evaluators just had a severe hangover after Pitts, and the gap was so enormous that it played out in how they prioritized the position. Do not be jaded or fooled, this is actually a really good Tight End class! Potentially. Here are my top guys, with some details on what it is I like about them. These rankings will likely change between now and the start of the season, but we need a starting point, and this is it. If you have any specific questions, find me on twitter @PeoplezPen. I’ll note, these are just straight rankings without any filters placed on them for PPR, or any scoring specifics. I am in leagues of all types, with the max being 55 man full IDP rosters with 11 starters on offense. I know there are a bunch of these leagues in existence, so some of these guys might be off your radar, but not for everyone.
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1. Kyle Pitts – Atlanta
There has been so much said about Kyle Pitts, and almost none of it has been negative. In fact, I could not personally find a negative thing, but phrased it as ‘almost none’ just to be safe. In an era of people looking for things to pick apart about someone, this speaks enormous volumes. Yes, he truly is that good. This is not a repeat of highly talked up Tight End prospects such as Vernon Davis, Eric Ebron, Noah Fant, and T.J. Hockenson. Pitts can flat out change the game plan for not only his team, but the opponent as well. That is something only a handful of guys can take credit for, and few at this position. I think Atlanta is a crowded landing spot, but that does not alter or affect in any way the drop-off between he and the rest of the pack. I highly encourage you to watch the attached video above.
2. Tommy Tremble – Carolina
One of the hardest positions to scout is Tight End, because the average football fan has no idea what to look for in terms of blocking, and we gravitate towards what we can quantify in the form of statistics. Tommy Tremble can block with the best of them, and is ready-made to step onto a pro field. Tremble is somewhat of a hybrid Kyle Juszczyk type, in that he has played Fullback, and can also line up at Tight End. He can pass block as well as run block, and is arguably the best in this class at doing so. That is what will get him on the field immediately in Carolina. Just that opportunity alone will provide fantasy value, as his athleticism and receiving ability are not to be ignored. Carolina has ranked 26th and 29th in 3rd Down Conversion percentage over the past two seasons, and Tremble can be that spark. I’m not expecting gaudy numbers, but if you are looking for rookie Tight End production, Tremble offers immediate potential return with an appealing upside for more.
3. Pat Freiermuth – Pittsburgh
On the opposite end of the Tremble spectrum is Freiermuth, who needs to add to his blocking game, which may limit his time on the field to start his career. As a pure pass catching, fantasy relevant prospect, Freiermuth’s ceiling is unlimited. He could easily end up being one of the best Tight Ends in the league, and he deserves to be the TE2 in this class. He is too talented to not find a way onto the field, and when I say these rankings will be tweaked, my love for him will likely bump him back up to TE2 before the season begins. While Freiermuth may be out of central casting for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they do still have Eric Ebron on the depth chart ahead of him. We also don’t know what their future QB situation will be, and with re-signing Juju Smith-Schuster, a gluttony of receivers remain. Long term, I do believe this is your guy. Short 1-2 year term, I think you are looking at a pure taxi squad participant.
4. Kenny Yeboah – New York Jets
Sometimes it’s not where you get drafted, but where you end up. This year’s crop of Un-Drafted Free Agents (UDFA) feels to be a lot more bountiful than normal. Yeboah is a very intriguing player, who has five college seasons on his résumé, but despite that, is still just 22 years old. He was a Matt Rhule recruit to Temple, and then was mired in the bad transition the Owls have been enduring since Rhule left for Baylor. He left Philly to join Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss, and blossomed into a pace that was on the brink of a 50 reception, 1,000 yard, 10 TD season for the Rebels. That was with Elijah Moore stockpiling stats, and is extremely rare production for a college Tight End. He carried that through a standout Senior Bowl week, making it shocking to see him go unselected. He signed with New York immediately following the conclusion of the draft, and joins an offense building from the ground up. He stays with his college teammate in Moore, and has no major threat in his way. As the Chris Herndon Experiment is entering its fourth year, the rest of the Jets roster has been supplemented with retreads and gambles. Yeboah has all of the attributes to ascend to the top of the depth chart, and be fantasy productive once there.
5. Brevin Jordan – Houston
Even if you are just a casual fan of college football, you have likely heard of Brevin Jordan. Not only was he a highly regarded four-star recruit out of Las Vegas, but he went to one of the premiere programs in college, with a lineage to the Tight End position. I was not entirely surprised to see Jordan fall into the 4th round as the 147th overall pick, but I was stunned to see him not selected until the 9th TE off the board. He certainly has the pedigree for everything you are looking for at the position, and has an elite level ceiling of production. I am confident that hindsight will make us look back to the 2021 NFL Draft and ponder how he was allowed to fall to Houston so late. Baffling draft slot aside, he finds himself in a great situation with the Texans, as they too do not have anything of significance ahead of him. As I noted in the QB Rankings, Davis Mills was a steal, and the offense is not as bad as we may want to assume it is – regardless of it being Deshaun Watson under center, or other. This was a head scratching situation, but one that could end happily for Brevin Jordan, and those who draft him.
6. Hunter Long – Miami
This is less about the player, and more about the landing spot. Mike Gesicki had somewhat of a breakout season in 2020, and might have reached 1,000 yards were it not for the learning curve of Tua Tagovailoa. I firmly believe Tua should take a major step forward this year, and Gesicki should be in line for a solid season himself, making Long more of developmental long-term fodder. He was the third rated Tight End in the XTB Draft Guide, and is a terrific player with upside for more, but likely will not be in play for fantasy for a few years.
7. Briley Moore – Tennessee
You might be wondering who exactly Briley Moore is, and you would be wise to know the name. He dominated the FCS level for Northern Iowa, before suiting up for Kansas State in a pandemic riddled 2020 season. The stats weren’t there this past season, but it was more about fulfilling a dream and staying active for Moore, than anything else. Ryan Roberts chronicled some of this journey in his XTB exclusive. The reason you need to know about Moore is not only what he is capable of, but also the landing spot. The Offensive Coordinators may be rotating through Tennessee, but the attention to Tight End has not waned. We saw it begin with Delanie Walker, and pass onto Jonnu Smith – who recently got his pay day with New England, and is no longer on the roster. The scene is flush with opportunity, and Moore graded out as one of the most athletic Tight Ends in this class. It is the type of low cost acquisition that could make you look like a genius down the road. No one is going to be thinking of Briley Moore, and your last pick, or first FAAB run, could pay enormous dividends.
8. Matt Bushman – Las Vegas
If injuries weren’t a concern, Bushman likely would have challenged for the TE2 title of this draft. He’ll also be 25 in October, due to a two year Mormon Mission fulfillment, but age didn’t prohibit Hayden Hurst. Had he played with Zach Wilson in 2020, we are absolutely viewing Bushman much differently. It was a back injury that sidelined him and cost him from playing any downs in 2020, but the performance when healthy is top notch, earning him the nickname “Honey Hands”. He is on this list solely for the ‘what if’, because if he can resume to full duty, he will be a major threat.
Andy is a jack of all trades in the Fantasy Sports industry, covering football, baseball, and the NFL Draft. He has written, edited, podcasted, and produced over 1,000 videos for his various series, in addition to dozens of guest appearances and collaborative pieces.
A top ranker on Fantasy Pros for both Football (23rd in 2018) & Baseball (7th in 2018), avid fan of mining for MLB prospects, and former D1 College hoops player, Andy is a native New Yorker, who has served as a firefighter in the FDNY for the past 18 years and counting.