As we continue to put together our base of operations in preparation for the 2020 season, we’re getting out rankings and tiers for dynasty formats. Yesterday, we covered the quarterback position. If looking to go back and find our 2020 early season ranks and rookie class ranks prior to the NFL draft, you can find those in the main rankings hub. You can also find a look at long-running production and fantasy trends for the tight end position here.

Those early season ranks already have initial thoughts and nuggets on players regarding their 2020 outlooks, so I’m not going to double down on the same approach here. I encourage you to go check those out if you want to see my thoughts on a player heading into this upcoming season. 

Just for housekeeping purposes, some real quick methodology here that I am rolling over from the opening set of tiers and ranks. If you’re new to how I do tiers, they are not like most. I make my dynasty tiers based on a blend of age, fantasy performance, career arc, team situation, and fantasy archetype. There is a large overlap to actual player rankings, but there can be some discord where the tiers don’t specifically follow the rankings.

The purpose of tiers not being a carbon copy of player rankings is to spot a potential arbitrage situation and shop in different buckets based on how I want to build my team. Sometimes I may want a veteran starter based on where my current roster is, other times I may want to chase more youth and upside. 

*Player Age = Age on 9/1/2020

Tier One

TE1. George Kittle (Age: 26.9)
2. Travis Kelce (30.9)
3. Mark Andrews (24.0)

Travis Kelce has ruled the tight end position, pacing the position in overall scoring in four consecutive seasons. He’ll start the 2020 season close to 31 years old, but is still attached to the league’s best passer to churn out a few apex seasons…George Kittle and Mark Andrews both have an age advantage and are hyper-efficient. They have the upside to be the TE1 on any given week or season. But both are currently stuck in low-volume passing games for the short term as well. Kittle still has untapped scoring upside, scoring five or fewer touchdowns so far in each of his first three seasons. Andrews still can gain so more usage coming off a 64-852-10 line in his second season while ranking 25th at the position in routes run.

Tier Two

4. Evan Engram (26.0)
5. Zach Ertz (29.8)
6. Darren Waller (28.0)
7. Hunter Henry (25.7)
9. Austin Hooper (25.8)
13. Tyler Higbee (27.7)

Tier Two is a potpourri of the best scorers at the position behind the top options. Zach Ertz is approaching 30 years old this season while his yards per target have dropped three straight seasons from the year prior. But he still has reached 100 targets in each of the past five seasons. He still has two high-salary dead cap seasons left on his contract… Evan Engram and Darren Waller have the athleticism to put up 1,000-yard seasons, even if their touchdown numbers don’t spike… Hunter Henry has been a top-10 scorer in points per game in each of his past two seasons, but has yet to play a full season and the Chargers have an unknown quarterback situation… Austin Hooper has improved in all four seasons while he’s hitting free agency at a perfect intersection of soft competition among this free agent group of tight ends and a weak rookie class to reset the tight end market. Going to Cleveland makes him the third target in the passing game when he could’ve went to a spot where he was the second option. 

The one wild-card here is Tyler Higbee. He had a monster late-season breakout with 43-522-2 over his final five games of 2019. He also signed a four-year contract extension last September while Gerald Everett is in a walk year. The remaining question is how stable is Higbee’s end of the year run given that the Rams totally phased out their running backs and third wide receiver in the passing game a year ago after they were fixtures of the most successful version of the Sean McVay offenses in Los Angeles.

Tier Three

8. Noah Fant (22.8)

10. T.J. Hockenson (23.2)

11. Dallas Goedert (25.7)

12. Mike Gesicki (24.9)

14. O.J. Howard (25.9)

15. Hayden Hurst (27.0)

16. Ian Thomas (24.2)

17. Chris Herndon (24.5)

18. David Njoku (24.1)

20. Jonnu Smith (25.0)

28. Will Dissly (24.1)

Your breakout flavor of choice to make a move and jump into the previous tier. Everyone here will enter 2020 under age-26. All have flashed TE1 upside for segments of their early careers.

Noah Fant led all rookies with 40 catches last season for 14.1 yards per grab…As mentioned above, Dallas Goedert still has a Zach Ertz problem for what looks like two seasons at the least. Even with Ertz there a year ago, Goedert was the TE12 in points per game in 2019… David Njoku gets a clean slate with a new regime, but that regime immediately went out and made adding AUstin Hooper a priority. Njoku may have to wait until his next team to break out… O.J. Howard is unfortunately still attached to a scheme that absolutely haltered his progression. He is a precocious athlete that still offers a lot of upside if the stars align… Chris Herndon was a favorite TE2 target for a number of fantasy analysts a year ago after averaging 9.0 yards per target as a rookie, but only got on the field for 18 snaps a year ago… Ian Thomas is out of Greg Olsen’s shadow full-time this season, but is likely the fourth option in his passing game…Hayden Hurst gets new life by going to an Atlanta offense that has been top-five in the league in passing plays per game the past two seasons after being buried behind Mark Andrews in Baltimore.

Tier Four

18. Gerald Everett (26.2)
25. Blake Jarwin (26.1)
28. Eric Ebron (27.4)
37. Trey Burton (28.8)

The next tier is filled with tight ends in the middle of the age spectrum that have some intrigue, but have yet to become consistent fantasy options. Eric Ebron has had the most success here, catching 13 touchdowns in 2018. Unfortunately, he’s caught just 14 touchdowns over his other five NFL seasons… Gerald Everett flashed for a stretch Weeks 4-10 last season before evaporating to close the year. He enters the last year of his rookie contract… The Cowboys were reluctant to give Blake Jarwin the job when Jason Witten retired for the 2018 season, but they are cash-strapped this offseason. Jarwin has averaged 11.7 yards per catch and 8.7 yards per target over the past two seasons while all other Dallas tight ends have posted 8.9 yards per catch and 6.6 yards per target.

Tier Five

21. Irv Smith Jr. (22.1)
23. Dawson Knox (23.8)
24. Jace Sternberger (24.2)
36. Josh Oliver (23.4)
49. Drew Sample (24.4)
50. Jaeden Graham (24.9)

This tier is filled with second-year players looking to take the next stride forward with role expansion in 2020. All are likely TE2 options at best short term. Dawson Knox (28-388-2) and Irv Smith Jr. (36-311-2) each ran over 300 pass routes at rookies… Josh Oliver (117 snaps ), Drew Sample (108), and Jace Sternberger (60) all got on the field for a very limited amount of snaps in their rookie seasons, but all were selected in the top-75 of last season’s NFL draft and have a current path to extended roles in year two if their depth charts resemble their current layout…. Jaeden Graham was an undrafted rookie last season, but played more snaps (208) than those three players. Graham averaged 16.6 yards per catch on just nine catches. 

Tier Six

22. Jared Cook (33.4)
29. Jack Doyle (30.3)
32. Greg Olsen (35.5)
38. Cameron Brate (29.2)
39. Vance McDonald (30.2)
47. Kyle Rudolph (30.8)

Our veterans who still have a realistic lifeline to scoring some points. Jared Cook was the TE7 in his first year with the Saints, but could be this season’s Eric Ebron after scoring on 13.9% of his catches… Greg Olsen has missed 18 games over the past three years. He has as a 2020 pulse playing with Russell Wilson, but there’s a good bet this is his last season… Jack Doyle and Vance McDonald are current starters that aren’t flashy, but have roles. Doyle has averaged just 9.0 yards per catch and 6.6 yards per target for his career while McDonald has one season with over 400 yards receiving.

Tier Seven

26. Hunter Bryant (22.4)
30. Harrison Bryant (22.4)
31. Bryce Hopkins (23.4)
33. Albert Okwuegbunam (22.4)
34. Adam Trautman (N/A)
35. Cole Kmet (21.5)

The top of the incoming rookie class. This class is light as a whole and rookie tight ends are a notoriously slow burn for fantasy production. We don’t have known destinations for these players, but we broke down all of these options after the combine.

Tier Eight

40. Foster Moreau (23.3)
41. Mo Alie-Cox (27.0)
42. C.J. Uzomah (27.6)
43. Ricky Seals-Jones (25.5)
44. Tyler Eifert (30.0)
45. Jordan Akins (28.4)
46. Kaden Smith (23.4)
48. Jacob Hollister (26.8)

Bringing the top-50 tight ends home is the final tier of options. These are players that are largely currently TE2 or lower options on their own rosters, needing injury elevation to have expanded use and fantasy viability. Foster Moreau was a red zone threat as he led all rookie tight ends with five touchdowns in 2019… C.J. Uzomah only has to contend with Drew Sample right now for snaps, but Uzomah ran a pass route on just 39.6% of his snaps in 2019…Kaden Smith posted a 31-268-3 line while Evan Engram dealt with injuries… Jacob Hollister never quite lived up to Will Dissly’s output (41-349-3). He is a restricted free agent while the Seahawks already have added Greg Olsen to the roster.