Fantasy Football

2020 NFL Schedule Tight End Winners and Losers

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What’s harder? Trying to find a reliable tight end in fantasy or Jason Garrett finding a scenario unworthy of his applause? If George Kittle and Travis Kelce aren’t on your draft boards, then you’re leaving the position open to risk. Most of us won’t walk away with either of these studs, and that’s why I’m here to get you on the right track to finding a tight end worthy of your roster. Together, we’re going to take a look at the 2020 NFL Schedule Tight Ends Winners and Losers.

Personally, I’m not a proponent of taking tight ends early in the draft. I look for value in the later rounds and shore up my receivers and running backs early. A solid tiebreaker between later options at the position is their strength of schedule, particularly in the first few weeks of the season.

So, which players am I targeting in drafts as a result of their newly released schedules? Join me and find out who I’ve chosen as the 2020 NFL Schedule Tight End Winners and Losers!

Also, be sure to check out the rest of our schedule winners and losers for Quarterbacks, Running Backs and Wide Receivers.

2020 NFL Schedule Tight End Winners and Losers

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Winners

Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

It seems ridiculous to label a TE5 finish as a disappointment. In most cases, a top-five fantasy performance at a position is cause for celebration. Unfortunately, when it comes to tight ends, things are a little more complicated.

When you sacrifice depth on your team by taking a tight end in the first three rounds, anything but a top-two finish is considered a letdown. Ertz’s ADP last year had him going in the middle of the third round, which made him the second drafted tight end.

A high capital pick used on a tight end is made in anticipation of starting the season with a major positional advantage over your opponents. Throughout the season, Ertz fell short of giving his owners that edge. He had a few great games, and he had a few busts, but mostly, he was good, not great.

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The good news for Ertz is that even though the Eagles are trying to bring in receiving talent, they’re a ways away from having a strong corps. Their top receiver, Alshon Jeffery may not even be a member of the team by the time the season starts. Meanwhile, their secondary option, DeSean Jackson, is 33 years old and coming off an injury-plagued season.

If Jeffery and Jackson are both healthy and on the team, and rookie, Jalen Reagor, can make a splash, Ertz’s 135 target total is bound to drop. Luckily for Ertz, his rapport with Wentz and Doug Pederson‘s usage of his tight ends still makes him an easy candidate for a 100+ target season.

Moving ahead to 2020, Ertz faces only two top-10 defenses against fantasy tight ends from 2019. In the same vein, he’s been gift-wrapped nine matchups against teams in the bottom 10 of those same rankings.

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Ertz is still going too early for my taste in drafts, as I like to wait on tight ends. With that said, his ADP and fantasy output should be more in line with one another than last year.

T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

Four quarters into last season we thought the second-coming of Gronk might be donning a Lions jersey. Not to discredit T.J. Hockenson’s debut game, but we later found out that the Cardinals defense set him up with the assist, as they did for virtually every tight end they played. Still, tracking down six receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown is no easy feat.

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Unfortunately for Hockenson, in the remaining 11 games he played, he failed to reach 60 yards and only scored once.

His Week 1 performance was more than just a case of beginner’s luck though. Remember, Hockenson was taken in the first round of the 2019 draft with the eighth overall pick by Detroit.

One of the rookie’s biggest problems he’ll have to overcome is securing the football. His touchdown total would have been slightly higher last year if he had managed to overpower defenders vying for the ball in the endzone. In order for Stafford to continue targeting him around the goal line, he’ll need to work on his lackluster contested-catch rate of 36.4%.

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Luckily for him, he’s a big-time beneficiary of the schedule release. He’ll once again get to face the Cardinals in Arizona, and his other matchups aren’t intimidating either.

Going off of last year’s rankings, the only two negative matchups on his schedule this year are the Panthers and the Vikings. I don’t know how closely you’ve followed the offseason, but both of those defenses got horrific makeovers.

The Vikings lost multiple pieces of their secondary, and Luke Kuechly shocked the league with his retirement announcement. After the painful losses both teams have suffered, Hockenson should have no problem exploiting their defenders.

If you’re planning to wait on a tight end, Hockenson is a late-round grab with TE1 upside.

Evan Engram, New York Giants

Hardly anything sours the taste of a fantasy owner more than injuries. When you draft someone who misses the entire second half of the season, you’re liable to hold a grudge. To all of you who feel wronged by Evan Engram, allow me to serve as a mediator.

Forgive the man! The fate of your fantasy team depends on it.

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It may seem hard to remember, but through the first nine weeks of the season, Engram was the TE6 in a half-point PPR format. Had he played all 16 games, he was on pace for 88 receptions, 934 yards, and six touchdowns. That stat-line would have made him the TE5 on the season.

Injury risk aside, Engram is one of the safest tight ends in the draft. When he was healthy, he commanded 22% of the team’s total targets, and 25% of red-zone targets. He’s such a gifted pass-catcher that last year the team lined him up in the slot for 23.8% of his snaps.

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It’s easy to get antsy when thinking of drafting Engram considering the injury concerns and offseason trade rumors. Because of this, Engram’s draft value is going to be far lower than what he’s worth. If there aren’t dollar signs in your eyes, I don’t know what more I can do for you.

Baked into his enormous upside is a mouthwatering plate of soft matchups. There are two big stains on his schedule this season, however. One of which comes in Week 3 against the Niners, and more disappointingly, the other comes in the fantasy playoffs in Week 16.

All is not lost, though. Given the way the team utilizes Engram, he’s not going to be used in a strictly conventional sense. He’ll get his opportunities to line up in the slot, and his 80% route participation metric isn’t going down. With the Giants likely having to chase points in both games, Engram will get his fair share of targets.

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

Look, I know I just stood on my soapbox and preached the gospel of waiting on tight ends, but if you want to take one of the top-two guys and be done with the position, just hear me out.

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Last season, Travis Kelce finished the year as the TE1, with George Kittle right on his tail. In reality, the only difference in their seasons was the number of games played.

Kittle missed two games last year due to knee and ankle injuries. In his 14 games played, he actually tied Kelce in points-per-game at 12.9.

There’s not much I can tell you about Kelce and Kittle that you don’t already know. Both players are in a tier far above the rest of the competition, and this year won’t change that. If, however, you’re looking to go all-in at the position in drafts, let their respective strength of schedules be your tiebreaker.

Seven of Kittle’s matchups this season are against the 10 worst fantasy defenses against tight ends. That alone gives him the edge. While the rest of his schedule has him in neutral matchups, only three of his games pit him up against top-10 defenses. When it comes down to it, ask yourself, “Am I really going to bench him?”

Let me help you out, the answer is no.

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Losers

Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Remember when I referenced the second-coming of Gronk? Well, this is actually the second coming of Gronk.

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Fresh off of retirement, Rob Gronkowski decided to join forces with his hall-of-fame quarterback in Tampa. While the fantasy hype seems to be relatively calm at the moment, I have a hunch it will have gotten out of control by the time draft season rolls around.

Not only does Gronk need to get back in game shape and learn a new and complex offensive scheme, but he also has to prepare for a schedule that’s unfriendly to his position.

Gronk has only one matchup against a bottom-10 fantasy defense against tight ends. If we knew he was game-ready, and if he and Brady were still in Belichick’s system, this would be little cause for concern. Aren’t breakups the worst?

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Technically, Gronk has two terrible matchups by last year’s standards, but again, I can confidently say that Carolina and Minnesota won’t repeat their performances.

In the past, Gronk would have been an easy auto-start regardless of the competition. Now, he’s going to have to prove it on the field again for me to feel confident advocating for him as a top-tier tight end. If you want to win your fantasy leagues, don’t make a habit of living in the past.

Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints

As a Saints fan, it pains me to put one of my own in this section. Who Dat Nation, please forgive me.

Jared Cook is living proof that it’s never too late to break out in your career. The 33-year-old has enjoyed two back-to-back phenomenal seasons. First with the Raiders, and then with the Saints. In Oakland, he became a star born of necessity, and in New Orleans, well, Sean Payton and Drew Brees certainly know how to make a tight end feel at home.

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Following a season where he finished just shy of hitting double-digit touchdowns, Cook finds himself lacking a single plus matchup for tight ends in 2020. On a positive note, however, his schedule is also devoid of difficult matchups with the exception of his team’s showdown against San Francisco.

Cook is a tight end who relied heavily on his touchdown production to be a fantasy asset. He caught nine touchdowns on only 43 receptions. That’s a staggering reception to touchdown ratio.

With Alvin Kamara‘s touchdown rate likely returning to the mean and Emmanuel Sanders taking away receiving yards, Cook’s upside is limited. He’s almost certainly not going to have a repeat performance where he scores on 20% of his receptions.

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Cook’s true value is in the double-digit rounds of the draft, but he’ll go anywhere between the seventh and ninth rounds. If you can, look elsewhere at tight end.

Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders

Last year’s tight end break out, Darren Waller, represents the best kind of player in fantasy. He’s the guy you either spent your last pick on, or you happened to see him on the waiver wire and thought to yourself, “Ah, what the hell?”

When Oakland’s offense seemed like it was headed for destruction last year, Waller rose to the occasion and became a reliable target for Derek Carr. In fact, Waller finished with a total of 117 targets, which made him the third-most targeted tight end in 2019. Although his inability to find the end-zone hampered him a bit, he still managed to be the TE3 on the year.

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In 2019, Waller was by himself in no man’s land for most of the season. This year, however, Oakland brought in some shiny new toys to add to the offense.

Much like the Broncos, the Raiders prioritized the offense in a big way through the first three rounds. With their first pick, they took Henry Ruggs III out of Alabama, and they followed that up with two third-round additions in Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden Jr. and South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards.

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Along with the rookies, both Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow are returning to the fray as well.

With more mouths to feed in this offense, Waller’s target share will see a significant dip. I think it’s safe to say that he’ll lose around 25-30 targets.

In addition to the loss of target volume, Waller has a handful of difficult matchups to conquer. With the exception of Miami, his games against the AFC East are going to provide a struggle at finding production.


If Waller’s touchdown total doesn’t significantly increase next year, he’s going to be a consistent name in 2020 bust write-ups at the end of the season.


Check out the rest of our offseason Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers.

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