esny 2021 fantasy football preview tes
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

ESNY continues with its 2021 Fantasy Football Preview series, and this time around, we discuss the top 20 fantasy tight ends for this season.

Would they have allowed us to attend Tight End University to do some early scouting for our fantasy teams?

That would’ve been pretty cool. However, you would probably be doing a little too much if you were to take that route.

Anyway, let’s continue with our 2021 Fantasy Football Preview series by discussing the NFL’s top 20 fantasy tight ends.

No. 20-11

20. Jonnu Smith (NE)

19. Rob Gronkowski (TB)

18. Eric Ebron (PIT)

17. Hayden Hurst (ATL)

16. Tyler Higbee (LAR)

15. Hunter Henry (NE)

14. Jared Cook (LAC)

13. Noah Fant (DEN)

12. Austin Hooper (CLE)

11. Dalton Schultz (DAL)

10. Evan Engram (NYG)

Listen, I understand it more than anyone. The drops are an issue (career-high 11 total drops in 2020).

But you have to admit, Evan Engram can indeed produce on the stat sheet, which is why he earned a Pro Bowl nod last year.

Through the 2020 struggles, the Giants tight end caught 63 balls for 654 yards.

He’ll be a part of the same offensive system (led by coordinator Jason Garrett) for the second consecutive year this season (a plus), and it’s known Garrett prefers to utilize tight ends in his game plans.

With Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney now on the roster, Engram should be freed up to further produce in 2021; drafting him may not be a bad move whatsoever.

9. Mike Gesicki (MIA)

Even with uncertainty at the quarterback position for a portion of the 2020 season (not everyone was completely confident in Tua Tagovailoa), Mike Gesicki still produced.

Gesicki’s 53 receptions were 12th among tight ends while his 703 yards were fourth. He additionally carries a knack for the end zone and notched six scores for Miami last season.

While he’s not the best fantasy option, Gesicki is still someone likely capable of starting for your team the majority of the year.

8. Robert Tonyan Jr. (GB)

The sub-60 reception total of 2020 isn’t intriguing. Neither is the sub-600 yard total.

But the 11 touchdowns certainly are.

Robert Tonyan Jr. has a great knack for the end zone, and with Aaron Rodgers back, is expected to further portray that on-field strength.

This should lead to fantasy football players selecting him in tight end-friendly rounds.

7. Kyle Pitts (ATL)

I didn’t want to put Kyle Pitts too far down on the list, but I also didn’t want to put him in the top five right off the bat.

The rookie tight end out of Florida has tremendous talent and is one of those players that could immediately find great success. However, first-year players still possess the potential to be busts — at least we know what we may get out of the others on this list.

Regardless, Pitts could be a massive passing-game option in Atlanta; expect him to earn a significant number of targets.

6. Mark Andrews (BAL)

The Ravens were the worst passing team in the NFL last season.

But amid the struggles, Mark Andrews was still able to produce.

With 58 receptions, 701 yards, and seven touchdowns, Andrews put up respectable numbers. His 50.1 receiving yards per game also ranked fourth in the NFL among tight ends.

And in 2021, opposing defenses will need to focus some attention on rookie wideout Rashod Bateman, which could free up Andrews for notable targets.

5. T.J. Hockenson (DET)

T.J. Hockenson proved last year to be one of the more productive tight ends in the NFL, earning a Pro Bowl bid in the process.

Hock was third among tight ends with 723 yards and fourth with 67 receptions to go with his six touchdown catches.

You can additionally make the argument quarterback Jared Goff notably utilizes his tight ends. Each of the last two years in Los Angeles, the Rams’ two main tight ends — Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett — were two of the team’s top five receivers.

Expect the Goff-Hockenson connection to lead to success for your fantasy team, should you draft the latter.

4. Logan Thomas (WAS)

The quarterback-turned-tight end comes in at No. 4 on our list.

What a great story Logan Thomas is. After succeeding at the quarterback position in college, Thomas switched to tight end in 2016 but couldn’t consistently produce for numerous teams.

Then, 2020 happened.

With Washington, Thomas was third among tight ends with 72 receptions and seventh with 670 yards. He additionally reeled in six touchdown catches.

He was also third in targets (110), proving he’s heavily relied on in offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s system.

Expect the Football Team to continue utilizing the 30-year-old after the organization inked him to a three-year extension last month. The targets will be there, which means there will be opportunities for Thomas to garner your team points.

3. George Kittle (SF)

Sure, George Kittle dealt with injuries last year, which led to him only playing half the season for San Francisco.

But do you realize how incredible the production was through those eight games?

Forty-eight catches and 634 yards — this means Kittle was on pace for 96 receptions and 1,268 yards if he played the entire season.

Kittle is still one of the top tight ends in the league and obviously has developed a nice rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo. The Niners quarterback is returning from an injury-plagued 2020 season and that connection should revive itself at least until San Francisco decides to start rookie Trey Lance (if that occurs in 2021).

But if and when Lance does take over, don’t expect Kittle to disappear given his superb talent.

2. Darren Waller (LV)

The top two were obvious, and we commence this portion of the list with the Raiders’ Darren Waller.

The Vegas tight end proved to be one of the best at his position last season.

  • 107 receptions — No. 1 among tight ends; No. 4 in the league overall
  • 1,196 yards — No. 2 among tight ends; No. 10 in the league overall
  • Nine touchdowns — No. 3 among tight ends; tied for No. 10 in the league overall
  • 145 targets — tied for No. 1 among tight ends; No. 6 in the league overall

Darren also led the Raiders in targets by at least 63, catches by at least 51, and yards by at least 300.

This Jon Gruden offensive system heavily relies on Waller and that should continue being the case in 2021, which will provide him with various opportunities to produce each and every week.

1. Travis Kelce (KC)

Finally, we have the world’s best active tight end in the top spot.

Travis Kelce is basically another receiver. I mean, just look at his 2020 production:

  • 105 receptions — No. 2 among tight ends; No. 5 in the league overall
  • 1,416 yards — No. 1 among tight ends; No. 2 in the league overall
  • 11 touchdowns — tied for No. 1 among tight ends; tied for No. 5 in the league overall
  • 145 targets — tied for No. 1 among tight ends; tied for No. 6 in the league overall

It’s also a plus that he has the best quarterback on the planet — Patrick Mahomes — alongside him. Playing for Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy helps, too.

Travis is in a great situation to succeed once again in 2021 — don’t be surprised if his production level is very similar to that of 2020.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.