Fantasy Football Sleepers – Tight Ends – 2020
Eric Ebron – Pittsburgh Steelers
As a lifelong Lions fan, the performances of Eric Ebron were extremely tough to swallow during his days in Detroit. He was the 10th pick overall in the 2014 draft and expectations were high, maybe too high for a tight end. This questions the logic of passing on Taylor Lewan, Odell Beckham Jr and Aaron Donald in the first place, but I digress. Let’s look at the facts. After four unspectacular seasons in Detroit, Ebron exploded as the primary target of Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, racking up a career high 750 yards and 13 TD’s (his previous high was 5). Then out of the blue, Luck retires!
To say Ebron has fallen short of expectations is an understatement but frankly who cares. He’s just a guy doing his best to play football. He can be a polarizing at times but only in the fan’s eyes. In the last six years I’ve never heard of him being lazy or a bad locker room guy so let’s just chill out. The 2020 season with Roethlisberger chucking the rock could be his best year yet. The Steelers love to use the tight end and Ebron is far better pass catching tight end than incumbent Vance McDonald.
Don’t forget to check out our other Fantasy Football Sleepers!
Noah Fant – Denver Broncos
Fant was the second Iowa tight end taken off the board in the 2019 NFL draft but he finished his rookie season as the better choice so far. T.J. Hockenson, selected 8th overall by Detroit was the consensus top tight end in the draft but someone forgot to tell Fant. Hockenson sputtered after a monster opening day game but Fant slowly and steadily got more involved as the season went on. He stands at 6’4” 249 pounds and demonstrates great agility for a big guy. Lower end tight ends are always a crapshoot. If you don’t want to spend the early picks for Kelce or Kittle, then wait a few rounds and fill the slot with Fant.
Hayden Hurst – Atlanta Falcons
Hayden Hurst has played second fiddle to Mark Andrews in Baltimore but no more! He was traded for a second-round pick (among others) after being a first round selection two years ago by Baltimore. Hurst is on top of the depth chart in a passing offense that utilizes the tight end. He’s got excellent hands and a mean streak after the catch. Hurst was the third highest targeted player in Baltimore as a backup tight end.
He’ll probably be the third highest targeted player with the Falcons this season as well and that will put him in the 60-75 target range. With a career average of 12 yards per catch, at 70 receptions and half a dozen TD’s, we are looking at 840 receiving yards and 120 fantasy points. Hurst is in for a great year relative to his likely draft position.
Jared Cook – New Orleans Saints
Cook has bounced around the league quite a bit in his 11-year career but has found a comfy home in New Orleans. Cook ripped off career highs in yards per catch and TD’s in his first year with the Saints (even with Brees missing five games). Cook isn’t flashy, but he is reliable and just catches every ball that comes his way. 16.4 yards per catch led the team by a mile this season as he makes the most of every target. Cook was second in receiving yards for the Saints with 705, despite having 120, that’s right, 120 fewer targets than Michael Thomas.
The question you must ask is whether Thomas gets a ridiculous 185 targets again or will 40 of those go in a different direction. I’m betting on more balanced targets this season, which only makes the case for Cook to be a top five tight end better. He averaged almost 9 fantasy point a game last season. If you don’t spend the draft capital on the Kelce, Kittle or Andrews, then you’ve got a mid-round tight end decision to make. Austin Hooper and Zach Ertz get more buzz but at the end of the year I wouldn’t be surprised if Cook bests both.