Way Too Early 2019 TE Sleepers
It’s almost March, which means it’s almost time for NFL draft season. Before we start oohing and aahing over young men in their underwear, we should remember what we already have. Below are three tight ends likely to outplay their draft stock in 2019. Call them TE sleepers, value picks, breakouts, or sneaky selections. Just call their name. ECR is “expert consensus ranking” from FantasyPros.com.
Austin Hooper, Atlanta (ECR: TE15)
Only the tight end big three (Kittle/Kelce/Ertz) had more receptions than Austin Hooper last season, and his 660 yards ranked seventh on the season. The problem? Like Graham, he didn’t score enough touchdowns, so he ended up as just the TE12 on the year. Uncertainty surrounding Dirk Koetter’s return to the Falcons have him ranked outside the startable TE ranks in a fourteen-team league, but he should end up on your roster as a TE2 if you’re snagging two to see which of your TE sleepers breaks out. Except for 2014 and 2015, he’s had a top-ten tight end every year outside of Jacksonville. Granted, having O.J. Howard and Tony Gonzalez will certainly help things, but that’s neither here nor there. He likes to use the tight end, and Austin Hooper is the tight end. It’s a pretty one-to-one relationship here. He’s the only guy on this list who might get sniped from you, so you may have to prioritize him, but you won’t be sorry. He’ll likely be a safe, but unsexy tight end, which, honestly, is a breath of fresh air in the touchdown-or-bust world of fantasy football tight ends.
Jimmy Graham, Packers (ECR: TE19)
After spending the last two seasons absolutely railing against Jimmy Graham, I can’t say that I’m comfortable with putting him on a TE sleepers list. However, I believe in head coach Matt LaFleur’s ability to make sure that Aaron Rodgers won’t have a tire fire around him on offense. Jimmy Graham doesn’t have a lot left, but he does still have the ability to be big and go up and get touchdown catches. Here’s the wild part: the Packers used him for everything but that in 2018. He totaled 636 yards on 91 targets (sixth and ninth at TE, respectively). The Packers just didn’t use him for the one thing that he does best at this point in his career: using his size to score touchdowns. I trust Matt LaFleur to use his weaponry properly, and at TE19, Jimmy Graham should be in for a dead cat bounce in 2019, and you could reap all the benefits.
Ian Thomas, Carolina (ECR: TE32)
I thoroughly believe that Greg Olsen is going to hang ’em up before 2019 (despite what he says) but if he doesn’t call it quits, his body will sooner rather than later. Enter Ian Thomas. The SPARQ freak didn’t get much run until Greg Olsen went out with a foot injury again, but the rookie tight end was the #6 tight end over the last five weeks of the season in his mop-up duties at the position, scoring or notching at least 77 yards in three of his last four games of the year. Roll that forward to 2019, and give him another offseason to learn the position. He’s literally undrafted in any sane league, so you could even monitor him on the waiver wire if you want, but he should make it onto your roster if you’re someone who loves TE sleepers.