We finish up our position-by-position look at sleepers by looking at sleeper tight ends. Personally, I love looking at sleeper tight ends every year; cracking open the ADP and drinking the sweet sweet sleeper tight ends nectar is one of my favorite parts of the draft process. Unfortunately, the guys I love this year as value tight ends aren’t going deep enough to qualify as sleeper tight ends, so I have to skip past people like my love for deeper tight ends. Given the landscape, you probably don’t have to draft these sleeper tight ends in your fantasy football drafts. Still, they’re worth a gander.
For me, I define sleeper wide receivers as guys going as a “back half backup” or lower in a twelve-team league. Since there are 12 starting tight ends, that means TE18 or later can qualify as one of these sleeper tight ends. Luckily, I hate myself enough to dive deep into the tight end rankings to come out with some guys that might be diamonds or might just be really dense coal.
Blake Jarwin, TE21, 189 overall
There are a ton of targets up for grabs in Dallas, the most in the league, actually (190) after Dallas lost Jason Witten, Randall Cobb, and Tavon Austin this offseason. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are both pretty much topped up on targets, and Dallas isn’t crazy enough to give rookie CeeDee Lamb 120 targets (are they?). Last season, Jarwin ended up with 41 targets, and Jason Witten 83; it’s not hard to move 42 targets from Witten to Jarwin and end up with a top-ten tight end (as Witten’s corpse was in 2019).
Let’s just do the easy math here: give Jarwin 83 targets at his career catch rate, touchdown rate, and yards per reception. He ends up with 63 catches for 725 yards and 6.5 touchdowns. We’ll call it 6 because to this day I am still unsure what 0.5 of a touchdown looks like. In half-PPR scoring, that gives Jarwin 140 fantasy points over the course of a 16 game season. In half-PPR, that puts him between 2019’s TE7 (Jared Cook, 146 fantasy points) and TE8 (Tyler Higbee, 125.9 fantasy points). All of that for a guy that goes as a third tight end in ten-team leagues.
Chris Herndon, TE23, 191 overall
Remember the before times? The halcyon 2019 offseason, when we had practices and a promise of a season? And Chris Herndon was everybody’s favorite tight end sleeper? Absolute ding-dongs actually advocated drafting-and-stashing Herndon through his four-week suspension, because he was supposed to be that great last year. It’s me; I’m “absolute ding-dongs.” Herndon ate a four-game suspension, and a hamstring kept him unavailable until week ten. Then, he played 18 snaps and broke his rib and missed the rest of the year.
Everything we liked about Herndon didn’t cease to exist solely because of the lost 2019, but Herndon burned us, so we cast him aside like we’re Spartans and he’s a baby at Mt. Taygetus. Like the Cowboys, the Jets have beaucoup targets up for grabs (174), but unlike the Cowboys, they added two pass catchers (Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims) to soak up the targets.
That isn’t to say there isn’t some intense downside to Chris Herndon.
Dawson Knox, TE28, 233 overall
Our resident auction expert, Evan Hoovler, doesn’t like Dawson Knox ($0 in auctions!) but I do. He didn’t do much last year, but rookie tight ends rarely do. Knox had an under-the-radar good first season but is falling behind the draft-stock-based hype trains for T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. Here are some cold, hard Dawson Knox facts: he had the third-highest yards per catch in the last half-decade for rookie tight ends. That feels like a lot of qualifiers, but let me put it a different way: one of the most efficient rookie years for tight ends in recent memory. He’s fighting against just Cole Beasley for short-area targets, and Knox is a bigger, stronger target than Beasley has ever presented. His upside is around TE10, but plucking that off the waiver wire is such a sweet, sweet feeling.