Now that we’ve finished our 2021 Player Profiles, it’s time to take a look at the top sleepers at each position. Today, we cover sleeper tight ends. This is my favorite series to do every year, since hope springs eternal. In order to stave off people who say “hey that’s not a sleeper!” I have set criteria: the players have to go as “backend backups.”
To determine this, I multiplied the number of players taken in a standard 1QB/2RB/3WR/1TE draft, and multiplied that number by 1.5. This means this series will cover players I believe have a chance to finish as weekly starters for you, who are currently ranked outside the top-18 at quarterback, top-36 at running back, top-54 at wide receiver, and top-12 at tight end. This way I am only looking at players going as backups. To find these numbers, I used FantasyPros.com’s half-PPR Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR).
Today, we start with the 2021 tight ends. Again, these are tight ends ranked outside the top-18 who I believe will return weekly fantasy football value.
Sleeper Tight End #1: Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
(ECR TE20, Pick 153)
Cole Kmet isn’t my favorite of these tight ends, but he is the one that comes up first by ADP, so we start here. Kmet is a sophomore tight end, so you sort of have to throw everything he did last season out of the window. So, I’ll set aside that he didn’t do anything with all these targets, but he did get at least 6 targets in four of his last five games in 2020. I love that opportunity, and it went alongside a clear ramp-up in his snaps. Kmet had between 30% and 35% of snaps in the first seven games of the year, which jumped to about 45% for the next two games, and then in the last seven games of the season, he jumped to between 70% and 79% of snaps, up to at least 85% of snaps in each of the last four games of the year.
So, Cole Kmet should get the snaps to produce this year. He’s athletic enough to take advantage of them (8.93 RAS), and (like fellow breakout Darnell Mooney), his catchable target rate (which sat at 68.2%, per playerprofiler) should improve drastically this year. Should the Bears do the needful and bury Jimmy Graham in the depth chart, then a 700 yard, 8 touchdown season is well within the cards for Cole Kmet, which puts him firmly inside the tight end blob (from about TE7 to about TE17).
Sleeper Tight End #2: Adam Trautman, New Orleans
(ECR TE22, Pick 159)
Get him while he’s hot. This ECR is about to fly through the ceiling, putting him firmly inside the top-ten at the position… and with good reason. Adam Trautman garners George Kittle comparisons due to his time at Dayton. He also will be the #1 target in New Orleans not named Alvin Kamara, so that means that he has all the opportunity in the world to shine.
It’s not hard to see Trautman’s path to production: strong, athletic, great pass catcher with exceptional YAC ability in a Sean Payton system that averages 76 targets to the #1 tight end throughout the course of Payton’s career. That’s enough to turn in about four catches, fifty yards, and maybe a touchdown… as a floor.
Sleeper Tight End #3: Gerald Everett, Seattle Seahawks
(ECR TE23, Pick 163)
The Seahawks have tried to have a good tight end for years. They destroyed their line to get Jimmy Graham, and then had a bunch of jokers (including a two-feet-in-the-grave Greg Olsen). Now, they get Everett. He’s exceptionally athletic, with an 8.98 RAS. Unfortunately, he never really did a whole lot with the Rams, with being buried behind varying combinations of Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods for most of his career.
Now, he gets to go to Seattle, where they love to try to use the tight end. They average about 21% of their targets to the position over the last three seasons with flotsam and jetsam. Should Gerald Everett skew closer to Jimmy Graham than flotsam or jetsam, it’s likely they move their TE target load closer to 30% (it sat at about 40% during the Jimmy Graham Era). He’s a great sleeper candidate, as he’s currently just 6% rostered in Sleeper leagues.