2024 Fantasy Football Tight Ends: The Best TE Picks and Draft Strategy – A Deep Dive

Key Takeaways

  • Due to low scoring, high injury risk, and inconsistency, the tight end position is often the hardest to “get right” in fantasy football
  • When you find the right tight end in fantasy football, the edge is massive, largely due to “Spike Week Upside” you can’t access later.
  • In 2024 fantasy football, the tight end pool feels deeper than ever before, creating a variety of draft strategies, including Elite Tight End vs. Mid-Round vs. Late-Round Punts
  • Mark Andrews, Jake Ferguson, and Jonnu Smith are three of our top-8 favorite tight end picks in 2024 Fantasy Football

Introduction: Why Tight End is Hard to Hit in Fantasy Football

The tight end position is one of the toughest to nail in fantasy football, largely because there are few reliable options. It is the lowest collective-scoring position yearly, with the highest week-to-week and season-to-season volatility.

Plus, besides running back, tight end is the most “injury-prone” position, given the physical nature and demands of both blocking and taking hits. Between the inconsistency and injury risk, tight end easily busts at the highest rate.

Fantasy Points’ Scott Barrett has historically assessed the position as “the oligarchs, and then the peasants,” which has been quite accurate historically:

For years, it was essentially Travis Kelce, sometimes Mark Andrews, and very few options behind them to rely on. Each year, most fantasy owners hope for TD dart throws each week.

Until 2023.

The 2024 Tight End Fantasy Football Market has Evolved

In 2023, the TE landscape evolved. Kelce seemed to lose a step, Andrews got hurt, and a ton of young, athletic freak tight ends either closed the gap or even climbed to the top:

Rookie Sam LaPorta finished as THE top tight end for the season. Sophomore Jake Ferguson blew up in his first year as a starter. Fellow sophomore Trey McBride was top-5 once he took over the full-time role. Dalton Kincaid flashed target-hog upside once Dawson Knox went down.

As such, the 2024 tight end fantasy market is much different than ever before. Kelce and Andrews are now going 2-3 rounds cheaper in fantasy football drafts than last year.

Meanwhile, LaPorta is the TE1, McBride is the TE3, and Kincaid is going as the TE4.

In short, elite tight ends are now the cheapest they’ve been in years, but the typical mid-round TEs are going earlier than ever before:

Pete Overzet has a phenomenal thread analyzing the state of the 2024 TE fantasy market:

Overzet wisely points out how fantasy football managers often overreact to recency bias, creating an interesting market in which the top options go later, but the middling options go earlier.

In early Best Ball, seven legitimate tight ends are now going in Rounds 3-7, via the FantasyLife ADP Grid:

In Yahoo Redraft, the number of early round tight ends jump up to eight:

This opens up many different plans of attack. Let’s dive into the various tight end draft strategies and determine the best for 2024 fantasy football.

2024 Fantasy Football Tight End Strategy #1: Elite TE

The Elite Tight End draft strategy is pretty obvious: draft a Top 3-5 option at a premium draft pick and hope for elite production that separates from the pack.

Given that Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews, who were first and second-rounders last year, are now going in Rounds 4 and 5, respectively, Elite TE has never been easier to pull off. The opportunity cost has dropped dramatically, as you can still secure multiple elite pass-catchers and/or bell-cow RBs, and then get a possible difference-maker at fantasy’s weakest position.

But why even bother chasing an edge at the worst position in fantasy?

In Best Ball, the answer is simple: elite tight ends have the best shot at a true “spike week.” Getting 20+ points from your tight end during the Best Ball Playoffs, especially if you’re in the finals against over 500 other players, is a MASSIVE edge. Drafting an elite TE is just about the only way to unlock this upside:

15% may not seem like a huge shot at a spike week, but it is over 5x more likely from an elite TE than a Round 6 or later TE has historically provided. As such, this “spike week access” from elite TEs has been critical to making the finals for three straight Best Ball Manias.

In 2021, Mark Andrews had crazy Week 15 and Week 16 games, which resulted in him being the most-owned player in the BBM3 finals at a whopping 66% clip!

Jump to 2022, George Kittle splashed for 23.3 FPs and 27 FPs, and was the second-highest owned player in the finals (39%).

Next, in 2023, Sam LaPorta broke fantasy. He gave elite-TE production at a late-round price, including 26.1 FPs in Week 15. Despite dudding out in Week 16 (3.3 points), he still was the third most-owned player in Best Ball Mania 4!

The data seems clear in Best Ball: Elite TE has been a winning strategy for three straight years. In redraft, at least one TE has been in the top-5 players of Championship Roster percentage according to ESPN since 2019.

While your league-mates struggle with weekly TE rotations, an elite TE can be a truly stabilizing force. With the prices now lower than ever to secure one, this has become my preferred TE Strategy for 2024.

2024 Fantasy Football Tight End Strategy #2: Punting TE

Many fantasy football drafters embrace the crappiness that is Tight End. Given all the warts (injury risk, inconsistency, low-scoring ceilings), why bother investing a premium pick towards such a horrid position?

This logic has largely proven… true.

Just last year, three of the top-four TEs in Best Ball advance rate went after pick 135, with the top-2 going after 150!

This wasn’t just a 2023 trend, either.

Graham Barfield showed that, across the last three seasons, 20 of the Top-26 TEs in the regular season advance rate were drafted at 135 or later—a whopping 77%!

The Punt TE Strategy can work quite well, especially in Best Ball, where the decisions are made for you. You are hunting for touchdown variance, often taking three late stabs and hoping one of the three hits the end zone in a given week.

Consequently, three tight end builds have been a +EV draft strategy for three straight seasons in Best Ball:

Indeed, a three-tight-end build has been an optimal choice to advance into the playoffs in Best Ball.

Yet, we aren’t just playing to just advance. We are playing to win $1,500,000 (code RSJ for up to $250 in Bonus Cash!). Remember, an Elite TE is more than 5x as likely to give you that “Spike Week Upside” that can propel you into, and separate you from, a massive Best Ball Finals field.

Similarly, in redraft, the right elite TE can provide relief from the “whack-a-mole” game of trying to pick the right guy in a given week. Best Ball alleviates those headaches, but any fantasy owner on the wrong end of the tight end carousel (pretty much all of us) knows how annoying it is.

Lastly, the Late-Round TE crop is far less juicy than in years past. In 2023, we had a historic rookie class and glaring vacancies in explosive offenses. This year, far less obvious “breakout candidates” exist at Tight End.

Yet, in 2024 fantasy, I think there may be an ideal “meet-in-the-middle.” A pocket of TEs that rarely exists, and that is:

2024 Fantasy Football Tight End Strategy #3: The Middle Round “Dead Zone”

For pretty much all of fantasy football, the tight end position has been incredibly top-heavy and depressingly shallow. As such, the optimal strategy has either been “Kelce / Andrews or bust.”

Historically, the worst tight end picks were those Round 7-10 guys. The players who did not offer truly elite upside rarely outperformed guys who were available 50+ picks later, yet they still cost you valuable draft capital.

In 2024, I actually think this Pick 70-110 range will go down as “the TE sweet spot.” I see at least three options for stringing together top-5 TE fantasy seasons while also allowing you to beef up your WRs and RBs or dip into the elite QB waters.

With all three strategies and draft ranges in mind, let’s dive into who I think those guys are and my other top tight end picks for 2024 fantasy football.

The Best “Elite Tight End” Picks in 2024 Fantasy Football

As mentioned, I have often gone “Elite Tight End” in my 2024 Fantasy Football drafts, so far. This means taking one of the following guys in these rounds:

  • Round 3: Sam LaPorta
  • Round 3/4: Travis Kelce
  • Round 4: Trey McBride
  • Round 5: Mark Andrews & Dalton Kincaid
  • Round 6: Kyle Pitts & George Kittle

While I love Sam LaPorta, his price is typically too rich for me. I have taken him whenever he falls to Round 4 in Best Ball, but this is rare. There are still WRs with top-8 upside available in the Round 3 range (Jaylen Waddle, Cooper Kupp, DK Metcalf), plus RBs like De’Von Achane and Kyren Williams with “break-fantasy” upside.

More often, I start WR-WR-WR and then take Travis Kelce in the early-to-mid fourth round.

Yes, I know Kelce disappointed fantasy football owners in 2023. Despite going in the top-7 overall picks, Kelce posted his lowest totals since 2015! He finished outside of the Top-12 TE in FPPG over the second-half of the season (Weeks 8-17), and was undoubtedly a bust at his cost.

Kelce seemed to be laboring through an injury for much of the year. He played the fewest snaps since 2015, which marked the first time he’s been under 80% snap share in nine years. Perhaps the team was just “saving him for the playoffs,” which I do buy. I also think Kelce faces a similar risk in 2024.

Yet, I believe the biggest reason for the downfall was that Kelce needed another viable weapon around him to take defensive attention.

“Kelce has always had Sundance next to him, with the ‘Butch Cassidy and Sundance’ analogy here, he’s always had that guy to work with him,” Andy Reid said. “That’s so important for working inside those numbers…a guy who knows how to play in zones, they know how to get off of man coverage. They know how to play in that tight area there. And that becomes so important for Kelce.

People were going, ‘Kelce’s over the hill.’ Well, no, we just needed Rashee to keep growing.”

Once Rice emerged, we saw the impact, especially in the NFL Playoffs. Kelce had 355 yards and three touchdowns in four playoff games, scoring 14.1, 24.5, 29.1, and 18.3 FPs. He was the Kelce of old, and he’s ready for more in 2024:

I do mix in some Trey McBride, but also find him to be a bit overpriced. Yes, he “blew up” once Zach Ertz was out, but even then, McBride was just the TE6 in FPPG. He’s an exciting, young, ascending talent, so he’s a no-brainer when he falls to Round 5. But now, contending with Marvin Harrison Jr. for looks, I expect McBride to disappoint.

Instead, I prefer Mark Andrews in that range. He was one of my Top 10 Fantasy Football Middle Round Explosion Candidates in a post earlier this month.

Over the past five years, Andrews has finished as the TE5, TE5, TE1, TE4, and TE5 in FPPG. Drafting him as the TE5 is drafting him at his floor, but the ceiling is much higher. Andrews has consistently performed at a high level throughout his NFL seasons.

In Todd Monken‘s new attack, Lamar Jackson set career highs with 457 pass attempts & 3678 yards. Given Lamar has a 36 TD season on his resume, there’s plenty of upside to add more scores in 2024 in Year 2 of this offense.

As mentioned, just two years ago, Andrews was THE highest player on Best Ball finals teams, and was second-highest among rosters in the semis. No, he probably won’t return to the 26.6% target share or 30% targets per route that year, nor the 107 rec for 1,361 yards with nine touchdown receptions…. yet… we know the ceiling exists!

Andrews still was plenty effective when available last year. He notched a healthy 22.2% target share and was targeted on 22.6% of his routes run. Moreover, Andrews averaged 2.01 yards per route run (3rd) and 8.9 yards per target (4th). He was on pace for over 900 yards & 10 TDs, easy top-5 TE numbers.

If there’s an elite TE I’m definitely “fading,” it’s Kyle Pitts.

Yes, I understand the “freakish” athletic portfolio, the impressive 1,000-yard rookie year smash. I know that his struggles have largely been out of his control — either QB or injury-related. Yes, I recognize how young he is and how untapped his upside could be:

Certainly, if “Pitts” is going to happen, Kirk Cousins is the right QB to ignite it. A far less athletic TJ Hockenson has been a Top-5 TE staple during his time with Cousins.

I just can’t take the plunge on Pitts ahead of George Kittle. Since 2018, whenever he’s played at least 14 games, Kittle has finished as a top-5 fantasy tight end every time. He’s been even better with Brock Purdy at QB, too. Here’s Kittle’s outputs in 22 games with Purdy:

The whole thesis of Elite TE is spike weeks. Well, Kittle’s 6 games of 20+ across his last 22 are the most of any tight end! He also goes the cheapest.

As such, my elite TE targets are Travis Kelce in Round 4, Mark Andrews in Round 5, and George Kittle in Round 6. Perhaps it’s the “boomer in me” leaning to the established vets. Yet, we’d consider it a massive win if the young bucks in these ranges matched what we’ve repeatedly seen the veterans do. I’ll take the proven production over the hypothetical all day.

The Best “Late-Round TE” Sleepers and Punts in 2024 Fantasy Football

As mentioned, I find 2024’s crop of Late-Round Tight End picks to be pretty barren compared to the past few seasons. That said, I still have a few names I like going after Pick 150.

I call it my “AFC East Punt TE Triumvarite“:

  • Hunter Henry in Round 14
  • Tyler Conklin in Round 15/16
  • Jonnu Smith in Round 16/17 – note, he’s my favorite late-round TE of 2024.

Despite subpar QB play and awful play-calling, Hunter Henry has been Top-3 in TE TDs in two out of three seasons with the Patriots. In 2024, whether it’s Jacoby Brissett or Drake Maye under center, Henry will be playing with the Top QB of his New England tenure.

Alex Van Pelt should be a marked upgrade over any Patriots’ OC since Josh McDaniels, too. Just last year, AVP dialed up David Njoku 122 times — third most among TEs. At the position, Njoku finished 5th in receptions, 6th in yards, third in TDs, and 5th in FPs. In a receiving room without a clear No.1, Henry could breach 100 targets this year at a Round 14 fantasy price. Henry is my TE18 and 155th overall player in my 2024 Fantasy Football Rankings and Big Board.

I also love Tyler Conklin as a late-round fantasy TE pick. Oddly, he’s seen exactly 87 targets in three straight years. Unfortunately, they’ve largely been from Zach Wilson or another atrocity. Even still, Conklin has managed TE16, TE16, and TE18 finishes, so you are buying him at his absolute floor as the TE21 in Underdog.

Yet, Conklin will now catch passes from *checks notes* AARON RODGERS! This is a HUGE upgrade. We’ve seen the likes of Robert Tonyan score 11 TDs and finish as the TE4 with Rodgers before. Even just a bump to 6-7 TDs would make Conklin a fringe top-12 TE in 2024 fantasy. He’s also motivated to ball out in a contract year, and Conklin reportedly was “a star” at OTAs:

While I love the above two, my favorite late-round TE is Jonnu Smith. He is my highest-owned TE in Best Ball right now, and I have no plans to slow that down.

True, Dolphins TEs rank dead last in total targets (120) since Mike McDaniel got to town back in 2022. Yet, who has he had to throw to? Durham Smythe? C’mon!

When asked about his lowly TE usage and how Jonnu fits in, McDaniels himself said, “Some people think that just ‘whatever it was, it will always be…there’s opportunities there, for sure.”

McDaniels is an absolute master at maximizing speed in space. Perfect. Jonnu was responsible for the top-two ball carrier speeds at TE last year. In fact, he was the only TE to hit 20+ MPH all year!

Another strength of McDaniels’ is his screen game, and the way he puts players in advantageous spots to generate YAC. Incredibly, Jonnu averaged second-most yards on screen passes (12.6) in the ENTIRE NFL!

McDaniels called Jonnu “a fast, dynamic football player… a tonality, a master of YAC — not only because of speed, but because of a mindset.”

Yes, Smith will be well-behind Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle for targets, and probably the RBs too. Still, he will undoubtedly rip off some monster big plays, and find a ton of space with defenses accounting for the other two target hogs.

Smith is by far my favorite candidate to breakout as a late round TE sleeper. I have him at 162 Overall on my 2024 Fantasy Football Big Board, a whopping +141 his current ECR.

Best TE Picks in Rounds 8-10, Previously the TE “Dead Zone”

As alluded to, I actually LOVE the tight ends in this range. Snagging two tight ends in rounds 8-10 range of fantasy drafts can give you an upside approaching the elites without the major opportunity cost.

Jake Ferguson has become a priority pick for me if I miss on a Round 4-6 TE. I dove into more detail about Ferguson’s Top-5 Fantasy TE Ceiling here, but to summarize:

Despite a putrid Weeks 1-6, the Cowboys finished last year as the No.1 offense in total points (30.1), passing yards (265.8), pass attempts (37.4), and passing TDs (2.2) per game. Between Tony Pollard and Michael Gallup‘s departures, the offense sorely needs playmakers to step up.

Ferguson could emerge as the No.2 option behind CeeDee Lamb. He already ranked third in total routes (511) and 7th in targets (102), despite not playing a full-time role until Week 6. He notched 5+ targets in 12 games, and was especially active in the Red Zone. Ferguson had the most Red Zone targets of any tight end.

Unfortunately, he was unbelievably unlucky in converting these looks into TDs, as he scored -3.8s over expected (per Hayden Winks). In fact, no one is more due for positive TD regression than Ferg:

Of course, we already saw that TD regression hit in the playoffs, where Ferguson hauled in an absurd 10 rec (12 tgts), 93 yards, and 3 TDs for 37.3 PPR FPs vs. the Packers!

Then consider: Ferguson was actually good, too. He was 2nd in missed tackles forced and 6th in yards after catch per reception among TEs. Ferguson has all the makings of an elite fantasy TE, but goes 3+ rounds later. After him, the position gets ghastly, so I typically hammer Ferguson in Round 8.

Ferguson himself believes he is only “scratching the surface.” Both Dak Prescott and Mike McCarthy shared this sentiment, too. After the Cowboys’ Week 8 philosophical switch, he was already top-6 in FPPG, so getting him at TE9 is a steal.

Ferguson is my priority TE fantasy pick in this range, but I also love David Njoku.

I was stunned to see that, from Week 8-18, Njoku was the No.1 TE in FPPG!

Yes, Njoku’s biggest games came with Joe Flacco. Still, we’ve finally seen Njoku’s true ceiling. He was deadly after the catch, and if Deshaun Watson sucks or gets hurt, Fantasy God Jameis Winston will be chucking Njoku passes.

Last, Brock Bowers has the highest upside of any TE going after Round 6. Sure, his landing spot in Las Vegas was not ideal, given Michael Mayer is already a strong TE prospect.

Still, in Bowers, we’re talking about maybe the best receiving TE prospect of all time.

He led Georgia in receiving in all three seasons there. As a true freshman, he posted an insane 56/882/13 receiving line, 3.01 yards per route run, 91.6 PFF Receiving Grade, and adding on another 4/56/1 rushing. ABSURD.

He then went nuclear with 1051 scrimmage yards and 10 TDs as a sophomore. His metrics (2.37 YPRR; 90.0 PFF Receiving Grade) remained elite, too.

As a final act, Bowers led the Bulldogs once more in receiving, despite only playing 10 games and dealing with an injury all year. His 2.65 YPRR and 87.1 PFF Receiving Grade were again top-notch.

Ultimately, his 2.64 career YPPR is the highest ever by a Round 1 TE. He didn’t test at the Combine, but Bowers hit 21.4 MPH in a game, faster than any NFL TE in the past four years.

David Guatieri put together a chart comparing Bowers with other recent elite TE prospects, and he grades out quite favorably:

In short, Bowers seems legitimately worthy of the often overused “generational” label. Should we really be letting a talent like this fall to Round 9 because of a perceived bad landing spot?

No one should be shocked if Bowers is going in Round 4-5 in next year’s fantasy drafts, so I’m buying this cheap while I can.

Between Ferguson, Njoku, and Bowers, the Round 8-10 range feels far more stocked than typical years. Each of these guys carry major ceilings, and selecting two creates “Elite TE Spike” upside without the opportunity cost.

That’s why this Round 8-10 “Dead Zone” is actually my favorite range to draft Tight Ends in 2024 Fantasy.

Summary: The Top TE Picks and Strategy

There’s many ways to skin the Tight End cat in 2024 fantasy. While I am dabbling with all strategies, I’ve found my teams with two Round 8-10 investments (Ferguson, Bowers, or Njoku) to be my personal favorites so far.


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