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FANTASY FOOTBALL: Top 35 PPR tight ends for 2021, in advance of the NFL preseason kickoff


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Last year, Raiders tight end Darren Waller enjoyed nine outings of six-plus receptions, nine efforts of eight-plus targets and four games of 100-plus yards receiving. The highlight: Carving the Jets up for 13 catches, 17 targets, 200 yards and two TDs.


  1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
  2. Darren Waller, Raiders
  3. George Kittle, 49ers
  4. T.J. Hockenson, Lions
  5. Mark Andrews, Ravens
  6. Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team
  7. Kyle Pitts, Falcons
  8. Robert Tonyan, Packers
  9. Noah Fant, Broncos
  10. Hunter Henry, Patriots
  11. Dallas Goedert, Eagles
  12. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins
  13. Jared Cook, Chargers
  14. Irv Smith Jr., Vikings
  15. Eric Ebron, Steelers
  16. Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers
  17. Hayden Hurst, Falcons
  18. Tyler Higbee, Rams
  19. Austin Hooper, Browns
  20. Evan Engram, Giants
  21. Zach Ertz, Eagles
  22. Blake Jarwin, Cowboys
  23. Gerald Everett, Seahawks
  24. Cole Kmet, Bears
  25. Jonnu Smith, Patriots
  26. Anthony Firkser, Titans
  27. Adam Trautman, Saints
  28. Dawson Knox, Bills
  29. Kyle Rudolph, Giants
  30. Jordan Akins, Texans
  31. Dalton Schultz, Cowboys
  32. Chris Herndon, Jets
  33. Harrison Bryant, Browns
  34. Mo Alie-Cox, Colts
  35. Will Dissly, Seahawks
  36. Darren Fells, Lions


a) There’s been summertime chatter of fantasy owners making Travis Kelce a top-five overall pick in PPR leagues, given his positional dominance.

Is this a smart move in 12-team leagues? Here’s why it’s so easy to say yes:

**The all-world performer boasts four-year averages of 97 catches, 138 targets, 1,255 yards and 8.5 touchdowns.

**Kelce has been remarkably consistent with catches, targets and receiving yards over the last three seasons. At minimum, he’s an easy lock for 100 receptions, 142 targets and 1,325 yards.

**This year’s class of fantasy wideouts is both deep and unpredictable. So, why not delay the process of grabbing a receiver in Round 1 … and go for an absolute sure thing in Kelce, who could provide his owners with a built-in advantage of 8-10 points every week (prior to kickoff).

**George Kittle stands as a consensus top-3 tight end this preseason; and yet, the Niners star has never eclipsed five touchdowns in a single season.



b) Remember when Darren Waller was a mere afterthought in the Raiders offense, in the first episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks, circa 2019?

Well, just two short years later, and Waller (107 catches, 145 targets, 1,196 yards, 9 TDs last season) humbly serves as one of fantasy football’s most bankable stars.

In 2020, Waller enjoyed nine outings of six-plus receptions, nine efforts of eight-plus targets and four games of 100-plus yards receiving. The highlight of this prolific season: Carving the Jets up for 13 catches, 17 targets, 200 yards and two touchdowns.

How good is Waller’s upside: If he finished with better numbers than Travis Kelce this season … would it really be that much of a shock?

c) Kittle’s poor touchdown output (12 TDs over four seasons) keeps the Iowa product out of a top-2 ranking.

Consequently, it leads to quite the chasm, separating Kelce and Waller.

On the plus side, Kittle will never disappoint fantasy owners, assuming full health, when flirting with 95 catches and 1,200 yards receiving.

d) The T.J. Hockenson ranking has the potential to be embarrassingly wrong by season’s end. After all …

**The Lions’ new executive team traded QB Matthew Stafford to a title contender during the offseason (Rams).

**Hockenson (67 catches, 723 yards, 6 TDs last year) will no longer be flanked by Detroit’s 1-2 receiving punch of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr.

**Even with Stafford present for the majority of last season, Hockenson still posted five outings of three or fewer receptions.

On the plus side, Hockenson’s new quarterback (Jared Goff) has plenty of experience targeting tight ends in enemy territory; and Detroit’s offensive line could be among the league’s best in passing and goal-line situations.

So, let’s go with upside here, even though Hockenson didn’t find the end zone in seven of his final eight games in 2020.

e) Falcons rookie Kyle Pitts sits at No. 7 in late July/early August. However, if the Florida product shows flashes of brilliance during the preseason … we reserve the right to bump Pitts into the top five.

(Sorry, Mark Andrews.)

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out,,, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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