9 Tight Ends Primed to Break Out in 2021
Tight end is the most feast-or-famine position in the fake football world and doesn’t seem to be getting any more cohesive with each passing year. There is one TE tier that’s relatively consistent from year to year, but each fall also brings a new crop of breakout stars who potentially can have a direct effect on whether you’re taking selfies wearing that massive championship belt or hanging out in a diner for 24 hours of gluttony.
In this piece, I’ll look at a few statistical categories used to project the breakout potential of TEs for the 2021 season. According to research done by TJ Hernandez on the most predictable year-to-year stats for the TE position, red zone numbers tend to fluctuate wildly from one year to the next. Studies have shown that only a very limited number of TEs are actually targeted significantly in the red zone, so as a whole, their efficiency numbers are too erratic to include in this article.
The term breakout can have several meanings in the fantasy football universe, much like the real world. Most of the guys mentioned below have had varying success in the NFL thus far and a few have even entered the conversation as a team’s No. 1 tight end. For this article, I’m defining breakout as finishing the 2021 season higher than their average draft position (ADP) would suggest, or metaphorically breaking the tight end tier ceiling.
A Look Back at 2020
Last year we had two breakout TEs that nobody saw coming, Robert Tonyan and Logan Thomas. They finished as TE5 and TE9 respectively in half-PPR points per game with neither one actually leaving boards on draft day. There were no data indicators for either of these two to breakout in 2020, other than vacated jobs by Jimmy Graham and Jordan Reed. In Green Bay, drafters bet on Jace Sternberger, while the WFT TE room went totally undrafted last year. Let’s hope we can do a better job of finding those players in 2021.
When searching for that breakout talent at TE, these are the year-to-year stats we tend to lean on in identifying potential candidates, in the order of stickiest correlation:
- Yards per game
- Receptions per game
- Targets per game
- Half-PPR points per game
Adam Trautman, Saints
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