9 Fantasy Football Tight Ends Primed to Break Out

9 Fantasy Football Tight Ends Primed to Break Out

By Jennifer Eakins (Senior Writer), last update Aug 13, 2018

Jennifer Eakins's picture

A proud alumna of the UGA Grady College of Journalism, Jennifer Eakins has been working in the sports industry for well over a decade. She has had stints with CNN Sports, the Atlanta Hawks and the Colorado Rockies. Her first fantasy football draft took place in 1996 where she selected Ricky Watters with the first overall pick, and she has been a fantasy degenerate ever since.

Follow Jennifer Eakins on Twitter: @themondaymommy.

When it comes to fake football, players are constantly looking for an edge to propel them above their league mates, something different, that perhaps others haven’t thought of yet. The fantasy football landscape is constantly evolving, and with it comes new ways to approach roster construction. While there are a few tiers of solid players who are consistent from year to year, each season brings a new crop of breakout stars who potentially can have a direct effect on whether you are hoisting that league trophy, or stuck with a dirty toilet brush with the words “I suck at fantasy football” written in sharpie across it.


More Breakout CandidatesRB | WR | QB


In this piece, I will take a look at a few statistical categories used to project the breakout potential of tight ends for the 2018 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 2018 season higher than their average draft position (ADP) would suggest, or metaphorically breaking the tight end tier ceiling.

Targets Per Game

One stat that does work well to project a tight end's potential is targets per game (TGTs/G). Looking at the year-to-year correlations for TEs on the same team in consecutive seasons, TGTs/G had the third-largest absolute value with .48, meaning targets are very likely to carry over the following season. It's also been shown that targets correlate with fantasy points almost as strongly as any other stat for tight ends.

An excellent example from last season is Colts TE Jack Doyle. In 2016, he was the TE18 in TGTs/G with 4.7. Last year, he jumped up to the TE5 with 7.2 targets per game, as he became more involved in the Colts offense. Doyle’s total fantasy output went from TE13 in 2016 to TE7 last season, earning himself a seat at the breakout table.

Here’s a look at some TE candidates who are trending upward when it comes to TGTs/G in 2018, and could experience a surge this season.

Charles Clay, Bills

It’s a bit odd to see Clay as a breakout option since he’s been around for a while, but the anemic Bills offensive situation opens the door for target city. Buffalo’s resident TE was 14th in total targets at his position last season and TE9 in TGTs/G with 5.7. We should see his looks increase even more in 2018, as his young QB relies on him in pressure situations and in the red zone. Look for an increase in TGTs/G from 5.7 to close to the top tier range, which hovers around 7.6 per contest.

At his current late-13th-round ADP, Clay is a solid choice this season and could certainly post TE1 numbers.

Jared Cook, Raiders

Cook quietly finished last season as the TE9 in total targets and his 5.4 TGTs/G ranked 12th among TEs in 2017. Word on the street is that new Raiders HC Jon Gruden has been pleasantly surprised with his skill set thus far, which could mean more looks in different formations for Cook this season.

At 30 years old he set a career-high in receptions with 54 last season, so perhaps the best is yet to come for the 10-year NFL veteran. Undervalued as the 16th TE off the board so far, Cook’s ADP is somewhere in the 13th round, which could potentially prove to be a steal at end of the football season. 

Tyler Kroft, Bengals

With Tyler Eifert’s health still in question, Kroft is poised for an uptick in targets, translating to a boost in overall fantasy production. Last season, the fourth-year TE experienced a mini-breakout setting a career-high in receptions, yards, and touchdowns once Eifert was sidelined with back issues after just two games. Now with a full 16 games of chemistry with QB Andy Dalton, look for Kroft’s 3.9 TGTs/G from last season to jump close to TE1 territory, especially if Eifert is limited at any time throughout the season.

At a current ADP of TE30, Kroft is basically free and makes for a great bench stash in the later rounds.   

Fantasy Points Per Game

The stat with the strongest year-to-year correlation for TEs was found to be PPR Fantasy Points per Game (PPR FPs/G), with a .57 on the scale from -1.0 to 1.0. An absolute value of 1.0 signifies a perfect correlation so PPR FP/G have a moderate-to-high relationship year after year.

The following TEs have shown promise in terms of PPR FPs/G with the potential of increasing numbers for the 2018 season.

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers

Continue reading to see what makes Cameron Brate a breakout fantasy tight end this year and which other tight ends Jen believes will break out in 2018...

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Filed Under:
Preseason
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2018