25 TE Statistics from 2020 (Fantasy Football)
“You should really cast a big net when it comes to life and learning. In the end, you’re so much better for it.”
— Tony Gonzales
With another wild year of football in the books, it’s vital for fantasy football managers to take note of what just happened before the allure of the next season and shiny new draft class distracts us all. Fortunately for the #Footclan, the Fantasy Footballers have been pumping out their annual TRUTH podcast episodes in conjunction with the writing staff’s 25 Statistics series, including the recently published articles for QBs, RBs, WRs, and yes, even DEF/ST.
These stats aim to highlight the importance of players in a notoriously difficult skill position. They also provide context as to why certain TEs appeared to succeed or struggle, and why it’s sometimes worth investing high draft capital for them.
Unless otherwise noted, all ranking and points are based on half PPR scoring from Weeks 1 through 16.
1. Travis Kelce finished the 2020 season as the clear-cut TE1 with 260.3 fantasy points, the highest of his storied eight-year career. This was substantially more than Darren Waller, who came in second place with 202.9 points. In turn, Waller’s total was substantially higher than Robert Tonyan, who finished third with 141.8 points. All three players did not miss any games in the regular season.
2. Despite his second-round ADP, Kelce was worth every penny as he was one of the most common players on championship teams. The 31-year-old stud (who shares the same birth year as Rob Gronkowski) was a top-10 TE EVERY WEEK minus Week 7 @ DEN. In fact, he was a top-5 play in ten weeks and was the No. 1 TE five whopping times.
3. To further accentuate Kelce’s fantasy dominance, when compared against other non-QB offensive positions, his 260.3 total points would have placed him as the overall WR3 (above studs like Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins) or the RB4 (above James Robinson and Aaron Jones).
4. Kelce’s 1,416 total receiving yards were the second most among ALL pass-catchers (below Diggs), and is now the current record for most receiving yards attained by a TE in NFL history.
5. Kelce also scored 11 TDs on the season, which is tied for first among TEs. The player who shared this accomplishment with him? None other than third-year TE Robert Tonyan, who had more receptions, yards, TDs, and fantasy points this season than in his past two years — combined. The next highest scorer was Darren Waller with nine TDs.
6. Waller and Kelce were the most targeted TEs with 145 targets each and were the only TEs to surpass 1,000 receiving yards. But Waller was a true ball-hog, leading all TEs in Red Zone targets (24), team’s target share (27.7%), and reception share (29.0%).
7. If you only counted his games played AFTER his Week 6 bye, Waller would still have finished as the TE2 on the season with 146.4 points (14.6 points per game).
8. There were essentially just three fantasy tiers for TEs this season: Kelce, Waller, then everyone else. Kelce ended the season with 57.4 points more than Waller, who had 61.1 points more than the TE3, Tonyan. Meanwhile, the difference between Tonyan and the TE20 (George Kittle) was only 51 points.
9. Tonyan was extremely reliable when targeted. He rewarded his QB with the HIGHEST passer rating (147.6) on passes when targeted among ALL pass-catchers (minimum 30 targets). This mean Aaron Rodgers had a better passer rating when targeting Tonyan than compared to his elite wideout, Davante Adams (136.0).
10. Lions’ TE T.J. Hockenson looked promising in his sophomore year, averaging 10.2 ppg from Weeks 1 through 14 and ranking as the TE3 in total points (132.7). But things soon went south after westward-bound QB Matthew Stafford hurt his thumb, followed by injuries to his ribs and ankle. Not only did Stafford’s body betray him, but it also betrayed Hockenson managers, who helplessly watched their once consistent TE conclude the season (Weeks 15-17) as the TE43 with a dreary 9.1 total points.
11. Mark Andrews fizzled as 2020’s TE5 (136.4 total points, 10.5 ppg) after breaking out as the prior year’s TE2 (175.2 points, 11.7 ppg). More disappointingly, he still received the same amount of targets per game (6.4 in 2020, 6.5 in 2019) despite a dramatic leap in snap count (65% vs 44%) after Baltimore parted ways with Hayden Hurst.
12. The best TE value in regards to draft capital was Washington’s Logan Thomas, who went undrafted in nearly all leagues yet ended as the season’s TE6 with 129.4 points. He was the overall TE3 since Week 6, which was all the more impressive considering that he caught passes from the likes of Kyle Allen, Alex Smith, and Dwayne Haskins. Thomas also saw 100% of snaps in five games, most notably in the final three weeks (including Week 17). The only other TE who even came close was Dallas Goedert with two 100% snap games, and Kittle with one such game. No other TE registered a 100% snap game in the 2020 regular season.
13. Per DFS Podcast host and Content Manager Kyle Borgognoni (@Kyle_Borg): “Logan Thomas got in his cardio for 2020. The former QB turned TE ran the 3rd MOST Routes Run EVER at the TE position since Pro Football Focus started tracking in 2006. In case you were curious, #1 was Jason Witten (DAL- 2012), and #2 the illustrious Jordan Cameron (CLE- 2013). Thomas’ 611 total routes run in 2020 were 247 more than he had run in his previous 4 years in the league COMBINED.“
14. When the fearless Ryan Fitzpatrick commanded the helm for the Dolphins in Weeks 1 through 5, third-year
slot receiver TE Mike Gesicki was the TE7 with 49.1 points (9.8 ppg). Once Tua Tagovailoa took over from Weeks 6 through 11, Gesicki’s output plunged as the TE33 with 18.3 points (3.7 ppg). But when Fitzmagic was called back into duty the following week after Tagovailoa hurt his thumb, Gesicki reemerged with a TE10 performance (10.5 points).
15. Gronkowski’s return to the gridiron started off disastrously. He was the TE30 from Weeks 1 through 5, falling behind colleague O.J. Howard, who was the TE18 in that same time span. But after Howard suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in October, Gronk emerged as the TE4 from Weeks 6 through 16. Interestingly, his final stat line (122.9 total points, 8.2 ppg) was close to those from his rookie season ten years prior (114.4 total points, 7.6 ppg), which was the last time he’s had to play for a new team.
16. In Weeks 1 through 9, Bears TE Jimmy Graham out-snapped rookie Cole Kmet, 69% to 35%. But from Weeks 10 through 17, it was Kmet (85%) who saw substantially more time on the field than Graham (47%). Despite this apparent changing of the guard, the veteran still outperformed the Notre Dame product, with Graham averaging 10.3 yards per catch and finishing as the TE24 during this timespan (5.8 ppg) while Kmet averaged 7.3 y/c and was the TE33 (4.4 ppg).
17. For the first time in his four-year career, “injury-prone” Evan Engram played through all 17 Weeks without missing time. Engram also led all TEs in dropped passes (11) and interceptions on passes when targeted (6). Had it not been for WRs Diontae Johnson (13 drops) and D.J. Moore (9 INT), Engram would have led the league in both categories.
18. Zach Ertz was the TE target leader in 2019 with 135 targets in 15 games. In 2020, his target share plummeted tremendously as he only saw 72 total targets in 11 games (limited action due to ankle injury), which was on a season pace of just 98 targets.
20. Players with 200+ yard games: Waller (1).
21. Though Kittle was hobbled with injuries from the get-go and only played in seven games, he still averaged the third most ppg (13.0) and had the BEST average yards after catch above expectation (2.3).
22. 10 NFL teams targeted the TE position 25% or more of the time in 2020: Raiders (33%), Eagles (30%), Browns (30%), Titans (30%), Ravens (28%), Broncos (28%), Chiefs (27%), Giants (27%), Dolphins (25%), 49ers (25%). Only eight teams met this qualifier in 2019.
23. Conversely, six teams targeted their TEs just 15% or less of the time: Panthers (8%), Patriots (8%), Bills (12%), Cardinals (13%), Bengals (13%), Jets (13%). Will it ever be Chris Herndon SZN?
— Fantasy Footballers (@TheFFBallers) December 11, 2020
24. After Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph sustained a season-ending foot injury in Week 13, second-year TE Irv Smith Jr. took advantage of the opportunity and came out swinging. Smith was the TE37 leading up to Week 13, averaging a paltry 4.4 ppg. But from Weeks 14 through 16, he was the TE3 and averaged 13.3 ppg.
25. 2020’s highest-scoring rookie was Cleveland’s Harrison Bryant, who clocked in at TE39 with an abysmal 49.8 total points (4.2 ppg). As most savvy fantasy GMs know, rookie TEs typically struggle to produce in the NFL during their inaugural season. The last rookie TE to finish in the top-12 was Engram, who was 2017’s TE4 with 141.6 points. Perhaps Florida phenom Kyle Pitts can break the streak in 2021?