Fantasy Football Lottery Tickets: TEs

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Our quest to hit the fantasy draft lottery is coming to a close. Soon, you’ll have all of your teams drafted and be admiring the rosters you’ve put together. Hopefully, I’ve helped you land some late-round gold. So far these past two weeks I’ve given you some QBs, RBs, and WRs to target at the very end of your fantasy drafts. (Each of those is a link if missed any of them) We now reach the position that is one of the hardest to draft in fantasy for the last few years, time to look for late-round TEs.

Just a quick summary of what I will be looking for:

  1. To start, the guy has to be available in the 13th Round or later (Based on a 12-team league, so an overall ADP of 145 or higher). These are truly guys that you are taking a flyer on at the end of your draft.
  2. There has to be a reason to believe they can outplay their ADP. Every late-round guy isn’t a lottery ticket. These players, or their coaches, have proven their fantasy success in the past. Sometimes, it may even the addition, or subtraction, of another player or coach that is going to elevate the games of those around them.
  3. They need to be in a position to prove themselves right away. If you cut them before they perform, it doesn’t matter that you were right about them.

Much like QBs, TE is a little deeper in the last few rounds, owing to the fact that most fantasy managers only draft one TE and there are 32 starters around the league. Also like QB, if you want to land a top-tier guy, you’re going to have to pay up to get him. If you decided to use your 2nd pick on a WR or RB instead, there are plenty of guys you can get at the end of your draft that could hit big…and if they miss, just stream the position for better results every week.

Mike Gesicki (Current ADP: TE15, Pick 149)

Gesicki is one of those unexplainable values heading into 2020. He was already a TE1 in 2019, finishing the season as the TE11. The Dolphins head into the new season a much better team than they were last year and it is more than possible that Gesicki could improve on his 51/570/5 stat line. The chances for improvement increased greatly when WRs Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns announced that they would be sitting out the 2020 season. Gesicki now has a chance to be the 3rd, maybe even 2nd look for whichever QB is the starter. If it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, we know we can expect a lot of deep throws and thus more yards and TDs. If it’s Tua Tagovailoa, rookie QBs tend to lean on short and intermediate routes, usually favoring their TEs. Either way, Gesicki has already proven he can outplay his ADP and is likely to improve in 2020, he’s a perfect lottery ticket.

Blake Jarwin (Current ADP: TE17, Pick 155)

Mike Wright. Lauren Carpenter. Ryan Weisse. If you’re excited about Blake Jarwin in 2020, you are in good company. The Cowboys targeted the TE position 125 times last year but Jarwin took a back seat to Jason Witten. At age 37, coming back from a year off, Witten still finished as the TE12 in fantasy football in 2019. Heading into 2020, 83 of those TE targets are now vacated and Jarwin has the stage all to himself. Jarwin had 41 of his own targets last year and turned them into 31 receptions, 365 yards, and 3 TDs. I’m not trying to say he is going to take all of the work left behind by Jason Witten, but if he takes the same target share, he will double his production and he will be a top-10 TE in 2020.

Jonnu Smith (Current ADP: TE18, Pick 156)

Jonnu Smith-truthers have been waiting on this day for a very long time. The Titans offense looks like it has competent QB play from Ryan Tannehill, Delanie Walker has retired, and Smith has the top spot all to himself. His ADP is low and that likely stems from what Smith has done as the top guy in the past. In 2018, Walker missed almost the entire season and Smith did next to nothing. In 2019, Walker missed nine games and Smith put in a TE19 season while playing 70% of snaps. The excitement stems from what he did after Tannehill took over. Walker got hurt and Tannehill became the full-time starter in the same week. From Week 7 on, Smith was the TE12 in fantasy football on just 37 targets. If Smith, an athletic freak, becomes the 2nd favorite target behind AJ Brown, we could see him double that target output and push himself into the top-10 TE ranks. He doesn’t have the safe floor of Gesicki or Jarwin, but his ceiling is the same.

Irv Smith Jr. (Current ADP: TE23, Pick 290)

Irv Smith is the deepest of lottery tickets, undrafted in just about every league, but you will know everything you need to know about him after Week 1, Week 2 at the latest. With the exit of Stefon Diggs, this team is in desperate need of a WR2. At the actual WR position, they have a rookie and a bunch of JAGs, so there is a chance the spot won’t be filled by a WR at all. Last year, only the Philadelphia Eagles ran more two-TE sets than the Vikings. Due to this, Smith played the 26th most snaps of any TE, despite being his own team’s TE2. The lack of proven WRs in Minnesota means that is unlikely to change in 2020. Smith turned that playing time into just a TE33 finish, with a 36/311/3 stat line. He was held back by his painfully low YPC and lack of TDs. Not exactly something to write home about but with 110 WR targets from last year up for grabs, and the sheer amount of time Smith should be on the field, we can expect better results in 2020. If Smith adds just 20 of those vacated targets, he’s a low-end TE1. If he becomes the true 2nd look for Kirk Cousins, he could make a run at the positional top-5.


Bill Westfall says:

I could also see Chris Herndon NYJ getting a lot of work this year. In a PPR league I have been drafting him in the late rounds and feeling better about my lineups vs a top 4-5 guy at the position

Ryan Weisse says:

More power to you, and I kind of like Herndon in dynasty, but I do not buy into the hype for 2020, not with Gase. He had 5 nice games two years ago with a different coach. Gase has never had a TE finish better than TE22 as a head coach and his TE1 averages 31/329/3. He might score TDs, a la Ryan Griffin last year, but can’t see him getting the volume of a fantasy TE1

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