3 Tight End Busts
Tight end is a challenging position to evaluate when drafting a fantasy team. You have to decide whether to draft a top-tier tight end early and sacrifice strength at other positions like wide receiver or running back, or wait until the middle rounds and opt for value. Even "late-round TE" and "streaming TE" are viable draft strategies. However, unlike other "onesie" positions like QB, depth is an issue with TE. There may be 15 startable QBs in a typical fantasy league, but only a handful of TEs that you can count on for consistent fantasy performance. Therefore, selecting the right TE is crucial for your team's success.
Here are three TEs that I am avoiding at ADP because I don't want to spend the draft capital needed to secure them. Instead, I would rather find value at another position or wait a few rounds and grab a TE with a safer floor. This is not to say that these TEs are going to be complete busts for fantasy this year. It just means that you're giving up significant value to your team by drafting one of these players at their ADP.
Kyle Pitts, Falcons
- ADP: 59
- TE -6
Coming out of college, Pitts was heralded as the tight end prodigy whose potential had the fantasy community abuzz. Yet, his first two seasons have been marked by a string of underwhelming returns. His career tally of three touchdowns appears dwarfed in comparison to his early promise, and his trajectory has been further marred by a knee injury that sidelined him for seven games last season.
While it's easy to envision a day when Pitts showcases consistent brilliance on the field, his past struggles have to be taken into account. Fantasy managers have experienced disappointment firsthand, investing high draft capital only to be let down. Drafting Pitts at his current ADP is risky. The split between his potential breakout and his potential bust is stark. While his talent is undeniable, his fantasy performance history cannot be denied. Despite being selected within the top five among tight ends, Pitts has only achieved two top-five weekly finishes since Week 8 of 2021.
Pitts’ 1,000-yard rookie season is reason to be optimistic but three career touchdowns and a disappointing 2022 season also need to be taken acknowledged. He finished with two top-12 performances against six games with fewer than five PPR points.
The Falcons rushing play percentage was the second highest in the league in 2022 and with Bijan Robinson joining the roster, it’s doubtful we’ll see that percentage fall much, if any. Pitts' usage remains uncertain, particularly in light of his modest 5.8 targets per game last year.
Darren Waller, Giants
- ADP: 62
- TE -7
The New York Giants' new tight end has experienced a rise in his ADP, largely driven by optimism surrounding his training camp performance and the anticipation of a revamped offensive environment. However, considering Waller's recent history and the intricacies of the Giants' offensive dynamics, caution is warranted when drafting him at his current ADP.
Waller's impressive training camp this summer has generated considerable hype within the Giants' organization. The Giants have been craving a playmaker, and on paper, Waller appears to fit the bill. His potential to lead the team in various receiving categories is there, especially given his history of elite performance.
Back in 2019 and 2020, Waller was a bona fide fantasy juggernaut. His 197 catches for 2,341 yards and 12 touchdowns over those two seasons made him one of the top fantasy options. In subsequent years, however, he has shown a pattern of inconsistency attributed to a series of nagging injuries. Out of 34 possible games, Waller managed to play in only 20.
The injuries have exerted on Waller's efficiency. Prior to his 2019 breakout, Waller boasted an impressive 2.59 yards per route run with the Raiders in 2018, marking him as a formidable threat. However, this statistic has steadily declined since then. In his standout seasons, he maintained YPRR rates of 2.42 and 2.28, figures that dwindled to 1.74 in 2021 and 1.58 last year. Though his 1.58 YPRR in 2022 was still respectable among the tight ends, it was a big drop from his peak.
While Waller should see decent volume due to a lack of high-caliber receiving options for the Giants, it comes with a lack of upside in the team’s offensive system. In the previous year, the Giants ranked among the lowest in pass rate (50.0%), leaning heavily on the ground game centered around Saquon Barkley.
Investing a relatively early draft pick on Waller is risky, especially when considering his recent track record. Relying on him to recapture his former glory following two lackluster seasons is a definite gamble. Waller's current ADP doesn't place him among the top 50 picks, so the investment isn’t huge. However, the downside is glaring. Thirteen missed games over the past two seasons, coupled with his intermittent performance since 2020, make him a clear fade for him. Despite the possibility of leading the Giants in targets, expecting Waller to replicate his previous fantasy numbers is unrealistic.
Evan Engram, Jaguars
- ADP: 77
- TE -8
Evan Engram secured a lucrative 3-year, $42.5 million contract extension with the Jaguars, but did they overpay for his career-best year? He had career highs with 73 receptions, 766 receiving yards, and four touchdowns, but his prospects are muddied by the return of Calvin Ridley, whose presence will demand a substantial share of targets.The odds of him replicating his 63-catch, 654-yard performance from two years ago might be a more realistic expectation.
While Jacksonville’s arsenal of pass-catching options continues to expand, including the addition of Tank Bigsby to the backfield, could curtail Engram's production, particularly in the face of the third-most challenging Strength of Schedule for tight ends.
Considering Engram's ADP, players like Pat Freiermuth (ADP: 93) and Dalton Schultz (ADP: 112), both of whom I have ranked higher than Engram, offer safer floors and higher target volumes in comparison. They also allow the construction of a more well-rounded fantasy roster. Engram will likely have a fine year, but I wouldn’t take him before the 8th round in PPR leagues.
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