With 6 Sundays left until the NFL Season kicks off on September 5th, here are my top 6 Tight End sleepers of the season. With breakout performances on the rise, and a couple guys who I expect to continue off their success from a season ago, this list has been compiled based off their play in the receiving game, and blocking. With some teams claiming a large part of their offensive identity through the tight end position like the Chiefs and Eagles, these six belong to rosters that are going to play huge roles for their offense this season. In our third segment of this six part series, I will breakdown which Tight Ends you may overlook will be must-see TV and have huge seasons.
Eric Ebron (Colts)
Rec Yards: 1,067
Ebron broke out onto the scene after having mediocre campaigns in Detroit for the first four seasons of his career, and in my case it came as no surprise. He finished with more touchdowns than any Tight Ends with 13, which was a career high for him, and 750 yards on 66 catches. Ebron had his breakout season, but while this offseason has poised optimism for a lot of young players, I’ve heard a lot of negativity surrounding Ebron. His 2018 season has been primarily referred to as a fluke and let me assure you not to listen to the skeptics. Before last season, Ebron finished 2017 scoring three touchdowns in his final four games for Detroit, and was the second most targeted receiver on the roster behind Golden Tate. He carried that over the following season to Indianapolis, who utilize the tight end position as much as any team in the league, where as Detroit has built the reputation of completely disregarding the Tight End. Ebron stands at 6’4, 200+ lbs, and is one of the most athletic and fastest Tight Ends in the NFL. His run blocking is definitely a weakness in his game, but as a receiver he is the most lethal at his position. After his breakout 2018 season, Ebron is the clear number one in Indy and this year will prove so.
Dallas Goedert (Eagles)
Rec Yards: 625
Goedert came together very well as an established weapon on the Eagles offense near the end of his rookie season, but you have to wonder what he can accomplish with a healthy Carson Wentz. With a full offseason integrated with this offense under his belt, and take into consideration the scheme teams are going to run to try to stop Ertz from tearing apart the league once again, there will be a boatload of opportunities for Goedert. As a red zone threat alone he will haul in plenty of touchdown grabs, but I believe he’ll be a huge part of moving the chains this year. The Eagles have done their part to build the offense up more with additions of Desean Jackson, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and all will play a big role this year. Those group of guys will space out the field and provide the depth needed to keep the veterans rested, but in the case of Goedert, it will open up plenty of red zone opportunities. The weapons are there to move the ball down the field, but from inside the 20, expect a lot of looks to Jeffrey, Ertz, and Goedert.
T.J. Hockenson (Lions)
Rec Yards: 850
No that wasn’t a typo. That is a Lions Tight End who is going to have a great rookie season. Hockenson can do it all too. He can run routes, he can catch the ball, he can win 1-on-1 matchups, and he can block in the run game. He’s going to spend a lot of time on the field and with the weapons looking slim in Detroit, he’s going to be a big option. New offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will bring a new style of offense to Detroit, and reports have already indicated that “Matthew Stafford will be doing a lot of things he isn’t used to,” which could only mean so many things, in particular the usage of the tight end. Hockenson has drawn comparisons to Rob Gronkowski both for his ability in the passing game, and even his ability as the 6th offensive linemen. Barring any injuries, he could become the next big Tight End in this league starting week one.
David Njoku (Browns)
Rec Yards: 800
Here’s one thing you can hold me to; the Browns are going to be really good. Whether or not it’ll result in a lot of wins I can’t promise, but I can promise we will never witness a Browns team that’s even resembles the team we saw two years ago go winless. The division is tough, between Baltimore and Pittsburgh who have solidified themselves as power houses in the division, and Cincinnati who, not for nothing, is one of the better teams that ranks in the bottom of their division amongst the league. Yet something about Baker Mayfield running the show just seems electric. As if he’s going to be the sole reason everybody eats, which is why Njoku won’t have a historic season, but a great season nonetheless. There are a lot of mouths to feed and Njoku will be at the dinner table all season long.
Mark Andrews (Ravens)
Rec Yards: 700
This one is too easy to call. Last season when we saw Lamar Jackson take over it became clear who is favorite receiver was. Him and Andrews connected on 34 completions for just over 550 yards, eight of which were for over 20 yards and two that went over 40, including a 74-yard touchdown pass. I know what you’re thinking, I’m referencing a “running back” to be the guy that throws Andrews the ball all year for these types of numbers, but let’s look at the facts. Harbaugh has made it clear that all the scrambling Jackson did last year will be toned down, and there will be a lot of plays designed to keep him in the pocket. By no means is Jackson a “running back”, he is a quarterback in every way imaginable, and just so happens to have a great 40 time. Him and Andrews have spent a lot of this offseason bonding on and off the field, and even with some new guys in the receiving corps down in Baltimore, I’m still confident this is going to be the connection to watch out for.