Looking for sleepers for fantasy football isn’t about finding players nobody has heard about, because that isn’t happening. When we talk about sleepers, we’re highlighting players who should outplay their average draft position. Instead of the term “sleeper,” we can replace it with “value” and still be on the right track.
Tight ends, after your top tier guys, are all “sleepers” in their own way. That makes us want to navigate to the can’t miss guys like Travis Kelce and George Kittle, but we’re not always going to get those players. And at a position where we usually only have one slot to fill, there will be good players late in drafts, much like at quarterback.
Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
Update Aug 19: Gesicki should get usage in the slot in three-wide sets, per ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe. This would keep him on the field over Albert Wilson and boost his fantasy value.
Gesicki is going to be on a lot of sleeper lists this offseason and for good reason. From Week 6 on last season, he was a Top-10 fantasy tight end. In his last six games he caught five touchdowns while just 70 percent of his targets were catchable. That percentage should rise with Tua Tagovailoa under center. And those targets will be up for grabs as the team starts their rebuild.
Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons
Update August 27: Hurst is expected to be an every-down player in Atlanta after playing second fiddle to Mark Andrews in Baltimore. His blocking could help him stay on the field more and raise his ceiling in a Falcons offense with tons of potential.
Update Aug 19: Matt Ryan described Hurst as one of the “fastest and most athletic tight ends I’ve ever played with,” per the Falcons’ beat reporter William McFadden.
Opportunity is king in fantasy football and Hurst landed in a great spot for a good workload right out of the gate. The Falcons throw the ball consistently and are productive, for the most part, in doing so. With Austin Hooper gone and Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley as the only two players assured good targets, Hooper’s replacement should be in store for a big share of targets. Hurst was a first round pick and has more speed than Hooper, but was stuck behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle in Baltimore. He’s a wildcard but one with a chance for a consistent, high fantasy floor season.
Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans
Update Sep 4: Jonnu Smith is “the player most likely to experience a breakout season for the Titans,” per ESPN’s Turron Davenport.
Update Aug 19: Tight ends coach Todd Downing recently said, “When you have a guy on your offense (like Smith) that can do so many things, you can be creative and find ways to get him touches.”
Smith only had 44 targets all of last season, but caught 35 of those for 439 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for a touchdown. He’s a player that needs more work and should get it this season. Despite Ryan Tannehill’s great numbers last season, the Titans receiving core is still a work in progress. Smith has room to see his targets rise into the 80s this season, giving him Top-10 fantasy upside with ease.
Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys
Update Sep 4: Cowboys.com beat writer Nick Eatman, said his “only worry” about Jarwin is ”how well he holds up as a blocker.”
Jarwin could lose some snaps if the team believes his presence telegraphs passing plays, but his offensive ability is going to keep him on the field enough to have value at his current ADP.
Update Aug 25: Blake Bell will serve as Jarwin’s backup, and while Bell will see time in two-tight end packages, Jarwin is the clear starter.
The Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb, which hurts Jarwin’s upside, but doesn’t make him undraftable. Dak Prescott likes his tight end, as seen by him targeting the corpse of Jason Witten 83 times last season and tight ends 131 times total, ranking the Cowboys eighth-most in the league. Randall Cobb still saw 83 targets as the third wide receiver, which Lamb could get and still end up giving Jarwin a strong workload with Witten out of town.
Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings
Update Aug 19: The Vikings are experimenting with lining up Smith Jr more on the outside to help take advantage of his speed, per Arif Hasan of The Athletic.
Smith Jr. was one of my favorite receivers in the draft last year and it was an extremely strong draft for tight ends. He’s not a slam dunk pick with Kyle Rudolph still starting, but we saw Smith take a big chunk of work last year with 47 targets to Rudolph’s 49. Smith also played in one fewer game than Rudolph. The situation is poised to be one to stay away from in most drafts, but Smith is a much better offensive player with more upside and could take over the job this season. He’s a priority for me in 2TE leagues this season.