Just as the term “sleeper” has changed meanings over the years, so has the related term “deep sleeper.” To many, the latter now means what the former once did: an off-the-radar player with the potential to become relevant in fantasy.
For the tight end position, it’s no small task finding deeper talent. The position is already lighter than most. But, we’ll take a crack at it.
Jordan Akins, Houston Texans
A year ago, the Houston Texans waved goodbye to all-pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins, leaving Will Fuller as the new lead target in the passing game. This offseason, the Texans bid adieu to Fuller as well, though this time without a clear replacement as the go-to pass catcher. Wideouts Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb might fill that void, but the expected absence of Deshaun Watson under center and the arrival of the more conservative Tyrod Taylor as the likely substitute could make Jordan Akins the beneficiary. Akins demonstrated gradual growth during his first three seasons in the NFL and should see even more targets in 2021.
Anthony Firkser, Tennessee Titans
With Jonnu Smith moving on to the New England Patriots, the Tennessee Titans turn to Anthony Firkser as their new starting tight end. The offense should remain similar to the one former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith ran the past two seasons, giving Firkser the chance to showcase his abilities as a pass catcher.
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears spent their top pick on tight end Cole Kmet a year ago only to give most of the receiving work to 34-year-old Jimmy Graham. The balance between the two players should shift this season and, given the upside if/when Justin Fields takes over at quarterback, Kmet could find himself in for a large role in a better-than-anticipated offense.
Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns
Austin Hooper’s first season with the Cleveland Browns fell kind of flat given the team’s huge investment in him, but he has the chance to turn that around in 2021. The Browns did not bring on any additional competition, and head coach Kevin Stefanski has utilized tight ends well as the play-caller for the Minnesota Vikings.
Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons
The offense new Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Blank will install has made playmakers out of athletic tight ends, most recently the aforementioned Smith. While No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts looks like a can’t-miss star, his age (20 at the start of the season) could mean a slower than expected 2021. That could leave Hayden Hurst, who comes off a solid first season in Atlanta, a fringe fantasy starter at a fraction of the cost.