Let us be realistic here, nobody wants to spend their rookie draft picks on tight ends (unless it is on Kyle Pitts of Florida), if you don’t need to. Outside of Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller, the tight end landscape is very volatile. Most people in dynasty leagues realize that if you draft a rookie tight end, you usually end up waiting two or three years before that player can even contribute. That seems to be the overall outlook of how long it takes for a tight end to break out in the NFL.
Across all formats of dynasty leagues, there will be different bench sizes, in order to stash players. In many leagues, it’s possible to start stashing some players for 2021, if they’re still sitting on the waiver wire. In other leagues, bench sizes may be so big that you have to trade for any potential talent out there. With that being said, here’s a list of tight ends that you should try to stash on your bench this offseason, as 2020 nears an end. Doing this now could improve your options, depth and possibly allow you to hit big next season and beyond.
Irv Smith Jr. (Minnesota Vikings)
Next year, Smith Jr. will enter his third NFL season at 23 years old. He has shown flashes in his second season when given the opportunity and finished as TE2 in week nine and TE3 in week 11, respectively. One of the biggest barriers to Smith Jr. getting consistent opportunities in the passing game is Kyle Rudolph being on the roster.
A look at Rudolph’s contract shows that he is guaranteed through the 2020 season, meaning he will be a free agent after the year. This Minnesota Vikings could be looking to transition towards being younger at the position and save money against the cap going into 2021, especially with Rudolph turning 31 during the offseason.
Adam Thielen will also be 31 to start 2021 and is starting to get into the declining age for a wide receiver. Smith Jr should have a larger role in the offense going forward, as the offense eventually looks to seek an infusion of youth. Get him now while the price is still cheap. If Rudolph leaves the team in the offseason, the value of Smith Jr. is likely to increase. Think about how the value of Jonnu Smith went up once Delanie Walker left the Tennessee Titans last year. A similar situation likely applies here.
Blake Jarwin (Dallas Cowboys)
In week one of the 2020 season, Blake Jarwin tore his ACL and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. Since the injury occurred very early, he will be fully recovered in time for 2021 training camp. Before the 2020 season began, Jarwin signed a four-year deal worth $22 million dollars.
The Cowboys want him to be their tight end of the future. With quarterback Dak Prescott expected to re-sign this offseason and Jarwin back to full strength, there are going to be plenty of opportunities to come for Jarwin. Prescott was putting up a ludicrous amount of passing yards per game before his injury and Jarwin will benefit, if that style of play returns. Jarwin has been dropped in many leagues due to the injury that occurred.
At just 25 years old, Jarwin could be in line for a breakout season. The team is heavily invested in him financially, so there is every reason to believe that the Cowboys have trust in him. Jarwin is an athletic and size mismatch for the opposition, so a roll of the dice on his health could spell Yahtzee.
Harrison Bryant (Cleveland Browns)
For his first year in the NFL, Bryant has shown some flashes that could lead to bigger production in the next couple of years. He has found himself 29 targets heading into week 15, while competing with Austin Hooper and David Njoku. Hooper is sure to be around awhile, as he just signed a four-year deal this past offseason.
However, Njoku is a candidate to be traded this offseason. His fifth-year option was picked up for 2021 but the Browns may feel they are ready to move on from him, after he requested a trade this past offseason. If Njoku remains, he has just one year left on his deal.
Whenever the time comes for him to depart, Bryant will be the next man up for a larger role. Head coach Kevin Stefanski loves to use two tight ends on the field. In his last year as coordinator in Minnesota, Stefanski used the most two tight end sets across the NFL. Hooper appears to be the clear tight end option going forward but Bryant could sneak his way into more production over the long haul.
Adam Trautman (New Orleans Saints)
In the third round of the 2020 NFL draft, Trautman was selected by the New Orleans Saints. Like the majority of tight ends in their first year, he has been nearly non-existent on the field this past year.
However, in college, he showed off his receiving abilities, as he posted 70 catches for 916 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior year at the University of Dayton. Current starting tight end Jared Cook will also be a free agent this offseason.
This will leave the door wide open for Trautman to have an opportunity to break out in his second or third NFL season. He also has offensive mastermind, Sean Payton, available to scheme him open. While Drew Brees is likely to retire in the next year or two, this could allow the team to go younger and cheaper at a variety of positions. The Saints are in salary cap hell and will not have money to burn on another tight end in free agency. Trautman has a better chance of being available for free off the waiver wire, or for a very cheap trade, in comparison to some of the other options on this list.
Donald Parham Jr. (Los Angeles Chargers)
Before the 2020 season, Parham Jr. was signed to a two-year deal by the Los Angeles Chargers. He previously had been spending a year in the XFL with the Dallas Renegades. Before the NFL, he bounced around a few teams after going undrafted in the 2019 NFL draft.
Current Los Angeles Chargers tight end, Hunter Henry, has played this past year on the franchise tag. It is widely suspected that he will sign as a free agent elsewhere during the 2021 offseason. This could leave an opportunity available for Parham Jr., who stands in at 6-8, making him a huge red-zone target.
Parham Jr. came onto the team at the same time as rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, who has been impressed with Parham Jr. since training camp. He has just five catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns this season but this will ultimately increase, as more opportunities are available in 2021. Tight ends can be very touchdown dependent and at his size, the red zone is exactly where he thrives. There could be a void at tight end next year for the Chargers with a departure by Henry.
This will create more playing time for Parham to continue to grow with his rookie quarterback. Herbert is also putting up an outstanding rookie campaign and is showing there will be many yards and touchdowns available for Chargers pass-catchers going forward. Parham Jr. could be a great flier in very deep dynasty leagues.