1.  
TE  KC
Rec
98
Rec Yds
1233
Rec TD
9
Rec Avg
12.6
Rush Att
0
Rush Yds
0
Rush TD
0
Rush Avg
0.0
It might seem like the Rob Gronkowski retirement promoted Kelce to the top of the tight end class, but Kansas City's version of No. 87 was already there. Kelce rode shotgun on Patrick Mahomes's MVP season, bumping most of his counting stats and efficiency ones too. He's now ranked first, second and first in TE fantasy points the last three years. Mahomes was able to prioritize Kelce around the goal line in a way that Alex Smith never would. Kelce had just 16 targets inside the 10-yard line entering last year, then collected 12 - third in the league and most among tight ends - for 2018 alone. Perhaps Kelce will be a little easier to mark if Tyreek Hill is out of the picture, but if defenses had any clue how to stop the 29-year-old tight end we probably would have seen it by now. No one's cracked this matrix. Injuries are a tricky thing to predict for anyone, especially those at tight end, the ultimate collision position. That said, credit Kelce for playing in 79 of a possible 80 games over the last five years. He had a clean-up ankle surgery in early March, but it's not expected to hold him back for 2019. Selecting a vanity tight end isn't for everyone - some fantasy owners don't want to play catch-up at the other positions. But with the first TE tier a tiny and exclusive group, it's possible margin analysis could push you to an early Kelce pick. It seems easier to get lucky at the other positions than it is to strike gold at tight end.
2.  
TE  SF
Rec
84
Rec Yds
1211
Rec TD
7
Rec Avg
14.4
Rush Att
0
Rush Yds
0
Rush TD
0
Rush Avg
0.0
It wasn't just that Kittle had a career season, he had a season that was almost too good to be true. And it's hard to know how to react to that type of year. Kittle and Travis Kelce played ping-pong with the single-season yardage record for a tight end; when the smoke cleared, Kittle won. That's an incredible accomplishment for any player, but then underscore that Kittle did it playing most of his season with undrafted quarterback Nick Mullens (Kelce, meanwhile, worked with the NFL MVP). The 49ers also had pedestrian wideouts; every November and December opponent took to the field with the primary goal of stopping Kittle. And let's not forget Kittle was scarcely used at Iowa, catching just 48 passes in four college seasons. The 49ers need to prioritize Kittle more in the scoring area. He only had five touchdowns despite last year's banner season, and three came from long distance (43, 82, 85 yards). The other two spikes were from the 10- and 5-yard line, respectively. It wasn't for a lack of trying, as Kittle was fourth among tight ends in red-zone targets. A full season of Jimmy Garoppolo could go a long way toward fixing this deficiency. Garoppolo, in a lot of ways, is the elephant in the San Francisco huddle. Can he be trusted to play a full season? Have we seen enough of him to definitively conclude he's a difference-maker? How you feel about Garoppolo goes a long way toward solving your Kittle stance in 2019.
3.  
TE  PHI
Rec
99
Rec Yds
1040
Rec TD
8
Rec Avg
10.5
Rush Att
0
Rush Yds
0
Rush TD
0
Rush Avg
0.0
If it feels like Ertz gets better every season, you're not wrong. His fantasy point total has gone up in each of the past five years, and he's coming off a season where he set new personal bests in just about every counting and efficiency stat. And imagine what Ertz might have accomplished had Carson Wentz lasted the full season. Ertz's per-play stats had some odd tints to them last year. Although he had the lowest YPC of his career, he also had 13 grabs over 20 yards (a new personal best) and his highest career catch rate. The Eagles spiked Ertz's red-zone usage, allowing him to match his personal best in touchdowns. It was encouraging to see Ertz play his first full season out of four, as he battled a laundry list of injuries through the year. That's part of the gig at tight end, the position of collisions. Fantasy players have to reconcile how they feel about the clear Big 3 at the position -- Travis Kelce, Ertz, and George Kittle. Few will have Ertz at the top; his athleticism and upside aren't as lofty as Kelce's, while Kittle has uncommon speed for the position and the advantage of being the shiny new toy of the group. But if you want to sign off on Ertz as early as the second or third round, we'll tacitly approve. The position is especially top-heavy this year, and even if Ertz slips back to 2017 levels, you'll probably earn back the cost of the selection.
4.  
TE  TB
Rec
64
Rec Yds
822
Rec TD
7
Rec Avg
12.8
Rush Att
0
Rush Yds
0
Rush TD
0
Rush Avg
0.0
If you're low on cash but feeling thirsty, head down to the local tavern armed with some O.J. Howard trivia. Howard led qualified tight ends in YPC and YPT last year, which is sure to win you a few free libations. (Rotowire doesn't merely want you to dominate fantasy sports, we want you to live like royalty -- and on someone else's check.) The tight end certainly made an impression with quarterback Jameis Winston, who initially said the sky was the limit for Howard, then changed that to the moon. We always knew Winston was something of a space cadet; now we have deeper confirmation. A high-ankle sprain kept Howard out of six games last year and probably masked what was in all actuality a breakout season. He's also a capable blocker, which can be a double-edged sword -- the teams love it, the fantasy honks not so much. A third-year breakout would make sense from a linear perspective, and we're also expecting Bruce Arians to have a ball with Howard's size and athleticism. There are other talented pass catchers in Tampa Bay (Mike Evans and Chris Godwin wave hello), but Howard deserves consideration as the top tight end chosen after the first tier is depleted.
5.  
TE  NO
Rec
62
Rec Yds
788
Rec TD
6
Rec Avg
12.7
Rush Att
0
Rush Yds
0
Rush TD
0
Rush Avg
0.0
For the better part of a decade, Cook was the sleeper version of Lucy Van Pelt, holding out a football for fantasy owners to kick. The tight end spent several years as a sleeper darling in the fantasy community, putting forth every trope you could think of. Improved conditioning, new team, better teammates, new coaching. Cook generally let us down in Tennessee, sunk us in St. Louis, flopped in Green Bay and had a pedestrian first year in Oakland. No one had a Cook-centric strategic hook entering 2018. And yet, somehow, Cook smashed in his second Oakland year, making beautiful music with Derek Carr and Jon Gruden. Cook fashioned the highest catch rate of his career, and set new personal bests in all the key counting stats. And while the Raiders leaned on Cook, it's not like they went ballistic with the targets - 101 is a healthy total, but four tight ends saw more. So now what for 2019? Cook signed with the Saints, eschewing an intriguing offer from Gronkowski-mourning New England. If Cook could get it done with the dicey Oakland setup, why not in New Orleans too? Or is this just another replay of all those Van Pelt moments from earlier in the decade? There's plenty of plausible upside and downside scenario to consider with this selection; too much upside not to slot Cook in our top 10, but too much history to label him a sure thing.
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