2020 Fantasy Football Tight End Busts: It's not time to jump back on board with Rob Gronkowski

Risk management is fundamental to any fantasy football strategy. Let’s be honest: No one wants to endure a key pick not working out. To help fantasy gamers avoid disappointment this draft season, we’re unveiling our top bust candidates, position-by-position. Today, tight ends.

Bust candidates by position: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs

Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders

Yahoo ADP: 58.9 overall (TE5)

Andy Behrens: Waller ranked third at his position in total targets last season with 117, but it’s awfully tough to imagine that volume will continue into 2020. The Raiders invested significant draft capital in their receiving corps — Ruggs in the first round, Edwards and Bowden in the third — and there’s plenty of buzz about Josh Jacobs seeing a jump in targets in year two. Waller, of course, remains an excellent player who’s earned the trust of his coaching staff and quarterback, yet he has no obvious path to match last year’s opportunities. It’s still reasonable to hope for, say, a top-12-ish positional finish from Waller, but he’s about to take a big step back in terms of receptions and yardage.

Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints

Yahoo ADP: 75.6 overall (TE8)

Matt Harmon: Cook is coming off an awesome season in New Orleans with nine scores and over 16 yards per catch. Over the last two or three years, he’s finally developed into the player many hoped all the athletic ability would turn him into during his early playing days. That said, he’s just not going to be in many of my draft plans this season. Cook already had just a 13 percent share of the Saint’s targets last year and could stand to lose more volume in 2020. Emmanuel Sanders is now in the fold and Alvin Kamara should demand more targets now that he’s fully healthy. Cook losing volume would be problematic as he already stands to regress a good bit from a yards per target (10.8) and touchdown rate (13.8 percent) standpoint. With so many options available that have viable paths to breakout seasons, the juice from Cook’s 2020 outlook just isn’t worth the squeeze from his eighth-round ADP.

Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Yahoo ADP: 77.5 overall (TE9)

Scott Pianowski: Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room — it is not emotionally satisfying to pan Gronkowski. Perhaps no one in the NFL is described so perfectly: Yo Soy Fiesta.

But Gronkowski has nine years of professional attrition on his body, and he obviously didn’t even play last year. The track record of NFL stars who try to reboot their career in their 30s is mediocre, especially at the high-contact positions. And be mindful that Gronk hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011.

The last version of Gronkowski was fairly tame — a 47-682-3 line over 13 games back in 2018. That slotted him in fantasy as the TE11. A similar end-of-season rank is in play for Gronkowski’s return, though I think he’ll be more important around the goal line and probably less involved between the 20s. The Buccaneers have two other capable tight ends, and heck, they might need Gronkowski’s blocking more than they need his pass catching.

I am certainly not telling anyone to eschew fun and personality as they assemble a fantasy team. But just understand that Gronkowski’s explosive upside is probably gone for good into an age-31 season, and the floor is no longer sturdy, either. Tight end is a position where I see plenty of proactive picks; on my clipboard, Gronk isn’t one of them.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) makes a catch on a pass from quarterback Tom Brady during an NFL football training camp practice Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is back, but what will he bring to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and fantasy managers? (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Evan Engram, New York Giants

Yahoo ADP: 88.2 overall (TE10)

Liz Loza: Engram is an insane receiver (I mean tight end) with wild measurables (89th percentile SPARQ). He’s also consistently struggled to stay healthy. In fact, he has yet to post a full 16-game season over his three-year career. His 2019 campaign was cut short due to a Lisfranc foot injury that required surgery over the winter. While he’s apparently done a “helluva job” rehabbing and reportedly looks great in camp, I’m not willing to use a sixth or seventh-round pick on a player that’s been on the field for 19 games over the last two years.

Furthermore, this Giants squad is loaded with receiving talent - including red zone threat Darius Slayton - which figures to eat into Engram’s volume. There are just too many risks for me to roster Engram at a place in drafts where receivers like Michael Gallup and All Breakouts Team member Marquise Brown are also being selected.

Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

Yahoo ADP: 110.4 overall (TE12)

Dalton Del Don: Few players saw their fantasy situation decline more during the offseason than Hooper, who went from indoors/Matt Ryan/high target share in Atlanta to outdoors/Baker Mayfield/much lower target share in Cleveland. Hooper played well while taking advantage of his situation (most red-zone targets per game) last season, but he’s now sharing looks with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, who both ranked top-11 in WOPR last year, as well as with Kareem Hunt. He’ll also be sharing touchdowns (and RZ work) with Nick Chubb while catching passes from a QB who just finished bottom-five in CPOE. The Browns frequently play in bad weather and face the Steelers and Ravens defenses 25% of the time. No thanks with so many other intriguing TE options this year.

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