Adam Trautman and Anthony Firkser
Heading into the 2021 fantasy football season, identifying potential breakouts at TE can be crucial to putting together a competent roster. At a position that creates a lot of question marks, finding a player who can outperform expectations thanks to a breakout season is crucial. Let’s take a look at three potential breakouts at the tight end position in 2021.
Which tight end from the AFC stands out as potential breakout in 2021?
Anthony Firkser, Tennessee Titans | ADP: 195 (TE25)
To some extent, Anthony Firkser started his breakout in the 2020 NFL season, but in the 2021 fantasy football season, the Titans TE could really put himself on the map. Last season, Firkser saw a career-high 53 targets. He turned those into 39 receptions for 387 yards and 1 touchdown. However, he was still competing with his fellow tight end Jonnu Smith for targets. That situation has dramatically changed in 2021.
Firkser and Smith shared 118 targets, a 25% share in the team targets. Firkser saw 11% of the targets, with Smith seeing around 14%. Overall, the tight end position saw a 30% target share after seeing 25% the year before. With another tight ends coach stepping up to the position of offensive coordinator, expect that target share to remain in that 25% region in 2021. With MyCole Pruitt and Geoff Swaim as the main competition, Firkser should see at least a 15% target share. That projects to be around 75 targets next year.
If Firkser performs to his career average, that would result in around 57 receptions for 640 yards and 4 touchdowns. While those numbers are nothing spectacular for a TE in fantasy football, that should be the floor for what Firkser can produce in a potential breakout season. If he becomes the clear third pass-catching option in the offense, that target share could rise to around 20%.
If that is the case, Firkser could be looking at a projected line of 100 targets, 75 receptions, 850 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns. At the TE position, that would make Firkser a top-10 option in 2021.
Which tight ends from the NFC stand out as potential breakouts in 2021?
Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints | ADP: 149.1 (TE20)
There is little in the way of competition for touches for Adam Trautman following the offseason departure of Jared Cook. Over the last three seasons, the TE position for the Saints has an average target share of 18%. While that could change as the offense transitions from Drew Brees to a new quarterback, somewhere in the region of 15-20% is a reasonably safe estimation. Cook dominated the targets at the position with 60 in 2020. The majority of those should shift to Trautman this year.
As a rookie, Trautman had 15 receptions on 16 targets for 171 yards and a touchdown. Catching 93.8% of your targets is a great way to secure more playing time. While you would not expect him to catch 90% of his targets with more playing time, he could still stay within the 80-85% range. Therefore, even if he only sees 70-75 targets, he could still be in and around the top 12 at the tight end position in 2021. All the ingredients are there for Trautman to be a fantasy football breakout star next season.
Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys | ADP: 199.8 (TE26)
A darling of the fantasy football community heading into 2020, can Blake Jarwin finally have his breakout season in 2021? Jarwin was the Cowboys’ starter at tight end heading into Week 1 of the season. Unfortunately, Jarwin only logged 1 reception for 12 yards before missing the remainder of the season. In his place, Dalton Schultz enjoyed a breakout season, with 63 receptions for 615 yards and 4 touchdowns on 89 targets.
Overall, the tight end position for the Cowboys had a 17% target share in 2020. The expectation is that we see a similar share in 2021. As a result, if Jarwin proves to be the Cowboys starting TE again next year, he could be a breakout star for fantasy football managers.
In his career, Jarwin has a five percent higher catch rate, averaging close to 2 yards more per reception than Schultz. While those may seem minimal, it could be the difference between a starter and a backup.
The projected stat line for Jarwin as the starter is around 95-100 targets, 70-75 receptions, 850 yards, and 5 touchdowns. That would be enough to see him as a projected top-10 tight end in 2021.
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Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.