Welcome to the final installment of my NFL University series, Tight End U. We’ve already covered the true NFL University, WR U, and RB U so far. But now it’s on to tight ends.
Tight ends get neglected sometimes in NFL and fantasy football analysis, but it’s one of the most difficult positions to play and consistently produce in the NFL. Over 500 tight ends have logged a receiving statistic since the year 2000, but only 32 have logged over 800 career fantasy points. Only 56 have logged even 500 career fantasy points. For reference, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle all logged over 250 PPR fantasy points in 2018 alone. Yet, only 56 tight ends can string together 500 points in their career since 2000? Again, tight end is a tough position to play.
However, for the TE U school candidates it doesn’t seem quite as hard. 28 of those 56 tight ends to compile over 500 career fantasy points come from just 14 universities. But there can only be one TE U.
The true TE U has given the NFL five of those 56 tight ends to produce 500 points with another well on his way. The real TE U has seen five tight ends drafted inside Round 1 of the NFL Draft and produce since 2000. And most impressively, the real TE U has been responsible for just about double the fantasy points of any other school in the nation in that same time span.
You may be sensing a pattern here, but the real TE University (at least for now) is Miami (FL).
Yes, Miami has sent a stable of studs to the NFL. Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, Bubba Franks, David Njoku, Clive Walford, Chris Herndon, and Erik Swoope, just to name a few. Any combination of their top four tight ends have outproduced every other university in the nation since 2000. That’s absolutely ridiculous. However, there were some other impressive performances by a few universities that could certainly be in the TE U discussion.
Tennessee was obviously buoyed the Jason Witten’s 500-season career. California got the same treatment from Tony Gonzalez. But there were some real team efforts after that.
Iowa gave us Dallas Clark, Scott Chandler, Brandon Myers, Tony Moeaki, C.J. Fiedorowicz, and most recently Kittle. If Kittle holds his current career trajectory, he could pull Iowa into the top TE U discussion by himself.
Stanford’s had a few hot hands in recent years as well withErtz, Coby Fleener, and Austin Hooper. Ertz and Hooper are both currently considered TE1 options in fantasy football right now. If they keep pumping tight ends out Stanford could sneak into second place by 2021.
Notre Dame has also given us a few great tight ends over the years. Kyle Rudolph is still a TE1 option. Anthony Fasano and John Carlson had long careers as block-first players. But Tyler Eifert is the ultimate “what if” for the Irish. Had he stayed healthy Notre Dame could have dominated tight end production for a few years.
Miami may be TE U for now, but if we look at schools that have scored 1500 ore more points since 2012 it’s clear that the gap is closing.
Miami’s tight ends are all about done (except for Njoku and Herndon), so what university has the ammunition to take the TE U crown?
We already mentioned Iowa, Stanford, and Notre Dame. Those three certainly have a good shot.
Iowa just saw two of their tight ends get drafted in Round 1 this year in T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. Both of them should have good opportunities with the Lions and Broncos to produce right away. The Hawkeyes’ current tight ends for 2019 don’t look like NFL players, but we’ll see if that changes here soon.
Stanford’s Colby Parkinson could be in for a big 2019 campaign this season with the departure of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. If he puts up big numbers he could enter the 2020 NFL Draft as the top rated tight end. That could add some fuel to a fire that already has Ertz and Hooper currently producing.
Notre Dame has consistently brought in top recruits at the tight end position, but they haven’t panned out statistically speaking. former top tight end recruit, Alize Mack, just entered the league, but only as a seventh round pick. He could fight his way to relevance, but it’s a longshot. Cole Kmet should be the standout tight end for the Irish this year, but he’s still a mid-round guy at best.
There are also three fun wildcard schools that have more ground to make up, but should be interesting to watch. Penn State, Oklahoma, and even Cincinnati could all keep rising through the ranks.
Penn State just sent Mike Gesicki to the NFL via the second round of the draft. Gesicki was a 99th-percentile SPARQ athlete who should see an increase in targets. But more exciting than Gesicki (perhaps), they currently have Pat Freiermuth. Freiermuth caught eight touchdowns on 26 receptions in his first collegiate action. He’s 6 feet 6 inches, 260 pounds, and already looks similar to Fant as a freshman. Freiermuth can’t enter the league until 2021, but should be considered a top-two option at the position for all of college football.
Oklahoma already has Mark Andrews, but Grant Calcaterra is only a year away. Calcaterra hasn’t broken out in a huge way just yet, but looks to share the bulk of the Sooners targets with CeeDee Lamb in 2019. He could also be the TE1 overall next spring in NFL Draft discussions.
Cincinnati is the one truly “out of left field” school. They’ve really only given us Brent Celek and Kelce, but Kelce certainly isn’t done. However, Josiah Deguara is a name that you should get to know. Cincinnati just graduated their lead wide receiver and boast a budding star at quarterback in Desmond Ridder. Deguara’s already coming off a 38/468/5 season. He should easily eclipse a half dozen scores and 600 receiving yards this year. If he does, Deguara could sneak into day two next spring as a “move” tight end at the next level.
Miami is definitely still TE U, but there are plenty of schools ready to push for that title in upcoming years.
Devy and dynasty owners also must read Jordan Hoover’s excellent series, When the Devy Breaks, as he looks at vacated opportunities in each conference. Check back often for more on all the top devy players, their schools’ history of NFL production, and their outlooks for the upcoming season.
As always, reach me on Twitter @FF_TravisM if you have questions or suggestions. And keep living that Dynasty Life!