Every year without fail, someone, somewhere in the world tries to convince themselves that this is the year tight end won't be a disaster for Fantasy Football. They're always wrong.
In 2022, we saw just three tight ends reach 200 PPR points, something 24 wide receivers did. And that wasn't an outlier – over the past decade, there have been only three seasons with five or more tight ends hitting that 200-point mark, with names like Jordan Cameron and Martellus Bennett among the tight ends who were relevant in 2013 and 2014, when six tight ends each did it.
This year's rookie class at tight end could change that, with four going in the first 50 picks and a whopping nine inside the first three rounds. But, if that does happen, it's unlikely to be in 2022 – there have been just six tight ends to reach even 150 PPR points as a rookie, with none going over 180. History isn't fate, but expecting it to change drastically overnight is to set yourself up for disappointment.
We've gone over the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver rankings from the Fantasy Football Today crew this week, and today is tight end day. Of course, as you can probably tell, I don't think there's nearly as many Fantasy relevant tight ends to dig into as with the other positions.
But that might actually make it even more important to get the position right, because the edge you can gain is huge:
TE rankings update
Let's start with how Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings are ranking the position:
It's a stretch to say Travis Kelce is the only tight end who truly matters, but … it's not much of one. He outscored the No. 2 TE by 100-plus points in 2022 and was 5.1 points per game better than the second best. He's the only tight end you can truly count on to produce not just like a starting-caliber wide receiver, but like a legitimate WR1, and there's a case for him to be the No. 1 overall pick as a result.
Of course, Kelce will turn 34 a few weeks into the season, so he has to fall off at some point, right? He's had arguably the two best seasons of his career since turning 31, so it's not like I'm expecting it to happen this year, but it's going to happen at some point. And the fall-off can happen quite suddenly – Antonio Gates had 69-821-12 in 2014 as a 34-year-old and then missed five games the following season and never reached 40 yards per game again, to name one example.
Of course, then you have Tony Gonzalez, who dropped from 54.2 yards per game as a 33-year-old to 41.0 as a 34-year-old, only to rebound and close out his career with three straight seasons above 54 yards per game again. Hall of Famers are different, and while there's some risk with Kelce falling off, I'm certainly not predicting it to happen just yet.
It's worth remembering that you don't have to go too far into the past to find a season where Kelce actually wasn't even the No. 1 tight end. It happened in 2021, when Andrews outscored him by 0.9 points per game and nearly reached 300 total. Andrews was on pace for similar production through the first six games of last season before suffering a knee injury, and he was held back by that and Lamar Jackson's own injury issues for much of the season after that. Expecting a bounce-back campaign from Andrews is kind of a no-brainer, but with the additions of Odell Beckham and Zay Flowers this offseason, it might be asking too much to expect him to get back to that level, especially when it required the Ravens to throw the ball 611 times in 2021, 123 more times than they've ever done in the Jackson era.
1. Travis Kelce, KC -- OVR: 4
2. Mark Andrews, BAL -- OVR: 25
3. Kyle Pitts, ATL -- OVR: 58
4. T.J. Hockenson, MIN -- OVR: 62
5. George Kittle, SF -- OVR: 65
6. Dallas Goedert, PHI -- OVR: 66
7.Darren Waller, NYG -- OVR: 75
I have Hockenson a bit closer to Andrews, but I mostly agree with how those tiers work out. Hockenson benefited greatly from the Vikings lack of viable options beyond Justin Jefferson in the passing game last season, as he caught 60 passes in 10 games after the trade – his previous career high was 67 in 16 games. He was a solid starting tight end thanks to that volume, but there wasn't a ton of upside there – he had just four games of more than 15 PPR points – but with the addition of Jordan Addison, I think we're likely to see at least a bit of a step back. Hockenson is nice to have as a set-it-and-forget-it option, but I'm just not sure there's true difference-making upside here.
There definitely is for Pitts, though as we saw last season, the Falcons offensive game plan makes it awfully tough for him to live up to that. Pitts had a 27% target share, but with just a 47.5% catch rate in that low-volume pass offense, he was only on pace for 48 catches, 605 yards and three touchdowns in his 10 games. At least with Desmond Ridder at QB, the Falcons were on pace for nearly 500 passes, so there should be more opportunities. Pitts is going to earn a bunch of targets, especially down the field, and if the QB play even approaches average, he has a real chance to be a 15-PPG kind of guy, but the floor is also incredibly low.
I'm a bit lower on Kittle than this consensus, mostly because I just don't buy the leap he made with Brock Purdy at QB. Kittle averaged 15.6 PPR points from Week 13 through the Divisional Round of the playoffs with Purdy at QB, but that was mostly because he scored seven touchdowns in those eight games; he had more than 40 yards in just three of those games. Two of those games, by the way, came with Deebo Samuel out, too. Kittle is a solid tight end, a good bet for 850-plus yards if he stays healthy, but I don't really want to pay a premium for him coming off a flukey touchdown stretch in such a crowded offense.
I have both Goedert and Waller ranked ahead of Kittle, though I'll admit I feel more confident in Goedert than Waller at this point. The case for both is very different, of course – Goedert is an efficiency monster who has averaged 10-plus yards per target over the past two seasons and seems to always get wide open for a 20-plus yard gain at least once every game, while Waller might be in line for as many targets as anyone at the position.
If it's a floor vs. ceiling thing, Goedert probably won't have a 140-target season, but he'll get the most out of what he does get in that offense. Waller might get 140 targets as the Giants projected No. 1 option in the passing game, but he's also 31 in September and hasn't stayed healthy since 2020. If he does stay healthy this time around, he could be a top-three option at the position, but there's considerable risk here at this point.
You've got another significant drop in the overall rankings after that group:
Freiermuth should be at the top of that list, and he's the last tight end I've got projected for more than 10 PPR points per game. If Kenny Pickett takes a step forward and elevates Pittsburgh's offense, Freiermuth has a chance to crack the top five, though I think it's unlikely he ever develops into much more than a 12-13 PPG guy. He's a volume play, but probably not a dynamic enough playmaker to do much more than 900 yards in a best-case scenario.
That being said, I'm not sure there's really anyone else here with even that much upside. Okonkwo showed some upside as a playmaker as a rookie – he led all tight ends in yards per route run at 2.63 as a rookie – and figures to be the No. 2 option in the Tennessee offense. If you're going to punt on the high end of the position, he's about as good a dice roll as you're going to find.
Here's what the TE2 range looks like:
These are all late-round fliers, and you really shouldn't be taking a second tight end unless you're punting. Even someone like Freiermuth should probably be the only tight end you grab, because there just isn't enough upside to justify both a top-100 pick and a second roster spot on the position. If you go with Okonkwo, it's reasonable to take someone like Dalton Kincaid or Sam LaPorta with one of your last picks just to see if they turn into something.
And among the rookies, those should be your priorities. I've actually got LaPorta ranked ahead of Kincaid, despite Kincaid being the higher drafted of the two in the actual NFL Draft. I could be persuaded to change my mind about that if we get some positive reports as the offseason goes on about Kincaid either pushing Dawson Knox for playing time or actually emerging as the primary slot option for Buffalo, but I'm skeptical either is actually going to happen.
Whereas LaPorta basically doesn't have competition for playing time at this point, if he gets up to speed quickly enough. That's often tough for even very talented rookie tight ends, who have to effectively learn two positions, proving their worth both as blockers and pass-catchers, ideally. However, the Lions didn't even have a tight end get to 20 catches after Hockenson was traded last season, so LaPorta's path is about as clear as you could hope. He's a good prospect with a solid athletic profile and early-second round draft capital, so if I'm going to bet on a rookie tight end, he's the one.
That's probably about as low as I'm willing to go at the position. I could see making a case for someone like Greg Dulcich or Juwan Johnson in offense we expect to be better than they were in 2022, and Tyler Higbee has some volume-related upside in what remains a barren Rams passing offense outside of Cooper Kupp – he averaged 12.4 points per game in PPR over the first five last season before falling off the pace. But even he's more of a fill-in while you hope for someone with more upside to pop.
Look, it's not a great position, and it's unlikely to be a great position in the near future. There's reason for hope, but I'm also old enough to remember when David Njoku, Hunter Henry, Noah Fant, Evan Engram and O.J. Howard were supposed to carry the banner for the position forward. Most young, promising tight ends turn into 600-yard-per-season guys in the end, and this year's class probably won't be any different. I'm hoping for more, but I'm done expecting it.
Here's what my top 24 looks like: