1) Travis Kelce
It is baffling that Andrews is almost universally ranked as the top 2022 tight end by fantasy experts. Especially when one considers Kelce plays in a better, more aggressive and pass happy offense with one of the most talented throwers in the league.
On the other hand, Andrews plays in a run-first offense and while I love Lamar Jackson, his arm has occasionally let the Ravens down in big spots, and I think any football fan would agree Mahomes has more arm talent in terms of both accuracy and strength than Jackson.
Kelce’s skills are impressive as his knack for finding the open zone in the middle of the field is top-notch in addition to his route-running, body control, and catching ability.
He also has sneaky agility and acceleration, often leaving linebackers and safeties alike grasping grass:
This one never gets old ?? #TouchdownTuesday
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) July 5, 2022
Mahomes also displays a special level of trust with Kelce much like Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers used to have.
Like Rodgers/Adams, Mahomes has supreme confidence when taking chances on 50/50 or back-shoulder passes with Kelce, leading to an abundance of fantasy points as long as both players stay healthy:
MAHOMES TO KELCE.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
Some impressive marks put up by Kelce last season were:
- 2nd in receiving yards, YPG, targets, and receptions among TEs
- 8th in yards per catch among qualified tight ends (per StatMuse)
Kelce is about as consistent as it gets as far as tight ends go: he had at least four catches in all but two games and had over 50 yards in 10 of his 16 games, breaking the 100-yard mark four times along the way.
The prevailing theory for Kelce below Andrews seems to be that Kelce will see fewer open looks with no more Tyreek Hill to stretch the defense. He may even see consistent double coverage now as the top pass-catcher in Kansas City.
Despite the possible drawbacks, Hill’s departure will likely mean an increase in targets for Kelce.
Finally, Mahomes still has probably the strongest arm in the league and every receiver on the Chiefs’ roster can run like the wind, so defenses will pay early and often if they decide to double Kelce.
2) Mark Andrews
Despite the argument for Kelce over Andrews, one shouldn’t look at these rankings like 1 and 2 and instead more like 1a and 1b. Andrews could easily finish as fantasy’s top tight end like he did last season, but it is worth noting he played one more game than Kelce in 2021.
Andrews’ skills as a pass-catcher are as impressive as Kelce’s if maybe not more so. While Kelce might have more of a penchant for weaving through defenders after the catch than Andrews does, Andrews maybe makes more astonishing grabs.
— NFL (@NFL) November 29, 2021
Some nice stats Andrews accumulated in 2021 as far as TE rankings were:
- 1st in receiving yards, YPG, receptions, and targets
- 6th in yards per catch among qualified TEs (per StatMuse)
- Tied for first in TDs
- Tied for 1st in end zone targets
Like Kelce, Andrews has ridiculous athleticism for the TE position and is frequently a matchup nightmare.
While Andrews plays in a run-first offense, it has seemed to benefit him greatly as the top tight end via leaking out on good play fakes with plenty of red zone targets to spare.
Andrews’ hulking size combined with his second gear terrifies opposing fantasy managers, and it should terrify any defensive coordinator out there with a rational and logical mind.
Touchdown, Mark Andrews! #RavensFlock
— NFL (@NFL) December 26, 2021
Now with Marquise Brown being traded to the Cardinals, Andrews is the unquestioned top pass-catcher on the Ravens if he wasn’t already.
For one more nugget of evidence in Andrews’ favor if any was needed, he has never finished lower than 5th among TEs in average depth of target and he’s been top 2 in end zone targets each of the last 3 years.
3) Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts proved all the experts right in his first season by showing off the skills that made him the highest-drafted tight end ever.
In just his first NFL season, Pitts was one of the top TEs in a variety of categories including:
- 1st in yards per catch among qualified tight ends (per StatMuse)
- 1st in average depth of target (10.8) and 3rd in yards per target (9.3)
- 3rd in receiving yards to only the TEs listed above him here
- 8th in catches
- 5th in targets
- 6th in YPG and fantasy points
The addition of Davante Adams to the Raiders is one reason Pitts ranks ahead of Waller this year, and the other is Pitts may have already had the edge coming off a Pro Bowl rookie season.
Pitts is a faster, more athletic version of Waller who happens to also be better after the catch. Given he’s younger and has less wear and tear, Pitts should also be less injury prone.
Kyle Pitts first NFL touchdown caps off a 92-yard drive‼️
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) October 10, 2021
Pitts’ explosiveness often startles defenders of all positions, and he can weave through and around traffic like he’s an RB.
Moreover, Pitts has the soft hands of a receiver and truly plays the tight end position like a receiver. Check out this spectacular grab after perfectly tracking a deep ball:
Kyle Pitts has hands of a WR1 ? @kylepitts__
— NFL (@NFL) December 26, 2021
The Florida product looks to be all that scouts predicted a year ago, and his immense talent will likely have him going before the 5th round of fantasy drafts when most owners are selecting running backs and wide receivers.
Pitts’ skills and Davante Adam’s reputably significant target share should combine to give owners confidence in selecting Pitts over Waller, but you likely can’t go wrong with selecting one of the top receiving TEs in the league either way.
Kyle Pitts lays out for the catch ? pic.twitter.com/SGJ23saWU0
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) June 15, 2022
Want some more proof of Pitts’ dominance? See this play where he displayed the tackle-breaking ability eluded to earlier, and where he broke Julio Jones’ franchise record for most yards by a rookie:
With this catch, Kyle Pitts has broken Julio Jones’ franchise record for MOST receiving yards by a rookie.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) January 2, 2022
4) Darren Waller
Due to the aforementioned addition of Davante Adams and his probable target share in Pitts’ ranking, Waller has a little less fantasy potential in 2022 than Pitts.
Waller is a phenomenal TE in his own right and could easily push for top-3 status as the season progresses like he’s done before. After Pitts, Waller is likely the best receiver/TE hybrid in the league with exceptionally crisp route-running and startling agility.
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) November 23, 2020
If not for Waller, its possible Pitts wouldn’t have been as lauded as he was as Waller truly transformed, and arguable created, the tight end/receiver hybrid as we know it in the NFL today.
Some might argue Jimmy Graham or others like him may have done it first, but they all had more stout body types than Waller or Pitts.
Pitts would have likely still been a highly drafted player regardless, but one wonders if he would have been top-10.
Nevertheless, Waller’s 2021 season was not want fantasy owners wanted nor what they expected.
Darren Waller made this look easy all 2020.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) January 29, 2021
Last season, Waller’s performance can be categorized as inconsistent and unhealthy (and consequently unavailable) at best.
This is undoubtedly a concern considering his youth and playstyle; however, he still ended up 6th in fantasy PPG and has notched no lower than 3rd in targets, receptions, yards, and fantasy points each of the prior two years.
Waller optimists will also want to jot down that he was 8th in yards per catch among NFL tight ends last season in spite of his injuries while also ranking 5th in YPG.
Additionally, despite playing only 11 games he still saw the 9th-most targets of all TEs ahead of him (who all at minimum played 3 more games than him).
While Davante Adams’ presence has to cut into Waller’s targets in some way, Waller’s ability will force the Raiders to draw up plays for Waller and ensure that he sees his rightful targets as well.
After all, Waller did have at least five targets in every game last season while grabbing at least four receptions in all but two games played.
Finally, (and yes this is impressive for a TE) he had over 40 yards in all but three games played.
Again, the few notable marks Waller stockpiled in 2021 are especially remarkable due to the fact that he sustained injuries midway through so many of his games. Count on him being a top tight end again in 2022.
5) George Kittle
2021 Kittle investors know his season was a lot like Waller’s, and its no coincidence they are ranked so closely together.
When Kittle was healthy, he was often one of the most dominant TEs in the league.
GEORGE KITTLE! CLUTCH GRAB. #FTTB
— NFL (@NFL) December 13, 2021
Because Kittle is such a successful blocker, he is on the field for nearly every offensive play and finds it easier to leak out off play action much like Mark Andrews.
The only reason Kittle ranks below Waller is because the 49ers QB position is as questionable as an avid Trump supporter.
Whether it is Jimmy G or Trey Lance, you’re looking at either a very limited QB or an unproven one, neither of which spark confidence in fantasy managers.
George Kittle tip-toes the sideline for a 48-yard TD!
His second of the day! #FTTB
— NFL (@NFL) December 5, 2021
Hopefully the 49ers QB situation works in Kittle’s favor in terms of more dump offs and acting as a security blanket for whoever ends up starting.
Last season, among tight ends, Kittle achieved the following stats despite mid-game injuries and only playing 14 games:
- 4th in receiving yards, fantasy points, and YPG
- 6th in receptions
- 7th in targets
- 5th in yards per catch
- Tied for 4th in TDs
His QB situation notwithstanding, Kittle’s skills are as undeniable as any TE on this list. His physicality and overall presence sends defenders diving at his ankles and flying into the turf while others are left arm-tackling air.
Kittle has remarkable hands, shows fearlessness going over the middle and catching in traffic, and stiff-arms opponents with ease like he’s Derrick Henry.
Add in his blocking prowess, and there’s likely not anything else an NFL coach would want out of a TE.
The only reasons Kittle is down here instead of in the top-3 are the incredible talent above him, his questionable and/or quarterbacks, and his injury-plagued 2021 season.
Although, if Kittle stays healthy he will easily push for top-3 status.
6) Dalton Schultz
Schultz burst onto the scene in 2021 with a season that seemingly came out of nowhere in the midst of a crowded Dallas receiving group that consisted of both Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb starting.
Dalton Schultz ???
— NFL México (@nflmx) October 3, 2021
Among 2021 TEs Schultz finished:
- 3rd in receptions and fantasy points
- 6th in yards and targets
- 9th in YPG
- 2nd in TDs
Dalton Schultz had a solid overall year, and his play can be described similarly. He’s almost like a Kittle-lite in the sense that he does everything a tight end is asked to do exceptionally well, but he’s not quite the terrifying tackle-breaker that Kittle is.
HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS.
Dak to Schultz! Tie game!
— NFL (@NFL) November 26, 2021
Schultz demonstrated his phenomenal hands and awareness last season. He frequently found the open hole in coverage and finished top-3 in fantasy points courtesy of finishing 3rd in receptions and 2nd in touchdowns among tight ends.
He has also now finished top-5 among tight ends in snaps, routes, and catches each of the last two years.
While Schultz finished 3rd among all TEs in points last year, he did play all his games unlike the majority of the rest of this list, a main reason he’s ranked down here instead of in the top-3 (he was able to accumulate more impressive stats due to health).
Dalton Schultz has tied Ron Sellers, Kevin Williams, Robert Newhouse, Mike Sherrard, Jim Doran, and "Iron" Mike Ditka for 58th-most touchdown catches in #Cowboys history with five.pic.twitter.com/edsKiCR2at
— Mark Lane (@therealmarklane) September 28, 2021
You would also be hard-pressed to make an argument for Schultz’ raw talent level being greater than any tight end ranked above him here.
While Schultz should inevitably see an increase in targets with Amari Cooper in Cleveland and Gallup returning from a torn ACL, Jerry Jones made it clear CeeDee Lamb will be the focal point of the offense as far as throwing is concerned with his offseason comments about Lamb being an upgrade over Cooper, so Schultz fans should temper expectations before reaching for him.
7) Zach Ertz
Regardless of his age, the midseason trade, and his under-the-radar performance, Ertz was statistically the 6th-best TE in all of fantasy football last season.
He plays in a high octane offense with a talented thrower. Add in Dhopp’s suspension and you’ve got the makings of an unquestioned top-10 TE by fantasy experts heading into 2022.
? Zach Ertz Appreciation Post ? pic.twitter.com/38MpGldeJs
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) November 21, 2021
Ertz had the following noteworthy marks among 2021 tight ends:
- 4th in receptions
- 3rd to only Kelce and Andrews in targets
- 9th in yards
- Tied for 9th in touchdowns
- 3rd in end zone targets
Zach Ertz is likely the best route-runner on this list, and his agility and technique as a route specialist rivals plenty of receivers on the Cardinals’ rosters.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 24, 2021
Not only is Ertz elite enough to get separation in man coverage and win his one-on-one matchups, but his awareness allows him to find the open spot in the zone easier than the Catholic church covers up sexual assault.
In conjunction with being maybe the best route-runner on this list, Ertz has to be among the best the NFL has to offer at any position at exploiting zone coverage.
Once again, Ertz should handle top volume which will lift his fantasy stock, especially in such a high-scoring offense committed to centering around Kyler Murray’s talents.
The only TEs with more targets than Ertz last NFL season were Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce. Ertz finished the season with a 21% target share which included 7.5 targets per game.
After being acquired by Arizona, Ertz saw at least four targets, least three catches, and 25 yards or more in all games but one (a win against the woeful Chicago Bears in which they Cardinals didn’t have to throw as much as they normally do).
Ertz so good we had to watch it again! pic.twitter.com/X7qG6nt4VX
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) March 18, 2022
Finally, Ertz also had 40 or more yards in nine of his 11 Cardinals games, impressive for a tight end for sure.
Ertz will have plenty of targets and scoring opportunities, and will likely only disappoint fantasy managers if he gets injured.
8) T.J. Hockenson
2021 Hockenson owners know just how good he was when he was healthy.
You add in the fact that the Lions seemingly have an addiction to losing and playing from behind, and you’ve got the recipe for a top-10 TE next season.
Moreover, outside of St. Brown and Swift, the Lions don’t have notable options on offense leaving room for heaps of Hockenson volume – a heap that often grows with all the passing Detroit is forced to do as a result of the scoreboard in most of their games.
For a peek at Hockenson’s receiving skills, check out the play below where he demonstrates elite body control and awareness to snag the pass in bounds for the TD:
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 25, 2021
T.J. Hockenson runs crisp routes, has great hands, and is an underrated receiver/TE/fullback hybrid with deceptive quickness that repeatedly leaves safeties and linebackers choking on dust.
Hockenson’s volume and output have gone up each of his three NFL seasons, and he was on pace for a career year in 2021 before his thumb injury ended his season.
Detroit believes in Hockenson, and it shows each game with his target share. A first-round pick just three years ago, the Lions’ TE notched 7.1 targets per game (21% target share) and was a top-five scorer in half of his games.
He’s also finished seventh in fantasy PPG each of the last two years and is just 25 years-old.
He comes in one slot lower than Ertz simply because of Hockenson’s recent injury woes and because Ertz plays in a higher-scoring, more dynamic offense with a better QB.
Bottom line, while Hockenson missed a third of his games Ertz did finish as the sixth-best fantasy tight end last season while Hockenson was 15th.
They are both similar players who are neck-and-neck, but the bottom line of their production last year plus my disdain for injuries would have me take Ertz over Hockenson in 2022.
9) Dallas Goedert
After Ertz departed Philadelphia, Goedert slid right in to the Eagles’ very productive starting TE role.
Unlike Ertz, Goedert has more deep speed than the average NFL fan might give him credit for and has great burst off the line of scrimmage. Here’s an example of that deep speed (for a tight end):
— NFL (@NFL) December 5, 2021
Furthermore, he is a little better after the catch than Ertz which gives all of his targets greater potential in terms of yards and fantasy points.
Goedert’s big body allows him to box out defenders while also putting them in a bind in terms of their tackling technique.
Minshew and Goedert have two TD connections already! #FlyEaglesFly
— NFL (@NFL) December 5, 2021
Goedert displays unique creativeness for the TE position in terms of his moves on defenders in space, and has plenty of power to run them over and drive them into the turf if he so chooses.
Among last year’s tight ends Goedert finished:
- 8th in fantasy points
- 5th in yards
- 2nd in yards per catch (per StatMuse)
- 7th in YPG
- Tied for 6th in TDs
During the 9 full healthy games that Goedert played without Ertz last season, he had an eye-popping 26% target share (6.1 targets per game) and was 6th in fantasy PPG among TEs during that span.
— NFL (@NFL) October 3, 2021
In the Eagles offense, passes are plentiful and much like Lions and Hockenson the Eagles find themselves frequently down especially towards the end of games – which benefits Goedert greatly.
Goedert’s fantasy potential should remain high again in 2022 as long as he stays healthy, but A.J. Brown’s addition will cut into everyone’s target share in some way.
10) Dawson Knox
Few except Knox owners likely appreciate how good of a season he was having before his injury, as its statistical significance gradually faded away with other TE storylines taking over the fantasy universe.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) January 9, 2021
The Bills throw as much as any team in the league, and Josh Allen’s arm opens the entire playbook.
Knox’s catch radius is insane for his position too, check out this ridiculous play where it looks like Allen is just throwing a pass out of the back of the end zone only for Knox to leap out of the sky to snare the touchdown pass:
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 16, 2022
The Bills passing prowess gives Knox opportunities for dump-offs, deep targets, and end zone looks alike and he capitalized on his looks often with a staggering 9 TDs (tied for the league lead) even while playing two less games than most of his competitors.
Knox has maybe the most consistent hands of any TE in the NFL which allowed him to make the most of the few looks he received.
He also holds onto the ball in traffic and maintains possession regardless of strong contact.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 16, 2022
And while Knox’s target share wasn’t much to brag about, his dynamic skillset allows him to stay on the field almost all the time in the Bills high-flying offense as he saw 87% of snaps during 17 active weeks (including two of his playoff games).
Knox’s tackle-breaking ability isn’t too shabby either:
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) November 26, 2021
In spite of his regular-season injuries, Knox had the following stats among TEs:
- 1st in TD rate (12.3%) and TDs
- 4th in end zone targets (nine, scored on all nine looks)
- 10th in yards per catch
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) October 11, 2021
Over the offseason the Bills did sign O.J. Howard and Jamison Crowder, both of whom are underrated players in my opinion who will cut into Knox’s target share. Gabe Davis is also widely expected to step into a big role.
Dawson Knox gets his 8th touchdown to extend his franchise record for touchdown catches by a Bills TE.
— Fred Kilmartin (@FredKilmartin80) December 13, 2021
While there’s a lot more working against Knox than others on this list, he did rank as a top-3 fantasy TE in total points for a week or two before his injury, and he could easily return to top-5 status especially if there are any injuries to Diggs or other key members of the receiving corps.
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