1) Travis Kelce
The only thing Tyreek Hill’s departure did was apparently shift even more volume onto Kelce’s shoulders, skyrocketing his fantasy stock higher than any tight end in history.
Kelce is the league’s most-talented tight end in terms of his receiving abilities, and it helps that gets to play in the league’s undisputed top-offense and catch passes from a QB who many believe is already in the GOAT conversation.
The Chiefs were 1st in total scoring, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and threw on first down 41.8% of the time (per NFL.com) – the most of any team in the NFL, and by a 3% margin.
Kelce’s hands and route-running are as good as any slot receiver, and his relentlessness after the catch is unique for a TE. Check out this spectacular touchdown from last season where Kelce leaves Raiders defenders diving at air:
In 2022, Kelce ranked (among TEs):
- 1st in total fantasy points with 316 (100 more points than the next-closest TE)
- 1st in targets and receptions with 110 (over 20 than the next-closest TE)
- 1st in yards with over 1,300 (over 400 more than the next-closest TE)
- 1st in receiving touchdowns
- 1st in catches for 20+ yards
- 3rd in total snaps
- 1st in catches for first downs
- 1st in YAC
- 3rd in the % of Air Yards accounted for (per Next Gen Stats)
- 9th in catch %
- 8th in YAC per reception
Like Frank Gore or Snooki in tight end form, Kelce’s consistency throughout his career has been downright insane, and last season was no different.
In 2022, Kelce broke the 100-yard mark six times, had at least six targets in every game, had at least 70 yards in 59% of his weeks, and averaged 8.9 targets per week.
Discussing how monstrously dominant Travis Kelce is can become tiresome and probably semi-boring to non-Chiefs fans, so I’ll end with this: it is absolutely worth it to spend a first-round pick on Kelce in 2023, especially considering he had over 100 more fantasy points than the next closest TE last season.
Regardless of it’s a speedy linebacker, an adept safety, or even a top corner like the Bills’ Tre White, defensive coordinators haven’t found an answer for the Kelce/Mahomes connection yet, and I’m dubious if they ever will:
If you draft Kelce, as long as both he and Mahomes stay healthy, you should end the season at least in playoff position.
2) T.J. Hockenson
While the conventional pick by many would likely be Mark Andrews here, it was T.J Hockenson who was 2nd to only Kelce in the majority of main receiving stats when it comes to TEs in just his first season in Minnesota, and the Vikings are a much pass-heavier team than the Ravens.
While Hockenson isn’t know for being the after-the-catch monster that Kelce is, much like Kelce Hockenson has agility and hands that are more akin to your average slot receiver than your average tight end, and those traits show up on the stat sheet as he was still 4th in YAC among last year’s TEs.
— NFL (@NFL) December 26, 2022
Among last year’s tight ends, Hockenson finished:
- 2nd in total fantasy points to only Kelce
- 2nd in receptions, targets, and yards to only Kelce
- 5th in touchdown receptions
- Tied for 7th in catches for 20+ yards
- 4th in YAC
- 1st in total snaps
Hockenson also accounted for an eye-popping 24.5% of all of the Vikings’ Air Yards, which was 2nd-best among 2022 TEs (per Next Gen Stats).
Once Hockenson arrived in Minnesota, he averaged 8.6 targets a game and had at least 30 receiving yards in all games except one.
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2022
The Vikings also throw the ball like Kirk Cousins is just a slightly more improved version of Patrick Mahomes, and in 2022 they threw the ball on 1st down the 7th-most of any team, were 2nd to only the Chiefs in passing yards, finished 3rd in passing attempts, and were 7th in scoring according to NFL.com.
While Mark Andrews is a very close number two, Hockenson plays in an offense that throws the ball at a far greater rate.
Hockenson also is used as a blocker less often than Andrews, and Hockenson’s style of play (especially within the Vikings system compared to the Ravens) naturally lends itself to fewer injuries in comparison to Andrews, as Hockenson plays with a little less reckless abandon than Andrews does – even opting to go out of bounds or hit a QB/receiver slide when he realizes the play is dead or he’s gained all the yardage he can.
3) Mark Andrews
Fortunately for Andrews, he often acts as the WR1 in the Ravens offense in terms of targets and game-planning, and even with the help they’ve given Lamar Jackson this offseason, Andrews is still likely the best pass-catcher the Ravens have to offer.
Considering the run-heavy sets the Ravens use so often, Andrews often finds himself catching the ball in stride down the seam or wide open in the flat, courtesy of play-action and DBs peaking in the backfield after dealing with runs up the middle seemingly the entire game.
Put respect on Mark Andrews name pic.twitter.com/AiYvSKZh3N
— The Ravens Realm (@RealmRavens) May 13, 2023
Andrews’ big body and strong hands enable him to snare some spectacular catches, and the one-handed or leaping catch is definitely Andrews’ trademark.
Throw in Andrews’ at-times George Kittle-like ability to plow through and stiff-arm defenders, and you’ve got one of the top-5 undisputed most-talented tight ends in the NFL.
Here’s how Andrews stacked up among other TEs last season despite missing two weeks:
- 3rd in fantasy PPG to only Kelce and Kittle
- 3rd in receptions and targets
- 2nd to only Kelce in receptions for first downs (per ESPN)
- Tied for 7th in TD receptions
- 7th in snap %
Andrews also had 50+ receiving yards in 60% of his games, averaged 7.5 targets per week, saw five targets or more in all but one game, and broke the 100-yard mark three times.
Mark Andrews made the TD catch off the defenders head ????
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 25, 2022
The Ravens don’t pass nearly as much as the Chiefs or the Vikings, so Andrews maintaining the significant share of the Ravens targets he’s used to will be absolutely critical to his fantasy stock in 2023, so keep an eye on how Odell and Zay Flowers perform early on.
Want one take-home Andrews stat that might get you to overdraft him in 2022? According to Next Gen Stats, Mark Andrews led all TEs with 28% of his team’s Air Yards – more than Kelce or Hockenson.
4) George Kittle
Kittle quietly returned to an elite, top-5 TE fantasy season last year after a few frustrating seasons riddled with injury (not that 2022 didn’t have a little of that too).
Fortunately for George Kittle, he was able to maintain a significant share of the 49ers targets (5th-highest share of his team’s Air Yards among TEs, per Next Gen Stats) despite the addition of CMC, Deebo continuing to dominate, and Brandon Aiyuk taking another step forward.
This catch from George Kittle is even crazier from this angle ???? pic.twitter.com/LdUo1GnnL4
— OurSF49ers (@OurSf49ers) January 23, 2023
In 2022, Kittle achieved the following impressive statistics among TEs:
- 3rd in snap %
- 7th in receptions
- 2nd to only Kelce in TDs
- 3rd in total fantasy points & 2nd in fantasy PPG to only Kelce
- 5th in receiving yards
- 4th in average yards per reception (per ESPN)
- 2nd in catches for 20+ yards to only Kelce
- 6th in YAC
- 6th in catches resulting in first downs
- 8th in catch % (per Next Gen Stats)
- 5th in YAC per reception
- 10th in targets
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 16, 2022
The San Francisco offense also gives all of its pass-catches plenty of opportunities for production, as they were the 6th-highest scoring team last season and threw the ball on first down the 5th-most of any team in 2022 (per NFL.com).
Kittle is likely the second-most talented tight end in the league trailing only Kelce, but Kittle’s greatest strength is unfortunately also his greatest weakness.
Kittle plays like Derrick Henry once he has the ball in his hands, as the first defender is rarely able to drag him down in space.
Kittle often throws defenders aside with his deadly stiff-arms, or opts to plow directly through them rather than running out of bounds or falling down when he believes a play is dead.
When healthy, these tenacious traits enable Kittle to put up top-3 fantasy numbers with fewer looks than some of the other elite TEs, but his tendency to destroy defenders puts him at greater risk of injury due to the physicality of his play style.
@run__cmc thoughts ? https://t.co/WzIITTYyPq
— George Kittle (@gkittle46) October 8, 2019
The San Francisco offense also gives Kittle plenty of room to operate considering they have a litany of offensive weapons, but their offensive genius as well as their offensive diversity can leave Kittle with some dud games.
Although, if Kittle can manage to play at least 14 games next season, he should finish as a top-5 TE – regardless of the absolute question mark that is the 49er QB position next year, another factor in Kittle’s ranking here.
5) Darren Waller
Unfortunately the Kenny Golladay debacle has left my wary of any newly acquired, freshly hyped up Giants pass catchers, so on a personal level I’ll definitely be taking a wait-and-see approach on Waller in 2022.
Despite the Golladay catastrophe, Waller cracks the top-5 because he’s likely the most talented pure receiver at the tight end position outside of Travis Kelce, and one has to imagine the Giants will find ways to use Waller that could never work with the Ben Simmons-esque Golladay mailing it in every day.
While Waller missed about half the season, he did have the 10th-best fantasy PPG of all TEs, was 3rd among all eligible (at least 10 receptions) TEs in yards per catch, averaged over five targets per game, and caught at least two balls in every game – which is actually relatively good consistency as far as fantasy TEs go.
As a former receiver, Waller faces uncanny route-running, ball skills, and speed the likes of which most of the other TEs on this list could only dream of.
Waller can leap up to high-point 50/50 balls, crumple defenders of all shapes and sizes with his moves, and has the supreme body control and awareness to make sideline catches and beat zone coverage like he’s Antonio Brown.
Considering the no-names starting at receiver for the Giants and the subtle improvements the Giants offense has made to enable Daniel Jones to look like a competent quarterback, Waller could be set up for a sneaky bounce-back season and get a chance to display his elite skills once again.
6) Dallas Goedert
After Kittle/Waller, there is a significant drop off as far as talent goes at the TE position, but Goedert could definitely be a sneaky mid-to-late pick that might end up contending for one of the top-3 tight end slots.
He has deceptive speed for his size, and is an integral part of the Eagles offensive attack as an effective blocker and a mismatch for defenders of all shapes and sizes due to his own size/speed combination.
Dallas Goedert's CATCH from another angle ????
The review took five minutes to review and the call stands ????pic.twitter.com/dIL8KDacSa
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 13, 2023
Goedert has a unique ability to track the long ball and often makes phenomenal adjustments or catches rainbowing, over-the-shoulder balls perfectly in stride.
Among last year’s talented tight end class, Goedert finished:
- 4th in fantasy PPG
- 1st in catch % (per Next Gen Stats)
- 7th in receiving yards
- 2nd in YAC per reception and 1st in Expected YAC per reception (per Next Gen Stats)
- 2nd in snap % (per FantasyPros)
- Tied for 8th in Average Separation (per Next Gen Stats)
- Tied for 6th in yards per catch among eligible (over 10 catches) TEs
- Tied for 7th in catches for 20+ yards
- 12th in receptions
— PlayerProfiler (@rotounderworld) January 22, 2023
As evidenced by the fact that Goedert was also 3rd among all TEs in YAC (per ESPN), he’s also an intimidating runner with the ball in his hands and has spectacular ball-carrier vision for a tight end.
This trait is especially useful in an offense as productive and explosive as Philadelphia’s, as Jalen Hurts’ progression and the addition of A.J. Brown have opened up the entire offense.
Last season, the Eagles were 2nd in total scoring to only the Chiefs, were 8th in passing yards, and threw the 6th-most of any team on first down (per NFL.com).
TOUCHDOWN DALLAS GOEDERT pic.twitter.com/Xac4N0RzKi
— Barstool Philly (@BarstoolPhilly) September 25, 2022
Given the fact that Goedert was top-5 in the majority of advanced analytics and plays in possibly the most productive offense except for the Chiefs, he’s an intriguing TE that could end up producing like Kittle or Waller except you can likely grab him several rounds later.
7) Kyle Pitts
Much like Darren Waller, Kyle Pitts’ ranking here and across fantasy platforms is demonstrative of the idea that due to his youth, sheer talent level, and former production, he simply has no choice but to rebound after his seven-game absence last season.
If the Falcons can’t figure out how to incorporate Pitts in their offense like they did during his rookie season, you have to imagine that the Falcons are looking at another coaching/regime blow-up or trading Pitts away next season like the Raiders did Waller (and you have to think the coaching aspect is more likely to be addressed than giving up on someone most scouts considered the best TE prospect of all time).
At just 22 years old and coming off a season where his 27% target share trailed only Mark Andrews among last year’s tight end crop, Pitts is simply too dynamic and has too much upside to pass on once the TEs above are taken considering the lack of proven consistency (looking at you Evan Engram) and production at the position after Goedert.
Despite Mariota hucking the ball into the turf 9/10 of Pitts’ targets, Pitts still led all TEs in Average Targeted Air Yards (per Next Gen Stats), had the 4th-highest share of his team’s Air Yards of all TEs (also per Next Gen Stats), and still averaged almost six (5.9) targets per game – which is decent as far as fantasy TE standards.
Pitts’ has the agility of a receiver and can shake the quickest defenders his opponents have to offer, combined with the power to plow through and stiff-arm others when the situation calls for it.
With Bijan Robinson now in the fold, the Falcons should have a more balanced attack that forces the defense to defend more of the field, opening up more play-action plays and seam routes for Pitts to catch a ball in stride and use his blazing speed.
Hopefully, the Falcons can just look back at the film from Pitts’ rookie year and try some of that at least few times a game… but we all know NFL coaches/GMs/scouts are too smart for that and there’s a chance you’ll draft Pitts just for him to get two catches a game.
The fact that the Falcons were 2nd-worst in passing yards in 2022 and were around the middle of the league in total scoring, with the majority of those stats often coming in garbage time, doesn’t help Pitts’ case much either.
8) Evan Engram
Evan Engram went absolutely haywire towards the end of the 2022 season, finally living up to his draft pedigree and putting on a show of athleticism and speed that reminded fans of why the Giants drafted him and once had such lofty expectations for the TE/WR hybrid.
Like a Madden create-a-player, Engram changed his number to 17 and threw on an arm sleeve which naturally allowed his trademark acceleration and explosiveness to final translate into production.
Sauce Gardner vs Evan Engram ???? pic.twitter.com/o1FgxqX4QU
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) December 23, 2022
Among last year’s TE’s, Engram managed the following impressive marks:
- 7th in fantasy PPG and 5th in total points
- 4th in receptions and receiving yards
- 5th in targets
- 4th in total snaps (per FantasyPros)
- 2nd in YAC to only Kelce
- 5th in catches for 20+ yards
- 6th in YAC per reception (per Next Gen Stats)
- 5th in catch % (per Next Gen Stats)
- 7th in Share of Air Yards (per Next Gen Stats)
Much like his entire career, Engram’s 2022 season was still massively inconsistent. While he managed to break double-digit targets three times (which is impressive for any fantasy TE IMO), Engram also had four games where he only had two targets or fewer – two of which he only had one target.
In the face of NBA ref-esque inconsistency, fantasy managers that stuck around for the entire season likely got a playoff berth or win out of the elusive Engram.
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) January 15, 2023
In the final six weeks of the season, Engram averaged six catches, 68 receiving yards, and 0.5 TDs per week – totaling 410 yards and 46 targets throughout that span.
The Jaguars’ pass-happy, high-octane offense is a much better fit for Engram than the Giants clunky, archaic system. With Trevor Lawrence at the helm, the Jacksonville offensive strategy doesn’t figure to change much in 2022, and if anything they’re more likely to lean further into their passing game now that Lawrence has had another year to prove himself and develop.
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) January 15, 2023
No longer an early-2000s Lions-level laughing stock of an offense, last season the Jaguars were 12th in passing yards and the percentage they threw on 1st down, and were 11th in total scoring.
The bottom line is Engram’s speed is too much of a matchup nightmare for him to not get his looks once again in 2023, and it might take Calvin Ridley work back into the NFL. While Christian Kirk and Zay Jones have flashed talent, its not like either are proven studs so there should be enough targets for the light-footed Engram to produce like a top-10 tight end again in 2023.
9) Gerald Everett
Gerald Everett finally got a chance to show the league what a deadly mismatch his size and velocity can be when given the right system and quarterback, and the Chargers’ throw-at-all-costs offense (2nd in pass attempts and 3rd in passing yards last season, per NFL.com) turned out to be a prolific fit in 2022.
Akin to Jokic boxing-out Gabe Vincent or Cody Zellar, Everett’s box-out technique is as good as any tight-end in the league, as he has no issue playing with his size by making tough catches in traffic over the middle. Combine that with his awareness and knack for finding the soft spot in the zone, and you’ve got one of the most efficient receiving TEs in the NFL.
Everett’s sheer mass combined with his shocking quickness also allows him to chuck defenders aside with ease while occasionally pulling out the hesitation or juke move at will, when the situation calls for it.
Gerald Everett ties a career high with his 4th TD of the season.
— NFL (@NFL) January 8, 2023
Among last year’s TEs, Gerald Everett ranked:
- 9th in receptions
- 8th in targets
- 8th in YAC (per ESPN)
- 10th in YAC per catch (per Next Gen Stats)
- 11th in receiving yards
- Tied for 11th in TD catches
- 13th in fantasy total fantasy points
With all of the weapons at Justin Herbert’s disposal in terms of Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, Josh Palmer, and the two TCU receivers the Chargers drafted this offseason, it will definitely be tough for Everett to find his looks at times.
Justin Herbert ➡️ Gerald Everett ????
— NFL (@NFL) January 1, 2023
However, Everett has also proved he can be insanely effective with the few targets he does receive, he will step up with a higher target share when some of the aforementioned weapons are injured. Plus, the Chargers offense is about as good as it gets as far as a good fit for a fantasy TE goes.
Finally, even with all of the Chargers’ weapons in 2022 Everett did still manage to average 5.4 targets per week, tie his career-high in TDs, catch at least three passes in 75% of his weeks, and accrue 11.5% of all of the Chargers’ 2022 Air Yards (per Next Gen Stats).
10) Tyler Higbee
While I don’t love Higbee’s overall talent level or offense, the bottom line is the bottom line, and in this case the bottom line is he had 100 fucking targets which is just insane for a TE and he might be the Rams second receiving option behind Kupp.
Higbee is also a savvy route-runner for a tight end, has decent awareness for beating zone coverage, and is an underrated YAC maven as far as larger TEs go.
Check out his 2022 TE ranks:
- 4th in targets
- 6th in total fantasy points
- 5th in receptions
- 9th in yards
- 5th in YAC
- 4th in snap %
- 11th in YAC per catch
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) May 22, 2023
While Higbee did put up top-10 numbers just last season, he’s definitely in “buyer beware” territory in 2023 since we have yet to find out just how many of his 100+ targets were due to the Rams relying on Higbee out of necessity due to Kupp’s season-ending injury.
The Rams as an offense were beyond horrendous last season as they were about as good at football as Charlie Kelly is at reading; however, one has to imagine that they could only improve at least a little with Stafford returning from injury in 2023.