The tight end position has become the single most underwhelming position in Fantasy Football, and over the past several seasons that feeling has only grown stronger. We've gotten to the point where some leagues are eliminating the tight end position overall and turning it into a WR/TE flex, others are adding things in like 1.5 points per reception for tight ends only, and even our very own Dave Richard made the case that once Travis Kelce retires, we abolish tight end as a starting position in Fantasy lineups for good.
It's easy to see why there's so much fuss over the tight end position after the 2022 season where Travis Kelce dominated and the rest of the supposed "give you a weekly advantage" TE1s fell over entirely in Mark Andrews, Darren Waller and Kyle Pitts. Sure, there was a T.J. Hockenson mini-breakout after his trade to the Vikings, but even then, Hockenson was only a true breakout in full-point PPR leagues.
- Mock Draft Central | | |
The tight end position likely isn't going anywhere in Fantasy Football, but I've got some great news for you -- this 2023 NFL Draft tight end class will be the one that revives the position. Before we go any further, let's get out of the way the important thing to know -- tight ends take forever to develop in the NFL! So we might not see the fruits of our labor right away, although I believe some of these prospects will make an immediate impact. Down the line, in 2024, 2025 and beyond -- we'll look back at this 2023 class for some of our top-ranked tight ends and we might be able to once again build out an actual top-12 preseason rankings that we feel comfortable about rather than having half of our top-12 ranked options late-round fliers who might not even outscore the 25th-ranked player before the season.
As we're searching for translatable tight end prospects to Fantasy, it's important to also factor in what we've learned about the position as it translates to our game. For starters, we've learned that we want tight ends who will flex out the slot or even out on the boundary as the X receiver in a 3x1 set. We don't want tight ends who are stuck in line as the Y for nearly every snap -- oftentimes as a blocker. We also learned that we want to invest in prospects with an athletic profile since athletic traits often translate better at this position than the others. With that in mind, let's dive right into this thing.
Teams with the biggest Fantasy opportunity
The Packers are probably my favorite landing spot for a rookie tight end after likely moving on from Aaron Rodgers, turning the offense over to Jordan Love and leaving behind only Christian Watson as a true threat for targets. Sure, there's Romeo Doubs, but the coachspeak is louder than the actual production in the games and on tape with Doubs. As for Watson, he doesn't project for me as a target hog and is more of a big-play threat who can also take touches around the line of scrimmage. As a more inexperienced quarterback, Love would benefit greatly from a chain-moving safety blanket at tight end.
Lions fans won't want to hear it after using first-round picks on Eric Ebron and Hockenson in the past, but a first-round tight end is the last piece outside of quarterback that this offense needs.
We've seen what Dak Prescott can do for a middling prospect from an athleticism and movement skills standpoint in Dalton Schultz, so what can he do with an upgrade? I'd like to see it from a Fantasy standpoint.
The Bears have made some acquisitions at wide receiver, but Cole Kmet hasn't developed how they hoped at tight end.
A sneaky sleeper for me at tight end is Kansas City. Sure, Travis Kelce is still there, but Andy Reid is one of the most creative offensive minds in the NFL and he could dominate with a move tight end like Dalton Kincaid on the field at the same time as Kelce before ultimately usurping him when Kelce retires.
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Top five prospects for Fantasy
Mayer has received a surprising lack of hype this pre-draft process but I guess that's common for a prospect who didn't blow up the Combine and wasn't a massive producer at the collegiate level. To understand Mayer's upside, you have to watch his tape. I evaluated six of Mayer's games, including multiple games from previous seasons, and you won't find a tight end who was held back more by poor quarterback play and an offensive system that didn't fit his skill set. If I have to watch another quick-hitting screen to Mayer ...
At the next level, Mayer will be used as a consistent zone-beater in the intermediate range of the field. If he gets with the right coaching staff and quarterback, he will be able to consistently create chunk plays in the middle of the field. There is still room to grow for Mayer, who earned playing time immediately as a true freshman and beat out future mid-round draft pick Tommy Tremble. Mayer has the size, length and foot quickness to evolve into a top tight end in PPR leagues, and he's the best blocker outside of Darnell Washington in this class, so he won't come off the field often if at all.
Dalton Kincaid, Utah
Kincaid is the best on the move tight end in this draft class, and if he gets with the right offensive mind, he's the most likely tight end to make an impact in your 2023 Fantasy Football redraft leagues. Think Zach Ertz but with more post-reception juice to create yards after the catch and force missed tackles in the open field. Kincaid has massive hands and uses them well -- always attacking the ball in the air -- and he's very physical at the catch point. Kincaid will be a priority late-round target in redraft leagues and projects as a possible top-12 player at the position as early as Year 1.
Sam LaPorta, Iowa
Laporta is the most underrated tight end in this class and my favorite value. Ultimately, I think he ends up coming off the board earlier than he's currently being mocked, and that will be a great thing for his Fantasy stock because draft capital can often be a predictor of early involvement in an offense. LaPorta profiled almost identically to former Iowa tight end George Kittle from both a frame and athletic testing standpoint. Like Kittle, LaPorta can force missed tackles in space and create yards after contact. He's not the tallest or longest athlete and may not be a vertical weapon or a key target in the red zone, but he could easily become a PPR machine.
Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
No tight end in this draft class has a higher ceiling than Musgrave. At just a shade under 6-6 and 253 pounds with 4.61 straight-line speed that looks even faster on film (specifically the Senior Bowl practice tape), Musgrave is a unique prospect. Players with his size don't typically move on the vertical plane like Musgrave can and no one in this class can match his vertical ability. He tested as an elite athlete in the jumping drills and acceleration drills in addition to the vertical speed. He has the frame to evolve into a Rob Gronkowski-light (he'll never be the blocker), but he has a lot of work to do first -- drops are an issue and the injuries have been an even bigger concern throughout his collegiate career. There's not a lot of production in this profile, but the projection is elite. From an athletic profile standpoint, Musgrave has a nearly identical athletic profile to Travis Kelce when he entered the NFL.
Darnell Washington, Georgia
Washington didn't put up the raw stats people were hoping for, but that was in large part due to the scheme he played in and the fact that he shared the position room with Brock Bowers, who will enter the 2024 NFL Draft as the best tight end prospect of the past decade. Despite that, Washington averaged 17.2 yards per catch over his career and he forced 14 missed tackles in space on just 45 total receptions. He also averaged 7.5 yards AFTER the catch. Combine those impressive numbers with a 6-7, 265-pound frame, 98th percentile wingspan, 98th percentile hand size, 86th percentile broad jump (explosiveness), 97th percentile short shuttle (change of direction) and 4.64 straight-line speed and you have another lab-made prospect. Bet on traits for Fantasy Football at the tight end position.
Sleeper Tight End
Zach Kuntz, Old Dominion
When betting on tight ends to translate both to the NFL and Fantasy Football, you want to stress athleticism over everything else. Athleticism and the ability to move to different spots -- the slot and even the X receiver role in 3x1 sets as the backside X are key ways to get a tight end involved in the passing game. Kuntz is a total bet on traits type of prospect after transferring from Penn State to ODU. Kuntz's athletic profile reads like something you'd create in your video game -- a prospect. 6-6.5 (93rd percentile), 81st percentile hand size and 83rd percentile arm length. 92nd percentile 40-yard dash straight-line long speed (4.55), 91st percentile 10-yard split speed which shows off acceleration and quickness, 96th and 97th percentile jumps (shows off explosiveness and ability to high point the football), and the best of all, 92nd and 93rd percentile 3-cone and shuttle drills (shows off change of direction). Now all he needs is a great tight ends coach to mold him. Kuntz is more of a long-term investment for Dynasty or long-term keeper leagues rather than redraft.