Before the NFL Draft commences at the end of the month, we’re continuing the dynasty fantasy football coverage here with some rankings and tiers to help those dynasty managers sort out their player evaluations and see how players are ranked. Since the Super Bowl, NFL Combine, and NFL’s free agency, we’ve covered the beginnings of joining dynasty leagues and covered some of the finer points of the dynasty format to help you get your feet wet.
The rankings and tiers breakdowns we’ve covered so far are:
In these tiers for the tight end position, many factors came into play with grouping these tight ends into tiers. These tiers are based on several factors, including (in no order):
- Fantasy Football Production
- Future Projections
- Player Contract
- Specific Team Situations
Having that baseline projection of tiers and rankings at your disposal helps you decide between one or more players in your dynasty startup drafts.
Note: Listed with each tight end is their age in September 2022, when the NFL season begins.
Dynasty Fantasy Football Tight End Tiers
TIER 1 - “The Unicorn”
- Kyle Pitts, ATL (21)
Simply put: Pitts is on a different plane of existence. He’s by far the most valuable asset at the position. It’s so difficult for teams to find elite tight ends, much less one that checks all the boxes athletically like Pitts. Look through these tight ends, and there are very few that are selected with high NFL draft capital. Or draft capital at all.
- Mark Andrews wasn’t even the first tight end taken by his own TEAM in 2018. That was Hayden Hurst.
- Travis Kelce was the fifth tight end drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft and was thought of as a run blocker before the receiving end caught up in his senior season at Cincinnati. Kelce was also suspended for an entire season for team rules violations.
- Darren Waller is a converted wide receiver with multiple suspensions for substance-abuse policy violations before converting to tight end and given a second chance by the Raiders.
- George Kittle was an after-thought fifth-round pick who was considered an “H-back” prospect. Go look at the first four lines under “Strength” on his prospect page on NFL.com. They all are related to blocking in some form.
It’s rarely ever an easy path to being an elite tight end, but that’s why Pitts is a unicorn. Pitts reached 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie, the first since Mike Ditka back in 1961. If Pitts had scored a handful of touchdowns in his rookie season and not one, Pitts might just be the top overall dynasty asset regardless of position. Say what you will about the Atlanta Falcons’ skill-position players and quarterback - they’re currently #notgood. Pitts is exceptionally #good and will be a tight end mainstay for years to come barring anything unexpected.
TIER 2 - The “Elites” Tier
In terms of pure fantasy production, Andrews and Kelce are the two elite options at the tight end position. Andrews was the TE1 last season in fantasy, thanks to Baltimore passing the ball way more than ever (11% more in 2021 than in 2020). He’s also never blocked a day in his life. Maybe that’s not EXACTLY true, but Andrews blocked on a total of NINE pass snaps in 2021. Total.
Kelce may deserve his own tier as an older tight end, but he’s still producing at an extremely high level. The Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill and are attempting to replace his production with multiple players in 2022, including JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Nevertheless, Kelce is still the top target for Patrick Mahomes, so it’s tough to downgrade Kelce - an at worst overall TE2 in fantasy since 2016.
We know dynasty managers love to shut the older players out in the format, but Kelce is still going strong and his situation looks as bright as ever.
TIER 3 - The ”Elite Cutoff” Tier
There are five elite producers at the tight end position for fantasy and obviously, dynasty. My TE4 and TE5 reside here as fully-established tight end options. This does apply for redraft as well as in dynasty, as while you’ll see Tier 3 and higher go early in drafts, there’s a clear divide between this tier and the “possible ascenders” tier below.
Waller is a matchup nightmare at a young age-30 after getting a late start to his career based on off-the-field issues. The former Ravens draft pick, who was originally a wide receiver before converting to tight end, averaged 8.5 targets per game - second-most amongst tight ends. The addition of Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow stepping up as a consistent option should help the offensive ecosystem but likely knocks Waller’s targets per game down a bit. Still, Waller remains a locked-in TE1 capable of winning you weekly matchups.
Kittle was a roller-coaster in 2021, as we saw a fantastic stretch of games from Weeks 9-15 where Kittle was the overall TE1, averaging nine targets per game and a 27.7 target share in that stretch but was just ordinary otherwise. With quarterback in flux and Deebo Samuel trade rumors swirling, Kittle would be a winner in fantasy and dynasty if Samuel were to move on from San Francisco. Ultimately, Kittle has moments of unstoppable production, but he fades into the background too easily week to week.
TIER 4 - The “Possible Ascenders” Tiers
This tier is the top group of tight ends we’re looking to make that jump into that top-three tier of tight ends that have shown elite production at times.
There are questions of volume and run-heavy scheme in the case of Goedert. The only difference in 2022 is that he doesn’t have to sit behind Zach Ertz any longer in the Philadelphia pecking order.
For Hockenson, the Lions are in the middle of rebuilding, but he is an integral part of it. The worry is that Hockenson is a good, not great tight end with a limited ceiling despite his first-round pedigree. Detroit will add weapons to the passing game and a quarterback of the future. So while Hockenson’s future is still up in the air, he didn’t take that next step up in 2021 like many thought he would.
This time last season, Schultz was thought of as a back-end tight end flier who took advantage of Blake Jarwin being hurt to produce an eventual TE11 season in 2020. Schultz doubled down and was not only TE3 overall but got the franchise tag from the Cowboys in the offseason.
TIER 5 - The “Young Guns” Tier
- Pat Freiermuth, PIT (23)
- Mike Gesicki, MIA (26)
- Albert Okwuegbunam, DEN (24)
- Hunter Henry, NE (27)
- Noah Fant, SEA (24)
- Dawson Knox, BUF (25)
- Cole Kmet, CHI (23)
- David Njoku, CLE (26)
If I’m a dynasty manager, if I don’t have an elite tight end, I’m looking to get multiple tight ends in this tier, hoping that one can turn into one of the elite options. There is a lot to like about every one of these options, whether it’s talent, the offense they play in, the lack of options around them, quarterback upgrades, and other factors. We know that tight ends typically take some time to blossom into elite options, if they ever do, so grabbing a few of these options (while expensive) gives you an excellent chance to not only capitalize on ascending youth but as trade targets to improve your roster elsewhere.
I love Gesicki the player. I don’t like Gesicki’s situation now that Miami has added a ton of pass-catching options, including Tyreek Hill.
I’m much lower than the consensus on Fant and Knox, who have their warts. Fant left the tyranny of Drew Lock at quarterback just to get traded to the Seattle Seahawks and now will catch passes from *drumroll* Drew Lock. He’s been just ordinary despite compiling stats that look good. He averaged 5.6 targets per game in 2021, and the move to Seattle, who were dead last in the NFL in plays per game, will further hurt Fant’s offensive production. Sure, trades of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett may help him, but at the current time, I’m about as out on Fant as one can get.
With Knox, added competition at the position with O.J. Howard may seem minimal, but this is an offense with a ton of weapons already, so expecting Knox to receive volume in addition to his nine touchdowns in 2021 is a bit of a stretch. Touchdown production is wildly variant and challenging to predict year to year, so the fact that Knox scored 33% of his fantasy points via the touchdown is concerning. Add Knox’s 6.5 fantasy point average and 2.8 targets per game in games where he didn’t score a touchdown, and you’ve got our generation’s Robert Tonyan.
Is that good? It depends on whether you like to gamble on touchdown-heavy production on a good offense from an elite quarterback. Just be prepared to ride the roller-coaster. The best thing for Knox’s immediate dynasty value would be to gain target volume in the Buffalo offense. If he does, he’ll be on the doorstep of the elite tier.
Freiermuth, Okwuegbunam, and Kmet are some of my favorites in this tier. All have youth, franchise commitment to their growth and maturation as tight ends, and are very athletic. Freiermuth flashed with potential when Eric Ebron went down, averaging 11.2 fantasy points per game with Ebron out. Freiermuth’s path to dynasty stardom is directly affected by the quarterback position in Pittsburgh.
With Okwuegbunam, he ate into Noah Fant’s production and routes share all season when both were healthy, and on a per route basis, “Albert O” was targeted on 23.5% of routes. Denver sending Fant to Seattle in the Russell Wilson trade shows that they want to make Okwuegbunam a thing in this offense now and into the future. He’s been a high-riser this offseason and a truly elite athlete at the position. I wouldn’t be shocked if Okwuegbunam ended up in the elite tier this time next season.
The same goes for Kmet, where the development of Justin Fields will undoubtedly factor into Kmet’s trajectory. Kmet’s peripherals need work as Chicago was one of the slower-paced and most offensively-challenged teams in the NFL, which is why the Ryan Pace/Matt Nagy regime is no longer in Chicago. Kmet ran routes on 75% of dropbacks, and a faster-paced offense and continued development could make the current second target in Chicago a fantasy force and coveted dynasty asset for years to come.
TIER 6 - The “Veteran Producers” Tier
These are your veteran plug-and-play options. If they’re the top options on your dynasty roster, you’re probably in long-term trouble. Especially in the case of Gronkowski, who we have no clue if he’s even going to play in 2022. When he does play, we know he’s a difference-maker at the position as a PPR TE8 and TE12 the last two seasons with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Seeing Ertz flourish after his 2021 trade from Philadelphia to Arizona bought him some time on dynasty rosters. Ertz was essentially left for dead last offseason, but now, he has a three-year deal with Arizona thanks to his overall TE4 production after the trade.
Thomas is a curious case, as the former Virginia Tech quarterback turned tight end was injured for most of 2021. However, when Thomas is on the field, he runs an almost unmatched routes share (100% in Weeks 1-3) and was top-five in slot routes before his injury.
Now, Washington adds in Carson Wentz as the quarterback in 2022, which one could reasonably assume is an upgrade over 2021 starter Taylor Heinicke. In addition, Wentz helped Zach Ertz become a top-flight tight end from 2016 to 2019, so we’re hoping the same for Thomas, even at his advanced age.
TIER 7 - The “Bottom Tier Starters” Tier
- Irv Smith Jr., MIN (24)
- Evan Engram, JAC (28)
- Tyler Higbee, LAR (29)
- Brevin Jordan, HOU (22)
- Austin Hooper, TEN (27)
- Gerald Everett, LAC (28)
There’s some promise here, thanks to specific team situations and youth being on their side. Smith and Jordan are young, athletic tight ends who have flashed briefly but deserve extended looks. In the case of Smith, it feels like he’s been in the NFL for the past decade, but he’s only 24 and coming off of a season-ending meniscus tear in 2021. Gone from the Vikings is Tyler Conklin, so Smith may finally get the chance to be an upgrade from wide receiver K.J. Osborn as the third target on a condensed target tree.
Somebody who does not have youth on his side is Higbee, who is a solid enough player but is just a compiler at the tight end position. If you need fantasy points, Higbee will score a few. If you need upside, look elsewhere. If you have him on your dynasty roster, he’s one of those players who can’t trade him because nobody is going out of their way to acquire him. He’s a dynasty barnacle. You’re stuck with him.
After being released by Cleveland, Hooper gets a new lease on his dynasty life from an opportunity standpoint, but he ends up in a similarly run-first offense in Tennessee. Hooper may have some utility as a fill-in fantasy starter as the receiving option, but that’s only if quarterback Ryan Tannehill gets back to his uber-efficient ways before last season’s so-so QB14 finish in fantasy points per game.
Our own Andrew Cooper is all over Everett as a fantasy option in 2022, and I get it. He has Justin Herbert throwing him the ball, Everett can be used in the slot, and the Chargers should be passing often. It’s a good offense to get usable fantasy production from, so in a tale as old as time, Everett will be a fantasy sleeper AGAIN and one to trade away in dynasty after a productive stretch.
I’m contractually obligated to mention Engram here:
The targets are pretty wide open in Jacksonville considering all the weapons they have acquired in free agency, so Engram being the Jaguars' top target is well within the range of outcomes
TIER 8 - The “Collar Pull” Tier
- Adam Trautman, NO (24)
- Robert Tonyan, GB (28)
- Jonnu Smith, TEN (27)
- Tommy Tremble, CAR (22)
- Dan Arnold, JAC (27)
- Kylen Granson, IND (24)
We’re through the looking glass here. This is some dusty territory with these tight ends, but there’s a faint light at the end of the tunnel. Will some of these options reach the end? Like Tonyan, who has a good situation with a barren (at the moment) wide receiver room in Green Bay? He better score many touchdowns - like the 11 he scored in 2020.
Or Smith, who received $31.25 million guaranteed to be a glorified jumbo-package tight end in New England last season? Here are some routes per dropback weekly shares for Smith to round out 2021:
- Week 13: 66.7% (2 routes) - New England had THREE pass attempts total.
- Week 15: 10.6%
- Week 16: 16.6%
- Week 17: 28.5%
Things can always change, but that kind of route utilization doesn’t give me much hope going forward.
Granson and Tremble are young and have not played very much, if at all, in their careers thus far. Both are looking like they each have a path to being the top receiving tight end option on their teams, so for that, we can at least hold a candle for them.
TIER 9 - The Rest
- Harrison Bryant, CLE (24)
- C.J. Uzomah, NYJ (29)
- Foster Moreau, LV (25)
- Hayden Hurst, CIN (28)
- Noah Gray, KC (23)
- Mo-Alie Cox, IND (29)
- & everybody else
I’m lumping everybody else here because, well, the tight end position is a wasteland outside of everybody listed so far. These are your depth options at the end of your roster, hoping they turn into something. Ideally, you should be turning over older veterans for the younger talent - if you’re into that kind of thing. Don’t be afraid to drop one of those back-end options for somebody who may have a chance at a fantasy-friendly role out of training camp. That’s how dynasty managers stumbled onto options like Logan Thomas, Tyler Conklin, Dan Arnold, Robert Tonyan, and a host of others who have been either startable or kept their jobs and gained some job security, especially in the case of Thomas.
- Dynasty League Strategies
- 2022 NFL Rookie Rankings
- 2022 NFL Rookie Positional Breakdowns
- 2022 NFL Mock Draft