Look, not every tight end is going to be fantasy relevant. Especially in your typical redraft leagues. But, with the growing popularity of formats like dynasty, best ball, tight end premium, and even two tight end leagues, the impact of the tight end position is expanding. 

That changes the number of tight ends we care about for fantasy football. Not to mention, the tight end revolution is upon us with young stars like Sam LaPorta, Trey McBride, Kyle Pitts, Dalton Kincaid, and Brock Bowers. It’s a beautiful time for tight end whisperers like Howard Bender and me! 

It’s late March so the NFL Combine is in our rearview mirror, but the 2024 NFL Draft is still a month away. What we’re going to do here is comb through the remnants of this past offseason to figure out who were the NFL free agency winners and losers at the tight end position. 

They might not all be productive for your specific format so we’ll do our best to lay out what the new range of outcomes is for each player so you can decide whether to trade for them or draft them. So, let’s get to it!

*Editor's Note: Discover who came out on top and who fell behind in Coop's other fantasy football dynasty free agency articles!




NFL Free Agency Winners: Fantasy Football Tight Ends

Kyle PittsLet me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, there was a tight end named Evan Engram. In his rookie season, he was top five in fantasy football playing with the ghost of Eli Manning. Then, for the next four seasons from 2018-2021, he played with a different quarterback who will not be named. And he was not great for fantasy football. 

In 2022 however, he joined forces with Trevor Lawrence, and he was once again a top five tight end in back-to-back seasons. And all was right in the world. As a rookie, playing with the shell of Matt Ryan, Kyle Pitts had over 1,000 yards receiving. 

He’s the only tight end to ever have 1,000 yards at the age of 21. Only two other players did it at 22 - Rob Gronkowski and Mike Ditka. Travis Kelce didn’t have a 1,000-yard season until he was 27. Zach Ertz didn’t until he was 28. 

Kirk Cousins has mercifully arrived in Atlanta to return Kyle Pitts (and Drake London) to their rightful glory. And Kyle Pitts is still only 23 years old. The window to acquire him in dynasty is closing as he could easily be a top five tight end this year. And for many years to come.

Trey McBrideWe have done extensive research on ‘What Makes An Elite Tight End for fantasy football. And there is far and away one barrier to entry that is the most important: being a top two target on their team. It’s incredibly rare to have a player both with season-long upside and week to week consistency that isn’t a top two target on their team. And the Cardinals made the path pretty clear this offseason for McBride.

Last year towards the end of the season, Zach Ertz asked for his release, and he is now in Washington. Marquise Brown also walked in free agency and landed with the Kansas City Chiefs. But it didn’t end there. They also traded Rondale Moore to the Falcons. While not bringing anyone in. Here are the targets for the Cardinals last year from Week 8 on after Zach Ertz got hurt:

There is no doubt that McBride is a winner coming out of a free agency. And, even if they do take a wide receiver at four overall, he still has a clear path toward being a top-two target on the team. Have to feel pretty good about where McBride stands right now. 

Pat FreiermuthHave you ever heard anyone say that Pat Freiermuth isn’t a good tight end? Me neither. Same for a guy like George Kittle. It’s generally accepted that they are both good players who are inconsistent at times in fantasy football because of their situation. And much like Evan Engram and Kyle Pitts, Freiermuth flashed as a rookie in the last year of Hall of Fame QB Ben Roethlisberger’s career then has toiled with poor QB play since. 

Well, the Muth will toil no more! Kenny Pickett has been traded to the Steelers and in comes Russell Wilson (and technically Justin Fields as well). I’ve seen some folks say “Russell Wilson doesn’t throw to the tight end” which is silly because he hasn’t had a tight end that was worthy of top two targets since Jimmy Graham. He’s always had two good wide receivers. And, even coming off a torn patellar tendon, Jimmy Graham had almost 100 targets and 10 TDs with Russ in Seattle. 

Russ can throw to the tight end if the tight end is a good player. What was he supposed to do last year, force it to Adam Trautman? And that’s not even the most important part of the equation. Diontae Johnson, a guy who has averaged nearly NINE targets a game over the last four years, is gone. Now it’s clearly Pat Freiermuth and George Pickens at the top of that pecking order. A great free agency indeed for the tight end. 

Hunter HenryThis one is a little deeper on the radar but there are some interesting points to be made here. Since we are trying to be “draft agnostic” we will leave out the possibility that the Patriots select a quarterback at three overall. Even though they probably will. 

If they don’t, Jacoby Brissett is already a great upgrade over what they had previously at quarterback. And he played for Alex Van Pelt in Cleveland, so he knows the scheme well. A scheme that is great for our guy Henry. Last year the Patriots called zero tight end screens. None. All season. The Browns called the second most in the league with 24. That’s part of why David Njoku was so reliable. 

Despite the poor QB play, Hunter Henry has been successful vs. man to man and in the redzone. That’s always been a strong suit of his going back to his time with the Chargers. The Pats just released DeVante Parker, and they whiffed on acquiring Calvin Ridley despite the attempts by Bob Kraft, so his competition is now mostly smaller slot/flanker types. 

You mix in some more designed plays like screens for Henry along with increased quality on his red zone targets and the Hunter could be finding himself in the Hen House early and often in 2024.




Fantasy Football Tight Ends: Other Winners

Evan EngramWe stuck by this guy for years and it paid off in spades last year when he had the fourth most receptions of any player in the league. This year they let Calvin Ridley walk and downgraded to Gabe Davis so Engram should be looking good once again.

Jonnu SmithSince he was released, the Dolphins were able to acquire him without offsetting the compensatory pick formula. He’s not a top two target since they have Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle but last year, he wasn’t even a starting tight end. So that’s an upgrade for your deeper leagues and he’s now one injury away from upside. 

Mike GesickiMike Gesicki wasn’t a starting tight end either last year. Now he lands with Joe Burrow. Like Jonnu Smith, he’s behind two superior pass-catchers in the target pecking order so his upside is capped without injury. But Tanner Hudson was able to catch some balls out of the slot last year and Tyler Boyd is likely gone so it’s an upgrade for him.

Greg DulcichNot having a quarterback is a bummer. And injuries have been a problem. But the de facto number two target in Jerry Jeudy is gone. So, there’s now an opportunity behind Courtland Sutton for someone to take. 

Jake Ferguson - Jake Ferguson was the second target on the team after CeeDee Lamb last year. So, he was one wide receiver addition away from being on the outside looking in. And the Cowboys did nothing. In fact, they cut Michael Gallup. Now we look towards the draft. 

Zach Ertz/Cole TurnerIt was looking like Zach Ertz could possibly be done. But then the Commanders cut Logan Thomas and let Curtis Samuel walk in free agency. That creates an opportunity for whoever wins that job, whether it’s Ertz or the young converted WR Cole Turner. Kliff Kingsbury sure liked looking Ertz’s way in Arizona.

Colby Parkinson/Will DisslyLast year these guys were on the Seahawks splitting snaps with Noah Fant on a team with three good wide receivers in DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. So virtually anything would have been better. Parkinson will compete for the starting job with the Rams and Dissly with the Chargers which is an improvement for sure. 




NFL Free Agency Losers: Fantasy Football Tight Ends

Cole Kmet/Gerald EverettCole Kmet has quietly finished as the TE7 in fantasy football in back-to-back seasons. It hasn’t been super consistent but his ability to find the end zone has boosted his final numbers up for solid finishes. That’s made him a promising young option in dynasty leagues with hopes that the QB play gets better. And it should this year. But, unfortunately, Kmet might have been buried in free agency. 

DJ Moore is the clear top dog. So simply trading for Keenan Allen would have made Kmet a free agency loser. But they didn’t stop there. They also signed Gerald Everett from the Chargers. Everett has played for offensive coordinator Shane Waldron in the past. The same Shane Waldron that ran the three headed Noah Fant/Will Dissly/Colby Parkinson rotation we mentioned above. Just not a good situation for fantasy football for Cole Kmet or Gerald Everett.

Noah FantWith Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson gone, you might think this was a good free agency for Noah Fant. But Noah Fant was ALSO a free agent. He was free to sign with any team. And virtually every single team other than the Seahawks had more targets available. 

Besides teams that already have elite tight ends, the Seahawks were arguably the worst possible landing spot for a free agent tight end. We talked about how important it is to be a top two target on the team. Well, how many injuries away is Noah Fant

Tyler Lockett just restructured his contract to keep him with the team for 2024 and make it a lot more likely he’s there in 2025 as well. DK Metcalf signed a three-year deal keeping him through 2024 and 2025. And, if one of them gets hurt, Jaxon Smith-Njigba simply steps up - he’s on a rookie deal with a fifth-year option. When exactly is Noah Fant going to be a focal point of this offense? In 2026, when he’s a free agent again?

T.J. HockensonT.J. Hockenson was already coming off a torn ACL which is bad news. Rookie Jordan Addison also emerged as a legitimate threat last year with eight games of 7+ targets. And then there’s the absolute target black hole known as Justin Jefferson. So, there’s no guarantee Hockenson would have been a top two target on the team as is. Just to add a little insult to injury, they added capable pass-catching back Aaron Jones to the mix as well. 

But the big kicker of course was losing quarterback Kirk Cousins to the Falcons. Now they are looking at starting Sam Darnold, Nick Mullens, or a rookie unless they can pull off a miraculous draft day trade. There are rumors out there. But, as of this very moment, Hockenson is a free agency loser, and we have to downgrade him. It’s so hard to do that with players that we like, and we believe are good but, as we saw with Pat Freiermuth, you can’t throw it to yourself out there.

David NjokuThis one stinks as well. Because we like the super athletic David Njoku. And he was a rock-solid asset down the stretch last year. But that was competing with Elijah Moore and a rookie Cedric Tillman

The Cleveland Browns this offseason traded for former first round pick Jerry Jeudy and then immediately extended his contract. Amari Cooper is the top dog, so Njoku is now battling with Jeudy for targets. And it’s a battle he might not win. In the Hunter Henry section above, we already mentioned how Alex Van Pelt’s offense was great for the tight end. Njoku himself got 20 screens which was second only to the 21 Evan Engram got. Van Pelt is gone. 

Even more worrisome is the return of Deshaun Watson. You would think a better QB might be a good thing but Watson only targeted Njoku 5.2 times per game. The collection of backup QBs targeted Njoku 8.5 times per game. And Joe Flacco isn’t walking through that door. 




Fantasy Football Tight Ends: Other Losers

Tyler ConklinI didn’t have much faith in Conklin but he technically had a path to top two target behind Garrett Wilson. But Breece Hall was already there and now they have added Mike Williams so that door is pretty closed.

Chigoziem OkonkwoI love the athleticism of Okonkwo and I’m still stashing him as an Evan Engram-lite. But them paying Calvin Ridley a boatload of money to lineup opposite DeAndre Hopkins is brutal for his short-term value.

Tommy TremblePretty much the same situation as Njoku with the Titans adding Diontae Johnson but we weren’t really in love with the profile for Tremble to begin with.

Dalton Kincaid - I am biased towards Dalton Kincaid. I’ll admit that. So, I still think he can be the number two target behind Stefon Diggs. But we wanted to see them replace Gabe Davis with another field-stretching flanker (which they did in Mack Hollins). We did not want to see them sign Curtis Samuel who plays both slot and flanker. We want Kincaid in the slot. Thus, Kincaid goes in the loser column. 

Cade Otton - I had some hopes for Cade Otton (also known as “Playoff Cade” as some call him after he accumulated 19 targets over two playoff games last year). It seemed as if Mike Evans had one foot out the door. Instead, he decided to return on a monster two-year deal. Oh well.

Dalton Schultz - Believe it or not, Schultz is a bit of a loser this offseason. As a free agent, he could have gone anywhere. And you’d think it would be neutral to stay with the same team. But, in games where one of Nico Collins or Tank Dell were hurt, he got seven targets a game. In the games where they were both healthy, he averaged 4.4. Not a great spot for upside without an injury.