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Early 2024 Fantasy Football Sleepers - Tight End

The Super Bowl may have just happened, but that does not mean fantasy footballers should waste any time looking forward to the 2024 NFL season.

It is NEVER too early to prepare for the next season of fantasy football! Some fantasy players were probably taking notes about Deebo Samuel’s lack of durability and Justin Watson’s target total instead of feeding their faces with pizza and popcorn while Super Bowl LVIII was happening. These are the people who have an edge in fantasy football leagues and a better chance of winning them.

The tight end position is top-heavy with Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, Detroit’s Sam LaPorta, and Baltimore’s Mark Andrews heading the list. This article is about the lesser-known tight ends who could be fantastic fantasy finds next year. So, who are the early 2024 sleepers and draft targets at TE? Here is my take!

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

Early 2024 Sleepers and Draft Targets – Tight End

Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh’s top tight end was a wunderkind during his rookie year when he scored seven touchdowns and was a red-zone force thanks to his combo of soft hands and a big body. Then his receptions, targets, and receiving yards went up during his second season. But the fantasy wheels came off in his junior year (32-308-2) thanks to a hamstring injury that cost him five games and a quarterback carousel that hamstrung his stats.

While longtime staple Mike Tomlin is returning as head coach in 2024, Pittsburgh’s offense will be overhauled. Former Atlanta Falcons head man Arthur Smith will be the offensive coordinator, and while he has always been known as a run-first/run-often kind of play-caller, a new voice for the offense is long overdue. Plus, Smith likes to call pass plays for his tight ends.

Freiermuth is only 25 years old and is in the prime of his career. We have seen what he can do when a capable veteran quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger is slinging passes to him. Now, he needs Smith to draw up the perfect plays for him (especially inside the red zone) and a quarterback who can get the ball into his hands.

It might be an improved Kenny Pickett, the resurgent Mason Rudolph, or someone else the Steelers acquire in the offseason. Whatever the case, Freiermuth should be jumped on during the middle rounds of fantasy drafts.

Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

Kmet caught a career-high 73 passes for 719 yards and six scores this past season to solidify himself as a top-10 fantasy tight end. So, why is he a sleeper when he has scored 13 touchdowns over the past two seasons and proven he can provide solid stats for fantasy players? Because there is a great chance Justin Fields will not be his QB in 2024.

Despite how superb WR DJ Moore and Kmet were in 2023 with him throwing the bulk of the passes, Fields is not the kind of quarterback that increases the fantasy values of his receivers and tight ends. He runs too often and throws inaccurately too often. Fields was 42nd in completion percentage and missed open receivers as often as Shaquille O'Neal used to miss free throws.

Chicago is expected to use the first pick overall in this year’s NFL draft and select USC standout signal-caller Caleb Williams, which means Fields would be traded away to make room. Williams is an infinitely better passer than Fields, so Kmet’s fantasy worth would skyrocket with a QB pinpoint passer throwing to him rather than someone with scattershot semi-spirals.

I would pencil Kmet in for 800 yards and eight touchdowns with Williams running the offense. Just look what he did with a below-average passer as his quarterback these past two seasons!

Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans

Many fantasy pundits thought 2023 was going to be Okonkwo’s breakout year after he finished his 2022 campaign on a high note. The breakout never came, though. His pedestrian 54-528-1 stats line was highlighted by fantasy failures such as going 10 straight games at the start of the season without having 40 receiving yards and not having any 65-yard games the entire year. Okonkwo did not play well, but he was also a victim of a run-first offense that lacked playmakers and consistent quarterbacking.

2024 might be the time for Okonkwo to break out, though. With a new coaching staff and offensive system under first-year head honcho Brian Callahan, Okonkwo should get a new lease on fantasy life. Top target DeAndre Hopkins is the only proven pass-catcher on the roster heading into the offseason, so Okonkwo could find himself as Tennessee’s No. 2 target in the passing attack if he takes his game to the next level.

Okonkwo has above-average speed for a tight end and will have more time to find chemistry with franchise quarterback Will Levis. 600-800 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns could be in store for Tennessee’s top tight end, and he probably will be available in the late rounds of most drafts as many fantasy managers will think of him as a TE2 and not someone with TE1 ability.

Tyler Conklin, New York Jets

I believed Conklin was going to have the best year of his career this past season because Aaron Rodgers was slated to be his quarterback. That plan evaporated in the span of one series, though. While Conklin still mustered a career-high 621 receiving yards and tied his personal bests with 61 receptions on 87 targets, his numbers were disappointing because Rodgers infamously tore his Achilles and was done for the season one game into it.

With Zach Wilson, Tim Boyle, and Trevor Siemian throwing to him, Conklin was unable to score one lousy touchdown despite catching plenty of passes. While his reception production made his fantasy value better in PPR leagues, Conklin did not do enough to register on fantasy radars.

So, why is Conklin a tight end to target in 2024? Because if we all keep our fingers crossed, maybe Rodgers will not suffer season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. A healthy Rodgers could bolster Conklin’s numbers to the 700-yard range, and he would hopefully score a handful of touchdowns with a Hall of Famer throwing to him instead of a trio of UFL-caliber quarterbacks throwing dying quails at his feet. Conklin could be an upper-tier TE2 who can be used as a TE1 on certain weeks -- as long as Rodgers is on the field more often than he is on Joe Rogan’s podcast.



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