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Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings - Best Ball Leagues

It's no secret that having an elite tight end is a big advantage when it comes to winning a fantasy championship.

As many TE Premium and two-TE formats are becoming more popular across the fantasy landscape, players have to be more well-versed and up to snuff on tight ends than they ever did before. Having a player like Travis Kelce or some of the other elite tight ends below in recent years has been a huge plus for the fantasy managers rostering them.

In the fantasy landscape, there is also currently a big problem with scarcity at the position with several elite tight ends at the top and not much left afterward. Today we are going to discuss Tight End Best Ball rankings and some different approaches you can take in your draft to optimize the ideal build.

 

Introduction

One of the allures of Best Ball and why it is becoming a growing format is because it's not something you have to worry about managing during the season. Each team manager drafts their guys and that's it. Typically there are no pickups, no trades, or having to scramble on Sundays minutes before kickoff trying to set your lineup. Each team's roster is set and the best players by position count towards that team's scoring for the week. If you have two or three tight ends on your roster only the best score will typically count unless two of your tight ends have such a big week that one of them becomes a flex.

If you don't end up taking one of the top tight ends early on in your draft, it is better to wait and continue to load up your roster at RB and WR or even draft an elite QB in Rounds 5 or 6 instead. By waiting on a tight end you will likely be stronger at the other positions than your other league mates who drafted a tight end early. The key is to zig when others are zagging. We never want to just draft a position solely because we need the position.

Based on projections averaged out from dozens of rankers in the fantasy industry, the expected points per game between the TE8 and TE24 this year is roughly 2 points per game. If you aren't able to get one early, don't panic and continue to load up elsewhere to negate your league mates' positional advantage at TE.

Taking a look at an average of almost two dozen ranker averages across the landscape we can get a baseline of how TEs may perform for 2022 in half PPR formats. A Relative Athletic Score (better known as RAS) is a tight end's "Relative Athletic Score." Compiled by analytics guru, Kent Lee Platte from the Pro Football Network, it measures every NFL player's athletic profile when they were coming into the league.

In today's NFL, most of the elite tight ends for fantasy have a RAS of 9 or higher. Generally, we want a more athletic tight end because they are more likely to pick up big plays and stretch the field.

Player Rank PPG ADP RAS Rec Yards TD
Travis Kelce TE1 13.82 13 9.29 102 1211 9
Mark Andrews TE2 12.22 21 7.30 92 1138 8
Darren Waller TE3 9.82 43 9.05 80 970 5
George Kittle TE4 9.42 40 9.29 75 927 5
Kyle Pitts TE5 9.14 30 9.66 71 960 4
Dalton Schultz TE6 8.74 63 7.16 75 751 6
Dallas Goedert TE7 8.10 79 9.54 62 767 5
T.J. Hockenson TE8 7.84 60 9.18 68 693 5
Mike Gesicki TE9 7.63 111 9.97 63 683 5
Zach Ertz TE10 7.37 94 6.38 62 643 5
Noah Fant TE11 6.97 146 9.89 62 636 4
Hunter Henry TE12 6.93 148 6.32 51 564 6
Pat Freiermuth TE13 6.91 116 N/A 63 560 5
Cole Kmet TE14 6.90 121 8.92 60 634 4
Dawson Knox TE15 6.75 98 9.25 46 558 6
Albert Okwuegbunam TE16 6.58 141 N/A 53 554 5
David Njoku TE17 6.55 151 9.42 47 579 5
Tyler Higbee TE18 6.47 179 N/A 57 579 4
Austin Hooper TE19 6.47 196 8.16 56 525 5
Evan Engram  TE20 6.10 163 9.11 52 538 4
Irv Smith Jr. TE21 6.00 125 4.81 51 525 4
Robert Tonyan TE22 5.98 156 8.88 46 488 5
Logan Thomas TE23 5.98 190 9.67 51 523 4

*the rankers were composed of ESPN's Mike Clay, composites from several analysts at numberFire, CBS Sports, FFToday, ESPN, and RotoBaller's own: Kev Mahserejian.

While these are not my personal projections for the upcoming season, it's always good to go through projections of prominent rankers in the industry and get a baseline for how an offense may look to give you an overall idea of where the market is at in lieu of making your own player rankings.

Andrew Cooper over at Fantasy Alarm has done some thorough tight end analysis over the years. He looked through the last ten years of data and found that all top five Tight End finishes per year had two things in common: 1) They were either a top 2 target on their team or 2) They had double-digit touchdowns. There were a few exceptions related to players missing time from Covid-19, but this theory is a relatively bulletproof one. It's an important concept to use when projecting future tight end seasons and trying to put together who the breakout tight ends might be.

Cooper's premise is that generally, we should try to be targeting tight ends who have a good chance of being a top 2 target on their team and not overthink the rest. There are tight ends who can finish in the top five without the larger volume, but they are more the exception than the rule. Touchdowns as we know have a great deal of variance year-to-year. Targets do not and volume is usually king in fantasy land.

According to an average of industry rankers here are the projected targets for the top 20 tight ends this season by my own personal tight end rankings for the upcoming 2022 season:

Player Rank TGT Tier
Travis Kelce TE1 142 1
Mark Andrews TE2 135 2
Kyle Pitts TE3 110 2
George Kittle TE4 106 3
Darren Waller TE5 127 3
Dalton Schultz TE6 104 4
T.J. Hockenson TE7 100 4
Cole Kmet TE8 97 4
Dallas Goedert TE9 82 4
Zach Ertz TE10 95 5
Evan Engram TE11 87 5
Mike Gesicki TE12 94 5
Dawson Knox TE13 71 6
Hunter Henry TE14 78 6
Pat Freiermuth TE15 88 6
David Njoku TE16 71 6
Austin Hooper TE17 72 6
Noah Fant TE18 87 7
Irv Smith Jr. TE19 68 7
Robert Tonyan TE20 63 7

 

Tier 1

Travis Kelce, Chiefs

Still in a league all his own, Kelce has averaged 137.4 targets and 96 receptions over the last five seasons. While he is now 32 years of age, Kelce has been relatively injury-free and has shown no signs of slowing down. Tyreek Hill being a Dolphin may tighten things up underneath for Kelce, but there are simply too many vacated targets in Kansas City for Kelce not to feast again. Being that he is paired up with Patrick Mahomes and the elite chemistry is already there between the two it makes more sense to just continue riding Kelce until the wheels come off. No need to overthink this one.

Tier 2

2. Mark Andrews, Ravens

While Andrews is coming off a career-high season where he absolutely shattered his 2021 ADP, it remains to be seen if the Ravens will continue the same passing volume heading into 2022. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is known for running the ball as evidenced by his time with the 49ers, Bills, and Ravens. Roman-lead offenses have finished 31st, 31st, 32nd, 29th, 31st, 32nd, 32nd, 32nd, 32nd, and 9th in passing attempts from 2011-16 and 2019-21.

J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards were both lost in the preseason and the Ravens were forced to go to a rusty air attack in 2021 after having Ty'Son Williams and the ghosts of Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman out there. Lamar Jackson was injured towards the end of the season and backup Tyler Huntley was thrust into action where Andrews had some of his best games seeing quite a spike in targets as a result. While Rashad Bateman is the only real threat to Andrews for targets on the roster, Andrews is in tier two due to the reality it's less likely he has anywhere near the same amount of consistent volume that Kelce does. If you want to move him up to tier one it's completely understandable, but Kelce is still the king.

3. Kyle Pitts, Falcons

Kyle Pitts had a fantastic rookie season, but due to the overwhelming hype surrounding it all, he felt like a letdown. Pitts finished his rookie season with 68 receptions for 1,026 yards and only 1 touchdown, but it is still the best receiving season in fantasy land from a rookie tight end ever!

Pitts is a cheat code for fantasy and will be for years to come. Like Kelce he is really just a wide receiver who qualifies as a tight end. Here's why:

  • 78% of snaps lined out wide or in the slot (1st among TEs per PFF)
  • 1,188 air yards in 2021 (2nd among TEs)
  • 11.2 ADOT (1st)
  • 4th in TE routes run
  • 4.44 forty-yard dash time
  • Pass blocked on just 2.7% of passing plays

While there may be some issues with his quarterback situation, his superstar potential is just too good to ignore. There's a Kyle Pitts breakout incoming. Let's just say you were warned!

 

Tier 3

4. George Kittle, 49ers

What more can you say about George Kittle? He's easily the best two-way tight end in the NFL. Kittle plays with a relentless passion and rarely avoids contact, sometimes to his own detriment. While he has never had more than 6 touchdowns in a season, Kittle is a dynamic playmaker who can pick up big plays in chunks and stretch the field. There are questions about how his chemistry may fit with Trey Lance, but it shouldn't be a concern.

When it comes to pure talent, Kittle is as good as any tight end in the NFL and maybe the best overall. In terms of fantasy production, he is on a run-first offense and is simply too good of a blocker to participate in the same amount of routes as Travis Kelce or Kyle Pitts, which bumps him down a little in the rankings.

5. Darren Waller, Raiders

In terms of expected targets and production at current ADP, Waller appears to be the best value of all the tight ends in terms of industry expert projections. He already has the chemistry with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, but with Davante Adams now in town, it's pretty clear that Waller will not be the top target anymore.

Adams's arrival might not end up being a bad thing as Waller was constantly double-teamed and Adams should take some attention away from him. We know just about every AFC West divisional game this year is going to be a boat race with all the offensive firepower of the Chiefs, Chargers, and Broncos, so the Raiders just may be forced to keep airing it out.

After breaking out in 2019, Waller followed that up with a solid 2020, but injuries limited his performance in 2021. He should still be considered an elite tight end for 2022 and it will be interesting to see where his ADP is 4-5 weeks from now as we get closer to the season.

It's very clear there are five tight ends with elite profiles and are easily the top two pass catchers on their team. Once we get into the next tier is where things start to get a little murky in terms of the guaranteed consistent volume.

 

Tier 4

6. Dalton Schultz, Cowboys

While finishing as the TE3 overall in 2021, Schultz is down a tier due to the reality he doesn't have the same athletic profile as the tight ends listed above. He does have a chance to finish as a top 2 target on the Cowboys this season depending on wide receiver Michael Gallup's recovery from a torn ACL suffered late in 2021. It is unclear whether Gallup will be ready or begin the season on the PUP.

Schultz is a reliable tight end with touchdown upside in the Dallas offense. He is an affordable stack with Dak Prescott in the middle rounds as likely teams who draft him and Dak in best ball will be very strong at running back and wide receiver with their first 5 picks.

Schultz is a good player. The only reason he isn't higher is that he doesn't have the same elite athlete profile as the others above him and we don't know how soon Gallup will be back.

7. T.J. Hockenson, Lions

Hockenson disappointed fantasy managers in 2021 after many had him pegged for a big year 3 breakout. The Hock missed 5 games with injury and was constantly harassed in coverage due to the reality that there were no other reliable pass catchers in the first three months of the season to take any attention away from him. Hock was also banged up all season long. All of these factors combined resulted in a bit of a performance dip for him.

The Lions traded up to draft Jameson Williams with the 12th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. However, he suffered a torn ACL in the College Football Playoffs and may not be ready to start the season. Amon-Ra St. Brown flashed at the end of the 2021 season with Hockenson sidelined and running back D'Andre Swift will see his fair share of targets too.

There is a path for Hockenson to see plenty of volume, but a Lions offense at full strength may take some of that away from him. One thing is for sure: this Lions offense could become a very fun unit to watch this year and beyond with all the skill players they are quietly amassing.

8. Cole Kmet, Bears

Maybe the first big surprise on this list, Kmet has an easy path to being a top 2 target on the Bears this season. He has already shown to have chemistry with Bears quarterback Justin Fields and we know the negative game scripts for passing will be there. Kmet put up decent numbers in his second NFL season posting 60 receptions for 612 yards in 2021.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields and Kmet are a very affordable stack to be had later on in best ball drafts. Since the only established wide receiver on the roster is currently Darnell Mooney, Kmet should see more than his fair share of targets by default. The Bears took Kmet 43rd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, so we know the higher-end pedigree is there. He didn't have a touchdown last year, but Jimmy Graham was largely holding him by back stealing much of his snaps in the red zone. That all changes now with Graham departed.

While some have concerns about Kmet making a big leap in year three, the volume should be there for him to do so even by default.

9. Dallas Goedert, Eagles

Another player who is very good in real life and boasts an elite athletic profile as an NFL tight end, but there are concerns for fantasy this year. While Goedert is finally free from the shadow of Zach Ertz, he is now in a bit of a conundrum with the new-look Eagles offense featuring the newly acquired AJ Brown as well as the underrated DeVonta Smith. When you add in that quarterback Jalen Hurts will see more than his fair share of carries, it's hard to envision Goedert getting the needed targets for an elite tight end finish.

Goedert averaged an incredible 14.8 ypc last season and had a career-high with 56 receptions for 830 yards. He is another solid mid-level stack with Hurts in best ball drafts, but he likely needs 8-10 touchdowns in 2022 to make a big impact on your fantasy team

One of the biggest mistakes people make in fantasy is not realizing that if you don't have a TE6 or better on your roster you are behind the rest of the league at the position. It's better to take an elite one early or wait to draft one later, but Goedert with Hurts could be an intriguing later pairing in BB.

 

Tier 5

10. Zach Ertz, Cardinals

The wily veteran was traded to the Cardinals in midseason last year, but impressed during his time in Arizona posting 56 receptions for 574 yards and 3 touchdowns over 11 games. With De'Andre Hopkins suspended for the first six games of the season, Ertz could see plenty of targets right out of the gate. While he is starting to wind down at age 31 as injuries have also taken a toll, he is still a reliable option to grab later on in drafts as well as a nice stack with Kyler Murray should you miss out on Marquise Brown or Hopkins.

11. Evan Engram, Jaguars

Like a grounded child banished to their room for the rest of the night due to bad behavior, the fantasy community, in general, seems to have a very sour opinion of Evan Engram. He burst onto the scene in 2017 having the best rookie fantasy season for a tight end until Kyle Pitts came along last year.

Engram boasts an athletic profile and saw 109 targets just two seasons ago, but injuries have limited him in recent seasons along with the continued dysfunction that was the New York Giants offense in the Gettleman, Shurmur, and Judge years. Engram now heads to Jacksonville with new head coach Doug Pederson, who is known to produce big tight end seasons as he did in Philly with Zach Ertz.

Engram is a matchup nightmare in open space. With Christian Kirk coming in this offseason after getting a big contract, there is a path for Engram to still be the top two target on the Jaguars. If he can establish chemistry with Trevor Lawrence and stay healthy, watch out. It's also important to realize that this late into the tight end and draft pool, playing it safe at tight end likely won't do much for you. It's better to take some shots and swing for the fences. Evan Engram is certainly that.

12. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins

This is a tough one because Gesicki has an elite tight end profile and has gotten better every year. Right now there just simply isn't enough consistent volume to go around with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the Dolphins. Newly-signed running back Chase Edmonds will be involved in the passing game on top of it, so it is difficult to anticipate a big season for Gesicki. Should either Hill or Waddle miss time, Gesicki would become an immediate must-start in all formats.

 

Tier 6

13. Dawson Knox, Bills

Knox put up some impressive numbers last year before he got hurt. The good? We know the Bills' offense features as much offensive firepower as any team in the league and Knox is attached to Josh Allen. The bad? It is hard to see him getting the consistent volume this year with all of the good wide receivers they have and we know rookie James Cook will be involved in the air attack. Knox saw an unreal 9 touchdowns on just 49 receptions last year, which was at an unsustainable TD rate of 18.3% of receptions. Knox is great paired up with Allen otherwise he's a clear fade.

14. Hunter Henry, Patriots

One of the harder players to project this season, we know Henry can produce for fantasy. The Patriots' offense and Mac Jones should be better in its second season as well. Henry saw just 75 targets last season but he was still relevant for fantasy by posting 50 receptions for 603 yards and 9 touchdowns. The Patriots did pay Jonnu Smith a ton of money before 2021. Will he be involved in the TE mix for the Patriots more in 2022?

15. Pat Freiermuth, Steelers

An impressive rookie in 2021, "The Muth" caught 60 passes for 497 yards and 7 touchdowns. Most of his effectiveness came in the red zone catching balls from now retired quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. Freiermuth is talented, but he will be competing with Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and George Pickens for targets. We don't yet know who the Steelers quarterback will be for 2022, but the odds for Freiermuth to have a big 2022 seem tough in the crowded Steelers offense right now.

16. David Njoku, Browns

While flying under the radar, Njoku has the elite type of athletic profile in a tight end we are looking for. Cleveland signed him to a four-year, $56.75 million contract extension this offseason, so "The Chief" should see plenty of work. Now that he is free of Austin Hooper, Njoku should see more playing time. While we don't know the status of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for 2022, the only other established pass catcher on the roster is Amari Cooper. Should Watson see the field, Njoku is a player with huge untapped upside and top 2 target potential.

17. Austin Hooper, Titans

Basically left for dead in the fantasy space, it's important to remember that Austin Hooper is still just 27 years of age. While he plateaued in his last two seasons in the Browns' run-heavy offense, he has relatively zero competition on the Titans' depth chart. There are also around 350 vacated targets on the Titans up for grabs. Hooper is worth keeping an eye on as there is a clear path for him to bounce back in 2022.

 

Tier 7

18. Noah Fant, Seahawks

You may be disappointed that he is so far down in the rankings, but Fant is in a nightmare situation. Somehow with the trade to Seattle, his situation went from bad to worse. While he does have an absolutely elite athletic profile, Fant is bogged down behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in the Seahawks' pecking order. Seattle finished 32nd in the NFL in plays run per game in 2021 and we know Pete Carroll still wants to run the football. Should Metcalf or Lockett be moved before the season, Fant will see an immediate rise on the tight end board. For now, tread carefully.

19. Irv Smith Jr., Vikings

Everyone's darling breakout player for 2021, Smith Jr. missed the entire season after tearing his meniscus in early September. The son of former NFL player Irv Smith, Junior showed what he could do at Alabama before heading to Minnesota in the 2019 draft. The problem with Smith Jr. isn't talent, it will be the new head coach Kevin O'Connell coming in to basically implement the Los Angeles Rams offense. With more 3WR sets, Smith will be blocking a lot more. Not to mention there is the uber-talented Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen there in Minnesota. KJ Osborn is no slouch either. It's just hard to see Smith Jr. getting the necessary volume to be great for fantasy. Smith is probably more Tyler Higbee now than he is a breakout tight end. The truth hurts sometimes.

20. Robert Tonyan, Packers

While some are trying to pump him up due to vacated targets and Adams going to the Raiders, we should cool the jets on Tonyan. He is coming off a torn ACL that ended his 2021 season prematurely, which is never a good thing. Even in 2020 when Tonyan produced for fantasy, he had 11 touchdowns on only 52 receptions for 586 yards, which means he was averaging a touchdown on 21% of receptions. That's unsustainable. Being in on Tonyan sounds good in theory, but realistically he is a clear fade.

 

Honorable mentions

Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos

While Albert O. could end up being the guy at tight end in Denver this year, he does have multiple hurdles in front of him by the names of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and Tim Patrick. There is also the issue of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. Due to the reality that the Broncos will run the ball plenty, Albert O could be the guy brought in to block since he is the bigger tight end on the roster compared to Greg Dulcich. Nonetheless, he is a guy worth keeping an eye on all summer.

Brevin Jordan, Texans

Brevin Jordan is an intriguing player who steps into a situation in Houston where there is no established clear-cut number two target. He showed some flashes of promise during his college career at Miami and did play quite a bit for the Texans during the second half of the 2022 season. While he is close to being undrafted in a lot of leagues he is another player worth keeping an eye on as we get closer to the season.

 

Conclusion

If you have one of the elite tight ends, there is really no need to draft more than two tight ends total. Just make sure that they aren't in the same bye week. If you don't have one of the elite tight ends, it is best to draft a total of three to give yourself a better chance at a spike week.

The last thing you want to do is to clog your roster with three tight ends when you have Travis Kelce or only two when those tight ends were taken very late. Having three late tight ends will help to negate some of the elite positional advantage that other teams have in your league at tight end.

Is there anyone that was left off of this list? Feel free to get at me on Twitter.



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Ends Second-Round Series With Overtime Winner
Jake Oettinger3 days ago

Leads Stars To Western Conference Final
Sergei Bobrovsky3 days ago

Stellar In Game 6 Win
Anton Lundell3 days ago

Comes Up Huge In Series-Clinching Win
T.J. Hockenson3 days ago

Won't Put A Timeline On His Recovery
TOR4 days ago

Maple Leafs Bring In Craig Berube As New Head Coach
Nick Cousins4 days ago

Re-Enters Panthers Lineup Friday
Yakov Trenin4 days ago

Considered Day-To-Day
Tyler Seguin4 days ago

Good To Go Friday
Roope Hintz4 days ago

Remains Out For Game 6
Brad Marchand4 days ago

A Game-Time Call Friday
San Francisco 49ers4 days ago

Dre Greenlaw Ditches Walking Boot
Lerone Murphy4 days ago

Looks To Remain Undefeated
Carlston Harris4 days ago

Set For Co-Main Event
Khaos Williams4 days ago

Faces Carlston Harris In The Co-Main Event Of UFC Vegas 92
Angela Hill4 days ago

A Favorite At UFC Vegas 92
Luana Pinheiro4 days ago

Looks To Get Back In Win Column
J.T. Miller4 days ago

Scores Dramatic Game-Winner
Leon Draisaitl4 days ago

Extends Postseason-Opening Point Streak With An Assist
Ilya Mikheyev4 days ago

Dealing With Undisclosed Injury
Scottie Scheffler4 days ago

Detained By Louisville Police Following Traffic Incident
Vinicius Salvador5 days ago

Moves Up To Bantamweight At UFC Vegas 92
Adrian Yanez5 days ago

Looks To Snap Losing Skid At UFC Vegas 92
Themba Gorimbo5 days ago

A Favorite At UFC Vegas 92
Ramiz Brahimaj5 days ago

Ends Layoff At UFC Vegas 92
Edson Barboza5 days ago

Headlines UFC Vegas 92
RANKINGS
C
1B
2B
3B
SS
OF
SP
RP

RANKINGS

QB
RB
WR
TE
K
DEF

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