Tight end has been relatively straight to the point the past few seasons, at least at the top of the rankings. You know the top-tier guys; it’s just a few of the sleepers that are different in 2022. Nevertheless, the eternal fantasy football question remains: When should you draft a TE? Most fantasy owners have a set draft strategy when it comes to this position, but it never hurts to reassess and consider other possibilities.
Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews will be the first two tight ends drafted within the first two rounds. However, Kyle Pitts will not be that far behind, as he is one of the top playmakers for the Falcons.
Along with those three, fantasy owners will likely draft Darren Waller, George Kittle, and Dalton Schultz fairly early, with Dallas Goedert, T.J. Hockenson, Dawson Knox, Pat Freiermuth, and Hunter Henry also going in the early-middle and middle rounds.
Even if you miss out on those guys, you can still draft Zach Ertz, Mike Gesicki, or a sleeper like Irv Smith Jr. or Cole Kmet a little later. The cupboard is not bare at tight end, which makes this one of the better positions where you can find value throughout drafts.
Let’s break down the different strategies for drafting a TE and which players will be available at various points in your draft. We’ll be updating these rankings throughout the preseason, so check back for updates.
Rankings and tiers based on standard, non-PPR leagues. PPR leagues could have different tiers, which may be highlighted throughout the text below.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2022 fantasy cheat sheet
2022 Fantasy TE Tiers: Who are the best fantasy football tight ends?
|1||Travis Kelce, Chiefs|
|2||Mark Andrews, Ravens|
Last year, there were three tight ends in the first tier (Kelce, George Kittle, and Darren Waller), but this year we only have two – Kelce and Andrews. Both tight ends will be highly sought after in fantasy drafts based on their production last year and the fact both are the top receiving options for their teams. Last year, Andrews led all tight ends in receptions (107), receiving yards (1,361), standard fantasy points (194.1), and tied for first in touchdowns with Kelce (9). Kelce was second in all those categories.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Andrews equal his production this season after the Ravens traded Marquise Brown to the Cardinals. Baltimore will have to replace his 91 receptions from last season, so Andrews should once again be busy. His early ADP has him going in the latter half of the second round, which is about right, but chances are once real drafts get going, someone will reach a little higher for him.
As for Kelce, he’ll be the top receiving option for the Chiefs after they traded Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins. The veteran playmaker posted 92 receptions (134 targets) for 1,125 yards and nine touchdowns last year. Kelce also averaged 10.7 fantasy points per game and had 16 red-zone targets. The 32-year-old tight end will once again be worthy of a late-first/early second-round pick.
As tough as it is to use a high pick on a TE, you have to remember that these guys produce like high-end WRs. So, think of it this way: You’re really drafting a WR1 who can play TE, which ostensibly makes your WR3 your starting TE. You’d love to have Rashod Bateman or Amari Cooper as your starting TE, right? Well, that’s essentially the trade you’re making. Feel better?
As nice as it is to have such an advantage at TE, it’s not worth drafting these guys much higher than 12. RBs and top-flight WRs are still more important. That said, if you’re drafting at the end of the first round (and, thus, early in the second), grabbing one of these studs is a great way to build a team, especially if you get a good RB in the first/second.
|3||Kyle Pitts, Falcons|
|4||George Kittle, 49ers|
|5||Darren Waller, Raiders|
|6||Dalton Schultz, Cowboys|
If you miss out on drafting either Kelce or Andrews, you don’t need to worry because the second-tier tight ends are also high-upside, high-volume players. Pitts is the youngest of the bunch, but he’ll be highly sought after in both standard and PPR leagues this summer. The former Florida standout was outstanding in his first season in Atlanta, recording 68 receptions for 1,026 yards and one touchdown. While the lone touchdown reception was disappointing, Pitts was one of just three tight ends to have at least 1,000 yards. Pitts should have 1,000 yards again, as the Falcons’ wide receiver unit leaves a ton to be desired with Calvin Ridley suspended for the entire season.
Kittle and Waller used to be in the first tier, and Schultz could be on the cusp of making that jump. The main thing keeping Kittle and Waller from Tier 1 is their health, but both have other question marks. The 49ers and Raiders have improved receiving corps, especially Vegas with the addition of Davante Adams. Kittle also has a new, inexperienced QB, while Waller has a new coach.
Schultz will be the Cowboys’ second receiving option behind CeeDee Lamb this season. Schultz was one of the breakout stars in fantasy football last season with 78 receptions (104 targets) for 708 yards and eight touchdowns. He could easily improve with Amari Cooper now in Cleveland.
Pitts will go several rounds higher than Schultz, with Kittle and Waller falling somewhere in between. Typically, that’s a no-man’s land for TEs, but considering how talented and oft-targeted this group is, you can justify making the move. Chances are, you’ll be a “round behind” on grabbing your RB2 or WR2 if you select one of these TEs in Rounds 3-6, but if you think you can make up that value later in the draft, go for it. The next TE tier is also strong, but the ceilings and floors (when healthy) of Pitts, Kittle, Waller, and Schultz are noticeably higher, especially in PPR leagues.
2022 Fantasy Draft Strategy: When should you draft a tight end?
|7||T.J. Hockenson, Lions|
|8||Dawson Knox, Bills|
|9||Hunter Henry, Patriots|
|10||Pat Freiermuth, Steelers|
|11||Dallas Goedert, Eagles|
|12||Zach Ertz, Cardinals|
This tier is littered with solid players who could be the top-scoring tight end in any given week. Pat Freiermuth is the youngest out of the bunch and is coming off a productive rookie season in Pittsburgh, tying for first among tight ends in red-zone targets (20). Even with a new QB, Freiermuth should have more yards and receptions this season after the Steelers lost JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency.
If you don’t want to take a shot on Freiermuth due to Pittsburgh’s QB situation, you could draft Hockenson, Knox, Henry, Goedert, or Ertz. Hockenson may see his production dip with Amon-Ra St. Brown playing well last season and the additions of DJ Chark and rookie Jameson Williams. However, he’s been one of the more consistent tight ends lately, recording 128 receptions (156 targets) for 1,306 yards, and 10 touchdowns over 28 games the past two seasons.
As for Henry and Knox, their fantasy production last season was somewhat TD-dependent. Both had nine scores, and while both will be factors in the red zone again, it’s tough to expect quite as many touchdowns. Buffalo’s receiving corps is still loaded, and the Pats added DeVante Parker in the offseason.
While Henry and Knox are better suited for standard leagues, Goedert and Ertz are more reliable in PPR leagues. Goedert will look to pick up where he left off last season (56 receptions for 830 yards and four touchdowns) and hopefully limit his drops, which were a big issue for him. Meanwhile, Ertz played well in his 11 games with Arizona last season, posting 56 receptions (81 targets) for 574 yards and three touchdowns. If Ertz played a full season with the Cardinals, he would have had 87 receptions (125 targets) for 887 yards and five touchdowns. With DeAndre Hopkins serving a six-game suspension to open the season, Ertz could be even better.
These TEs are classic early-middle/middle-round picks. Many owners will wait until this tier to grab their starter, which is fine, but just know it’s unlikely you’re getting a true difference-maker while still using a fairly valuable pick. It’s entirely possible you hit on a breakout player and laugh all the way to your fantasy championship, but more often than not, you’ll get 6-75-1 one week and 3-31-0 the next.
That’s sort of the way it goes at TE, even among the Tier 4 guys, so your best move is to wait out this tier and hope one guy slips a round or two too far. Grab him at a discounted rate. If you miss out on the Tier 3 run, then grab one or two Tier 4 guys and hope you find this year’s Schultz. It’s not worth it to reach for the guys in this tier, at least in standard leagues.
Fantasy TE Rankings Tiers: Sleepers, breakouts, and bounce-backs
|13||Irv Smith Jr., Vikings|
|14||Logan Thomas, Commanders|
|15||Mike Gesicki, Dolphins|
|16||Robert Tonyan, Packers|
|17||Cole Kmet, Bears|
Tier 4 features two sleepers (Smith Jr., Kmet), two tight ends looking to bounce back after an injury-riddled 2021 campaigns (Thomas, Tonyan), and Gesicki, who’s working in a revamped Miami offense.
Gesicki is probably the safest option in this tier, but he had just three double-digit fantasy performances in standard leagues last season. With Tyreek Hill in town and a new offense coordinator, it’s tough to know what to expect this year.
As we look toward the sleepers in this group, both Smith Jr. and Kmet have a ton of upside. Smith Jr. missed all of last season due to a knee injury after having a solid 2020 (30 receptions for 365 yards and five touchdowns). The athletic tight end enters into this season as the Vikings’ top tight end after Tyler Conklin left in free agency. Conklin had 61 receptions (87 targets) for 593 yards and three touchdowns last season. There’s little reason to think that Smith couldn’t put up the same numbers as Conklin if he stays healthy.
Meanwhile, Kmet is likely due for a large target share this season after the Bears did not make a ton of noticeable moves at wide receiver. Kmet had a solid second season in Chicago with 60 receptions (93 targets) for 612 yards. The only blemish Kmet had was that he failed to score a touchdown last season, which directly hurt his fantasy value. The former Notre Dame star should score at least a couple of touchdowns this season, and if he really comes through that department, he could be this year’s big breakout.
Tonyan is more of a standard-league play, but with Davante Adams gone, he could be in line for more targets and have a similar impact as his breakout 2020 campaign. Thomas has always been more of a PPR play, but he has major upside if he develops an early rapport with Carson Wentz. Consistency could be an issue for both, so they’re better suited as high-upside backups.
Ideally, all of these players would be backups (especially if you drafted your starter in Tier 3 or are worried about Kittle and Waller’s health), but you can probably live with Smith Jr, Kmet, or Gesicki as Week 1 starters. The key with this tier is not overdrafting. As we said, there’s a real chance Kmet and/or Smith Jr. breaks out, but it’s not worth taking either earlier than the 10th round in 12-team leagues.
2022 Fantasy Tiers: TE deep sleepers and streamers
|18||Cameron Brate, Buccaneers|
|19||Tyler Higbee, Rams|
|20||Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos|
|21||Noah Fant, Seahawks|
The Tier 5 tight ends could’ve easily been in Tier 4 as we have a couple of sleepers (Brate, Okwuegbunam) who could break out this season and two other veterans (Higbee, Fant) with somewhat limited ceilings. Brate might be a solid backup tight end in the later rounds, especially if you are able to draft a Zach Ertz or Dallas Goedert. He enters this season as Tampa Bay’s No. 1 tight end after Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement. Last season, Brate was rather productive as the Bucs’ No. 2 tight end, posting 30 receptions (57 targets) for 245 yards and four touchdowns. The veteran tight end wasn’t a major factor in fantasy football, but he was tied for first in red-zone targets (20) among tight ends last season. If Brate can continue to be that safety valve inside the red zone for Tom Brady, we should see his value increase throughout the season.
As for Okwuegbunam, he could be the star of this tier. Okwuegbunam was the backup to Noah Fant last season, who was traded to Seattle for Wilson. The 6-5 athletic freak had 33 receptions for 640 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games (six starts). One can only imagine what he can do with Russell Wilson and a wide receiver unit that has Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler. We haven’t seen Wilson with a playmaking tight end since Jimmy Graham, who had 57 receptions (96 targets) for 520 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2017. If Okwuegbunam can become that playmaker inside the red zone like Graham was, then that will be good news for both the Broncos’ offense and fantasy owners.
Higbee is another one of those tight ends who most people don’t focus on because of the other players on offense. However, he’s been a consistent threat over the past three years, posting at least 500 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Last season, Higbee was able to make some plays despite the Rams having Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Odell Beckham Jr., and Van Jefferson. Woods and Beckham Jr. are now gone, but Allen Robinson II should soak up a lot of targets. Higbee’s ceiling is limited, but his floor is decent.
Fant might see his production take a step back in Seattle. He has chemistry with Drew Lock, but DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will command a lot of targets. His situation isn’t that much different that before, but that’s why it’s tough to get too excited about him.
|22||Mo Alie-Cox, Colts|
|23||C.J. Uzomah, Jets|
|24||Gerald Everett, Chargers|
|25||Brevin Jordan, Texans|
The best way to describe the sixth tier of fantasy tight ends is take what you can get and have low expectations. Three out of the four tight ends are sleepers (Alie-Cox, Uzomah, Jordan), but we don’t know how they will play this season.
Uzomah could be a viable streaming option this season for the Jets, but they also signed Tyler Conklin in free agency and have a developing wide receiver unit. Uzomah made some plays last season for the Bengals, who had an outstanding receiver corps, but Zach Wilson is not Joe Burrow.
Alie-Cox should be a shoe-in to make an improvement this season after Jack Doyle retired. He has the athleticism to be a weapon inside the red zone and could be the team’s No. 2 receiving option based off what they lack at wide receiver. He saw both his receptions and receiving yards decrease last season from where they were in 2020. However, the 6-5 tight end scored a career-high four touchdowns last year. Matt Ryan has also utilized tight ends often over his career.
Finally, Jordan and Everett are two tight ends who scored some touchdowns last season, but they did not do much in the receiving department. Everett will be going to a pass-happy offense and could have his first 500-yard receiving season. Jordan has the athleticism and ability to be a standout tight end for Texans quarterback Davis Mills. Defenses are going to try and take Brandin Cooks out of the game plan, which means someone else will have to step up. For any of these tight ends, you do not have to reach for in your drafts and should be able to pick up off of waivers during any point of the season.
|26||Austin Hooper, Titans|
|27||David Njoku, Browns|
|28||Evan Engram, Jaguars|
|29||Hayden Hurst, Bengals|
|30||Harrison Bryant, Browns|
|31||Adam Trautman, Saints|
Tier 7 has a bunch of starting tight ends and competent backups, but they won’t give you the value that you necessarily seek from Tier 5 or 6 tight ends. Hooper should be the starter in Tennessee as it works in a new wide receiver group that has rookie Treylon Burks and veteran Robert Woods. Hooper has consistently scored at least three or more touchdowns each season, but he hasn’t been a constant threat over the past two seasons.
Hooper’s former team, the Browns, will lean on the duo of Njoku and Bryant, which brings a ton of athleticism. Njoku will be the starter this season for Cleveland, but for him to be one of the best 15-20 tight ends in the NFL, he needs to recorded at least 500-600 receiving yards. Meanwhile, Bryant has been a solid red-zone threat over his first two seasons. He’ll likely still be a red-zone option for whoever is starting at quarterback for Cleveland, but if Njoku struggles or gets hurt, Bryant has a clear path to starting.
Most of the other tight ends in this tier (Engram, Hurst, Conklin) are guys looking to fill a role for their new teams. It’s hard to trust any of these guys for multiple weeks at a time. However, if you need someone on a bye week or if one of them are coming off a big game/increase in snap count, there could be value during the regular season.
|32||Dan Arnold, Jaguars|
|33||Jonnu Smith, Patriots|
|34||Trey McBride, Cardinals|
|35||Ian Thomas, Panthers|
|36||Tyler Conklin, Jets|
Our last tier is the deep sleepers who will be sitting on the waiver wire for weeks. Arnold will be the backup tight end in Jacksonville with Evan Engram as the starter this season. Smith will be the backup to Hunter Henry, who emerged as one of the better red-zone threats last season. McBride and Thomas won’t do much in their situations this season, as their teams are well stocked at wide receiver.