TE2s With Top 5 Potential (2022 Fantasy Football)
There isn’t a better feeling in the world than thinking you got a deal. Finding that diamond in the rough everyone else looked past or ignored is a small and satisfying victory. In the world of dynasty fantasy football, this is especially true when it comes to tight ends. There isn’t a tougher position to grade or forecast the world of fantasy analytics.
With the talent pool relatively thin, finding that overlooked gem can be the difference between a championship and not making the playoffs. But how exactly do you find said gem? There is a wide range of things I look at, from coaching changes to a shift in the scheme on offense to a change in personnel. Maybe a player seemed to develop a rapport late in the season with his team’s quarterback or seems to have found favor with the coaching staff. Whatever it is, catching it and using it to your advantage to acquire a player at a relatively low cost is a major key to success.
Rankings based on our half-PPR Expert Consensus Rankings
Zach Ertz (FA): TE15
Heading into the 2021 season, Zach Ertz had essentially been left for dead by fantasy analysts. Tight end Dallas Goedert (TE – PHI) seemed to have found favor with the Philadelphia coaching staff and it appeared Ertz would be the odd man out. The first two weeks of the season seemed to punctuate this belief, with him seeing a total of four targets for 49 receiving yards. Week 3 saw that trend quickly change, with him seeing an average of 6.2 targets through Week 11.
To no one’s surprise, Philadelphia traded Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals following Week 11. After a Week 12 bye, he was understandably eased into the Cardinals offense, hauling in six catches on nine targets for 52 receiving yards, most of which came in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams. Weeks 15 through 18 saw Ertz return to dominance, landing him as the overall TE4 in that span. When all was said and done, he managed to finish as the overall TE5 between his time in Philadelphia and Arizona.
Though Ertz is an unrestricted free agent heading into the new league year, all signs point to him staying in Arizona. He integrated himself into the offensive scheme quickly and was able to become an impact player for a playoff-bound squad down the stretch run. While the FantasyPros expert consensus Rankings for 2022 have Ertz sitting at 16 overall amongst tight ends, I expect him to finish much higher. Not only is a top-five finish at the position possible, I am expecting it to become reality.
Jonnu Smith (NE): TE23
When Jonnu Smith signed with the New England Patriots this past off-season many fantasy managers and fans alike were excited to see what the talented tight end could do in a system that has always been good for the position. Even with the addition of tight end Hunter Henry (TE – NE) shortly after, it was believed he would take the reins as the lead tight end. When all was said and done for the 2021 season, Smith fell well short of those expectations.
Coming off a season where he finished as the overall TE35, scoring double-digit fantasy points only once and eclipsing five only six times, it might seem like a stretch to even forecast a TE1 finish for Smith in 2022. Hunter Henry is still with the team and they are likely to add more receiving depth this offseason, not to mention we still do not know who the offensive coordinator will be with the departure of Josh McDaniels. What we do know is that Smith has talent. We saw it when he was in Tennessee in an offense that doesn’t typically utilize tight ends. We saw it in brief flashes in 2021 with a handful of stellar plays. The only thing holding him back is opportunity.
New England adding receiving depth this off-season could be the key to Smith having a big year in 2022. While that may sound counter-intuitive, hear me out. While he wasn’t scoring fantasy points, Smith still averaged a 51.18 percent snap share over 16 games. With limited options for quarterback Mac Jones (QB – NE), it allowed defenses to focus more on him and shut him down. Forcing opposing defenses to focus elsewhere could open up a lot of opportunities for him to get more involved in the passing attack. If Smith can turn those opportunities into catches, yards, and touchdowns an overall TE5 or higher finish could be in the cards.
David Njoku (FA): TE36
I’m going to preface this portion of my article by saying I understand saying David Njoku having a top-five season at tight end in 2022 seems like a stretch. That’s a fair initial thought. For someone who hasn’t finished higher than overall TE9 (2018) in his five-year career and has averaged a finish of TE37.5 in that span, it does seem a tad unrealistic. Not to mention if he remains in Cleveland, he still has Austin Hooper (TE – CLE) and Harrison Bryant (TE – CLE) to contend with.
2021 wasn’t a fantastic season all around for the Cleveland Browns. Quarterback Baker Mayfield (QB – CLE) was less than stellar, and injuries plagued the team like they did so many others. What could have been was not. There were encouraging things going on for the Njoku, however. Despite the competition, David Njoku (TE22) finished two spots ahead of fellow Cleveland tight end Austin Hooper (TE24) in the same number of starts (15). He also had three touchdown receptions on nine red-zone targets.
It’s unlikely Cleveland re-signs Njoku given they have Bryant and Hooper under contract through 2023 and 2024, respectively. The chance he could land somewhere and be the stand-alone TE1 in an offense is exciting. The talent is there. Even when splitting time with Hooper and Bryant, he still finished 2021 as a TE2. While he will be entering his sixth NFL season in 2022, he will only be 26 years old. The potential upside is massive, and if he lands with a team that will feed him, he should easily be a top-five tight end next season.
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Nate Polvogt is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Nate, check out his archive and follow him @NatePolvogt.