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3 Tight Ends to Target (2022 Fantasy Football)


 
Welcome fantasy friends and foes to “Tight Ends to Target.”

In my last article, I provided the “ Tight Ends to Avoid,” where I identified three tight ends that I am unwilling to invest in with my draft capital.

Conversely, I believe three tight ends will outperform their draft value and investment. Find out which three tight ends I am targeting as I help you prepare for the 2022 Fantasy Football season.

Rankings referenced using FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) for half-PPR formats.

Kyle Pitts (TE-ATL): ECR TE3

After being the fourth-overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, Kyle Pitts arrived in Atlanta. Pitts was seemingly fitted for the gold jacket, and Canton bound immediately when he stepped on stage and took pictures with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

At only 21-years-old, Pitts is a generational talent who proved to be an enormous threat from anywhere on the field. In addition, his athletic ability and size allow the Falcons the versatility to utilize Pitts as both a tight end and a wide receiver.

Pitts became the Falcons’ No.1 receiver and deep threat. He caught 63.6% of his targets and ranked second in the league with 10.1 ADOT and total air yards (1,110). Defensively, teams were continuously double-teaming Pitts due to zero pass catchers to fear in the Falcons offense. Yet, he still led the team in both receptions (68) and receiving yards (1026), averaging a league-high 15.1 yards per reception for tight ends. The former Florida Gator is still only 21 years old, but he is already one of the best tight ends in the league.

The Falcons’ offense will be dramatically different in 2022, with veteran quarterback Matt Ryan traded to the Indianapolis Colts. The Falcons brought in former second-overall pick Marcus Mariota to take over as the starting quarterback. Mariota will be reunited with his former offensive coordinator from the Tennessee Titans, Arthur Smith, the current Falcons head coach. The team and Arthur Smith may have faith in Mariota in leading the offense, but the pairing did not fare well in Tennessee.

Besides Cordarrelle Patterson, the Falcons’ offense has few legit options on offense. Calvin Ridley is suspended for the 2022 season, and Russell Gage elected to sign with the NFC South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, creating gigantic holes in the Falcons’ offense. As a result, the Falcons should target multiple pass-catchers in the 2022 NFL Draft to help alleviate defensive pressure off of Pitts and Patterson.

Pitts should be the featured weapon next season, with Smith having few other options. Pitts is far too talented to have only scored one touchdown last season, especially when you consider the devoid of talent in the Falcons offense. The red zone offense should be centered around utilizing Pitts’s freakish size and ability.

Pitts does need to take a step forward from an efficiency standpoint, but that should not stop him from having an even better season in 2022. I am forecasting Pitts to finish as the TE1 in fantasy in 2022.

Cole Kmet (TE-CHI): ECR TE16

Another disappointing season in Chicago led the Bears to bring in a new regime in general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus. Finally, the Bears seemed to have found their franchise quarterback in the 2021 first-round selection Justin Fields. All the Bears have to do now is protect Fields and provide the former Buckeye with some offensive weapons.

One of the holdover weapons that should benefit from the new coaching staff is a tight end, Cole Kmet. Kmet ranked eighth in targets (93) among tight ends and produced 60 receptions for 612 yards with zero touchdowns. The former second-round pick should see an expanded role in the Bears’ offense with fellow tight end Jimmy Graham moving on.

The former coaching staff loved carting Jimmy Graham out on the field when the Bears managed to get into the red zone. Unfortunately, Graham impeded Kmet from producing in the red zone, but it’s now Kmet’s turn to take a step forward.

The Bears have one of the weakest receiver groups in the league. Aside from Darnell Mooney, no other receiver eclipsed 600 receiving yards. Kmet finished as the second leading pass catcher for the Bears in both catches and yards last season. Kmet also finished as the TE21 last season by averaging 5.4 fantasy points per game.

Eberflus brought in former Green Bay Packers passing game coordinator Luke Getsy as his offensive coordinator. Getsy brings in his RPO-driven offense that featured tight ends, including the likes of George Kittle, and guided Robert Tonyan to score 11 touchdowns in 2020.
In 2022, Kmet will be the second option in the Bears’ passing offense and is in line for an enormous uptick in targets and red zone looks. As a result, Kmet is poised for his fantasy value to skyrocket in the Bears’ offense. He will be an every-down tight end for Fields, and positive touchdown regression is a given after not scoring one touchdown last season. Nevertheless, a top-10 finish among tight ends is well within reach.

David Njoku (TE-CLE): ECR TE25

The Cleveland Browns have sure made plenty of headlines lately. The acquisition of quarterback Deshaun Watson was controversial, but it could be the missing ingredient to being a perennial playoff contender. There were a few other moves that will have significant fantasy implications.

As expected, the Browns released tight end Austin Hooper and wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Hooper was released two years after signing an enormous contract that was ill-advised. The release of Hooper opens up the team to turn to their 2017 first-round selection David Njoku as their undisputed TE1 in the Browns’ offense.

Cleveland used the franchise tag on Njoku to keep the former Miami Hurricane from hitting the open market in free agency. Njoku enjoyed his finest season in 2018, where he teamed with then-rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield to grab a career-best 56 catches for 639 yards and four scores.

Unfortunately, the next two seasons were filled with disappointment due to injuries and inconsistency, which necessitated the Browns signing Austin Hooper to be their featured tight end in head coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense. With Hooper not producing, Njoku stepped up last season in a more expanded role. He hauled in 36 catches for 475 yards and four touchdowns last season.

Njoku caught a career-high 67.9 percent of his targets last season, which is a significant display of his refinement and work ethic to be a more consistent producer in the Browns’ offense.

Look for a breakout season from Njoku in 2022. He has flashed plenty of potential, but he must take the next step in producing consistency. Njoku’s athletic build at 6-foot-4, along with his big-play ability, will be unleashed in the tight-end eccentric offense led by Stefanski.

Watson is a notable upgrade over Baker Mayfield. He is an elite game-changing quarterback and will improve the Browns’ passing offense, which now features Amari Cooper and Njoku. Njoku breaks out to 60-70 catches and six-eight touchdowns in 2022, possibly leading to a long-term contract.
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Dennis Sosic is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Dennis, check out his archive and follow him @CALL_ME_SOS.

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