Top 5 Late-Round Tight Ends to Target (2022 Fantasy Football)
Outside of the top tier, tight ends can be an enigma to project. However, a little sleuthing can uncover some favorable factors that point to positive outcomes. Below are my favorite tight end sleepers outside the top-20 PPR Fantasy Pros Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) that could emerge in 2022.
Albert Okwuegbunam (DEN – ECR21)
Realizing Albert O is getting a significant QB upgrade with Russell Wilson is not rocket science. But with a lot of competition for targets around him, one should be mindful of Wilson’s propensity to throw to his tight ends. Despite the fallacy suggesting otherwise, Denver’s new QB throws to the position on an average of 23% of their routes. That number rises to 25.5% when Wilson targets one of his top tight ends, according to Player Profiler’s Chris Reelfs. Okwuegbunam is a top-speed-size athlete no longer in the shadows of Noah Fant. He commands the ball when he’s on the field, as evidenced by his third-highest target rate per route run among TEs in the NFL last season (23%). Some buzz is circulating from a report by Mike Klis of 9News in Denver that teammate Greg Dulcich could push for the starting job stemming from the reps he’s getting with the first team in minicamp. I would brush that off as one of many meaningless reports in July. It isn’t ordinary for a tight end to get much production in their first NFL season due to the nuances of the position, but it is usual for teams to evaluate rookies during camp.
David Njoku (CLE – ECR 23)
With the departures of Jarvis Landry and TE Austin Hooper, the Cleveland Browns are devoid of proven receivers outside of Amari Cooper. As a deep threat, David Njoku made the most of his limited opportunities last season, averaging 13.2 yards per reception. Now slated for an increased role, he is situated to improve upon his 2021 TE22 numbers. Coach Kevin Stefanski loves utilizing his tight ends, leading the league in 13 personnel the last two seasons. A cloud still hovers over the QB situation, with a likely suspension looming for Deshaun Watson. As of now, Jacoby Brissett is the presumed starter, and the team just added Josh Rosen to their quarterback stable for depth. Watson under the helm would be ideal for Njoku, but the Browns’ robust running game should help keep defenses from zeroing in on the passing game. If Watson gets a suspension of six games or fewer, move Njoki off this list and into the top 20.
Austin Hooper (TEN – ECR 24)
Following a TE6 finish in 2019 with the Atlanta Falcons, Austin Hooper faded into fantasy obscurity. As part of Cleveland’s poor offense over the last two years, his receiving targets plummeted 38% from 97 in 2019 to an average of 66. Now with the Tennessee Titans, Hooper has a chance to resurrect his career. Ryan Tannehill will be without several of his top pass-catchers from last season, including his top target AJ Brown. Robert Woods and rookie Treylon Burks figure to take precedence in the passing game, but Woods is returning from a knee injury, and Burks has been missing minicamp. Burks’ absences have afforded Hooper and his QB additional time to work on their timing and chemistry. Although the offense runs through Derrick Henry, since taking over as the starter for the Titans in 2019, 24% of Tannehill’s targets have gone to tight ends. And – tight ends have accounted for nearly a third of his touchdowns over that span. Another bonus; Hooper has one of the most tight-end friendly schedules this season.
Hayden Hurst (CIN – ECR 25)
After finishing as TE10 in 2020, Hayden Hurst was a buzzkill with the Atlanta Falcons last season. But he is now under far better circumstances going from behind top-five rookie draft pick Kyle Pitts to the TE1 on Cincinnati’s Super Bowl-caliber pass-happy offense. Replacing C.J. Uzomah opens up 63 targets for Hurst, who only saw 31 in 2021, perhaps even more. Uzomah was the most targeted player outside of the receiving trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Although there are a lot of mouths to feed, that trio will demand a lot of coverage, opening up opportunities for Hurst. The team and QB Joe Burrow have shown they like to get their tight ends involved. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Hurst matches or bests Uzomah’s 2020 TE17 performance.
Brevin Jordan (HOU – ECR26)
Brevin Jordan is flying under the radar as the Houston Texans are in rebuild mode and lacking firepower. He did enough in his rookie campaign the team didn’t bring back Jordan Atkins and have him as the TE1 on their depth chart. While competing for playing time with Atkins and Pharaoh Brown, Jordan had 20 catches for 178 yards and three TDs on only 232 snaps, showcasing his YAC-ability. He also earned a starter-like workload down the stretch, including running 40 routes to Brown’s 18 over the last two games. Jordan now has an entire offseason of chemistry-building with QB Davis Mills and a year under his belt. With rookie John Metchie likely missing a portion or all of the season with his recent cancer diagnosis, Jordan will compete with Nico Collins as the top target behind receiver Brandin Cooks. It’s also advantageous for his prospects that offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton deploys a tight-end-friendly scheme.
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