3 Tight End Sleepers (2022 Fantasy Football)
Sleepers can mean different things to different fantasy managers. We’re referring to players that we feel provide upside compared to their draft day cost, otherwise known as average draft position (ADP). Let’s look at our favorite early sleepers of the fantasy football draft season.
Rankings noted using FantasyPros half-PPR Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) and Consensus ADP.
Tight End Sleepers
Zach Ertz (ARI)
ECR TE9 | ADP TE10
Zach Ertz’s return to form is a reminder there’s value to be had in drafting proven fantasy commodities after the drafting community has written them off. It’s a major takeaway I’ve had while constructing my 2022 rankings for all the positions: Finishing top 12 or even top five at each respective position should be held higher when it comes to ranking players going forward. They’ve done it before.
Following that precise approach would have led you to be overweight on Ertz in 2021, as the veteran was at the forefront of trade discussions all summer. He didn’t get moved until Week 7 to the Arizona Cardinals, but his production took off after the trade.
The former Eagle averaged 11.4 fantasy points per game (eighth). He also averaged just under five receptions per game and a team-high 20% target share while running a route on 84% of dropbacks.
Ertz undoubtedly got a major receiving boost without DeAndre Hopkins in the lineup, but that will be the case during the first six games with the Cardinals’ No. 1 wide receiver serving a suspension. Ertz was TE4 over that stretch, with Hopkins sidelined, averaging seven receptions per game (24% target share).
His trust earned from the coaches and Kyler Murray to be a target hog in the Cardinals’ offense from the get-go bodes well for him to be a back-end fantasy TE1 with him returning to Arizona, even with the addition of rookie second-round tight end Trey McBride.
The starting tight end position is valuable for Arizona in fantasy, evidenced by not only Ertz’s performance but also Maxx Williams’. Before the Ertz trade went down, Williams posted two top-six TE finishes in just five games played.
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Cole Kmet (CHI)
ECR TE12 | ADP TE13
It’s bizarre to be so confident projecting a tight end breakout, but that’s how strongly I feel about Chicago Bears’ tight end, Cole Kmet.
Because no tight end should make a bigger leap in 2022 than the third-year tight end, whose upside has been capped by a lack of touchdown equity with veteran Jimmy Graham rearing his ugly head the past few seasons, but Graham’s currently a free agent, opening the door for Kmet to smash in 2022.
Kmet’s eighth-ranked route participation and seventh-ranked target share (17%) from 2021 hardly align with his fantasy production — no tight end finished with more fantasy points under expectation (-36.6) than the Notre Dame product in 2021.
That designation is a sign Kmet is due for a fantasy breakout. It signaled as much for guys like Zach Ertz and Dawson Knox, who scored fewer points than expected in 2020 before contributing in fantasy this past year. Both tight ends finished 2021 as top-10 options at the position in fantasy points per game.
The Chicago Bears hired offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to pair with second-year quarterback Justin Fields. Getsy should be able to build an offense more conducive to Fields’ mobility — something he had success with at Mississippi State as its former OC.
An overall offensive boost should help fuel Kmet as 2022’s breakout tight end. In addition, he has the requisite size and athleticism, sporting an 87th-percentile height, 88th-percentile vertical jump, and 89th-percentile broad jump.
Kmet checks off all the boxes for a tight end breakout.
Gerald Everett (LAC)
ECR TE21 | ADP TE22
Gerald Everett is easily one of my favorite late-round tight ends, so I am glad the consensus is finally starting to catch on. He was solid during stretches of the 2021 season, particularly after Russell Wilson returned from injury. The ex-Rams tight end ranked as the TE9 in fantasy points per game (PPR) from Weeks 10-16 while running a route on 74% of dropbacks.
Everett proved he could be the featured No. 1 tight end for the Chargers coming off a career year. He achieved career-highs in receptions (48) and receiving yards (478) and wreaked havoc with the ball in his hands, forcing 11 missed tackles after the catch — sixth-most among tight ends.
His peripheral metrics in Seattle’s offense — 12% target share, 63% route participation, and 17% target rate per route run — were nearly identical to Jared Cook in the Chargers’ offense last season.
Cook finished as TE16 overall, which seems like Everett’s fantasy floor heading into 2022. However, the tackle-breaking tight end finished the 2021 season just .4 points per game short of Cook’s average (8.3 versus 7.9) despite playing in an offense that ranked dead last in pass attempts per game (29.1).
LA ranked third in that category last season (39.6). They also ranked ninth in TE targets overall.
Breakout tight ends are generally athletic players who earn above-average route participation in high-powered offenses. Everett fits the profile of next season’s star at the position after finishing No. 1 overall in separation rate (98th percentile) in 2021. And he’s still super cheap at TE23.
FantasyPros Staff Consensus 2022 Redraft Fantasy Football Rankings