Is Cole Kmet This Year’s Dalton Schultz? (2022 Fantasy Football)
Every year there is at least one late-round or undrafted tight end who becomes a top-10 guy. Last year, Dalton Schultz typically went undrafted in standard size 12-team leagues. Yet, he was the TE3 in PPR scoring last season, averaging 12.3 fantasy points per game.
The question is: Who will be this year’s Schultz? Could it be Cole Kmet?
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After averaging only 3.9 PPR fantasy points as a rookie with a 7.4 percent target share, many expected Kmet to have a breakout sophomore season. However, he was the TE20 in PPR scoring, averaging only 7.1 fantasy points per game. Kmet had only three top-12 weekly finishes despite playing in all 16 games during the fantasy season. He averaged only 1.3 fantasy points per target. Meanwhile, Schultz averaged 2.01 fantasy points per target by comparison.
While the numbers are disappointing, Kmet was a few bad breaks away from a top-15 finish last season.
Kmet averaged only 1.3 fantasy points per target in 2021 because he didn’t score a touchdown all season after scoring two as a rookie. Meanwhile, the top-15 tight ends averaged 5.9 touchdowns scored last year. If Kmet had scored five touchdowns last year, he would have been the TE14, averaging 8.9 fantasy points per game.
However, Kmet wouldn’t have cracked the top-12 tight ends even if he scored five touchdowns last season. Yet, fantasy players shouldn’t worry about that as Kmet and Schultz had similar numbers last year aside from touchdowns scored.
The two tight ends have similar numbers in these areas, with Kmet outproducing Schultz in every category. The big difference in their stats is the touchdown production. Kmet had a 0.0 percent touchdown rate after failing to find the end zone last season, while Schultz had a 10.3 percent touchdown rate after scoring eight touchdowns.
Change in Situation
Last year Kmet was second on the team with 93 targets. Darnell Mooney led the way with 140 targets, while Allen Robinson was third with 66. The Chicago Bears let Robinson and a few other pass catchers leave this offseason, opening up nearly 200 targets from last year's team. While they drafted Velus Jones, signed Byron Pringle, and traded for N'Keal Harry, Kmet is set to see an increase of targets in 2022.
The Bears also started three quarterbacks in 2021. Andy Dalton, Justin Fields, and Nick Foles took snaps from under center for the Bears. However, Kmet's production slightly improved when Fields started for Chicago.
In his Fields' final seven starts last year, Kmet averaged 5.9 targets and 8.3 fantasy points per game. He averaged 5.9 targets and 7.9 fantasy points per game in the seven games Dalton or Foles started last season by comparison. Furthermore, Kmet earned more targets when Robinson was injured.
Kmet played five games last season without Robinson. Two were with Fields starting, the other three with Dalton or Foles. Over those five games, Kmet averaged 6.8 targets and 9.2 fantasy points per game. He scored over 13 PPR fantasy points twice during that span and had seven or more targets in three contests.
Should fantasy players draft Kmet, thinking he will become this year's Schultz? The answer is yes.
The Dallas Cowboys threw the ball 647 times last season, the six-most in the league. By comparison, the Bears threw the ball 542 times, the 10th fewest in the NFL. However, the Bears should have more pass attempts this year. They are projected as one of the worst teams in the NFL this season and should throw the ball plenty in negative gamescript situations. More importantly, Fields has reportedly greatly improved this offseason throwing the ball.
Kmet's ceiling is a top-five finish. To reach that, he will need similar numbers Schultz produced last year. However, Kmet has an easier pathway to a top-eight finish.
Over the past five years, the TE8 in PPR scoring averaged 60.8 receptions on 85.4 targets for 689.2 yards and 4.8 touchdowns. Last year, Kmet had 60 receptions on 93 targets for 612 yards and zero touchdowns by comparison. Furthermore, fantasy players should feel very optimistic about Kmet, given Fields' final four games last year.
In his final four games as a rookie, Fields left the Week 11 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens after playing only 51 percent of the snaps because of an injury. However, he was very productive in the other three games, averaging 33.7 pass attempts and 17.8 fantasy points per game. His 17.8 fantasy points per game average would have made him the QB10 over a 17-game pace last year. More importantly, Fields had an eye on Kmet during those three games.
Despite Robinson playing two of those three contests (playing 77 percent of the snaps in both games), Kmet had the best stretch of his career in those games. He averaged 7.3 targets per game, up 25.4 percent from his season average. Kmet also averaged 10.8 fantasy points per game, up 34.3 percent from his season average.
He also averaged 1.47 fantasy points per target, up 11.6% from his season average. More importantly, his 10.8 fantasy points per game average would have made him the TE5 over a 17-game pace. Furthermore, Kmet averaged 10.8 fantasy points per game during that span despite not scoring a touchdown.
The late-round TE fantasy players should target... Cole Kmet.
His final 4 games with Justin Fields last year
— Mike Fanelli (@Mike_NFL2) July 28, 2022
My draft strategy at tight end this year is great or late. Either draft a superstar early or be one of the last teams to grab a tight end. Fantasy players who decide to pass on an elite option should draft Kmet in the final few rounds of their drafts.
The worst-case scenario is Kmet struggles early in the year, and fantasy players have to stream off the waiver wire. The best case scenario is he sees an uptick in targets, finds the end zone 5-7 times, and becomes a plug-and-play TE1.
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