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Tight Ends to Avoid (2023 Fantasy Football)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Feb 23, 2023

The game-changing talents at tight end are few and far between. One stands above the rest. A few more have tantalizing ceilings, and the rest barely distinguish themselves from the fringe fantasy starters and streamers. According to our Fantasy Football Leaders, only four tight ends had more than 10 half-point point-per-reception (PPR) points per game (PPG) in the 2022 fantasy season. Five cleared double-digit points in 2021, and four surpassed that threshold in 2020. Beyond the double-digit point scorers, it was a pileup of largely indistinguishable scoring. Therefore, overpaying for a player who lands in the middle to lower tier is unwise, and the following two tight ends appear to fit the bill in 2023.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

Tight Ends to Avoid in February 2023

Kyle Pitts – Atlanta Falcons: 64.2 Underdog Fantasy ADP and TE6

Pitts was supposed to take the NFL by storm. He was productive in college and had jaw-dropping workout metrics. Unfortunately, Pitts hasn’t been a world-beater. Instead, Pitts was the TE10 in half-point PPR PPG (8.8) among tight ends who played at least 10 games in the fantasy season in 2021 and was the TE19 (6.2) in 2022.

Making matters worse, Pitts’ season ended early because he tore his MCL. Fortunately, MCL injuries aren’t as concerning as other knee injuries. This article and this one have interesting data about MCL injuries. Still, it’s likely not ideal that Pitts’ MCL tear was significant enough to require surgery. Regardless, he’s reportedly “on schedule” in his recovery.

The injury is the least of Pitts’ concerns. Although, losing development time last year down the stretch was suboptimal. The bigger problem is Atlanta’s offensive environment.

The quarterback situation for the Falcons leaves much to be desired. The club yanked the plug on Marcus Mariota for the final four games of the year to get a look at third-round pick Desmond Ridder. The rookie didn’t completely faceplant, but he averaged an underwhelming 177.0 passing yards per game and threw only two touchdowns. Atlanta isn’t in a position to substantially upgrade the position in the NFL Draft, barring a shocking blockbuster trade. Instead, they could add veteran competition for Ridder via free agency. Still, Pitts is unlikely to be attached to a fantasy-friendly quarterback in 2023.

Moreover, the Falcons had a run-heavy offense in 2022. According to numberFire, when Atlanta’s scoring margin ranged from trailing by seven to leading by seven points, they attempted 277 passes and 312 rushes by non-quarterbacks. Unless head coach Arthur Smith shockingly turns the offense on its head, the passing volume will probably frustrate gamers with Pitts on their roster.

Additionally, Drake London is a viable weapon. In fact, he was a more productive option, despite being a rookie and Pitts having a season under his belt. In 10 games the young duo played together, Pitts had 59 targets, 28 receptions, 356 receiving yards, two touchdowns and 808 Air Yards, and London had 58 targets, 35 receptions, 374 receiving yards, four touchdowns and 480 Air Yards.

Pitts’ vertical usage makes him a reasonable option in best ball leagues since they should result in the occasional blow-up week. But, unfortunately, it enhances his volatility, making him a less desirable option in managed leagues.

Pitts’ alignment was also discouraging. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), he played only 21.8% of his passing snaps aligned inline as a rookie. Sadly, the addition of London to the mix resulted in only a modest increase to a 25.6% rate in 2022. So, Pitts often has to compete against cornerbacks from the slot and on the perimeter. Would it kill Smith to use Pitts as an inline and mismatch weapon against linebackers on occasion? Until he does, it’s wish casting. In managed redraft leagues, gamers should allow someone else in the draft to chase his potential at his inflated average draft position (ADP).

2023 NFL Draft Guide: Prospect Rankings & Player Profiles

Dalton Schultz – Free Agent: 95.2 Underdog Fantasy ADP and TE9

Schultz was a rock-solid option the previous two years. He was tied for the TE6 among tight ends who played at least 10 games in the fantasy season in 2021 and was tied for the TE10 in 2022. Yet, despite his more productive 2021 campaign, Schultz averaged 9.6 half-point PPR PPG. He dipped to 7.8 half-point PPR PPG in 2022.

However, gamers should cut him some slack. Schultz missed a few games with a sprained PCL and gutted out others while playing through it. Cooper Rush also started for a few games. Fortunately, Schultz didn’t miss any games during Dak Prescott‘s starts.

Schultz had excellent chemistry with Prescott. Per numberFire, on Prescott’s 394 passes in the 2022 regular season, Schultz was second on the team in Target Share (20.1%), receptions (53), receiving yards (541) and touchdown receptions (five). As a result, Schultz averaged a rock-solid 9.2 half-point PPR PPG in Prescott’s 12 starts. Schultz’s fantasy production in Dak’s starts would have tied Taysom Hill and Zach Ertz for a TE6 finish.

Among his peers, Schultz is adequately ranked. However, including Hill, Ertz and Schultz, 11 tight ends that played at least eight games averaged between 7.2 and 9.2 half-point PPR PPG in 2022. Further, Schultz had an ideal situation in 2022.

Dallas’s pass-catching options beyond CeeDee Lamb were underwhelming. Michael Gallup was returning from a torn ACL late in the 2021 season and wasn’t sharp, and the No. 3 wide receiver spot didn’t bring much to the table. Gallup might be better this year, further removed from his knee surgery, and the Cowboys desperately need to add another wideout who can help the passing attack.

Yet, it gets worse. The Cowboys have parted ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore in the offseason. Dallas has replaced him with Brian Schottenheimer, and head coach Mike McCarthy will call plays. Thus, the Cowboys will probably play significantly slower in 2023. The following table will show the situation-neutral pace data from Football Outsiders by year and coach. McCarthy’s data was from the end of his tenure as the head coach and play-caller for the Packers and Schottenheimer’s time as the offensive coordinator for the Seahawks.

And, of course, Schultz might not be on the Cowboys this year. He's a free agent after the Cowboys used the franchise tag on him last year. Brad Spielberger named Schultz a candidate to be tagged again this year for $13 million but also highlighted Tony Pollard as a candidate. If Schultz isn't tagged and signs elsewhere in free agency, he'll need to build rapport with another quarterback. Unfortunately, the fantasy track record for tight ends joining a new team in free agency hasn't been encouraging. Schultz should be a top-12 tight end, but he's not in the game-changer category, and gamers are better served throwing a dart at a cheaper breakout candidate and streaming if the dart fails.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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