Year in and year out, TE is one of the most challenging positions to find value at in fantasy football. If you don’t have Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews on your dynasty squad, you’ll likely need help at the position. Here are three TEs I believe will exceed expectations in 2023, and they won’t break the bank to acquire.
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Juwan Johnson (TE – NO)
If it feels like Saints TE Juwan Johnson came out of nowhere in 2022, you’d be right. The undrafted free agent from Oregon was a non-factor in his first two seasons, seeing a total of 32 targets, with his best fantasy finish being TE46 in 2021. In 2022, Johnson saw a massive increase in usage, earning 65 targets, leading to 42 catches for 508 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He finished the season as the overall PPR TE15.
While his usage was inconsistent at times – he had eight games with fewer than five targets – Johnson produced when called upon. Among TEs with a minimum of 60 targets, he ranked fourth in yards per catch (12.1), second in average depth of target (9.8 yards), and tied with Bears TE Cole Kmet for third in touchdown receptions last season.
If those numbers aren’t enough to pique your interest, the team has moved on from veteran signal-caller Andy Dalton, opting to trade for Las Vegas QB Derek Carr. With Carr behind center this upcoming season, Johnson should be able to build on a solid 2022 campaign. It’s well known the veteran QB likes to target big, athletic bookends – think Darren Waller when he’s healthy – and standing at 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, he fits the bill. While I don’t foresee Johnson having the ceiling of a player like Waller, his possible TE1-tier upside in a Carr-led offense is undeniable. So throw out an offer with an oft-unused veteran such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling or a late 4th-round rookie draft pick to get him on your squad.
Mike Gesicki (TE – NE)
There likely wasn’t a more disappointing player for dynasty managers last season than TE Mike Gesicki. Expectations were high in 2022 after two consecutive seasons of him finishing top 10 at the position. However, the self-proclaimed “big slot receiver” got lost in a Miami offense with WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, plus a rotating cast of QBs. As a result, he finished 2022 as the overall PPR TE23 on a scant 52 targets, less than half the 112 he saw in 2021.
The good news is Gesicki is on the move, having signed a one-year, $9 Million contract with the New England Patriots. He steps into an offense loaded with middle-of-the-road pass-catching talent – current WRs on the roster include DeVante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton, and TE Hunter Henry. While he will compete for snaps with Henry, Gesicki was far more efficient with his targets last season. His average depth of target (10.4), route percentage (89.8), and drop percentage (5.9) were all markedly better than Henry in 2022.
It’s not a slam dunk that Gesicki will have an improved 2023 season. However, given the needs of the Patriots in a tough AFC East division, he will see an increase in volume over last season. In all likelihood, Gesicki will see the majority of his snaps in the slot as he did in Miami, moving Henry back to more of an in-line TE. Gesicki was especially effective in the red zone in 2022, having caught nine balls inside the 20, notching five touchdown catches. In contrast, Henry and recently traded TE Jonnu Smith combined for four red zone catches on 11 targets, with zero touchdown receptions. Right now, you can acquire the talented pass-catching bookend for nothing more than a late fourth-round rookie draft pick to bolster your rosters heading into the 2023 season.
Jelani Woods (TE – IND)
Some dynasty managers tend to shy away from players on teams that are in transition. It makes sense, given we don’t exactly know what an offense will look like when there are many question marks, as is the case for the Indianapolis Colts. However, second-year TE Jelani Woods has significant potential upside if you’re a manager willing to take risks.
Of the many questions around the Colts organization, the biggest is who will line up behind center for the team in 2023. Unfortunately, that has devalued many fantasy assets in their offense, including Woods. His rookie season wasn’t exactly stellar, seeing only 40 targets in a timeshare with fellow TEs Kylen Granson and Mo Alie-Cox. However, when given opportunities, he made the most of them. In Week 3, Woods saw his first three targets, turning two into touchdown catches. Then, in Week 12, he caught eight of his nine targets for 98 yards, netting 15.8 PPR fantasy points. Those two games preview what Woods could be as the Colts’ TE1 in 2023. His 12.5 yards per catch led all Colts’ bookends last season, and his 40 targets were tied with Granson for the most in the TE room.
The team recently signed free agent QB Gardner Minshew and is believed to be targeting a rookie quarterback with the fourth overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Regardless of who is slinging the rock in Indianapolis, Woods, standing at 6-foot-7 and 253 pounds, will provide a big, reliable target on a team lacking explosive playmakers outside of RB Jonathan Taylor and WR Michael Pittman. You can acquire Woods for next to nothing right now – a fourth-round rookie draft pick should get Woods-plus on your roster. He could be a solid streaming play all season long, with the upside of a TE1-tier finish in 2023.
Nate Polvogt is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Nate, check out his archive and follow him @NatePolvogt.