This year’s rookie tight end class is full of highly-touted prospects that will flood the fantasy tight end rankings. Yet, if you don’t want to take a chance on an unproven rookie, and can’t get consensus TE1 Travis Kelce, the tight ends below would be considered the closest thing to a must-have.
Their rankings came from FantasyPros’ rankings and represent tight ends from different tiers so you can choose where you get yours in the draft.
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Must-Have Tight Ends (2023 Fantasy Football)
Current FantasyPros Ranking: TE4
It’s hard to be considered a disappointment when you finish in the top five of your position of fantasy scoring for half of your career but it feels like that for TJ Hockenson. Drafted eighth overall in 2019, Hockenson had been languishing in Detroit where he had put up good, not great numbers. He had never topped 67 receptions or 723 yards and his long-term future in Detroit looked bleak. Enter the trade to division-rival Minnesota before the trade deadline last year and not only does his future look bright but he looked downright elite for half the season. From Week 9 on, Hockenson was the TE2 in fantasy scoring, finishing just behind Travis Kelce. In his 10 games as a Viking, he totaled 60 receptions for 519 yards and three touchdowns.
Hockenson has two things going for him in the 2023 season. First, he’ll have a whole offseason with Minnesota where he can further integrate himself with the offense and coaches. If he sees as much attention throughout a whole season that he did in that half-season, he’ll get close to 1,000 yards. He’s also entering his walk-year and will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and be extremely motivated to perform.
Current FantasyPros Ranking: TE7
There are not many teams where the tight end is the best receiving option but the Giants would now qualify after their trade for Darren Waller. It’s great news for both Waller and New York as both are looking to boost their stats in the passing game in 2023.
For Waller, he was part of a purge in Vegas that saw him and longtime quarterback Derek Carr sent out of town in favor of cheaper options. Vegas didn’t want to pay a premium for their tight end after Waller missed over a dozen games across the last two seasons due to injury. Even when he did play, he seemed to be a shell of his former self. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2019 and 2020 which culminated in a Pro Bowl selection in the latter season. Then the injuries hit and he’s barely topped 1,000 yards throughout the last two seasons, but he’s capable, which is what the Giants are banking on.
For New York, Waller represents a huge upgrade as a target. They had just two players top 500 receiving yards in Darius Slayton and Richie James with the latter not even being on the team anymore. Receiver Isaiah Hodgins came on strong after coming over from Buffalo and has starter potential but certainly not enough to carry the load and take away targets from Waller.
If you were to combine the targets available from James’ departure (70) and add in the incumbent tight end (Daniel Bellinger)’s targets (35), Waller could easily see 100 again while the Giants offense sticks with their run-first approach.
Current FantasyPros Ranking: TE14
Chigoziem Okonkwo did what you hope every rookie does throughout the season – get better. He admittedly had a slow start to his career, seeing just six targets through the first seven weeks of the season. However, he picked it up after that, especially in the second half. If you only look at the second half of the season, Okonkwo was a top-10 fantasy tight end. He now enters the 2023 season as the undisputed starter at tight end on a young and ascending offense.
Okonkwo joins fellow sophomore Treylon Burks, the Titans’ first-round pick last year, to give the Titans young and big targets for whomever the quarterback will be in 2023. Combined, Okonkwo and Burks saw 100 targets between them, which is incredible when you consider the former’s slow start and the latter’s injuries. They will have their first crack at the 151 targets that were left in the off-season between Robert Woods (91) and Austin Hooper (50).
As far as the coaching, the Titans offense will be led by OC Tim Kelly, whose claim to fame so far is coordinating the offense that led Deshaun Watson to the best statistical season of his career when he threw for over 4,800 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2020. While no one expects the Titans’ quarterback – Ryan Tannehill or otherwise – to do that, it’s encouraging that Kelly has overseen a productive passing game.