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Dynasty Rookie Draft Sleepers: Tight Ends (2023 Fantasy Football)

Dynasty Rookie Draft Sleepers: Tight Ends (2023 Fantasy Football)

With the right combination of moves (and a lot of luck), dynasty fantasy football can be pretty easy. I say that in jest because those moves are far from obvious, and the luck seems to be as elusive as a snow leopard.

One of the more challenging positions to evaluate and make actionable progress in fantasy football every season is at tight end. Only one manager is blessed to have Travis Kelce on their roster, leaving the tumbleweeds and table scraps at the position to be warred over.

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Dynasty Rookie Sleepers: TE (2023 Fantasy Football)

The incoming class of TE prospects in 2023 is purportedly one of the strongest in years. According to a good many analysts, there should be a bountiful cornucopia of talent to peruse in dynasty rookie drafts. That notion never really sat well with me before the draft; I noticed quite a few good football players, but only a handful I wanted for fantasy.

The NFL Draft settled a lot of that uncertainty for me. It echoed that uncertainty, with many of those “promising” TEs falling farther down the draft board than expected. Two tight ends with late-round grades were plucked in the second round, while one team ridiculously selected two of the top TEs in the class. This effectively harpooned the fantasy value of both prospects.

Still, there are a few survivors of the most surprising draft in a decade on whom I wouldn’t mind taking a shot in my dynasty drafts this season. The TE position has among the more daunting transitions from college to professional on the field. If we’re likely to be waiting for all of them to develop, it will be incredibly important to wait on the right ones.

Sam LaPorta (TE – DET)

The Iowa Hawkeyes are a TE factory. From Dallas Clark to Sam LaPorta, there have been some absolute studs enter the league from that program. LaPorta really jumped up in my rankings after the draft because of when he was selected and by which team. The Detroit Lions threw a lot of us through a loop with the peculiar order in which they compiled their draft class, but there is no arguing that they didn’t drastically improve their roster in the process.

LaPorta steps in as a Week 1 starter for the Lions, who are on a steep ascent into becoming the class of the NFC North under Dan Campbell. The 22-year-old flashed incredible ability after the catch during his college career and confirmed that athleticism at the Combine. Although an adequate blocker, he is an animal as a receiver. Once he traverses a few rookie TE bumps in the road, he figures to be a perennial top-12 fantasy option at the position.

Michael Mayer (TE – LV)

Nobody is sleeping on Dalton Kincaid from Utah. He was drafted into a bustling receiver room in Buffalo with a great QB to aid in his development. The other consensus TE1 in this class had been considered as much until right before the draft. Michael Mayer is an outstanding all-around football player. Even though he was the third TE selected, he might have been dropped into the best situation for fantasy production.

The Las Vegas Raiders traded away Darren Waller and lost Foster Moreau to a cancer diagnosis. They added Austin Hooper and OJ Howard, but neither of them has been a good receiver in the NFL for a long time. While not quite the blocker as Howard, Mayer is better than both of them at running routes and catching the football down the field. As a result, I’m buying Mayer at a nice discount from last season when he was head and shoulders above the rest of the class in devy value.

Darnell Washington (TE – PIT)

The Steelers won big when they landed Darnell Washington near the end of the third round. The gigantic and freakishly athletic TE from the national champion Georgia Bulldogs is the best blocker in this class. This means more room for Najee Harris and more time (or a huge target) for Kenny Pickett. Washington was overshadowed and not expected to run many routes with Brock Bowers in Athens. Pat Freiermuth is no Brock Bowers; Washington can absolutely be a weapon in the Steelers’ passing game.

I was stunned and pretty upset that Dallas used their second-round pick on Luke Schoonmaker. It was a perfect spot to grab the much better Washington and build an identity. That opportunity now falls upon Mike Tomlin and Matt Canada. The big fella is the type to pile up double-digit touchdown seasons in his career.

Josh Whyle (TE – TEN)

One of the more puzzling picks was that of Josh Whyle by the Tennessee Titans. As I dig deeper into his tape, I like his fit with the team more with each passing day. The Titans have the weakest receiving room in the NFL by far. After Treylon Burks are a bunch of guys with very limited production (if any) in the NFL. Chig Okonkwo was amazing on a per-touch basis last season, but Tennessee’s offense was dreadful at moving the ball through the air.

Between Ryan Tannehill and newly-drafted Will Levis, the QB position seems to have been stabilized. It was an injury to Tannehill that prompted the team to thrust Malik Willis onto the field before he was close to ready. Okonkwo and Burks will be the main targets in 2023, but don’t be surprised if the 6-foot-6 1/2, 249-pound Whyle is given an opportunity to shine as a receiver.

He was a key reason why Desmond Ridder was able to parlay Cincinnati’s magical 2021 season into a third-round pick in the draft. Will Levis is more talented than Ridder and should be able to work in the long-term in this type of offense. Whyle is a deep sleeper who will likely sit on waivers after dynasty rookie drafts.

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