The tight end position is arguably the most interesting in fantasy football. Everyone has a preference on how to handle the position. This year my approach is simple; pay the price for Travis Kelce or be the last one to draft a tight end.
Now, no strategy is hard and fast. Furthermore, I would be foolish to pass on Mark Andrews, T.J. Hockenson, Darren Waller, Kyle Pitts, or George Kittle if they slip far enough past their ADP and become a steal. However, there is so much depth at the tight end position this year that fantasy players should be fine with being the last team to draft one.
Most articles mention Chigoziem Okonkwo, Greg Dulcich, and Cole Kmet as sleepers. However, let’s look a little deeper. Here are my three favorite deep sleeper tight ends for redraft leagues and best ball drafts.
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Deep Sleeper Tight End Targets
Redraft League Targets
Juwan Johnson (TE – NO) | ADP 164.8, TE19
The former wide receiver turned tight end had only 13 receptions in 2021. Yet, Johnson had four receiving touchdowns that year. More importantly, his role increased last season, totaling 43 receptions for 508 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, all career-highs. Furthermore, Johnson led the team in receiving touchdowns while finishing top three in receiving yards and targets. Chris Olave will be the No. 1 pass catcher on this offense, but the options behind him are unpredictable.
Michael Thomas has missed 80% of games over the past three years and still isn’t healthy. Rashid Shaheed was an undrafted free agent last year, and A.T. Perry is a sixth-round rookie. While the Saints signed Foster Moreau this offseason, the veteran won’t cut into Johnson’s target share. More importantly, the emerging star finished behind only Travis Kelce and George Kittle in receiving touchdowns among tight ends last year. After ending the 2022 season as the TE7, Johnson shouldn’t have an ADP this late. He has top-five upside this season.
Sam LaPorta (TE – DET) | ADP 167.6, TE20
Last year, Amon-Ra St. Brown led the Lions in receptions (106), targets (146), receiving yards (1,161), and touchdowns (six). The star receiver also finished last season top 11 in receptions, targets, and receiving yards. More importantly, St. Brown had more than twice as many targets as any other Detroit player, seeing 76 more than D’Andre Swift (70). Yet, the Lions didn’t do much in free agency to address their heavy dependency on the star receiver.
Instead, Detroit used two of their top three draft picks on Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta. Gibbs has gotten plenty of hype, as he will replace Swift’s role in the backfield. However, LaPorta is a sneaky under-the-radar fantasy pick. The former Iowa star had a productive college career despite playing with awful quarterbacks, totaling 153 receptions for 1,786 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Lions had nine receiving touchdowns from tight ends not named T.J. Hockenson in 2022. The rookie could quickly become Jared Goff‘s No. 2 pass catcher and go-to target in the red zone.
Jelani Woods (TE – IND) | ADP 212.5, TE32
Dynasty fantasy football players understand not to expect much from their rookie tight ends, especially those on limited passing offenses. Yet, Woods led all rookie tight ends in receiving touchdowns last season (three). More importantly, the former Virginia standout finished second on the team in receiving touchdowns, catching only one fewer than star wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and Woods had 101 fewer targets than the former USC star. The Colts also made coaching staff changes this offseason that should help the young tight end.
Indianapolis brought back tight ends coach Tom Manning, who was with the Colts in 2018. That year, Eric Ebron was the TE4, averaging 11.8 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. Furthermore, he had 13 receiving touchdowns, the second-most in the NFL. The team also hired Shane Steichen this offseason, and Dallas Goedert averaged 5.4 targets and 9.3 fantasy points per game over the past two years in Philadelphia with Steichen as the offensive coordinator. Meanwhile, Woods was the star of the Colts’ minicamp. No one should be surprised if he has a sophomore season breakout.
Best Ball Draft Targets
Taysom Hill (TE – NO) | ADP 173.3, TE21
Let’s be honest here; we all hate Hill. The “tight end” was the TE5 last season, averaging 8.8 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. However, he had only nine receptions on 13 targets for 77 receiving yards in 2022. Hill had fewer receptions and receiving yards than Albert Okwuegbunam last year, yet Okwuegbunam averaged only 2.6 fantasy points per game. Hill became a fantasy-relevant tight end because of his role in the run game; he had 96 rushing attempts for 575 yards last season, both career-highs.
Meanwhile, Hill led the team with seven rushing touchdowns, and fantasy players became frustrated with the gadget player stealing touchdowns from Alvin Kamara. While the Saints signed Jamaal Williams in free agency, Hill will still have a role in the run game. The veteran has reportedly been taking snaps all over the field during minicamp. Fantasy players will struggle again to predict which weeks Hill will go off, making him the perfect high-upside pick in the later rounds of a best ball draft.
Trey McBride (TE – ARI) | ADP 203.3, TE27
The former Colorado State star unfortunately had a quiet rookie season. However, part of McBride’s quiet season was because of Zach Ertz and Arizona’s dysfunctions on offense. Over his first nine games, the rookie had only four receptions for 31 receiving yards. He played under 30% of the snaps in six of those games, which certainly had a role in the poor fantasy production. However, McBride showed potential when given an opportunity.
The Cardinals lost Ertz to a season-ending knee injury in Week 10, opening up the starting role for the rookie tight end. From Week 11 through the end of the regular season, McBride was the TE20, averaging six half-point PPR fantasy points per game. However, he picked up his play to end the year, averaging 5.5 targets and 8.4 half-point PPR fantasy points per game over his last four games, making him the TE10 during those four weeks. With DeAndre Hopkins gone and a lack of proven playmakers on offense, the second-year tight end could have some massive fantasy performances.
Isaiah Likely (TE – BAL) | ADP 207.1, TE28
Sometimes you have to look in unusual places to find sleepers. Last year, Likely was the star of the preseason. Despite playing in only two contests, the rookie was the top-scoring tight end, averaging 13.2 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. More importantly, he caught all 12 of his targets for 144 receiving yards and a touchdown in the preseason. Unfortunately, Likely didn’t have much of a role during the regular season because of Mark Andrews. However, fantasy players should consider drafting the sophomore tight end with one of their final picks in best ball leagues this year.
Andrews missed two games last season: the Week 9 matchup with an injury and Week 18 as a healthy scratch. Meanwhile, Likely was productive in those two contests, averaging 4.5 receptions on nine targets for 63.5 receiving yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game. More importantly, the rookie averaged 11.6 fantasy points per game in those contests. He was also the TE3 in Week 18, scoring 14.3 fantasy points and totaling over 100 receiving yards. If Andrews misses time with an injury, Likely has top-five upside.