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2022 Free Agency Winners: Tight Ends

There has been a flurry of moves this offseason as teams try to replicate the success that the Rams and Bengals achieved after being aggressive last offseason. A lot of tight ends have ended up on new teams this offseason, which is sure to change the fantasy tight end landscape. Here are the biggest free agency winners at the tight end position.

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2022 Free Agency Winners: Tight Ends


Albert Okwuegbunam

With the arrival of Russell Wilson and the departure of Noah Fant via the same trade, Albert Okwuegbunam has become a hot topic. The narrative that Wilson rarely targets his tight ends isn’t necessarily true, as the Seahawks have lacked quality players at the position for much of his tenure. Prior to two major injuries, Will Dissly began the 2019 season with 5.2 targets per game over the first five weeks and scored four touchdowns over that span. Jimmy Graham also led the league in red-zone targets in 2017 and finished that season with 10 touchdowns. The quality of Denver’s wide receivers likely caps Okwuegbunam’s target volume, but he still has high scoring potential given his 6’6 frame and 98th percentile 40-yard dash time. Okwuegbunam may or may not reach his ceiling projections, but he’s undoubtedly one of the biggest free agency winners at the tight end position. He remains a buy candidate even at a newly-elevated cost of a mid-second round rookie pick.


David Njoku

In 2020, Austin Hooper‘s four-year, $42 million contract was widely decried as a vast overpay by the Browns. Just two years later, Cleveland has rectified their mistake with Hooper’s release in March, paving the way for a bounce-back season for David Njoku. Njoku was a highly-touted prospect coming out of college, but a broken wrist derailed his 2019 season, and Hooper’s presence thereafter limited his snaps and fantasy relevance. With Hooper now gone and a potential quarterback upgrade in Deshaun Watson, Njoku will have an opportunity to shine as a receiver in a contract year this coming season. Even with the trade for Amari Cooper, the Browns lack talent at wide receiver behind him, which gives Njoku potential to see a high target share within this offense. There’s reason to be cautiously optimistic about his contributions in 2022, making Njoku an upside bet worth an early third-round rookie pick.


Zach Ertz

It feels like a lifetime ago that Zach Ertz was an elite fantasy tight end in Philadelphia alongside Carson Wentz. After a high ankle sprain in 2020, Ertz’s dynasty value fell to an all-time low. However, following a midseason trade to Arizona last year, he rejuvenated his fantasy production by leaps and bounds. In his 11 starts with the Cardinals, Ertz saw 7.4 targets per game and averaged 5.1 receptions for 52 receiving yards per game over that span. In fact, from Week 7 through the end of the season, Ertz was the no. 4 fantasy tight end in PPR scoring and the no. 6 tight end in points per game. Ertz will turn 32 years old in November, but as a check-down option who doesn’t rely on speed, his age isn’t a significant concern to impact his target volume. His three-year, $32 million deal to stay in Arizona makes Ertz among the big free agency winners at tight end, as his role in the Cardinals’ offense projects to keep him among the most-targeted tight ends in the league.


Evan Engram

Following his trade from Carolina to Jacksonville last season, Dan Arnold saw 6.7 targets per game in his first six starts prior to his MCL sprain. Evan Engram is a more athletic prospect than Arnold and figures to step into the starting tight end spot with a pass-catching role after having signed a one-year deal in Jacksonville. In fact, new head coach Doug Pederson has historically used a heavy dose of 12 personnel in his offense and has already lauded Engram’s ability to become a trusted target for Trevor Lawrence. Additionally, the Jaguars were the seventh-most pass-heavy offense in the league in 2021 in large part due to their 31st ranked defense forcing them into catch-up game scripts. Without much improvement to their wide receiver corps or defense this offseason, there remains opportunity for Engram to see significant target volume in 2022. Still just 27 years old, Engram can be a serviceable TE2 with TE1 upside in fantasy this coming season and is a value buy for a late second-round rookie pick or less.


Irv Smith

In the final four games of the 2020 season when Kyle Rudolph was out due to injury, Irv Smith became a preferred red-zone target for Kirk Cousins with three touchdowns over that span. The primary concern heading into last year was the snaps split between Smith and Tyler Conklin, but it became a moot point after a meniscus injury sidelined Smith for the entire 2021 season. Now with Conklin having departed for the Jets in free agency, Smith again has an opportunity to step into a large red-zone role for the Vikings. The new coaching staff also provides intriguing upside for Smith, as offensive coordinator Wes Phillips previously served as the tight ends coach in Washington and Los Angeles. During his tenure, both Jordan Reed and Tyler Higbee developed into contributors, both for their NFL teams as well as in fantasy. Smith is poised to benefit from Phillips’s tutelage as well, putting him among the free agency winners at tight end. Still, don’t get too caught up in the hype until he proves capable, as Smith should be a sell-high for an early second-round rookie pick or more.


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