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2023 Fantasy Football: TEs Outside the Top 12 with Top 12 Potential

As an analyst, I am constantly attempting to identify players who have the potential for their Fantasy Football production to outweigh their draft cost. I just recently dropped my 32 NFL Teams – 32 Fantasy Football Sleepers article with this exact intention.

Paying off when it comes to production over cost, in general, is one thing, but taking it even further and identifying players who can finish Top 12 for Fantasy in their position for points per reception (PPR) leagues is another. With that in mind, today I’m gonna run down some of my favorite tight end values for 2023 fantasy football drafts.

The tight end position for Fantasy Football does not get the attention it should when it comes to draft strategy in my opinion. Only one person can draft Travis Kelce at the end of the day.

The strategy for drafting tight ends in Fantasy Football tends to be centered around

1.) Investing in a “top tier” tight end early


2.) Punting the position and throwing darts later in drafts.

There is obviously much more strategy that can and should be looked into. If you do not invest early on a perceived “elite tight end,” being able to hit on tight ends whose fantasy production outweighs their cost later in drafts can help you address other positions earlier and build a strong lineup.

Here are some examples from 2022 of tight ends who were drafted outside the top 12, but ended up finishing top 12: Tight end – 2022 ADP vs. 2022 total points finish for tight ends:

  • Evan Engram, Jaguars – TE20 vs. TE5
  • Tyler Higbee, Rams – TE16 vs. TE6
  • David Njoku, Browns – TE17 vs. TE11

In the above cases, Fantasy managers were able to select these tight ends later in drafts while addressing other team positional needs and ended up rostering top 12 Fantasy tight ends. With the obvious benefit of identifying the 2023 versions of these tight ends, let’s take a look at who you should target in your upcoming Fantasy drafts. Tight end, NFL team, – 2023 ADP

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Top Tight End Values for 2023 Fantasy Football

Dalton Kincaid, Bills – TE13

Selected as the first tight end off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft at pick 25, Dalton Kincaid lands in one of the NFL’s best offenses with the Buffalo Bills. 6’4 – 246lbs out of Utah, Kincaid received a 90 production score as a prospect from Next Gen Stats which ranked first amongst all tight ends in his draft class. NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein comped Kincaid to Zach Ertz. Kincaid caught 70 passes for 890 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in his final college season showing the pass-catching qualities he should bring to the NFL.

Stefon Diggs is the alpha target in Buffalo, but the next highest-targeted player for Josh Allen is completely up for grabs. Allen threw the ball a heavy 645 times back in 2021 and has had three straight seasons over 4,300 passing yards with 35+ passing touchdowns. The opportunity for target volume in a great offense attached to one of the league’s best quarterbacks seems to be very “nuff said” when making the case for Kincaid. Gabe Davis and fellow tight end Dawson Knox will be target competition for Kincaid, but in my opinion are not the strongest of talents to hold back the rookie. Davis only caught 48 of 93 targets last year. Knox’s target volume regressed in 2022 from 2021. Khalil Shakir and Deonte Harty are unproven.

We often hear of the narratives surrounding rookie tight ends for Fantasy Football, but given the combination of Kincaid’s draft capital, lack of competition, pass-catching skillset, and quarterback play he is a true candidate to finish top 12 for the position.

Tyler Higbee, Rams – TE14

Maybe this is a “cop-out” suggestion seeing as though Tyler Higbee was a 2022 example for this article previously listed, but the ADP price vs. potential opportunity remains for 2023. Although Higbee ranked outside the top 12 in Fantasy PPG for 2022, the 17 games served enough to have him finish inside the top 10 in total points. This was a product of seeing a career-high 108 targets (#4 for tight ends) and catching 72 passes for 620 receiving yards. Cooper Kupp only played in nine games last season, resulting in Tyler Higbee being the most targeted player in the Rams offense. Although it was a career year in targets, Higbee has still seen volume the last few years earning 85+ targets in three of his last four seasons. Higbee also averaged the 10th most Fantasy PPG back in 2019.

For 2023, we should have a healthy Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp to enter the year. When we look at the Ram’s depth chart though, all I see is a lack of clear-cut targets beyond Cooper Kupp. Van Jefferson earned 89 targets back in 2021 but has yet to truly shine as a former second-round draft pick (2020). Another second-round draft pick (2021) is Tutu Atwell who has 35 total targets. Demarcus Robinson had a career year in Baltimore last season but came as the product of injuries leading to opportunity. Ben Skorownek has 81 targets in two seasons, Puka Nacua was selected in the fifth round this year.

All I hear from this is the opportunity for Higbee to be the second target behind Kupp for 2023.

Sam LaPorta, Lions – TE19

The second tight end selected in the 2023 NFL Draft by the Lions in the second round, is also the second rookie mentioned in this article. Across Sam LaPorta’s last two seasons at “TEU” Iowa, he caught 53 and 58 passes for 670 and 657 receiving yards. Another prospect from this year’s draft class that is used to passing volume and can bring this forth in the NFL.

Jared Goff is coming off of a season he threw the ball the sixth most times for the position (587), had the sixth most passing yards with 4,438, and the fifth most passing touchdowns with 29. Positive 2022 is a positive sign for pass-catchers in Detroit for 2023. Amon-Ra St. Brown earned 146 targets from Goff and will continue to be the alpha target in the Lion’s system. With former 2022 first-round draft pick Jameson Williams suspended for six games, that leaves the number two target role completely up for grabs in Detroit. Marvin Jones Jr.Josh Reynolds, and Kalif Raymond are the remaining pass-catching options for Goff, which makes a fairly mediocre wide receiver room.

Detroit utilizing LaPorta who has a pass-catching profile and solid draft capital right away makes sense at the end of the day. This is another situation where profile + opportunity can outweigh rookie tight end narrative which can certainly translate to Fantasy Football success.

Mike Gesicki, Patriots – TE21

The addition of Tyreek Hill in Miami to pair with Jaylen Waddle meant the Fantasy Football downfall of Mike Gesicki in 2022, even as the third option. Hill and Waddle accounted for 51.06% of Miami’s total targets, which resulted in just 5.8 Fantasy PPG for Gesicki. Looking at Gesicki’s resume though, he has had two seasons of over 700 receiving yards and three seasons of 85+ targets with a high of 111 (2021).

Gesicki lands in New England, with Coach Bill Belichick who has previously praised the tight end’s pass-catching abilities. New England features a core of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Devante Parker, and Kendrick Bourne for the wide receiver room. JuJu has had three seasons with over 100 targets and likely will be the number one target for Mac Jones. Parker had a big 2019 season, but since then has played in 14-10-13 games dealing with injuries. Thornton is still unproven as a 2022 second-round draft pick. New England also features tight end Hunter Henry who many are still declaring as the team’s primary tight end, but is coming off of a season playing 17 games and seeing the lowest amount of targets (59) since his rookie season (53 targets) in 2016 where he played in just 13 games.

Gesicki has pass-catching volume and production on his resume, lands in a new home with a coach who believes in him, and has fairly average target competition. Should Gesicki earn consistent volume, this can certainly lead to fantasy success. The Patriots have had plenty of history of utilizing their tight ends effectively, which can mean getting back to that trend in 2023.

Hayden Hurst, Panthers – TE27

In 2022, Hayden Hurst earned 70 targets and caught 54 of them for 439 receiving yards in Cincinnati. Back in 2020, he had a stat line of 88 targets, 56 receptions, 571 receiving yards, and six touchdowns in Atlanta. This off-season, Hurst landed in his third NFL home in Carolina with an opportunity to build a connection with the 2023 number-one selection Bryce Young.

DJ Moore was traded to Chicago this off-season, vacating 118 targets in Carolina. Christian McCaffrey played in six games before he headed to San Francisco last season but still earned 43 targets in Carolina. During this off-season, Carolina made several other moves including the addition of Miles Sanders, DJ Chark, veteran Adam Thielen and drafting Jonathan Mingo in the 2023 NFL Draft’s second round. Chark has battled injuries through his career, Thielen at nearly 33 years old has shown signs of decline and it is unclear how Mingo will develop. Terrace Marshall and Laviska Shenault have yet to truly impress, and both earned under 50 targets last season in Carolina.

Many changes have been made in Carolina, and who builds what sort of connection with Young is completely up for grabs. We are unsure of who will emerge as the number one target, or if the target order will be consistent. This presents an opportunity for Hurst to become a reliable target for the rookie quarterback and potentially earn consistent volume. Consistent volume can translate to Fantasy production.

Trey McBride, Cardinals – TE32

Another tight end listed who has had a high pass-catching profile as a prospect. Most likely the highest volume in this article. In Trey McBride’s final college season at Colorado State, he put up wide receiver numbers catching 90 receptions for 1,121 receiving yards, and then was selected by the Cardinals in the second round in 2022. As a rookie last season, we saw one flash in Week 17 where McBride caught seven of 10 targets for 78 yards and a touchdown. McBride’s rookie season was mostly spent playing behind Zach Ertz.

Zach Ertz has opened up 2023 on the physically unable to participate (PUP) list as he is recovering from an ACL tear. There is also the chance that Ertz will not be part of future plans in Arizona. Kyler Murray faced a knee injury back in December, and it is unclear when exactly he will be back to playing in 2023. Marquise Brown earned 107 targets in just 12 games last season for the Cardinals and should continue to operate as the team’s number one target. Rondale Moore was a former second-round draft pick (2021) but has yet to truly impress at the NFL level. Greg Dortch was useful last season for the Cardinals at times but more due to situational opportunity. Rookie Michael Wilson was selected in the third round, and will have an opportunity but likely will need to develop at the NFL level. The number two role for target share is simply up for grabs.

Having such a heavy pass-catching resume is very encouraging for a tight end like McBride, who has a clear opportunity to earn a role in 2023. Ertz was a big part of the offense the last two seasons, so pending the tight end role remains a big part of the playbook and Ertz is either recovering or gone this is another pro-McBride sign. Regardless of who the quarterback is in Arizona, and how long, the Cardinals project to be one of the worst teams in 2023 which can mean throwing often from behind. All in on talent + opportunity for McBride.

Who are your favorite tight end values for the coming season? Drop some names in the comments below. For more great rankings and analysis, make sure to check out our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!

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