Identifying the top Tight-end sleepers is going to be critical this year. The tight-end position is the same as it has been for the last few years. There is Kelce alone at the top. After Kelce there are two or three others that will come off the board in the rounds where I would prefer to get another wide receiver or running back.
If you get to the later rounds of your draft and you look up and realize you forgot to grab a decent tight end then it’s time to go for the upside.
I have found five TEs being ignored in most drafts but can break into the top ten this year.
Tight End Sleepers for 2023 Fantasy Football
Dalton Schultz – Houston Texans
In 2021 Schultz was the fourth-best tight end in fantasy football. Last year he played several games without his No. 1 QB. Schultz was also hurt for a couple of games, and still, he ended up as TE10 in PPR leagues. This year he is ranked outside the top 10. Maybe it’s because he will be 30 years old when the season starts. Maybe because of the injury to his knee or maybe just because he is on a new team that is not expected to be very good. That is great for me because if I don’t get one of the big 3, I will have no hesitancy in grabbing him with a late-round pick in every one of my drafts.
Houston does have a rookie QB but C.J. Stroud is an extremely accurate one that will have no problem getting the ball to him. They have improved the offensive line, giving the tight end less of a need to stay in place and block on every down. He has no real competition from the other tight ends and he is also looking at a pretty weak receiving core at the moment. When you consider the fairly anemic defensive unit the Texans have, he should be on the field a lot. His snap count and target share should both be higher than most tight ends not named Kelce.
As I said in my Texans preview, I expect him to end the year as the No. 6 TE, if not higher.
Juwan Johnson – New Orleans Saints
After trading away Adam Trautman, Johnson became the undisputed No. 1. tight end for the Saints and ended the season as the TE19. This was while suffering through having Andy Dalton as his QB. His competition this year is Foster Moreau who is still recovering with Hodgkin lymphoma.
Moreau does have a history of catching passes from Derek Carr but as of now Johnson is listed as the No. 1. Because of his talent, it should stay that way. What excites me about drafting Johnson is that in 2019 and 2020 Carr showed us he is very good at feeding the ball to his tight ends. In both years Darren Waller broke lose for over 1,000 yards.
Michael Mayer – Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders traded away Darren Waller but picked up O.J. Howard and Austin Hooper. We thought that they were set at tight end. Then they drafted Mayer in the second round. Hooper has the edge to be listed as No. 1 on the first depth chart they post. However, Mayer has the talent that most thought would make him the first TE off the board and I expect him to be the starter for game one.
Jimmy Garoppolo when he was with the 49ers was very comfortable looking for the 6’4” 250 pound George Kittle. Here is hoping the 6’5” 249 Mayer is just as easy for him to find.
Ranked as a late TE2, I think he has the upside to be a TE1.
Trey McBride – Arizona Cardinals
The first tight end selected in the 2022 draft was Trey McBride. He received the John Mackey Award for the best tight end in college. He had a nice finish last year after he took over for Zach Ertz. Ertz has had two of the last three years where he didn’t make it past 11 games. The 32-old is coming off surgery to repair his ACL and MCL. By the time he comes back and is able to play, it’s possible McBride may just hang on to the NO. 1 spot.
McBride is one of the most athletic players on the team right now. He is also one of my favorite tight end sleepers. DeAndre Hopkins is no longer catching passes for the Cardinals adding another 10 targets each game that will be caught by someone. McBride will get a few of those. The only problem with the Cardinals is we aren’t sure who will be throwing the ball to him. That is OK for McBride’s Fantasy value. Even if Kyler Murray can start game one, after tearing his ACL, his running will be limited. This should create more of an opportunity for McBride.
Ranked as a later-round TE2 with a definite TE1 upside.
Jelani Woods – Indianapolis Colts
Woods should be the starting tight end for the Colts. At 6’7” and 252, he is a massive target with a large wing span and good speed. His yardage per reception last year was good enough to come in 7th in that category.
It’s hard to know what this year brings with a new coaching staff. He will also be working with a new QB.
If you are thinking about having two tight ends, Woods is absolutely worth the roster spot. He may even be better than your TE1 pick at the end of the year. He is definitely in the mix if you are in a dynasty league.
For more great rankings and analysis, make sure to check out our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!
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— Lisa Ann (@thereallisaann) May 6, 2023