Fantasy Football: Tight ends we should be higher or lower on this draft season

ECR stands for "Expert Consensus Ranking," which means the average ranks of the fantasy football industry and is typically similar to ADP (which differs from site-to-site). This will be an ongoing positional series highlighting some big differences between ECR and my own ranks. We continue the series with a look at the tight ends.

Players who should go higher/later: Quarterback

Tight Ends I like more than consensus

Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys (ECR = TE6 vs. DDD = TE4)

Schultz can't match the athleticism of other elite tight ends in the league, but his advantageous situation makes him one of fantasy's most valuable players at his position. Schultz finished as fantasy's No. 3 tight end last season and will now see a big increase in targets with Amari Cooper and Cedric Wilson gone, Michael Gallup unlikely to be ready to begin the season following knee surgery and with James Washington and Blake Jarwin both seriously hurt. Schultz ran routes at a higher percentage than Mark Andrews after Jarwin was sidelined from Week 9 on last year.

The Cowboys led the NFL in scoring last season, and Schultz suddenly looks like Dak Prescott'ssecond read on most plays. With a highly favorable looking schedule, Schultz is primed for a huge fantasy season. I rank him ahead of Darren Waller and George Kittle, who both go rounds earlier.

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Albert Okwuegbunam, Denver Broncos (ECR = TE16 vs. DDD = TE11)

Albert O is a 24-year-old with truly elite workout and underlying statistical metrics who will now be catching passes from Russell Wilson (the QB reportedly loves his new tight end). Okwuegbunam quietly has earned the fourth-highest target per route rate among TEs over the last two seasons, when he's also been one of only six to average more than 2.0 yards per route run. With Noah Fant traded to Seattle, and Wilson replacing an awful QB situation, Albert O is about to see a lot more targets with much higher quality.

There's been some buzz about rookie Greg Dulcich, but he's nowhere near the athlete, and realize UCLA has helped produce some big numbers from otherwise mediocre tight end prospects. Moreover, the season-ending loss of Tim Patrick opens up even more opportunities for Okwuegbunam, who's going to smash while being a big part of Denver's offense this season.

Austin Hooper, Tennessee Titans (ECR = TE24 vs. DDD = TE15)

Hooper is two seasons removed from recording 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns over just 13 games with the Falcons. His last two down years can easily be excused while playing in Cleveland, and now he joins a Tennessee offense that has the most vacated targets and air yards in the entire NFL. Meanwhile, since Ryan Tannehill began starting in 2019, 24% of his targets have gone to tight ends, including 25 of his 76 TD passes.

With Derrick Henry entering an uncertain phase of his career and the Titans projected to be around .500, it all sets up for a real nice season from Hooper.

Tight Ends I like less than consensus

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins (ECR = TE13 vs. DDD = TE19)

Gesicki is competing with two wide receivers in newcomer Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle who project to be among the league leaders in target rate. If that's not worrisome enough on an offense where questions remain surrounding the quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa's durability if nothing else), Gesicki's changing role under Miami's new coaching staff might be even more concerning. Mike McDaniel didn't like to use tight ends in San Francisco the way Gesicki was employed last year, and his role as a blocker is about to be increased. Whatever the reason, Gesicki's targets are about to go way down, yet he's curiously still being drafted as a top-15 fantasy tight end.

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Hunter Henry, New England Patriots (ECR = TE14 vs. DDD = TE18)

Henry left Justin Herbert, saw 18 fewer targets despite playing three more games, yet he somehow finished as a top-10 fantasy tight end thanks to nine touchdowns last season. Put differently, Henry somehow caught 41% of Mac Jones' touchdown passes despite a 14.5% target share. New England added DeVante Parker during the offseason, and Jonnu Smithreportedly looks much better during Year 2 in New England. It's all a recipe for a letdown season from Henry, who's being drafted as a top-15 fantasy tight end.

Noah Fant, Seattle Seahawks (ECR = TE17 vs. DDD = TE25)

With Geno Smith the clear favorite to take over for Russell Wilson in Seattle, Fant is going to have a hard time putting up big stats while also competing for targets with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Moreover, he now plays for an extremely slow-paced Seahawks offense that ran essentially two games worth of fewer plays last season than the NFL average. Draft Mo Alie-Cox even later instead.

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