While Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, and George Kittle are some of the hottest names among the Tight End group in Underdog Best Ball drafts, values outside the top ten guys might be easier to come by than you think.
When drafting tight ends, opportunity and availability are two keys to success, and these four guys represent both. Check them out!
Team: Tennessee Titans | ADP: 131.6 (TE12)
Okonkwo was a huge question mark coming out of Maryland last season. At 6’2, “Chiggy” ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the combine, beating out some rookie running backs. However, the lack of collegiate production was a true concern as he only caught 5 TDs and garnered 447 yards in his final season with the Terps.
After starting the season with Austin Hooper as their starting tight end, the narrative shifted around the midway point of the season. Don’t forget how predictable and nearly unwatchable this Titans offense appeared last season, with Derrick Henry being the only focal point yet again.
However, the tide started turning for Chigoziem once Ryan Tannehill returned from injury. From weeks 12 to 15, Okonkwo had 5+ targets, 3+ receptions, and 35 yards or more in each game. This might not seem like much, but do me a favor and go watch the tape during those weeks.
From multiple red zone targets, to catches outside the numbers, across the middle of the field, and topping it off with a one-handed catch for a 2-Point Attempt, this guy has all the tools to become a top 10 tight end with a wide receiving skill set.
Okonkwo coming in at TE12 may be a bit rich for some Underdog players. However, among tight ends with 30+ receptions, the Titans playmaker ranked 2nd in YPT (yards per target) only behind Dallas Goedert of the Eagles.
This guy is getting the ball in a plethora of ways from Tannehill and no matter which quarterback steps onto the field this season for Tennessee, I’m buying Chigoziem as the #1 receiving option ahead of Treylon Burks, who’s the only other valuable pass catcher on their roster. The breakout year is coming for Okonkwo. Let’s get Chiggy with it.
Team: Houston Texans | ADP: 137.6 (TE13)
There will probably be a novel written on the rookie QB to tight end connection in correlation to fantasy football. Ultimately, the tight end position normally needs 70 to 80 targets to reach an average share of targets for their team. So, can Schultz reach that mark? With Bobby Slowik as the offensive coordinator, I’d give it a good shot.
Dalton Schultz is hitting his prime and no one is talking about it. The 26-year-old out of Stanford produced a top 5 season in 2021 with the Cowboys, scoring 8 TDs alongside a 78 catch, 808 yard season.
The numbers dropped last season, but Dalton still finished with a top 15 season, catching 5 TDs alongside a receiving core of CeeDee Lamb, Tony Pollard, and Michael Gallup.
Dak Prescott and Texans rookie C.J. Stroud have similar playstyles, so I expect Dalton to have similar or better production in his first season with the Texans due to Stroud’s inexperience.
It’s a prove-it year for Schultz. If he has a better year than 2022, he gets a top-5 type contract. If not, he loses out on a big payday.
Bobby Slowik, Texans Offensive Coordinator, came over from San Francisco where the team used George Kittle in a variety of ways to help their sub-par quarterbacks. I expect Schultz to help Stroud ease into the NFL, giving him those 6-7 yard check downs instead of heaving the ball downfield to Robert Woods or Nico Collins.
With the tight-end position being shallow yet again in the 2023 fantasy season, Underdog’s 137.6 ADP and TE13 rank for Dalton is something to consider buying. Although not the flashiest player or team fit in Houston, 80+ targets should get yourself a nice ROI at the end of this season.
Team: Cincinnati Bengals | ADP: 151.4 (TE17)
This is going against my tight end morals. Irv Smith hasn’t been available for the entirety of his career. Mostly an afterthought in the Vikings offense, the Bengals signed Smith to a 1-year deal to become Burrow’s 3rd or 4th option. However, this is a sneaky-good fit in Cincinnati where Irv could have his first productive season at 25 years of age.
Smith hasn’t played more than 8 games since his 2020 season in Minnesota, when he caught 5 TDs. Last season, his 5.06 yards per target and 25 receptions really disappointed the fantasy community.
However, this offseason has proven to be a positive for Irv. Coach Zac Taylor believes in Irv’s tape and talent, but the big question is if he can stay on the field.
Expect a change of scenery and scheme to allow Smith to have his first meaningful NFL season in his first proper starting role.
This is the Bengals third starter at the position in the last three seasons. C.J. Uzomah scored 5 TDs on 49 receptions and close to 500 yards in 2021. Last season, Hayden Hurst went for nearly 450 yards on 54 receptions plus a couple of TDs.
While these numbers put the two former TEs at the 15-20 range in PPG, Irv Smith is fresh, younger, and more athletic than the two previous players which should benefit Joe Burrow and the rest of the receiving core.
Both Hurst and Uzomah produced most of their yards and TDs at the beginning of the season, so if you draft Smith as a backup or low-end starter, he could make a big impact in the first chunk of games against the Browns, Ravens, Rams, Titans, and Cardinals. Outside of the Ravens, these teams are beatable over the middle of the field, exactly where Smith should produce.
Team: Baltimore Ravens | ADP: 208.0 (TE29)
Isaiah Likely is a top 10 tight end talent wise. He just happens to be on a team with Mark Andrews. The 6’4, 240 pound physical specimen out of Coastal Carolina had a fantastic college career before becoming a 4th round draft pick to Baltimore.
With a Delanie Walker comparison last combine, Likely had an extremely promising end to his rookie season, finishing as a top 30 tight end in fantasy.
Between Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley starting at QB for Baltimore, Likely’s role never faltered throughout the season. Mark Andrews obviously cut into his target share but Isaiah commanded targets every time he played 50% of snaps or more.
In those 3 games, 25 targets and 15 receptions came his way alongside 2 touchdowns. With 60 total receptions to his name, expect that number to grow in his second season even with the addition of OBJ and Zay Flowers this offseason, two guys that I’m not buying to make a big difference in the 2023 campaign.
While this is a risky pick, Likely’s ADP of 208.0 is one that I’m willing to bite the bullet on. The 23-year-old tight end is a “must pick” if Mark Andrews is already on your Underdog Best Ball roster and could be a great flier on a gameday where one of OBJ, Flowers, Andrews, or Bateman can’t play due to injury which is bound to happen at some point during the regular season.
Is Isaiah going to make you a league winner in his second season? Probably not, that’s more Okonkwo. However, if in need of a “handcuff” for Mark Andrews or want to take a swing on an athletic tight end on a high-powered offense, this is a great selection.
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