Tight end is not usually thought of as a flashy or exciting position, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important in winning a championship for your team.
Last year, Dalton Schultz was an afterthought during draft season. He went on to score the third most fantasy points of all tight ends behind the big two of Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce. He was 1 of only 3 tight ends to score over 200 fantasy points in PPR leagues.
If you are in a league with a budget for free agents, then hitting on a tight end in the draft can really save you time and money so you don’t have to stream different players every week.
With tight ends, it’s important that the tight end have a decent target share. It’s hard to justify a tight end if they are the fourth or fifth-best receiving option on their team. You will see below that these tight ends should get plenty of volume, which is all you can ask for when drafting a middle to late-round tight end.
With all that said, let’s dive into some tight-end breakouts for this upcoming 2022 season. None of these players are being drafted in the first few rounds, so they have plenty of value.
Dalton Schultz (TE, Cowboys)
Yes, Dalton Schultz was just mentioned above, but even after that breakout season, his ADP is still too low. He is being drafted in the fifth/sixth round in drafts as the sixth tight end off the board. This doesn’t make sense to me since he could be poised for an even bigger season this year.
With Amari Cooper leaving for the Browns, that means there are more targets to be had in Dallas. After CeeDee Lamb, Schultz is the clear No. 2 choice for Dak Prescott. He had over 800 yards receiving with 8 touchdowns last season. It’s easy to see him nearing 1,000 yards and around 10 TDs this season. Not only will he be peppered with targets, but he also hasn’t missed a game in the last 3 seasons so the durability has also been a non-issue (Knock on wood!). What more could you ask for in a tight end?
Schultz could easily end up being a top 3 TE again this season, and if all breaks right, then don’t be surprised to see him competing with Andrews and Kelce as the top TE this season.
Cole Kmet (TE, Bears)
To stick with the theme of targets, Cole Kmet is another tight end that should have high volume as a tight end this season. This will be his third year in the league, and he was just shy of 100 targets last season. There are a few things that point to him having his breakout season.
The first thing working in his favor is that this will be his second year together with Justin Fields, which should only improve their connection. Fields leaned on him as a rookie, and there is no reason that should change.
The second thing working in his favor is the departure of Allen Robinson. That will open up even more opportunities for him. Kmet will be competing mainly with Darnell Mooney for catches. The only downfall of Kmet to this point in his career is the fact that he only has two touchdowns. Keep in mind he had shaky quarterback play in year 1 and was only a rookie. Either way, he is definitely due for some positive regression in the TD department.
Finally, the Bears are not a good team this year. They could very easily find themselves behind in the second half, which only means more passing and targets for guys like Kmet in this offense. A high target share on a team that will need to pass a lot makes Kmet well worth drafting around his ADP in the 11th/12th round.
Pat Freiermuth (TE, Steelers)
Pat Freiermuth is a candidate for a breakout in only his second season. As a rookie last year, he finished as the 13th-best tight end. There is no reason he shouldn’t at least be a top 10 tight end this season.
I know the Steelers’ passing game is not exactly one to be confident in, but it can’t be worse than last year with Big Ben. Whether it’s Trubisky or Pickett that wins the starting QB job, the guy that some call “Baby Gronk” will be their safety blanket. He is a great target in the red zone as you can see by his 7 touchdowns as a rookie, so scoring shouldn’t be an issue.
The Steelers drafted him in the second round for a reason. This kid can play. He showed his talent in 2021, but he may just be touching the surface of his potential. If you end up waiting on a tight end, then you can do a lot worse getting him in the later rounds.
Irv Smith Jr. (TE, Vikings)
Most fans have forgotten about Irv Smith Jr. due to his injury last season when he tore his meniscus. He is now back healthy, and the job is his for the first time.
In 2020, he was competing with Kyle Rudolph for targets, but that is no longer the case. The last time Irv played with a full workload was when Rudolph went down for 3 games near the end of the 2020 season. In those 3 games, Irv managed to score a couple of touchdowns and was a top 5 TE if you averaged it out for the whole season. Yes, it’s a small sample size and they now have the best, young WR in the league with Justin Jefferson, but there is no reason to think he won’t be a big part of this new-look offense.
Out with the old and in with the new in Minnesota this season. The old-school ways of Zimmer have made way for a young, talented offensive mind in Kevin O’Connell. He came over from the Rams, who are known to use their tight ends in the passing game. This will be an offense much more focused on passing, which will benefit Irv as well as the other receivers for the Vikings.
Smith Jr. is a tight end that you can get at the end of drafts. If he goes undrafted, then you should definitely keep an eye on him as I can’t imagine that lasting very long as the season progresses.
Gerald Everett (TE, Chargers)
For those who don’t know, Gerald Everett is now on the Chargers this season. This is a huge upgrade for him. Some will remember Everett when he broke out in a 6-week span in 2020 for the Rams as the 9th best TE. He then went to the Seahawks last season which was not a good spot for him to use his skills. The Seahawks have struggled using their tight ends in the past (Jimmy Graham). He had a career-high in receptions with 48 and receiving yards with 478. These numbers would have been even better had Russell Wilson not gone down for a big chunk of the season.
He now goes to a much better offense in the Chargers. Herbert is one of the best, young QBs in this league. The big stat that will help Everett is that he will be going from a team that was dead last in pass attempts to a team that finished 3rd in pass attempts last season in the Chargers!
Jared Cook finished as the TE16 last season for the Chargers last season and he isn’t anywhere near the athlete that Everett is at this point in their careers. The Chargers did not pay Everett to block for them. He is the downfield, athletic tight end they have been looking for. A Top 10 finish for Everett is very much in the realm of possibilities. The best part about Everett is that you can get him in the last few rounds of the draft with the possibility of him even going undrafted.