No position has gotten quite as scarce and polarizing as tight end in fantasy football. While some players find value in having an ongoing “stream” of TEs, others look to grab a premium tight-end in the earlier rounds to have a week-in and week-out starter.
As time has gone on, the landscape of the position has become clear – it’s Travis Kelce, and somewhere after, it’s everyone else.
In 2022, Kelce led all TEs in total points with 206.3. The second closest? George Kittle with 140.5.
Kelce has made the argument for being the most valuable player in all of fantasy football with his consistent output and positional advantage. Unless you’re using your early first-round pick on him, you’re likely not getting your hands on him.
No matter how many mock drafts you do, there is no anticipating the inevitable run on TEs that will take place. This becomes a make-or-break moment of every snake draft – and it’s best to have a backup plan (or two).
Here, I am taking a look and some of the more under-the-radar tight-end targets heading into 2023 to help you be better prepared for your snake draft.
Fantasy sleeper tight ends for 2023
Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers
Current ADP: TE10
Friermuth gears up for his 3rd professional season and is currently rounding out the top 10 in ADP for tight ends. Despite only a 3 reception uptick from his 2021 campaign (60) to his 2022 campaign (63), Friermuth managed to tack on an additional 235 yards in that difference. In a Pittsburgh offense that is slowly starting to take its shape behind Kenny Pickett, Friermuth is a clear-cut option and effectively serves as a slot receiver which bodes extremely well for fantasy owners.
In 2022, Freiermuth finished in the top 10 of all tight ends in metrics such as targets, target share, routes run, air yards, and deep targets. Expect these opportunities to start to materialize a bit more in 2023 and look to draft Freiermuth accordingly.
An area of concern in 2022 was a lack of touchdowns which is pivotal for the TE position, especially in deeper leagues. Freiermuth netted 20 red zone targets and 7 touchdowns in 2021 and was then lessened to only 10 red zone targets and 2 touchdowns in 2022. He has proven he is an extremely helpful red zone target in years past and I’m anticipating positive regression heading into 2023.
Freiermuth also played through a foot injury in the final weeks of the 2022 season which heavily weighed down his snaps and skewed his fantasy production averages as a result.
As the dust settles in the earlier rounds of fantasy drafts with the TEs projected above him, I think Freiermuth is a steal at this spot as he’s going in the 7th and 8th rounds.
Greg Dulcich, Denver Broncos
Current ADP: TE14
A respectable rookie campaign, Dulcich made his debut into Denver’s lackluster offense in week 6 after being sidelined with a hamstring injury. Dulcich’s speed and deep-threat ability quickly made him a favored target for Russell Wilson, racking up 411 receiving yards on 33 receptions in a 10 game stint.
Dulchich has appeared to have already made an impression on new HC Sean Payton – who noted he sees Dulcich in a “joker” like position for them, citing similarities to how the likes of Reggie Bush, Alvin Kamara, and Darren Sproles have been used in the past. A really good sentiment for the second-year TE.
While his blocking woos may keep him off the field at times, Dulcich held an 84.1% route participation rate (5th) in 2022, while netting 12 total deep targets (3rd). Translation – he is a very real option in this Broncos offense, and a great stowaway TE prospect heading into the 2023 season.
Irv Smith Jr., Cincinnati Bengals
Current ADP: TE26
If you find yourself this late in the draft and the board has otherwise passed you, do yourself a favor and pick up Irv Smith Jr. in this spot. A fresh face in this high-octane Cincinnati offense, Irv Smith Jr. is a safe bet considering there’s no real threat to his snaps in the Bengals TE room, and Smith Jr. can be the beneficiary of some solid opportunity as a result.
Some skepticism surrounding injuries as he suffered a meniscus injury sidelining him for the better part of 2022, but nothing about his current ADP leads me to believe you’re risking much by grabbing him.
Better geared to be a streamed TE as opposed to a weekly starter, but there is definitely some value here given how scarce the position can get.