August 17, 2023
It's really Travis Kelce or bust when it comes to tight end.
A bit of an exaggeration — maybe. But if you look at the numbers from last season, you can really do yourself a favor by taking the top target of the MVP in Kansas City.
Kelce led all tight ends with 152 total targets. The next closest was TJ Hockenson with 129. He led all tight ends with 1,338 receiving yards. No one else had over 1,000 last season. He had 12 touchdown catches. Only George Kittle had more than seven.
Kelce's 206.3 (half PPR) points were 65 more than the next closest tight end. Touchdowns and targets tend to help.
If you don't nab Kelce, there are, of course, other options.
Here's a look at targets from 2022 from each team's top two tight ends. This guide could help you to take someone who may surprise by cashing in a reverse touchdown stat regression. (If you are curious, here are our running back, and wide receiver depth charts — with targets). The top 15 most targeted tight ends are bolded:
|Team||TE 1 (targets)||TE 2 (targets)|
|Cardinals||Zach Ertz (69)||Trey McBride (39)|
|Falcons||Kyle Pitts (59)||Jonnu Smith (38)|
|Ravens||Mark Andrews (113)||Isaiah Likely (60)|
|Bills||Dawson Knox (65)||Dalton Kinkaid (R)|
|Panthers||Hayden Hurst (70)||Ian Thomas (30)|
|Bears||Cole Kmet (69)||Robert Tonyan (67)|
|Bengals||Irv Smith Jr. (36)||Mitchell Wilcox (18)|
|Browns||David Njoku (80)||Jordan Akins (54)|
|Cowboys||Jake Ferguson (22)||Peyton Hendershot (16)|
|Broncos||Adam Trautman (22)||Greg Dulcich (55)|
|Lions||Sam LaPorta (R)||Brock Wright (24)|
|Packers||Luke Musgrave (R)||Tucker Kraft (R)|
|Texans||Dalton Schultz (89)||Teagan Quitoriano (14)|
|Colts||Kylen Granson (40)||Mo Alie-Cox (28)|
|Jaguars||Evan Engram (98)||Luke Farrell (4)|
|Chiefs||Travis Kelce (152)||Noah Gray (34)|
|Chargers||Gerald Everett (87)||Donald Parham Jr. (12)|
|Rams||Tyler Higbee (108)|| Brycen Hopkins (11)|
|Raiders||Austin Hooper (60)||Michael Mayer (R)|
|Dolphins||Durham Smythe (20)||Tyler Kroft (5)|
|Vikings||TJ Hockenson (129)||Josh Oliver (25)|
|Patriots||Hunter Henry (59)||Mike Gesicki (52)|
|Saints||Juwan Johnson (65)||Taysom Hill (13)|
|Giants||Darren Waller (43)||Daniel Bellinger (35)|
|Jets||Tyler Conklin (87)||C.J. Uzomah (27)|
|Eagles||Dallas Goedert (69)||Grant Calcaterra (9)|
|Steelers||Pat Freiermuth (98)||Zach Gentry (23)|
|Seahawks||Noah Fant (63)||Will Dissly (38)|
|49ers||George Kittle (86)||Ross Dwelley (5)|
|Buccaneers||Cade Otton (65)|| Ko Kieft (10)|
|Titans||Chigoziem Okonkwo (46)|| Trevon Wesco (4)|
|Commanders||Logan Thomas (61)||John Bates (22)|
A few things to keep in mind. Some tight ends above are on new teams (like TJ Hockenson, Darren Waller and Dalton Schultz) and some have new quarterbacks (like Kyle Pitts). But seeing how they were used in 2022 still is helpful in predicting opportunities for 2023.
One last table — here's a look at the top 10 tight ends from last season based on red zone targets from their respective quarterbacks:
|TE (team)||Red zone targets||TD|
|Travis Kelce (KC)||29||10|
|TJ Hockenson (DET)||20||5|
|David Njoku (CLE)||19||3|
|Mark Andrews (BAL)||18||5|
|Dalton Schultz (DAL)||16||5|
|Gerald Everett (LAC)||16||3|
|Zach Ertz (ARI)||15||4|
|Tyler Higbee (LAR)||15||3|
|Cade Otton (TB)||15||2|
|George Kittle (SF)||13||3|
As you can see, there is a ton of variance between how many times a team throws to a tight end inside the 20-yard line, and how many times it results in a touchdown. Kelce had 17 catches on those 29 targets for 10 touchdowns. Those are fantasy championship-winning numbers.
After the top few guys, drafting tight ends is a crap shoot. But there is value if you look for a player who'll be getting chances to make plays in 2023.