As drafts all across the dynasty world wrap up this summer, the community’s focus will shift away from prospect evaluation. We have rookie landing spots now, and seeing our favorite prospects donning their team colors and helmets at OTAs and mini-camps makes it all feel real. These prospects we all spent months inspecting and analyzing are now full-fledged NFL players. The focus now becomes on how these 2022 rookies should slot into our general rankings. Still, it is important in dynasty formats to keep an eye on the future. Not only should managers have some idea of the strength of future classes, but it is vital to understand what you are giving up when you include that 2023 first-round pick in a trade. Our Combined ‘21-’23 Class Dynasty Rankings are here to provide that context to dynasty managers.
Are there any TEs coming out in 2022 or 2023 who can rival Kyle Pitts?
I constantly hear about how great the 2023 class is going to be. Should I trade away my 2022 rookie picks in order to add 2023 picks?
In dynasty as well as in devy formats, questions such as these often come up. I believe having an idea of the relative strengths and weaknesses of past, current, and future classes is beneficial as we consider how to construct our rosters over the short and long term.
To help aid in that process, this Combined’ 21-’23 Class Dynasty Rankings series will combine all of the fantasy football-relevant prospects from the 2021, 2022, and 2023 draft classes and rank them position by position in order of their current value as dynasty/devy assets.
Let’s jump into the Combined ‘21-’23 Class Dynasty Rankings at the tight end position without further ado.
1. Kyle Pitts (Atlanta Falcons – Rookie Class of 2021)
2. Michael Mayer (Notre Dame – 2023)
Pitts is an oversized superstar wide receiver playing the TE position. Mayer, by comparison, is a potential superstar TE.
Mayer doesn’t match Pitts in terms of sheer receiving talent, but he’s the next best TE prospect since T.J. Hockenson in 2019. While it won’t translate to fantasy, Mayer is probably a better overall TE than Pitts. He can block and operate in-line consistently and be a dynamic receiving option all over the field.
Mayer was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. He was the second-rated TE prospect in the country. He was productive as a true freshman at Notre Dame, catching 42 passes for 450 yards and a couple of scores. The real breakout occurred last year, though. As a sophomore, Mayer put up a 71/840/7 receiving line.
Mayer accounted for almost a quarter of Notre Dame’s receptions in 2021, so we can assume he can handle a high-volume role in the NFL. Assuming he continues to produce this season, Mayer is a likely first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
3. Pat Freiermuth (Pittsburgh Steelers – 2021)
After obvious studs Pitts and Mayer, these Dynasty Rankings become a bit murkier. Despite some higher-upside prospects in the 2022 and 2023 classes, I will take the relative safety of Freiermuth here.
Freiermuth was a highly-coveted prospect coming out of Penn State in his own right. He was an All-Conference TE in 2019 and 2020 and finished his career with the most receiving touchdowns by any Nittany Lion TE ever. The Steelers drafted him in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. His starting role appears secure for the Steelers for the foreseeable future.
Freiermuth’s upside is likely capped without elite athleticism or elite target share opportunities. He’s probably not ever going to be an elite option in fantasy, but his role in the Steelers’ offense probably makes him a lock to be at least usable week to week.
4. Brevin Jordan (Houston Texans – 2021)
A fair amount of projection is going into having Jordan ranked this high in my Rankings. But then again, there’s projection involved with most of these remaining players. Jordan was a favorite of mine during last year’s draft process.
Jordan was a top-three TE prospect last year after Pitts and Freiermuth. The former Cane’s draft capital was a tad disappointing as a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but the talent is there.
Jordan was the No. 1 overall TE prospect coming out of high school. He latched onto a starting role immediately as a true freshman, starting 11 of 12 games in 2018. Jordan was highly productive during his final collegiate season, catching 38 passes for 576 yards and seven scores. He did all of that in just eight games in 2020.
In a fledgling offense in Houston, Jordan finds himself entering the 2022 season with the TE1 spot all to himself. At just 22 years old (by Week 1), the opportunity is there for Jordan to become one of Davis Mills’ most trusted targets.
5. Trey McBride (Arizona Cardinals – 2022)
McBride leads what I think could be an excellent 2022 TE class. As you will see below, I think there will be several solid NFL pros at the position to come out despite the bad wrap the 2022 class gets in dynasty circles. Unfortunately for fantasy managers, however, this class does seem to lack that high-end stud like Pitts or Hockenson.
McBride was highly productive in an otherwise bad offense last year at Colorado State. He accounted for over a third of the team’s entire passing yardage with 1,125 yards on 90 catches. Opposing defenses knew McBride was getting the ball, and he still could not be stopped. He finished 2021 hot as well, amassing 80 or more receiving yards in his last five games.
Now an Arizona Cardinal boasting second-round draft capital, McBride finds himself in an excellent spot for his long-term dynasty value. Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams performed well in that Kliff Kingsbury offense, so the future seems bright for McBride to inherit that usage. In the short-term, however, both Ertz and Williams return, so I’m slotting McBride here fifth in our Combined ‘21-’23 Class Dynasty Rankings.
6. Sam LaPorta (Iowa – 2023)
LaPorta is another favorite of mine whom I am comfortable projecting highly. The University of Iowa has become “TE-U” of late, and LaPorta is the next in line.
LaPorta has improved in every statistical category year-to-year for three years. In 2021, he led all Big Ten tight ends in catches, yards, yards after the catch, yards after contact, and catches of 15+ yards (PFF). If LaPorta can build on that even further in 2022, he could hear his name called on ‘Day 2’ of the 2023 NFL Draft, securing the necessary draft capital to maximize his chances of becoming a full-time starter.
Specifically, I love LaPorta’s run-after-catch ability for a man of his size. This is not just a catch-and-rumble guy. LaPorta legitimately can make people miss once he secures the catch. He is versatile, can line up in-line or out wide, and can block. The latter doesn’t score fantasy points, but it does help ensure LaPorta will see the field once he joins the NFL.
7. Arik Gilbert (Georgia – 2023)
The likes of Freiermuth, McBride, and LaPorta are considered “safe” prospects due to their well-rounded skill sets as well as their consistent collegiate production. Gilbert is anything but safe as a prospect at this point, but his freakish physical tools are so alluring that I cannot rank him any lower than this.
Gilbert was a top high school recruit in 2020, ranked ahead of Will Anderson, Josh Downs, and Tank Bigsby. He initially chose LSU and caught 35 passes in eight games but then opted out of the remainder of the season and has not played a college snap since. Gilbert then transferred to Georgia, where he was drawing rave reviews during the preseason, but he abruptly left the team for “personal reasons.” He did not return as a member of the Georgia football team until January 2022.
We’ve seen so little of Gilbert on the field that he’s starting to feel too much like an urban legend at this point. How much can we as dynasty managers rely on teammates’ account of Gilbert’s elite athleticism in practice without seeing anything in actual games? Add the fact that Gilbert will share targets with Brock Bowers, Darnell Washington, and Oscar Delp in 2022, and that’s just the other TEs!
The point is that Gilbert might enter the 2023 NFL Draft with minimal college production under his belt. It will become an interesting case study of how much weight dynasty managers are willing to place on high school recruiting and measurables instead of actual collegiate production.
We already know the NFL usually sides with athleticism and upside, so I believe Gilbert will get every opportunity to secure a consistent role in whichever team drafts him.
8. Greg Dulcich (Denver Broncos – 2022)
The Broncos are suddenly a sneaky good spot for Dulcich to land with Noah Fant being traded to Seattle. Albert Okwuegbunam is an exciting, athletic option in Dulcich’s way, but the former is just as unproven. Even if Okwuegbunam plays more snaps early on, Dulcich has the talent to challenge for that TE1 spot in Denver sooner rather than later.
Denver picked Dulcich in the middle of the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, No. 80 overall, as the third TE off the board. That’s enough of an investment to where it would not be surprising if Dulcich quickly becomes the preferred option over Albert O, who was a fourth-round pick in 2020.
The NFL Combine is where Dulcich burst onto the scene for the dynasty community. Before that, though, Dulcich had a solid collegiate career at UCLA. He improved every season, culminating in a 42-catch, 725-yard, five-touchdown season.
The big play element is something I love about Dulcich as a prospect. In 2021, Dulcich averaged 17.3 yards per catch. The year prior, Dulcich caught 26 passes for 517 yards, 19.9 yards per catch. By comparison, Tre McBride averaged 12.8 yards per catch for his collegiate career. Travis Kelce also boasts a career 12.8 YPC over his eight-season NFL career.
No one is expecting Dulcich to look like Randy Moss out there for the Broncos, but he has more downfield juice than you might expect. That increases his fantasy upside in my eyes, and thus, I have Dulcich firmly in the top eight of my Combined ‘21-’23 Class Dynasty Rankings.
9. Cade Otton (Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2022)
Otton was the first pick of the fourth round in the 2022 NFL Draft. His draft capital is high enough to where Otton will be given a chance to cement a role for himself early in his career in Tampa Bay. Beyond that, the situation with the Bucs seems ripe with opportunity as Rob Gronkowski recently retired.
The Buccaneers’ current place at the top of the NFL mountain seems fleeting. Bruce Arians is already gone. Tom Brady is damn near 50 years old, and it’s not even an exaggeration to say that anymore. They have a lot of veterans looking for one last ride in 2022. Otton could have the chance at a major role if he can show the coaching staff in Tampa Bay that he deserves it.
10. Jelani Woods (Indianapolis Colts – 2022)
Woods slots in at No. 10 of my Combined ‘21-‘23 Class Dynasty Rankings. This may be lower than many people throughout the dynasty community have Woods. I still think he is an excellent prospect who possesses the Big Three: draft capital (top of the third round), good landing spot, and freakishly athletic measurables.
At 6’7” and 260 lbs., Woods ran a 4.61 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Regardless of what you think about the importance of pre-draft workouts, 4.61 from a man that size is impressive. Despite Woods’ size, he still needs to improve as a blocker, so playing time early in his rookie season might not be plentiful. Jack Doyle is gone, but Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson remain for the Colts.
What I fear with a guy like Woods is that he looks more lumbering and heavy-legged than his 40-time would suggest on film. He also sometimes plays smaller than his size at the point of attack as a blocker and a ball carrier. Still, he broke out in 2021, and his path to playing time in Indy seems manageable if he can gain the team’s trust.
11. Dalton Kincaid (Utah – 2023)
Kincaid, along with teammate and fellow Utah TE Brant Kuithe, decided to return to college in 2022. Both Utes were invited to the NFL Combine last spring, but both elected to return to Utah, citing “unfinished business.”
In 2021, the duo combined for 86 catches, 1,121 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns. Kincaid ended the season with a 36/510/8 receiving line. Kuithe was perhaps the more productive player with 50/611/6, but Kincaid translates to the NFL much better thanks to his 6’4” and 245-pound physique.
Kincaid also has a WR background. He played outside at the University of San Diego for two seasons, putting up 44 receptions for 835 yards as a sophomore, and was named an FCS All-American before transferring to Utah.
Kincaid shows excellent movement skills for a man of his size. His time as a receiver is evident in how well he gets off the line and in and out of breaks. Kincaid also has great hands. According to PFF, he was credited with zero dropped passes in 37 opportunities in 2021 and was seven of nine in “contested-catch” situations. Athletically, Kincaid is everything you want in an NFL receiving TE, and if he lands in a situation where he can see targets, the sky’s the limit.
12. Hunter Long (Miami Dolphins – 2021)
Long is someone I am trying to acquire in all of my dynasty leagues, especially ones with “TE premium” scoring. He is essentially free in most leagues, and I think he fits what Mike McDaniel and the Dolphins want to do at that position much more than Mike Gesicki does. Add in the fact that Gesicki is playing in Miami in 2022 on the franchise tag, and the prospects of Hunter assuming the starting TE role in Miami are very real.
Long did not impress in 2021 as a rookie. He only appeared in seven games as the third-choice TE behind Gesicki and Durham Smythe (who could also be entering his final year in Miami), and Long only saw three targets all season.
Long was drafted by the Dolphins in the third round, so he carries the same draft capital as the likes of Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, and others. At Boston College, Long improved every season, culminating in a 55/685/5 line in 2020 in just 11 games.
Gesicki is really a slot WR who is listed at TE. Over 75 percent of his routes in 2021 were run from out wide or from the slot. Gesicki also pass-blocked on just 11 total snaps over the entire season.
Maybe McDaniel will adapt, but I think his offense calls for a sturdier presence at that position, especially with speedsters Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the outside. I do not feel Smythe is the long-term answer in Miami, but perhaps Long can be.
13. Daniel Bellinger (New York Giants – 2022)
Bellinger was not highly productive in college (68/771/5 combined over 31 games in four seasons). However, he has the opportunity to play a sizable role for the Giants right out of the gate. Thus, Bellinger comes in at No. 13 in my Combined ‘21-’23 Class Dynasty Rankings.
A QB like Daniel Jones, who sometimes struggles with accuracy, needs a big target in the middle of the park to act as his security blanket when under pressure. The 6’6” and 255-pound Bellinger fits the bill. With speedy weapons like Kenny Golladay, Wan’Dale Robinson, and Kadarius Toney, someone like Bellinger roaming the short to intermediate areas of the field could have success.
Bellinger opened some eyes with his NFL Combine performance which included a 4.6 in the 40 and a 34.5 vertical leap. As a prospect, however, Bellinger was largely underwhelming. As we’ve mentioned, the TE position is tricky to project. Bellinger is in a prime spot to be one of the more productive rookies just due to his situation. He will need to prove himself as a blocker to earn early playing time.
14. Charlie Kolar (Baltimore Ravens – 2022)
Kolar would be higher on this list if not for his landing spot in Baltimore. I love his skill set, but playing behind Mark Andrews severely limits Kolar’s fantasy prospects.
Kolar is not much of a blocker, but he was a highly productive and decorated player in college. He caught 168 balls for 2,181 yards and 23 scores in his career at Iowa State.
Kolar has fast, strong hands, often plucking the ball out of the air at the last moment. And once he gets his mitts on the ball, he rarely drops it. Kolar also has great “box-out” skills, as though he was playing power forward in basketball at times. He won’t wow anyone with his movement skills, but at 6’6” and 252 pounds, Kolar’s game is predicated on leverage, size, and length as opposed to raw athleticism.
Baltimore is obviously good at TE with Andrews on the team. There might be more opportunity for Kolar than we thought, however, with Hollywood Brown being shipped to the Cardinals. “12-personnel” is currently very trendy in the league, and Kolar should get some chances to show what he can do as a rookie.
15. Jaheim Bell (South Carolina – 2023)
Bell is a unique TE prospect in that his best attribute seems to be his run-after-catch ability. South Carolina gave him snaps at fullback and fed him a number of handoffs in 2021 to get the ball in his hands. He also registered 13 broken tackles on just 30 receptions last season. He amassed 497 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Bell has the tools to be a versatile offensive weapon at the NFL level in multiple roles, but it will require that he be drafted by a coach willing to be creative with him.
At just 6’3” and 230 pounds, I do not think Bell is best utilized as a traditional in-line TE. With the league’s love of nickel and dime-heavy defenses, a player like Bell could have an opportunity to feast on smaller defenders. He could do this as a ball-carrier either via handoff or after the catch. Consistent volume will be the challenge.
16. John Bates (Washington Commanders – 2021)
Bates is a name to watch this summer. I have him here at No. 16 in my Combined ‘21-’23 Class Dynasty Rankings, but he has the opportunity to ultimately move up. He has the athletic profile we look for in sleeper TEs. He was a former state champion in high school in Oregon in the 100-meter hurdles. Bates was also a top long-jumper and triple-jumper in his state as well.
None of this means Bates will be a good TE in the NFL, but there were some reasons to be encouraged last season. After Washington’s Week 9 Bye, Bates played over half of the Commanders’ offensive snaps in every game. His best game was against the Cowboys in Week 16, when he went for 45 yards and a touchdown.
The stats aren’t eye-popping for Bates, but he performed well for a rookie. The only player standing in his way in terms of the depth chart right now is Logan Thomas, who is trying to come back from a significant knee injury (ACL, MCL, and meniscus). If Bates can break through and garner full-time snaps and routes, he could carve out a decent role. Rookie Cole Turner might ultimately have something to say about that. More on him later.
17. Cameron Latu (Alabama – 2023)
Latu was a linebacker coming out of high school. He switched to TE in 2019 and saw limited action, mostly on special teams, where he exclusively played in 2020.
Finally, in 2021, Latu was named the Crimson Tide’s starting TE heading into 2021, his (RS) junior season. During his first game of the season, Latu scored two touchdowns with 43 yards. Latu helped his future draft stock with a 5/102/1 performance with the whole world watching after Jameson Williams got hurt in the CFB Championship game, For the 2021 season, Latu caught 26 passes for 410 yards and an impressive eight touchdowns.
Now entrenched as one of the top playmakers on the Alabama offense, Latu is poised to rise up draft boards. I have him this low in my rankings, not because of a lack of talent. It’s hard to project the position an entire year out, and there is some nice talent in the 2022 and 2023 classes. We’ve seen highly touted Alabama TEs fail to meet expectations in the recent past as well.
18. Noah Gray (Kansas City Chiefs – 2021)
Admittedly, part of the draw of Gray is that he is seen as Travis Kelce’s understudy in an elite offense. Many managers think Gray will step in for Kelce in a couple of years and mirror his production. Obviously, there’s no replacing Kelce and his Hall of Fame-caliber play. I’m lukewarm on Gray for that reason. Kelce has shown little signs of slowing down, and Kansas City might eventually draft his replacement rather than waiting for Gray.
Gray was a high school quarterback before ultimately switching to TE at Duke. He was second-team All-ACC in 2019 and was eventually a fifth-round pick.
Talent-wise, I think this is an appropriate slot for Gray. His career yards-per-catch is only 9.0, indicating that he will never be a big-play guy in the NFL. He doesn’t have a great burst to separate down the seam on film, but he is adequate. His situation in Kansas City is worth monitoring, but ultimately I think I prefer many other options.
19. Cole Turner (Washington Commanders – 2022)
Most dynasty and devy managers who turned on Carson Strong’s tape over the past two seasons will have noticed Turner. The 6’6” and 240-pound TE caught 111 passes for almost 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns over the past two years. That is impressive production even in the Mountain West.
Reports thus far are that Carson Wentz and Turner seem to have a rapport on the practice field. The lack of other appealing options at the position also helps.
Ultimately, Turner has an opportunity, but I am not overly excited about his athletic profile. Even if he wins the starting job in Washington at some point, it is not guaranteed that he is dynamic enough to garner the target share he would need to be elite.
Turner ran a disappointing 4.76 in the 40 at the NFL Combine. He also failed to impress with his 27-inch vertical leap and 17 bench reps. Obviously, combine performance is not everything, but a prospect like Turner would rely on it to boost his draft capital. Washington picked him in the fifth round, so this clearly did not happen.
20. Tommy Tremble (Carolina Panthers – 2021)
Tremble entered the NFL last season as a rookie, already possessing excellent blocking skills. In his second year, if he can add route-running and play-making ability to his toolbox, the Panthers will have a very good player on their hands.
Tremble saw just 35 targets in 2021, and Ian Thomas is back in the fold for Carolina after signing a three-year contract extension.
Neither of those things bodes well for Tremble’s prospects as a fantasy TE1. Projecting him to do so is lofty. Tremble only caught 35 passes in his collegiate career at Notre Dame. Not surprisingly, the Panthers also elected to use Tremble as mainly a blocker. Still, Thomas does not provide much better upside ahead of Tremble, so who knows if the latter can sharpen his game?
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