John Bates, WAS
Bates was a former fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Bates didn’t produce much in college but had the build to play in the NFL. He was someone with a quick-release, big catch radius, and showed flashes of playmaking and route-running ability. Last season, Bates saw action late in the season as he was targeted 25 with 20 receptions, 249 yards, and a touchdown. He took advantage of injuries to the position while averaging three targets and 31 yards per game. While that production does not scream star, for average rookie TEs, that’s a sign of the potential for the NFL.
Bates has interesting dynasty value and deep sleeper potential for the 2022 season. The Commanders with Ron Rivera have featured the TE position in the offense. Over the two seasons, the TE position has accounted for a third(12) of the passing touchdowns(36). The Commanders have brought in a QB who loves to throw to TEs in Carson Wentz. Of the 140 passing touchdowns Wentz has thrown, about 40 percent of those touchdowns have been to a TE. He also had his TE lead all pass catchers in yards in four of six seasons.
Looking more at 2022, Bates has an opportunity to start right away in the offense. Current starter Logan Thomas is recovering from an ACL tear from last year. Thomas is also over 30. Terry McLaurin is currently holding out of minicamp, which could be a long-lasting holdout. The Commanders don’t have a confirmed number two in the offense right now. Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson will look to fill that void, but the TE position has been a big part of the offense. If Bates gets an increased opportunity, he could make the most of it.
Cameron Brate, TBB
Brate has been Mr. Underrated TE for years in the NFL. Brate, over his eight-year career, has averaged 31 receptions for 350 yards and four touchdowns. The Buccaneers continue to bring Brate back year after year as a trusted TE in the offense. Brate has an ample opportunity to be the starter again in the offense as the likelihood of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement will happen. That leaves a gaping hole tight that Brate could fill quickly.
The Bucs’ offense will look slightly different with Gronk retiring and Chris Godwin likely to miss the early part of the year. Brady enjoys players he trusts in his offense, and Brate has now played two years with him. Brate has an opportunity to see 60 to 70 targets and produce upward of 500 yards and four to six touchdowns in 2022. Brate is a player that you could potentially snag off waivers right now and produce solid fantasy numbers.
Austin Hooper, TEN
While Hooper isn’t as deep of a sleeper in dynasty rankings, he isn’t being talked about at all. Hooper disappointed during his time in Cleveland after regressing each season since his breakout year in Atlanta. I’d give Hooper a slight pass based on getting injured in 2020 and dealing with a three-headed TE committee. Hooper has shown that he can produce at a low-end TE1 level as he has three seasons over 500 yards. The Browns’ TE in 2021 combined for 146 targets while Hooper led the charge, but the targets weren’t as far apart as we would like.
Hooper has an opportunity to get back to form in Tennessee now. In back-to-back years’ in the Titan’s offense, the TE position has eight touchdowns. In 2021, those eight touchdowns accounted for 38 percent of the teams receiving touchdowns. Hooper won’t have as tough competition for targets with Geoff Swain and rookie Chigoziem Okonkwo behind him. While it’s a run-first team, they still need to throw the ball, and the current pass catchers are shaky. Bob Woods is coming off an ACL tear, and rookie Treylon Burks is a rookie and dealing with conditioning issues. Outside, the pass catches don’t threaten Hooper’s target opportunity. Hooper could easily see 60 to 70 targets and catch four to five touchdowns in 2022. Hooper is a great buy low and has big sleeper potential.
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