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Dynasty Rankings: The 2022 Tight End Rookie Class

@DarthDbacks analyzes the 2022 tight end rookies and how they did in their rookie season and what their future looks like in his 2022 Rookie Dynasty Rankings series.

Now that the 2022 NFL season is over and we’re well into the playoffs, I figured it was time to analyze some NFL rookies. First up are the tight ends who just completed their rookie season. I’ll be looking at how they did, what to expect in the future, and how I’d rank them after the 2022 season. This can help in many ways, like giving you names to buy low on potentially or guys you should sell now. These dynasty rankings are meant to help you figure out what to do with these rookie tight ends. They usually don’t explode year one, unlike the other three positions. That gives you an excellent chance to buy.

In future articles, I’ll look at the quarterback, wide receiver, and running back positions. So, let’s start by analyzing how to value these rookie tight ends properly and what the crystal ball tells us for their future. Some future studs listed below can be had extremely cheap right now. Be sure to take advantage of the price discount! All scoring will be based on Superflex PPR leagues.

Dynasty Rankings: 2022 Tight Ends

1. Greg Dulcich, Denver Broncos

Dulcich had a mixed rookie season filled with some impressive weeks and a lot of time missed due to injury. When he was healthy, he was easily the best rookie tight end in the NFL, which helps explain why he led all rookies in yards (411), air yards (256), snaps per game (75%), and was second in yards per reception (YPR) at 13. He dealt with a miserable Russell Wilson and a below-mediocre Broncos offense yet still produced. From Week 6 to Week 16, Dulcich was the TE10 on the season. It wouldn’t be a huge leap for him to be a TE1 next season. That’s a pretty large sample size of 11 weeks.

On the season, Greg was TE29, and in PPG, he was TE17. The worry is that he’s prone to injuries after missing the first five games due to a hamstring injury. Unfortunately, that hamstring injury is why he finished the season on injured reserve. With a full off-season of recovery and preparation, his hamstring won’t be an issue next season. However, his missing the last few weeks of the season is a great thing if you’re in the market for a tight end. This limited his price increase and put a memory of him being hurt in people’s heads. This might make them not price him as high as a young future TE1 should be priced. He’s a huge buy for me, with his price being around an early-mid-second round pick.

He’s entering his age-23 season and could be one of your main tight ends for the next half-decade. The fact that he’s tied to Wilson, who targeted him 55 times as a rookie, gives me confidence that he’ll continue to get used a lot. Get your share of Dulcich now.

2. Trey McBride, Arizona Cardinals

McBride was my TE1 in rookie drafts and rookie dynasty rankings. He was the only rookie tight end that deserved to be drafted in non-TEP leagues in the first three rounds of rookie drafts. Entering his rookie year, I knew he wouldn’t play much on a Cardinals offense that featured one of the best tight ends in Zach Ertz. Coincidentally, McBride plays very similar to Ertz, which gave him a great chance to study one of the best. That’s why McBride failed to do anything of significance until Week 14. In Week 10, Ertz tore his ACL. It took McBride a few weeks to get used to starting and playing so many snaps in the NFL as the new starting tight end. Upon Week 14 off of the team’s bye, McBride took off.

He was the TE8 from Week 14 to the end of the season. During those weeks, he had 20 receptions on 28 targets for 219 yards and a touchdown. McBride showcased how talented a receiving tight end he was. At some point over the next season or two, he will be the Cardinals’ TE1. McBride will also be a dynasty TE1 since he is that talented. Right now, you can acquire him for a mid-second-round pick. That’s a cost I’d be happy to pay. He would solidify your long-term tight end room. Kyler Murray loves to throw to his tight ends. McBride will supplant Ertz just like Goedert did. Get him before it’s too late because the talent and potential are legit.

3. Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans

Chigoziem was a really tough player to place in my rookie dynasty rankings. His stats are encouraging, but the system is an unknown. The Titans have a mystery at quarterback and offensive coordinator. The Titans will still be a rushing team, but the quarterback’s ability matters greatly. That’s why Chig is third despite his stats being deserving of ranking second. Okonkwo led rookie tight ends in YPR (14), points per 100 snaps (28.1), and was second in team target share with 10.6% and receiving yards (408). Okonkwo was on fire to end the season. From Week 14 to 18, he was the TE11. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him top-12 next year.

He’s a big-play star, with every catch being a potential long-yardage play. He’s a solid route runner with amazing speed for a tight end. On the season, he had 29 catches on 42 targets, six red zone targets, and three touchdowns. Okonkwo feels like the forgotten rookie tight end in dynasty rankings. There’s not much hype for him. It does feel like he’s following the Jonnu Smith path. I’d be willing to buy since even on as bad an offense as the Titans, and he was still the TE23. Chigoziem could likely be acquired for a mid-late second-round pick. That’s cheap. If he does explode like he has the potential to, you just acquired a dynasty TE1. He’s entering his age 24 season—plenty young enough to take a massive step forward next year and for years to come.

4. Cade Otton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I flip-flopped on putting Otton or Likely here in the fourth spot, but I put Otton ahead of Likely just because he produced more as a rookie. Having a higher production floor as a rookie will help Otton in the future. Why? Well, he got more work, was more used to catching in traffic in the NFL, and was on the field more. He saw a rookie-high 41 receptions for 386 yards and a strong 9.4 YPR. Otton had an impressive 14 red zone targets, which further gave me hope that he will eventually be a top-12 tight end. He finished the season with five touchdowns. That’s great work for a rookie tight end, considering that meant he earned the trust of Tom Brady. Brady certainly helped Otton rank higher in dynasty rankings by throwing him the ball.

To make things even better, Otton played a rookie-high 67.5% of the snaps in every game, which led to a solid 9% target share. I’d have liked that number to get to 10%, but considering the offense he played on, nine percent isn’t bad. Otton is a solid player to buy now if you can. He has the potential to be a regular TE2 until the Bucs can figure out their quarterback situation. Should Brady return, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Otton finish top-12, depending on who stays on the Bucs’ offense. The TE24 this year has a bright future, but perhaps not as bright as the ones above him due to physical skills. Otton is definitely a hold or a buy, as I like the chances he’s able to increase in every statistic next year.

5. Isaiah Likely, Baltimore Ravens

I sure hope you didn’t pay the premium price to acquire Likely after his stand-out preseason performances against sub-average teams. Suppose you did, well, sorry that you paid such a high cost. He can likely be had for a late second, which I’m absolutely buying. But you learned a valuable rule: never buy a tight end rookie. Likely did finish the season as the third-best rookie tight end and the TE26 overall, but fell in per-game scoring pace to only TE31. That helped knock him down my rookie dynasty rankings. He saw a rookie-leading 60 targets but only reined in a mere 28 of them and had six drops. Those drops are killers because it wrecks a quarterback’s confidence in his receiver.

Likely was effective in the red zone, with nine targets and three touchdowns. These are the numbers we love. You want your tight end to be used often in the red zone, which Likely is. That’s great news for his future outlook. Playing behind Mark Andrews is challenging since you’re not going to see many snaps, which is why Likely saw the third-fewest snaps among all rookie tight ends with only 37+% snaps a game. Yet, in those few snaps, he led all rookie tight ends in team target % with 12.9%. That’s probably more of an indictment on how miserable Baltimore’s receiving corps is than to say Likely’s a future stud.

Still, though, I’d be trying to buy Likely now with a new offensive system on the way. If the Ravens keep Lamar, it’ll still be rush-oriented. Yet, you might see them pass a bit more due to Lamar’s multiple injuries over the past two seasons. One massive indicator that Likely might be a TE1 in the future is he scored 22.1 points per 100 snaps. That’s a significant indicator that he has plenty of ability to be a good fantasy tight end. It depends on whether he’ll be stuck behind Mark Andrews or blocking for the next few years.

6. Daniel Bellinger, New York Giants

Bellinger was a tough player to rank after this season because I see a lot of potential in him. However, I’m not sure he’ll ever be much more than a bye-week filler or TE2 in TEP leagues. He started the season red-hot for a rookie tight end, at least. Before his facial fracture, Bellinger was the TE11 on the season heading into Week 7. At that point, he was averaging 9.4 ppg as one of the only trustworthy options on the offense for Daniel Jones to throw to.

After he returned from the injury, Bellinger mightily struggled. From Week 13 on, he only scored more than seven points two times which is not the finish I wanted to see out of him. Part of that is likely because Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins emerged as reliable options for Jones. Another factor is due to the growing pains as a tight end. The possible addition of another wide receiver or tight end to this offense further crowds out Bellinger and his 7.2% target share. There were two significant parts to his season. One was that he averaged over 53% of the snaps in a game (second-highest among rookie tight ends). The second was his six red zone targets (third-highest among rookie tight ends). He had 30 receptions for 268 yards, 8.9 YPR, and two touchdowns.

Bellinger is a name to keep on your roster or to seek as a potential throw-in piece to any trades. He has a lot of receiving potential, especially in Coach Daboll’s offense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish in the top-20 tight ends next year after his TE27 ppg showing.

7. Jelani Woods, Indianapolis Colts

Jelani showcased his elite agility and immense power, using his size to make hard catches look easy, but he just didn’t get used enough. Too often, he was used in blocking situations or dealt with awful quarterbacks; sorry Nick Foles. Woods had 24 receptions on 36 targets for 303 yards. He made a living in the red zone with four targets and three touchdowns. Woods did have three drops, so that will need to improve. However, I’m not sure you can trust a tight end who only plays on 27.5% of snaps in a game. There’s an upside to Wood: there will be a new offensive system in Indy next year.

If that happens, Woods can easily start to shoot up the tight end rankings by being used as the elite receiving threat he could be if he can refine his route running and get better at catching the ball. Among rookies, he was the second-deepest YPR average with 13. This does show his potential to be much more than just a blocking tight end. In this sense, he’s a hold. Maybe release him if you need the roster space; otherwise, hold him. Wait and see who the new head coach is. Remember that Woods could easily become a high-end TE2 or a waiver option by early next season. His upside is why he’s not at the bottom of my rookie dynasty rankings.

8. Jake Ferguson, Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys mostly relied on one tight end for their passing downs this year, and that was Dalton Schultz. However, Schultz is an impending free agent who would cost them around $13 million to tag for a second year. They certainly have the money to pay him a long-term deal, but there’s no guarantee of that, especially with needs in the offensive line, running back, wide receivers, and safety. In comes Ferguson, who put up decent numbers in a small sample size even though he played in 16 games. Ferguson had 18 receptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns.

Ferguson saw a team target share of only 4% but considering he was a backup tight end, that’s not awful. The TE47 averaged 9.4 yards per reception and had three red zone targets. These numbers lead me to believe he’s destined to be a long-term backup tight end, especially if the Cowboys re-sign Schultz. When a tight end is averaging only 38% of the snaps per game without high targets, it’s unlikely he’ll do much in the future. In dynasty, you can safely leave Ferguson on waivers. But, if Schultz departs the Cowboys, snag him off waivers since he’s worth the wildcard roster spot on the chance he gets an opportunity to be the Cowboys’ TE1 for 2023.

Let me know your thoughts on my rookie tight end dynasty rankings! Be sure to check my upcoming rookie quarterback dynasty rankings!

Do you want to become the best dynasty player you can be? Be sure to use my promo code “Darth” for 15% OFF your subscription to Dynasty Nerds! It makes it only three dollars or so! Connect with me on Twitter @DarthDbacks. I love to talk football, baseball, movies, shows, Star Wars, and Marvel, and interact with the fantasy football community. For more articles of mine, click here.

As always, May the Force be with You…

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