Let me start all of this off by saying that I love Dalton Kincaid. I think he’s a fantastic prospect—a landing spot with Josh Allen as his quarterback is tantalizing. I had a complete crush on him in the draft process. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
But, even as one of Kincaid’s biggest fans, I am also a realist. I understand the crapshoot that is finding elite tight ends. I wrote about it in great detail before the draft.
While being a Kincaid enthusiast myself, I am still blown away at how high some other owners are on the rookie. Or at least, how much higher Kincaid’s ADP is versus so many other tight ends in this class that look like strong prospects. As I take part in rookie drafts in many of my leagues, Kincaid is going much higher than any other rookie tight end in this class.
Let’s dive into this as we try and assess Kincaid, the other 2023 tight ends, and what you should attempt to do if you want to make tight end upgrades in your rookie drafts.
As of mid-May, I have participated in three different Superflex rookie drafts, with Kincaid being selected at 1.08 or 1.09. He was drafted behind the top three quarterbacks, Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Jordan Addison in all three leagues. But ahead of everyone else, except Quentin Johnston, in two leagues.
Meanwhile, Michael Mayer and Sam LaPorta were the next two tight ends taken in all three drafts. They were selected no earlier than 2.07. Mayer went 2.07, 2.07, and 2.09; LaPorta went 2.09, 2.10, and 2.12.
Essentially, these leagues are creating an ADP where Kincaid is a full round higher than either Mayer or LaPorta. At least twelve full picks ahead of the next two tight ends.
You might be thinking, “Well, he has the draft capital. Kincaid was a first-rounder.” Sure, but it is not all that different if we are talking NFL draft capital. In the NFL draft, Kincaid only went nine picks higher than LaPorta and ten picks higher than Mayer. Kincaid was selected closer to Mayer and LaPorta in the actual NFL draft than he is being chosen ahead of them in rookie drafts.
Kincaid did land in Buffalo with an elite quarterback in Josh Allen. That is very exciting. And I can understand hoping that Kincaid becomes a favorite target of Allen.
But none of that is certain based on the quarterback alone. Buffalo still has Stefon Diggs, Dawson Knox, and Gabriel Davis in their offense. While Diggs is the only elite pass-catching option, Kincaid isn’t automatically the number two. He must build a rapport with Allen and find his way in the Buffalo offense.
Look at this list of tight ends: Austin Hooper, O.J. Howard, Brock Wright, James Mitchell, Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot, Josiah Deguara, and Tyler Davis. What do all of these players have in common? They are the top two tight ends on the Raiders, Lions, Cowboys, and Packers depth charts outside of these 2023 rookies.
Also worth noting, in the last two years, Bills tight end Dawson Knox has been TE8 and TE14 in fantasy. The best any of these other eight tight ends finished was Austin Hooper’s back-to-back TE25 seasons. In fact, all eight of the above-listed tight ends combined for 248.2 fantasy points last year to Knox’s 111.7. In 2021, Knox scored 139.6 fantasy points compared to the 170.7 put up by all eight of these tight ends.
Long story short: Knox is the top tight end competition in any of these landing spots. You may be excited about Josh Allen becoming Kincaid’s quarterback, but the situation isn’t worlds better than the ones Mayer, LaPorta, Schoonmaker, Musgrave, and Kraft are landing in.
Alternative Draft Options
If you are trying to fix the tight end position, you probably think Kincaid is your best option. And believe me, he is the best prospect. But the issue is he is being over drafted right now. You will need to spend a top-10 rookie pick to get Kincaid.
But what if you made a few moves and traded back where you could have a number of bullets in this draft? Most leagues have had picks traded, and you can find a partner with multiple second or third-round picks.
For example, there may be an owner in your league with the 2.02. If they haven’t moved their third, they would have the 3.02 as well. And maybe they collected another late second-round pick. Let’s say the 2.10.
If you are at the 1.09 in your rookie draft thinking about Kincaid, you could move 1.09 for 2.02, 2.10, 3.02 and likely still ask for a future second or third on top of the deal. The value is still favoring the team getting 1.09 according to our Dynasty Nerds calculator:
Then, maybe another team owns the 2.05 and 3.05. Or perhaps it’s the owner who has the 2.06 and 3.06. If you move back from 2.02, you could easily add a mid-second and a mid-third-round pick:
You turned 1.09 into 2.05, 2.10, 3.02, 3.05, and a future pick. And honestly, depending on how your league’s picks fall, you can probably do better than this on a trade back. This is all hypothetical. Each league will be different.
But the whole point is this: you can turn that pick you are using to draft Kincaid into multiple tight ends. Do you know who is available in 95% of leagues at the 2.05? Michael Mayer. Do you know who is available in the majority of leagues at 2.10? Sam LaPorta. Do you know who you could easily take at 3.02 and 3.05 in almost any Superflex league? Any two of Luke Musgrave, Luke Schoonmaker, or Tucker Kraft.
Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket with Kincaid, you could make draft pick trades and give yourself four bullets in the tight end chamber. All of these tight ends have profiles that give them the opportunity to succeed in the NFL. Additionally, their landing spots give them an easy path to being their team’s TE1.
I love Dalton Kincaid. I do. His quarterback is elite. His draft capital was fantastic.
But I have also seen Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, David Njoku, Eric Ebron, and Tyler Eifert get taken in the first round. I have seen Trey McBride, Cole Kmet, Hunter Henry, Maxx Williams, and Colby Fleener all be the first tight end selected in the NFL draft.
I have also seen Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, George Kittle, Dalton Schultz, and Darren Waller finish as a top-3 tight end in fantasy over the last three seasons. Respectively, those tight ends were drafted in the third, third, fifth, and fourth rounds, and Waller was undrafted.
By no means is this me saying Kincaid is a bust. This is simply saying that tight ends are the furthest thing from predictable. More than any position in fantasy, we cannot predict who will and won’t be great at the tight end position.
So why wouldn’t you want four chances over one? If you are shooting a three-pointer for a million dollars, don’t you want four attempts instead of one? This is simply playing the percentages.
If you are considering drafting Dalton Kincaid with a first-round pick, do yourself a favor and see what you can get in a trade back for that pick. With only a couple of moves, you may end up with a taxi full of top tight end prospects instead of putting all your hopes on one guy.
Am I way off-base? Should Kincaid be the only tight end you target in rookie drafts? Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @timbmartens, and let me know what you think!
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