Bounce-back seasons can happen for tight ends in the NFL in many different ways– from coming back from an injury to having a poor season. Many players will look for a better 2023 than in 2022. Here I will discuss two players primed to be bounce-back candidates at tight end.
Mike Gesicki, NEP
Gesicki had a disappointing 2022 season finishing as TE24 for the Miami Dolphins. In his previous three seasons, he finished in the top 12 all seasons and as high as TE7. His disappointing performance last season was not all his fault. In the previous three seasons under a different coaching staff, the Dolphins’ tight ends had a 24.3% target share, and in 2021 they led the NFL with a 29.3% target share. With a new coaching staff and offensive philosophy, the Dolphins passed to the tight end the least in the NFL at 11.4% in 2022. Gesicki himself had 46 targets compared to his impressive 109 targets in 2021. Yes, Gesicki had a down year, but I hope this is more about the offense than the player itself.
Gesicki will look to have a bounce-back season after leaving the Dolphins for the 2023 season, which could be the best decision of his career. He is now a member of the New England Patriots, which might be a perfect match to have a bounceback performance.
In the past two seasons with Mac Jones at quarterback, they average 21.5% target share to the tight end position. The Patriots will use the tight ends more due to the lack of explosiveness at the wide receiver position. In 2022, Gesicki had 50% of his targets come from the slot position. The Patriots will look to use Gesicki in two tight end sets along with Hunter Henry, which will hopefully allow him to play out of the slot more than he did in 2022. I do not see his volume getting up to 100 targets. But I do not believe it is needed to have a bounceback performance. The tight end position in fantasy football is such a volatile position that I believe Gesicki will have close to a top-15 performance as long as he gets 50 receptions.
With a bounce-back performance in 2023, Gesicki will improve his short-term dynasty value. In the current Dynastynerds SF startup, ADP Gesicki is going at TE27. In a startup draft, I would be willing to draft him as my backup tight end at around TE 24. For 2023, if you have a contending team without a top 5 tight end, Gesicki is the type of player that you should trade a future third-round pick for to fortify your rosters.
Darren Waller, NYG
Waller had a very disappointing season on many levels in 2022. The Las Vegas Raiders struggled all season, and injuries plagued Waller throughout the season. Unfortunately, Waller missed a total of eight games. Waller ended the season as TE30 with 26 receptions, 353 yards, and three touchdowns. The biggest change to the Raiders’ offense in 2022 was the addition of wide receiver Davante Adams. In 2022, the Raiders wide receivers had a target share of 61.9%, about 10% higher than in 2021. That is due to Adams and Hunter Renfrow being hyper-targeted throughout the season. Now to Waller’s performance, he performed decently well in the games that he played in. Waller averaged 9.9 PPG, which ranked ninth in the league in PPG at the tight end position. If Waller stays on the field in 2023, his performance could be much different than in 2022.
Waller’s 2023 season outlook is completely different now that he was traded to the New York Giants. For Waller to have a bounce-back season, he must stay healthy and be heavily involved in the Giants’ offense. In 2022 the Giants only passed to the tight end at a rate of 13.5%. However, I am not worried due to the changes in the offensive personnel this offseason. The Giants’ leading receiver only had 57 receptions, and the top tight end Daniel Bellinger had 30 receptions.
2023 will be the second season under coach Brian Dabol for quarterback Daniel Jones and the Giants’ offense. After signing Jones to a contract extension, Waller is one of the new weapons on the Giants’ offense. As long as he can stay healthy, I expect him to have a strong bounce-back season. He will have extra motivation with how things ended in Las Vegas, and I think he will turn that into extra production on the field. With the current tight-end landscape in the NFL, I believe Waller will have a top-10 season and possibly as high as the top five.
Waller’s overall fantasy football value took a big hit last season, including his dynasty value. In the current Dynstynerds SF startup, ADP Waller is going at TE8. At 30, I think it is a little high, but it is completely understandable with the tight-end landscape. Waller is a player that I am selling if I am in the middle of the pack or rebuilding in my leagues. Like in any non-competing situation, get as much value from your assets before it is too late. On the Dynastynerds trade finder, Waller has recently been traded for two 2024 second-round picks. I am excited about Waller’s short-term outlook.
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