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Fantasy Football Training Camp Battles: Tight End

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The NFL season is getting closer and closer, as we begin to approach the start of training camp. This is a critical point in the offseason with new information continuing to cycle throughout the next couple weeks. It’s important to differentiate news from noise during this period while paying attention to what teams are telling us based on their actions. My primary focus will be on tracking positional and depth chart battles. Today, I’m looking at tight ends. 

Check out my other looks at training camp position battles: QB | RB

 

Arizona Cardinals 

The Cardinals traded for Zach Ertz in the middle of the 2021 season, and he became an immediate contributor in the passing game, leading the team in targets (56), receptions (81) and receiving touchdowns (3) since his debut in Week 7. Arizona added to the tight end room in the 2022 NFL Draft, selecting Trey McBride with the 55th overall pick. McBride took a backseat to Ertz at the start of his rookie season, held under a 45% snap share in eight of the first nine games. Once Ertz went down with torn ACL and MCL, took over as the starting tight end, playing 75%-plus of the team’s offensive snap in each of his last eight games. Without Ertz, McBride averaged five targets per game but less than 35 receiving yards (33.43). The tight-end rotation will depend on the new coaching staff and the timeline of Ertz’s recovery. 

Buffalo Bills 

Dawson Knox Buffalo Bills 2023 Fantasy Football Training Camp Battles Tight End

After a run on wide receivers, with four off the board in a row, the Bills decided to trade up in the 2023 NFL Draft, and drafted a pass-catcher of their own, selecting tight end Dalton Kincaid at No. 25 overall. Kincaid isn’t a traditional blocking tight end, profiling more as a hybrid slot wide receiver. He was a focal point of Utah’s aerial attack last season, carving out a 21.7% target share, while leading the team in targets (96), receptions (70), receiving yards (890) and receiving touchdowns (8). Kincaid should help Josh Allen in the intermediate area of the field, where he struggled, completing just 68.5% of his passes in between the hashes in 2022. Although Buffalo did not use two tight ends often in 2022, running three wide receivers sets 73% of the time, it is unlikely they won’t feature their first-round rookie and Dawson Knox together. Buffalo extended Knox through 2026 last offseason, making him the fifth highest-paid player at the position upon signing. When asked about how the two will gel together, head coach Sean McDermott stated “We think he’ll pair well with Dawson and give us another target in the middle of the field. So, yeah, when him and Dawson are in the game, you’re in ’12’ [personnel], but it’s quasi like ’11’ anyway.” 

Dallas Cowboys 

The Cowboys declined to bring back Dalton Schultz this offseason, after he had finished second on the team in targets and receptions in back-to-back seasons, trailing only CeeDee Lamb in receiving yards in 2022 (577). They stayed out of the tight end market in free agency but added one in the second round of the 2023 NFL draft, selecting Luke Schoonmaker at 58 overall. Schoonmaker is coming off a career year in 2022, catching 35 of 48 passes for 418 yards, and three touchdowns. He joins an unproven tight end room in Dallas, featuring 2022 fourth-rounder Jake Ferguson (No. 129) and second-year undrafted free agent Peyton Hendershot. Both players split snaps in the games Schultz missed with little separation in production. The competition for the starting tight end role remains wide open, with Schoonmaker unable to practice, dealing with plantar fasciitis. 

Miami Dolphins 

The Dolphins let Mike Gesicki walk this offseason after he finished third on the team in targets (52), receptions (32) and receiving touchdowns (5), behind only Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Instead, Miami extended Durham Smythe to a two-year contract, who operated as the TE2 last season. Since being drafted to the team in 2018, Smythe has posted minimal production, averaging 161.8 receiving yards per season. The Dolphins signed two veterans, Tyler Kroft and Eric Saubert, to one-year deals in free agency, neither of whom have provided any sort of significant production in their career. Although the Dolphins didn’t draft a tight end, they added wide receiver Elijah Higgins in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL draft (No. 197), who reportedly worked for 28 out of 32 teams as a tight end, including the Dolphins. In his last season at Stanford, Higgins posted career-highs in targets (84), receptions (59) and receiving yards (704). 

 

New England Patriots 

After receiving minimal production from their $50 million tight end, the Patriots traded Jonnu Smith to the Falcons this offseason, reuniting him with his former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. The trade brought back a 2023 seventh-round pick and saved New England nearly $4 million in cap space, which they used to sign another tight end, bringing in Mike Gesicki on a one-year $4.5M contract. Gesicki joins Hunter Henry, who has finished third on the team in receiving yards in back-to-back seasons while leading the team in receiving touchdowns since 2021 (11). Gesicki posted the best season of his career in 2021, catching 73 passes on 112 targets for 780 yards and two touchdowns. He fell by the wayside last season, competing with the tandem of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle for targets, but has a much easier path for volume in 2023. Based on the reports out of OTAs, new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has been utilizing a 12-personnel as the base set, wanting to have two tight ends on the field. 

New Orleans Saints 

Juwan Johnson quietly broke out last season after converting from wide receiver to tight end, leading the Saints in receiving touchdowns in 2022 (7). He finished second on the team in receiving yards (508), trailing only Chris Olave and Alvin Kamara in targets (65) and receptions (42). Taysom Hill also made a position swap to tight end, catching nine passes on 13 targets for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Hill has been working on expanding his role as a pass-catcher but will face more competition for targets after the Saints added former Raiders’ tight end, Foster Moreau in free agency. Moreau has the most chemistry with the team’s new quarterback, Derek Carr, and is coming off a career year in 2022, logging 33 receptions on 54 targets for 420 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Although Moreau was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma earlier in the offseason, he’s in full remission, expected to suit up in 2023.

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