Fantasy Football’s Tier Risers of 2024: Tight End


Puka Nacua is the dream — a player going undrafted (or essentially undrafted) and finishing as WR4. If you were the smart one to draft him or the lucky one to land him on waivers, Nacua alone was probably enough to at least get you into the fantasy football playoffs if the rest of your roster was even mildly competent.

It’s the dream — but generally speaking, it’s also the fantasy.

The fantasy world stumbles across massive risers like that every now and then, individual fantasy managers even more rarely. More common is the player who makes a small jump. The player drafted 10th at his position who finishes second. The player going as an end-of-the-list starter who becomes a weekly must-start. The bench player who sneaks his way into weekly consideration.

And for fantasy managers, those are very important as well. Assuming you are getting the majority of your roster at or close to value, the players who rise up a tier or two in the season are the ones who can get you a title.

So that’s what we’re looking for now. We’re not looking for players up and down the draft board who can be Puka Nacua. We’re looking for the ones who are the best candidates to rise up a tier. A back-end top-10 who can be No. 1. A second-tier starter who can be a lock-it-in guy. A bench player who can start. The risers who can make your season.

You can track the series so far here: Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver

Today: Tight ends.

Fantasy Football’s Tier Risers of 2024: Tight End

Potential TE1 Finisher

Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

Listen, I get it, everyone has been excited about Kyle Pitts for three years now, and his career has gone “good but TD-less” to “ugh” to “ugh again.” Eventually we have to cut bait, right? Well, sure, eventually, but I’m not sure we’re at “eventually” yet. Today, right now, after three seasons where the best you can say about one of them is “he was good, but where were the TDs?,” Pitts is sixth all time in TE fantasy scoring through age 23. When Travis Kelce was the age Kyle Pitts is now, he was still at the University of Cincinnati. George Kittle was at Iowa. Mark Andrews was in the NFL, but … barely. The only tight ends with more PPR points than Pitts through age 23 are Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Mike Ditka … and these ages are as of the start of a given season. Notably, Pitts doesn’t turn 24 until after Week 5. In other words, he’s all but assured to be the No. 2 tight end through age 23 (because Gronk was absolutely electric to start his career).

Pitts finally has (or, should have) a competent quarterback and an offense that actually wants to do the scoring stuff the way the scoring stuff is meant to be done. Am I betting on him to rise to the TE1? Nah. But is it in play? Abso-freaking-lutely.

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

Last year, George Kittle scored 2.26 PPR points per target. Among tight ends with at least 75 PPR points, the only ones with a better rate were Taysom Hill (who, let’s be honest, “points per target” doesn’t really work for him) and Isaiah Likely, at 2.53. Only four tight ends topped 2.00 PPR points per target last year — Kittle has topped that number in four of the last five years. He’s at 2.16 across the last five years combined, one of only two tight ends over 2.00 (min. 200 targets), and the other one (Jared Cook) has been retired for three years.

We all know Kittle’s efficient. So what would it take for him to get the raw totals? Well, maybe a roster where there are some positions in flux — Deebo Samuel is reportedly on the trading block, Brandon Aiyuk is seeking a contract, and Ricky Pearsall is an unproven rookie. Or maybe injuries — Samuel has never played every game in a season, and while Christian McCaffrey has been healthy the last two years, we all remember what his health was like before that. Or maybe a diversification of role — the 49ers tried to sign Brock Wright this offseason, then when the Lions matched that deal, they signed Logan Thomas. Kittle’s still the best TE blocker on the team, but they were so determined to add TE help this offseason that I wonder if there’s a plan to get Kittle out a little more often. If any of those things comes to pass, Kittle could shoot up to TE1.

Potential Top-12 Finishers

Dalton Schultz, Houston Texans

I wrote more than I expected about Kyle Pitts and George Kittle, so let’s make this shorter: Dalton Schultz has been a top-12 tight end each of the last four years. Travis Kelce is literally the only other tight end who can say that. His quarterback now has a year under his belt, and while the team did add Stefon Diggs this offseason, he’s 30 and coming off an absolutely brutal second half last year. Is it really hard to think Schultz would be a fantasy starter again?

Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 31: Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth (88) celebrates after scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard pass during the fourth quarter of the National Football League game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns on October 31, 2021, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
CLEVELAND, OH – OCTOBER 31: Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth (88) celebrates after scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard pass during the fourth quarter of the National Football League game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns on October 31, 2021, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

Diontae Johnson is gone, and he’s been replaced by (stop me when I get to a known quantity) Van Jefferson, Roman Wilson, Quez Watkins and Scotty Miller. (You didn’t stop me.) George Pickens is going to lead the team in targets, but if you’re picking between Pat Freiermuth and the field for No. 2, you might just take the tight end who has a 7-touchdown season and a 98-target season on his resume (granted, those are different seasons).

Potential Top-24 Finishers

Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans

Derrick Henry is gone, and the Tennessee backfield is now Tony Pollard and Tyjae Spears, which is talented but undersized. In other words, the team more or less can’t rely on the run as much as it did in the Henry days. Add in the additions of Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd and the building up of the offensive line (and O-line coach Bill Callahan), and all signs point to the team trying to be a better passing offense in 2024. And sure, Ridley, Boyd and DeAndre Hopkins will command a lot of targets, so Chigoziem Okonkwo probably won’t be able to get enough work to become a top-12 tight end, but if he can even somewhat resemble his ridiculous efficiency as a rookie in 2022 (2.6 yards per route run!), he shouldn’t have a tough time getting into the TE2 ranks.

Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints

ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 28: New Orleans Saints Quarterback Taysom Hill (7) rushes for a touchdown during the NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons on November 28, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.(Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire)

I’ve referenced Taysom Hill’s upside multiple times this offseason, but to reiterate: Of the 11 tight ends with at least 400 PPR points the last three years, nine are going in the top 16 of 2024 ADP, one is Tyler Higbee and recovering from a late-season torn ACL, and one is Hill, who falls just because he’s a man without a position. I wouldn’t know how to deploy him if I were a football coach, but he gets the fantasy points regardless. Believe in the track record, even if you don’t know what to call him.

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