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Sleeper TE Candidates for 2022 Fantasy Football

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“The tight end position is deeper than ever.” We tend to say this every year in fantasy football, and then without fails, we end up with six or seven reliable tight ends by the end of the year. And yet, here I am, viewing the position as suddenly deep as we enter the 2022 campaign.

Because of that, there are plenty of viable sleeper candidates at the position. If you wait at the position during your drafts, look for players who don’t just have upside to finish as the TE10, 11 or 12. But rather tight ends with the potential to finish inside the top-five at the position.

Let’s take a look.

 

(Check out more: QB Sleepers | QB Busts | RB Sleepers | RB Busts | WR Sleepers | WR Busts | TE Busts)

Irv Smith, Minnesota Vikings

Irv Smith missed the entire 2021 season after suffering a torn meniscus during the preseason. However, my excitement surrounding the 23-year-old has not wavered. There was a stretch toward the end of the 2020 season where Smith operated as the lead tight end in Minnesota. During Weeks 14-17, Kyle Rudolph was sidelined — during that span, Smith was fantasy’s TE4, averaging just under 13 fantasy points per game. He also ranked second among all tight ends in end zone targets during that span with four, running a route on nearly 89% of Minnesota’s passing snaps. He was eighth among all tight ends in routes run during that four-game stretch, despite only playing around half the snaps in Week 14. Smith can make a ton of huge plays, as his 2020 yards per target (8.49) and yards per reception (12.17) marks suggest. With Tyler Conklin now in New York, Smith has every opportunity to fully break out in 2022.

Brevin Jordan, Houston Texans

Brevin Jordan is an extremely athletic tight end prospect, and after missing the first seven games of his rookie year, we started to see him gradually become a larger part of the Texans offense. Jordan was under 30% of the offensive snaps during his first three games after returning from injury, but he went on to log 60% of the snaps in Week 12 against the Jets. Now entering his second season, Jordan only has to compete with Pharaoh Brown for playing time, as Jordan Akins is a free agent. Jordan is an extremely athletic player and any time he saw a reasonable number of targets last year, he was fairly productive. And now he should be close to a full-time player in an offense that really only has Brandin Cooks to command targets. And with Pep Hamilton as the offensive coordinator, we could see Jordan become a focal point of the offense, as tight ends have been fairly involved in Hamilton’s past offenses. 

 

Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

Cole Kmet was one of my favorite tight end sleepers this time last season, and while it wasn’t an awful 2021 campaign for the Notre Dame product, it certainly wasn’t anything special. He failed to score a touchdown in 17 games last season, something he is not likely to repeat, especially with Jimmy Graham finally out of Chicago. Sure, Kmet logged 83.3% of the snaps to Graham’s 23.0%, but Graham constantly played in the red zone, capping Kmet’s upside. In fact, Graham’s six end zone targets from a season ago were good for 13th among tight ends, while over 27% of his targets came in the end zone, the highest rate at the position. Kmet saw a solid 17% target share last season, the sixth-highest rate among tight ends, and now Allen Robinson is gone. The Bears have arguably the worst group of pass-catchers in the NFL, which should lead to pretty consistent volume for Kmet as he enters year three in the league.

Albert Okwuegbunam, Denver Broncos

Albert Okwuegbunam is likely going to be the most popular sleeper/breakout candidate at the tight end position this season, but I’d be remiss to not include him here. (Also, it gives me much-needed extra practice at spelling his name.) The trade of Russell Wilson to Denver was doubly impactful for Okwuegbunam, as not only did the Broncos massively upgrade their quarterback, but they had to move Noah Fant in the deal, paving the way for Albert O to operate as the lead tight end in this offense. Recently, new head coach Nathaniel Hackett said Okwuegbunam will be a “hybrid” tight end/receiver this season, which is encouraging for fantasy purposes. It sounds like the Broncos will use him all over the field and not ask him to block too much. And when it comes to the tight end position in fantasy football, routes are so, so crucial. At 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds with 4.49 speed, Okwuegbunam will present mismatches and if the Broncos air it out more in 2022, he’ll have top-seven upside.

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Chargers

After one season in Seattle, Gerald Everett is now back in Los Angeles, with the Chargers this time instead of his old Rams team. He is set to catch passes from Justin Herbert, replacing Jared Cook as the starting tight end in one of the better offenses in the NFL. While he rarely showed it last season, I still believe Everett is an immensely talented tight end. Last season, Cook ranked inside the top-10 among all tight ends in routes run, averaging a respectable 5.1 targets per game. Playing alongside Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler, Everett is unlikely to command a massive target share, but he makes plays after the catch and could see work in the red zone. Everett will also make some plays down the field and Cook saw opportunities last year, ranking inside the top-10 among tight ends in both deep targets and average depth of target (8.78 yards).

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