The Fantasy Pessimist: How Could the Top Fantasy TEs of 2022 Fail?


Whether you like it or not, every player in fantasy football comes with some level of risk. It could be injury risk, supporting cast concerns, age, or a number of other factors. Even the best players aren’t immune to risk, and your personal risk tolerance will impact who you’re willing to target at the top of drafts.


In this piece, I’m playing devil’s advocate and identifying the biggest risk factor for the top five tight ends in our FTN Fantasy rankings. I’ll evaluate how concerned you should be by each of these factors, and then it’s up to you to determine if you’re willing to stomach the risk.

One note: Every football player carries injury risk. Unless that risk is an outsized one — a known injury or a track record — assume that everything here is “assumed healthy.”

(Check out the rest of the Fantasy Pessimist series with quarterbacksrunning backs and wide receivers.)

TE1: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Much like with Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill earlier in this series, Hill’s departure could have an impact on Travis Kelce’s fantasy numbers. Last year, Hill led the Chiefs’ pass catchers in target share with 24%. With plenty of targets now up for grabs in Kansas City, it’s a safe bet that at least a few will go Kelce’s way, but Skyy Moore, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdez-Scantling will demand a slice of the pie as well.

Even if Kelce sees a slight uptick in targets, that won’t necessarily mean more fantasy production. Last year defenses faced a pick-your-poison scenario when game planning against the Chiefs. They had to choose if they wanted to consider Hill or Kelce the No. 1 option, and now that Hill’s out of the picture, Kelce should be the one demanding increased attention from opposing defenders. Without Hill’s field-tilting speed opening up the underneath area of the field, life is going to be a little more difficult for Kelce in 2022.

Risk Level: Low

Even with the difficulty turned up for Kelce, he’s still going to be Patrick Mahomes’ No. 1 option in the passing game. That’s a role that’ll have value in fantasy football for a very long time, and being able to play that role in your tight end slot makes it that much more lucrative. 

TE2: Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

Mark Andrews was one of the few players in fantasy football who actually performed better last year when his starting quarterback was on the sidelines. If we use FTN’s Splits Tool, we can see that across the board, Andrews’ stats took a dip when Lamar Jackson was in the Ravens’ starting lineup:

Mark Andrews 2022 fantasy pessimist te

The sample size is small here, but the difference in targets, receptions, yards and fantasy points is significant enough to raise an eyebrow. Throw in the fact that all indications are the Ravens want to operate as a run-first offense again in 2022, and we may look back on Andrews’ 2021 season as being the peak of his fantasy career. 

Risk Level: Moderate

Even if we look strictly at Andrews’ numbers with Jackson, his 16.03 PPR points per game would have been good enough for the overall TE2 finish on the season. He should still be at worst the No. 2 option in the Ravens’ passing attack (almost certainly the No. 1), but expecting him to repeat his 2021 performance this upcoming season may be wishful thinking.


TE3: Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Pitts had a historically great rookie season. He was the first rookie tight end to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in the Super Bowl era, and his 1,026 yards ranked third at the position. Unfortunately, he only scored one touchdown all season and finished the year as the TE6 in PPR scoring.

Pitts will almost surely find the end zone more than once in 2022, but in an uninspiring Atlanta offense, the number may not be much higher. Tight end is a position that typically lives and dies by touchdowns in fantasy football, and there’s a very real chance Pitts struggles in that department again this season.

Risk Level: Low

Even with a below average amount of touchdowns, Pitts can still easily finish as a top-three tight end this year. Out of all fantasy relevant tight ends, he led the league with an impressive 15.1 yards per catch last year. He’s a wide receiver that you can play in your tight end spot, and if he manages to snag just 5 touchdowns this year, an overall TE1 finish is well within reach.

TE4: Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders

Darren Waller 2022 fantasy pessimist tight end

The addition of Davante Adams should do wonders for the Las Vegas offense, but it may be a thorn in the side of Darren Waller’s fantasy managers. Waller has been a target machine in the Raiders’ offense these past few seasons. Last year he averaged 8.5 targets per game which puts him in line with football’s best tight ends. It’ll be hard for him to reach that number again in 2022 with Adams – who ranked second across the entire NFL in targets last year (169) – now in the fold.

Especially at the tight end position, opportunity is king in fantasy football. In addition to Adams’ acquisition, Hunter Renfrow has carved out a role in the passing offense, and Josh Jacobs and the run game seem poised for a breakout year as well. There will only be so many fantasy points up for grabs in Las Vegas this year, and all indications are Waller will get the short end of the stick in that regard when all is said and done.

Risk Level: High

Waller’s talent should keep his floor at a respectable level, but the days of him being an elite fantasy tight end are likely in the rearview mirror. It’s possible Renfrow and Adams are the ones who forfeit a large chunk of targets this year, but Waller is the odds-on favorite to experience that decrease.

TE5: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco has been one of the run-heaviest teams in the league ever since Kyle Shanahan’s arrival. With Trey Lance and his dual threat skillset taking over at quarterback, they may run the ball even more in 2022.

If the 49ers increase their rush rate any further, the targets available for George Kittle in the passing game could take a sizable hit. There’s already a crowded group of pass catchers in San Francisco with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk manning the top two receiver spots, and it may be hard for Lance to sustain three fantasy-relevant pass catchers in his first year as a starter. 

Risk Level: Moderate

Kittle hasn’t been a target hog these last few years like some of the other tight ends on this list, but he’s still been able to produce. Even if his targets take a dip in Lance’s first season, Kittle’s talent alone should keep him fantasy relevant. However, there’s a world where he doesn’t have enough opportunities to remain the elite option he’s been in years past.

Previous NFL Splits Tool: What Does the Chris Godwin Injury Mean for Tampa Bay? Next Sleeper RB Candidates for 2022 Fantasy Football