Our look at the best fantasy values by position heading into the 2023 NFL season continues with tight ends. The projected draft position listed for each player is based on 12-team league formats.
Projected draft position: Round 1, pick No. 6 or later
Travis Kelce's current average draft position is sixth overall, and even that is a slight discount, based on his ranking of fifth overall in my prioritized model, which weights positional value highly. If you can get Kelce any time after the sixth pick, you are beating the market.
In six of the last seven seasons, Kelce has topped the tight end position in points, which is nice to know -- but it's the degree by which he paces the position that drives his worth. My current PPR projections forecast him to have a point advantage over the TE2 (Mark Andrews) of more than 60 points over the course of the season. That is the biggest gulf between the No. 1 and No. 2 player at any position, more than three times greater than the next biggest gap (just under 18 points). Last season, the addition of new routes and different pre-snap alignments helped drive Kelce's marks of 6.5 receptions and 78.7 receiving yards per game. He also collected a career-high 12 regular-season touchdowns. He is forecasted to repeat or increase that total in over 54 percent of simulations.
Projected draft position: Rounds 2-3
I mapped new Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken's tendencies and the team's offseason moves to the offense and Mark Andrews' specific strengths, and this is what pops out: A Baltimore team that has been characterized by its success in the run game is now forecasted to be efficient at passing. And that means Andrews, who has the most yards per route run (2.09) of any tight end over the past two seasons, per Pro Football Focus, is going to be a big problem for opponents (but great for your fantasy team!). Also, factoring in defensive matchups, Andrews is in the best situation of any of the top 10 tight ends in my model.
Now, Andrews is actually my 44th overall player in my position-adjusted model, which gives him a fourth-round value, meaning you will have to technically "overpay" to get him, based on his current ADP (25th overall). But I think it's worth it to make sure you land one of the top TEs and avoid losing out after a run at a position where there is a lot of volatility beyond the top three. Plus, Andrews has a ton of upside, to potentially help ease that sticker shock.
Projected draft position: Rounds 4-5
Like Andrews, T.J. Hockenson's ranking in my model (54th overall) sits below his ADP (42nd) -- and his presence at No. 3 on this list is yet another indication of the benefits of snagging a top-three tight end. There is considerably more risk to taking Hockenson than there is to taking Andrews, but Hockenson's target volume forecasts to increase from the already high mark of 8.6 per game that he logged after his midseason trade from the Lions to the Vikings. Tackle play in Minnesota is another factor that will help bolster Hockenson.
As with Andrews, I think it's worth "overpaying" for Hockenson. From here on out, though, I am no longer willing to pay a premium for a relatively safe TE -- the rest of this list is focused solely on making a draft-day profit.
Projected draft position: Rounds 5-6
I understand those who felt burned by Pitts last season, when he managed just 2.8 catches and 35.6 receiving yards per game in 10 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. But his current ADP (59) makes him a good value -- giving you a chance to capitalize on other people's fear. Between strong forecasted O-line play in Atlanta and the team's increased ability to execute Arthur Smith's vision in Year 3, Pitts (with his proven target share) is primed to really break out in 2023.
Projected draft position: Rounds 7-8
There is volatility with Engram, with some big ups and downs in his projection. But my models really like Calvin Ridley's potential (he's shown to be an incredible route-runner), which means more positive things for all of the pass-catching options folded into Doug Pederson's offense. Engram's route-running and hip direction both improved last season to career-best levels, per computer vision. Overall, he's TE11 -- but I especially like what he can do for you in the first four weeks of the season, when he's forecasted to be TE6. He can help give your fantasy team a bit of a runway while figuring out how best to optimize your roster. (Plus, his offensive line forecasts to improve when Cam Robinson returns from suspension in Week 5.)
Projected draft position: Rounds 12-13
Dulcich is my TE9 -- but his ADP (No. 143) has him as TE15. Perhaps the market hasn't adjusted to Broncos receiver Tim Patrick's season-ending Achilles injury. We already saw Dulcich rise to the occasion during what was a tough 2022 season for the Denver offense. He ran 29.4 pass routes per game, which was fourth-most among tight ends, while he only barely averaged more than 41 yards per game (ranking 10th). Point being, he didn't cut his teeth as a rookie in easy conditions. He also dealt with a hamstring injury. With new head coach Sean Payton masterminding this offense in 2023, Dulchich forecasts to be an option for Russell Wilson on so many more downs, even with Adam Trautman on the field, too.
Projected draft position: Rounds 12-13
Okonkwo's ADP (144) has him as TE16, which is not a bad deal for my TE10. While his projected floor would put him in the 20s, he has TE6 upside. And thanks to a few factors in Tennessee (Ryan Tannehill's presence under center, an improved offensive line and DeAndre Hopkins' ability to spread defenses), I'll lean toward the upside. PFF notes that out of 55 qualified TEs, Okonkwo ranked first in receptions per route run (0.19) and yards per route (2.61). Computer vision shows that he was able to move his hips and avoid straight-on contact when the ball was targeting him or in his hands at the fifth best rate at the position.
Projected draft position: Rounds 9-10
Schultz is one of my targets for a draft where I am taking risks. (Don't tell.) It's not because he had a high touchdown rate last season with the Dallas Cowboys because that doesn't necessarily translate to his new offense. Rather, it's because he is a great fit in Bobby Slowik's system as an experienced tight end with solid movement. I also love the upside when paired with rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud. In my risky tight end drafts, I'll look to pair Schultz late with Detroit's Sam LaPorta.
Projected draft position: Rounds 7-8
Njoku's ADP has him as TE9, which is comparable to my TE7 ranking. Computer vision shows that Njoku improved in key aspects of his game last season, including separation created, reliable timing on routes and avoiding head on pressure at a top-six rate among tight ends. With the Browns' offensive line and rushing efficiency, these characteristics will drive an uptick in Njoku's fantasy value so long as Deshaun Watson executes the passes.
Projected draft position: Rounds 14-15
Do I recommend rookie tight ends often? Nope. But this is an upside/future/bench/dynasty-type of suggestion who could pay off at the very end of your draft, if you're OK taking a flier on him. There are several aspects working in LaPorta's favor to get a solid start to his career. Detroit's pass-heavy offense, led by a top-end offensive line, along with the opportunity presented by receiver Jameson Williams' absence for the first six games, all set up major YAC potential.