Should you even consider a tight end in the first six rounds?

ECR stands for “Expert Consensus Ranking,” which means the average rankings of the fantasy football industry and is typically similar to ADP (which differs from site-to-site). This will be an ongoing positional series highlighting some big differences between ECR and my own ranks.

[2023 Fantasy Rankings: Overall Top 300 | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DEFs | Ks]

The following isn’t an argument for tight end being necessarily deep — there will be plenty of misses — but there are many late-round flier options this season. My strategy is to wait until rounds 10+ and then grab two or three from this list:

Tight ends I like more than consensus

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams (ECR = TE14 vs DDD = TE11)

Higbee will be LA’s No. 2 option in the passing game (and he could possibly be even more active until Cooper Kupp gets back to full strength). He quietly saw strong usage before offensive line injuries hit last year, and he plays indoors with a much healthier Matthew Stafford.

Greg Dulcich, Denver Broncos (ECR = TE12 vs DDD = TE10)

Dulcich led all tight ends in YPT once he became the starter last season and should thrive in a much-improved system — specifically, in Sean Payton’s joker role. Denver just lost Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler, and Dulcich showed real promise as a rookie.

• Hayden Hurst, Carolina Panthers (ECR = TE24 vs DDD = TE17)

Hurst was paid and should get a real opportunity in Frank Reich’s tight end-friendly offense in Carolina. While the narrative of rookie quarterbacks targeting tight ends is more a myth, Bryce Young appears like a perfect fit for Hurst. The Panthers also have one of the thinnest WR groups in the league.

[Where expert rankings go wrong: QB | RB | WR | TE]

Trey McBride, Arizona Cardinals (ECR = TE23 vs DDD = TE19)

McBride is a second-round pick with strong workout metrics, and targets should be there in Arizona. DeAndre Hopkins is gone, while Zach Ertz is 33 and tore his MCL and ACL in mid-November. McBride showed signs of life down the stretch last season and could benefit from a lot of garbage time.

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• Hunter Henry, New England Patriots (ECR = TE26 vs DDD = TE20)

While New England’s receivers figure to be in a frustrating rotation for fantasy managers this year, Henry has been a camp standout. The Patriots offense should be far improved with a new coordinator this season too. Mike Gesicki is being drafted as the TE19 in Yahoo leagues, with Henry the TE30.

Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions (ECR = TE22 vs DDD = TE16)

I won’t step on Andy Behrens toes here, but LaPorta can break tackles and should immediately be a part of a Detroit offense with a ton of vacated targets. Tight end is typically the slowest transition for rookies, but he was already seeing first-team snaps even before Shane Zylstra suffered a season-ending injury.

Other candidates also include: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Dalton Kincaid, Jake Ferguson, Irv Smith Jr, Luke Musgrave, Cade Otton, Isaiah Likely and Jelani Woods

Tight Ends I like less than consensus (Spoiler Alert: Any tight end drafted in the first six rounds)

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (ECR = No. 6 overall vs DDD = No. 17 overall)

Kelce is the clear TE1, but I hesitate to use a top-10 pick on a soon-to-be 34-year-old. Most drafters, however, disagree!

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens (ECR = No. 25 overall vs DDD = No. 59)

The new Ravens offense is exciting for fantasy, but not necessarily for Andrews, who now has far more competition for targets. Isaiah Likely figures to see increased playing time as well.

T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings (ECR No. 44 overall = vs DDD = No. 60 overall)

Hockenson looks intriguing at first glance after absolutely dominating targets with the Vikings last season. But the problem is Hockenson was entirely unproductive with those targets (Minnesota’s run game also struggled after the trade), and first-round rookie Jordan Addison is a big upgrade over last year’s version of Adam Thielen.

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers (ECR = No. 61 overall vs DDD = No. 77 overall)

My guy Kittle misses games every year (George Brittle!), is due for touchdown regression and saw a lowly 13.7% target share when San Francisco’s pass catchers were healthy last season.

Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (ECR = No. 73 overall vs DDD = No. 84 overall)

Goedert’s target rate crashed to 14th among tight ends last season with DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown the clear top options now in Philadelphia. Goedert is also rarely used in the red zone (he’s averaged just three targets inside the 10 over the last three years) and has a lowly 3.5-touchdown over/under.

Dalton Schultz, Houston Texans (ECR = No. 118 overall vs DDD = No. 141 overall)

Schultz goes from an extremely fast-paced Cowboys offense that averaged the fourth-most points per game last season to a Texans unit projected to score among the fewest points in the league this year. Schultz is an underwhelming athlete who benefitted greatly from playing in Dallas. He’ll now go outdoors to a team with a first-time coach and a rookie QB with questions.

Targets appear available, but Nico Collins is an emerging alpha, and John Metchie III has impressed during his return. Volume (and scoring) will be very different playing in Houston, yet Schultz has a top-12 ECR despite so many intriguing options available much later.

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