Fantasy Football 2022: Five Tight Ends With Solid Late-Round Value

Here's some advice for a tough position to navigate

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Tight end long has been a tricky position in fantasy football.

Having one who can put up wide receiver-like numbers — Travis Kelce, an early round pick, for instance — can give you a significant weekly advantage. But there’s usually a sharp drop-off to the next tier, which consists of several interchangeable players, and sometimes you’re better off waiting until the later rounds to draft a tight end if you don’t aggressively pounce early.

And uncovering a gem toward the end of the draft, or even on the waiver wire? That’s a game-changer as far as building your roster.

So, let’s explore five “sleeper” tight ends with solid late-round value for the 2022 NFL season.

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Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers
The quarterback uncertainty in Pittsburgh — the QB depth chart consists of Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and rookie Kenny Pickett — raises questions about Freiermuth’s ceiling this season. But keep in mind he excelled as a rookie despite Ben Roethlisberger’s woeful 2021 campaign. It’s hard to imagine Pittsburgh’s QB play being any worse than that, and yet Freiermuth still improved as the 2021 season went on, becoming a huge red-zone target. Expect the momentum to continue.

Albert Okwuegbunam, Denver Broncos
Russell Wilson now is the quarterback in Denver and Noah Fant — a productive tight end with the Broncos the past three seasons — was part of the trade with the Seattle Seahawks. Toss in the season-ending ACL injury to wide receiver Tim Patrick, a solid red-zone target, and the door is wide open for Okwuegbunam to make an impact in the Broncos’ offense. Is he unproven? Yes. But perhaps not for long.

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
We wouldn’t blame you if you’ve given up on Njoku, a 2017 first-round pick who has failed to live up to his potential in five NFL seasons. Except consider this: He sits atop the depth chart with Austin Hooper out of the picture. He figures to have Deshaun Watson as his quarterback after Week 6 — we think. He’s still just 26 years old. And he signed a lucrative four-year contract extension back in May that gives Cleveland even more incentive to incorporate him into its offensive game plan. Bet on the talent.

Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings
Smith, like Njoku, hasn’t come close to matching the hype since entering the NFL as a second-round pick in 2019. But he, too, is positioned for a breakout, after missing the entire 2021 season with a knee injury. He’s firmly atop the depth chart with Kyle Rudolph long gone, and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is no slouch despite the beating he often takes on social media and elsewhere. Smith is entering his age-24 season and absolutely could be a fantasy factor, provided he returns from his recent thumb surgery without any issues.

Austin Hooper, Tennessee Titans
Hooper is entering his first season with the Titans at age 27. And while he didn’t exactly post fantasy-relevant numbers with the Browns after a highly productive stretch with the Atlanta Falcons, one certainly could do worse than take a late-round flier on the 2016 third-round pick. Tennessee traded top wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles, and Julio Jones signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. So, there’s definitely an opportunity for someone to step up and become Ryan Tannehill’s most trusted target. Plus, the schedule could prove favorable and the Titans have a track record of extracting value from their tight ends. (See Jonnu Smith and Delanie Walker in recent years.)

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