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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Top Tight End Targets

Trevor gives his take on the tight end position in fantasy football for 2023, including his favorite early, mid and late-round targets.

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 29: Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a third quarter touchdown during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 29, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Kansas City defeated Detroit 34-30. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

When it comes to fantasy football drafts, how to approach the tight end position usually comes with plenty of debate. Some like to draft tight ends early, and others like to punt the position and draft them late. I want to share with you my strategy for this year’s tight-end landscape, including which tight ends I like at each stage of the draft. 

2023 Fantasy Football Tight End Strategy

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs — ADP 5

Kelce has been the best fantasy tight end for quite some time now, and he gives the manager who drafts him a significant positional advantage. I generally do not like to take a tight end this early, but this may be the year to do so. There is a ton of value at other positions in the mid-to-late rounds, especially at running back, so you can take your tight end advantage and still hit the draft out of the park at other positions. With Kelce on my team, I am waiting to take a quarterback and most likely grabbing receivers in Rounds 2 and 3, then drafting my running backs in Rounds 4-7, with a possibility of taking a top-notch QB in Round 4. 

TE TJ Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings — ADP 45

In my first-ever high-stakes fantasy draft, I took Hockenson with pick 44 of the fourth round. I didn’t necessarily target him, but for me, he made the most sense. He is another tight end that will give you a positional advantage and has the chance to put up huge numbers, and is my favorite of the mid-tier post-Kelce options. He joined the Vikings for their final 10 games in 2022, and had 60 catches for 520 yards, which would put him on pace for 102 catches and 880 yards. I think those numbers go up in 2023, considering he will have a full camp and preseason with QB Kirk Cousins and in the Vikings’ system. I also think he will approach double-digit touchdowns, as I expect the Vikings to be in shootouts again this year because their defense isn’t expected to be very good. I like drafting Hockenson in the fourth round because the running back value starts in Rounds 5-8 and you still get an elite WR in Round 1. For example, in my high-stakes draft, the manager who took Kelce in Round 1 ended up with Seattle’s Tyler Lockett in the fourth round, while I took Dallas WR CeeDee Lamb in the first round, and I believe that a Lamb/Hockenson combination will outscore a Kelce/Lockett combination. Another underappreciated bonus for drafting Hockenson is that he gives you a set-it-and-forget-it tight end every week if healthy. Struggling between choosing two mediocre tight ends can be frustrating and downright annoying. 

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Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans — ADP 132

Maybe you don’t land Kelce and don’t like TJ in the 4th round. You may want to take an elite QB like Lamar Jackson or a WR like Calvin Ridley. Now is when you punt the tight end position and target Chig Okonkwo. He has seen his ADP fall all the way to the eleventh round after the Titans’ addition of free agent WR DeAndre Hopkins. I’m not too concerned about Hopkins, and I will not wait that long and will draft Okonkwo as early as the ninth round. If I don’t have Kelce or TJ, then Chig is a MUST-HAVE player on my team. He has good size and speed with a lot of athleticism. He could be a sleeper to get 800 yards and double-digit touchdowns, which gives him the ability to be a league-winning tight end. 

Jake Ferguson, Dallas Cowboys — ADP 225

Ferguson is a player I am targeting as my backup tight end. He takes over the starting tight end position in Dallas after the departure of Dalton Schultz. Ferguson is a tall 6’5″ and can catch the ball in traffic. I would expect a 60 -70 catch season for 500-600 yards for the second-year player out of Wisconsin. He can give you some stability if you have an injury and are on bye weeks. Even if you drafted Kelce or Hockenson, you may have weeks where you start both them and Ferguson, one as your tight end and one in the flex. 

TE Jelani Woods, Indianapolis Colts — ADP 249

I really like Woods as a player, and I feel he could explode in the right situation. He has all the tools that you want from a pass-catching tight end. He is a bigger Chigoziem Okonkwo, although his situation isn’t as promising. The only thing holding him back has been quarterback play. I think there is an outside chance that he can more than double his rookie numbers, where he caught 25 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. He isn’t being drafted in most traditional leagues, but could be a good asset in deep bench leagues and Best Ball leagues.

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