Dr. Roto is out of the office, so Resident Doctor Ted Chmyz is filling in with today’s fantasy football prescription!
If you were around on fantasy football Twitter last offseason, you probably saw some hype for Albert Okwuegbunam. The third-year tight end checked all the boxes for a potential breakout: elite athleticism (he ran a 4.49 40 at 6’6”), efficiency in his NFL work so far (over two yards per route run in 2021) and a decent situation (remember, at that time we thought the Russell Wilson-led Broncos offense was going to be good). His only competition at the tight-end position was some third-round rookie named Greg.
Of course, the hype train didn’t end well for Albert O believers (myself included). By Week 6, Okwuegbunam was a healthy scratch, as the Broncos turned to Greg Dulcich as their primary receiving tight end. As we head into the 2023 draft season, Dulcich is now the exciting potential breakout tight end for fantasy managers, and for good reason. Although not quite as athletic as Albert O, Dulcich was very productive for a rookie tight end in an extremely fantasy-friendly role. He totaled 411 yards in 10 games, seeing over five targets per game on a WR-like 12.7 ADOT and running two-thirds of his routes from out wide or in the slot.
So what’s the problem with Dulcich as a breakout candidate? Well, being a receiving-first tight end is great for fantasy, but only as long as you can stay on the field. That shouldn’t have been a problem for Dulcich, as the rest of the Broncos’ tight end room wasn’t exactly inspiring heading into this offseason. But Denver made a draft-day trade that switched things up, reuniting head coach Sean Payton with former Saints TE Adam Trautman.
Trautman isn’t the receiving threat that Dulcich is, but he is a far better blocker. In 2022, he posted a 71.9 PFF pass-blocking grade, as well as a 61.1 run-blocking grade. Dulcich, meanwhile, ranked 106th out of 114 tight ends with a putrid 27.7 pass-blocking grade, to go with an equally unimpressive 33.8 run-blocking score. In their first preseason game, the Broncos seemed to favor Trautman’s blocking ability over Dulcich’s receiving prowess, at least on early downs. While the Broncos’ first-team offense was on the field, Trautman played every first and second down, while Dulcich played only third and fourth downs (with the exception of 12 personnel, in which both played regardless of down). All told, Dulcich played just 10 of a possible 20 snaps and saw zero targets, while Trautman received three on his 15 snaps.
The Broncos play their second preseason game tonight. If this trend of Trautman dominating early-down snaps continues, I will be staying far away from Dulcich at his TE14 ADP. Don’t get me wrong, Dulcich could easily still out-target Trautman this season, and he has the receiving chops to have some big fantasy games on limited snaps. But when drafting late tight ends, I’m shooting for the upside to break out as an elite every-week starter tier; that’s a lot to ask if Dulcich is only playing half of his offense’s snaps.