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2022 Fantasy Football: Three Late-Round Tight Ends

Bryan looks at three tight ends who should be available in the late rounds that will exceed their expected production.

Bryan looks at three tight ends who should be available in the late rounds that will exceed their expected production.

2022 Fantasy Football: Three Late-Round Tight Ends

A not-so-bold take: there’s a better than 50% chance your tight end will suck this year. Fantasy football’s weirdest position has always been dominated by a select few ‘elite’, but finding value outside the first four rounds can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. That’s why one of the best strategies at TE is to wait until the later stages of the draft for a high-upside lottery ticket. But who to draft, and when? Here are three safety blankets that can give you production at a serious discount this season.

Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

The Bears were one of football’s least exciting offenses in 2021, and it’s unlikely things get much better in 2022 with a receiving group headlined by Darnell Mooney and not much else. However, the lack of skill position depth in Chicago should benefit Kmet greatly. Due to his ability as a blocker, the third-year tight end should be on the field at all times.

Lost in the shadow of a zero-touchdown campaign was Kmet’s rapport with then-rookie quarterback Justin Fields. Over the course of the season, Kmet’s 93 targets were the eighth-most at the position, even with fellow tight end Jimmy Graham seeing plenty of balls thrown his way. Should he finally reach the end zone on a somewhat consistent basis, especially with Graham gone, there should be enough fantasy points to put Kmet in the top ten at his position, if not better. The public’s perception of any Bears player is low, let alone one yet to make a splash after two seasons in the league. Take advantage and scoop up Kmet after Round 10.

Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings

If you’ve played fantasy football over the past three seasons, this probably isn’t your first time hearing Smith Jr.’s name. The Vikings tight end has been a force when healthy, averaging the eighth most points at tight end from weeks 5 to 17 in 2020. The problem has been health; since 2019, Smith Jr. has missed 21 out of 49 potential games. 

With Tyler Conklin gone, there’s never been a thinner depth chart at tight end since Smith Jr. was drafted. New head coach Kevin O’Connell will likely institute an up-tempo, pass-heavy offense. While most of Kirk Cousins‘ passes will go to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, there should be enough targets to support another fantasy-viable pass catcher. Make sure you have another more durable tight end on the roster, but Smith Jr. could be a difference-maker if he stays on the field. 

Hayden Hurst, Cincinnati Bengals

A former first-round pick, Hayden Hurst‘s talent has never really been in question. For whatever reason, he’s just never been able to make much of an impact at his previous two spots in Baltimore or Atlanta, losing his starting spot to Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts. However, he has been a decent option in the past, finishing as the PPR TE10 in 2020. 

While Hurst’s athleticism is what makes him appealing to front offices, it’s his situation that fantasy managers should covet. With C.J. Uzomah gone, the Bengals need someone to fill a major void in their passing attack. Cincy does have an impressive trio of wide receivers, but having the defense stretched out should lead to some short yardage work underneath for Hurst. A skilled player that will never be double-teamed on an offense that loves to throw? Hurst is certainly worth a look within the TE18-25 range at the end of your draft.