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2022 Fantasy Football Prep: Analyzing the top free agent tight ends

Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki (88) catches the football against New York Giants cornerback Julian Love (20) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Roughly 15 free-agent tight ends could find new homes in 2022. This article will drill into the top fantasy-relevant options based on PFF grades, underlying efficiency metrics and historical utilization.

Note: The primary focus of this exercise focuses on the 2022 fantasy football season, not necessarily the best long-term signing options. For example, Mike Gesicki is better than Rob Gronkowski for the long-term future of a franchise, but not necessarily for fantasy football in 2022.

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Glossary:
  • Target share = player targets divided by team targets
  • ADOT = average depth of target
  • Slot % = percentage of routes from the slot
  • Deep = route or target that occurs 20-plus yards downfield
  • Explosive Play = reception of 15 yards or more
  • YAC/REC = yards after the catch per reception
  • TPRR = targets per route run
  • YPRR = yards per route run
  • Age = 2022 season
  • Open Rate = step or more of separation

TIER 1 – SOLID SECONDARY TARGET IN MOST OFFENSES

Name Age PFF Rec Grade Target Share ADOT Slot% YAC/REC TPRR TPRR Man TPRR Zone YPRR YPRR Man YPRR Zone
Rob Gronkowski 33 84.1 13% 10.9 28% 6.58 22% 21% 23% 1.94 1.29 2.51
ROB GRONKOWSKI

Gronkowski hasn't decided whether he will play another season after Tom Brady‘s retirement, but his underlying metrics suggest he still has gas left in the tank.

In 2021, his 84.1 PFF receiving grade ranked fifth among tight ends with at least 200 routes, trailing only Dallas Goedert, Mark Andrews, George Kittle and Travis Kelce. Additionally, he recorded the fifth-highest YPRR (1.94) and the fifth-best TPRR (22%).

He generated a step or more of separation on 53% of his routes against single-man coverage, which is seven percentage points above the NFL average for tight ends with at least 40 routes versus single-man looks. No other tight end in the NFL saw more targets per route in that situation (36%).

The veteran wasn't just a check-down option either — he was sixth in deep-target rate (12.8%) and third in aDOT (10.9). Gronkowski also demonstrated an ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands, ranking fifth at the position in yards after the catch per reception at 6.6.

Since 2011, we have seen other greats post top-12 finishes well past age 33.

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