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2022 NFL Free Agency Fantasy Football Primer: Tight Ends

Miami Dolphins Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki (88) celebrates after making a first down catch during first half action against Houston Texans during NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday in Miami Gardens. Houston Texans V Miami Dolphins 14

The NFL playoffs are in full swing, but many fantasy footballers are already looking ahead to the 2022 season. Nothing marks the start of a brand new year better than NFL free agency, which is sure to involve plenty of player movement at running back, wide receiver, quarterback and tight end

The Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals are among the teams in the market for a starting tight end through free agency or trade.


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I’ll break down the most notable impending tight end free agents — in addition to some potential trade/cut candidates to widen the scope — through a fantasy football lens with an eye toward the 2022 season. This primer should also help you make optimal trades in dynasty leagues

MIKE GESICKI 

The Miami Dolphins drafted pass-catching tight end Hunter Long out of Boston College in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft as a potential replacement for impending free agent Mike Gesicki.

The tight end/slot receiver hybrid finished sixth in receptions, ninth in receiving yards, fourth in route participation (78%) and fifth in target share (17%) through 18 weeks of action. This receiving and route volume led to only moderate success in fantasy football, as Gesicki finished as TE9 (TE8 Weeks 1-17).

His efficiency metrics left something to be desired, though — he was 13th in fantasy points per game (9.9), 13th in PFF receiving grade (70.8) and 15th in yards per route run. Part of that does fall on the up-and-down quarterback play, but it just further cements Gesicki as a good, not great tight end in fantasy football. 

Gesicki does deliver worthwhile fantasy production at times, as displayed by his TE6 standing from Weeks 3-15 (11.5 fantasy points per game). He tends to only rise to the occasion for fantasy purposes when targets become available in the offense because of injuries to other players, however. 

Gesicki will end up meeting his mid-range 2022 ADP based on his consistent play the past two seasons, but he would require a major quarterback upgrade or a boatload of volume to enter into the top-tier fantasy tight end conversation.

Miami has the most cap space available in the NFL, so it will be telling whether it looks to keep Gesicki. The fact he plays more wide receiver — 94% of his snaps lined up in the slot or out wide — will surely come to the surface as he looks to capitalize on being paid more like a WR than TE. 

No. 2 tight end Durham Smythe is also a free agent. 

DALTON SCHULTZ

Did Dalton Schultz’s 2021 TE4 finish really come out of nowhere? The Dallas Cowboys tight end actually finished 2020 as the TE12 but was left for dead in preseason rankings due to the return of Blake Jarwin. Jarwin getting hurt again solidified Schultz as the primary tight end in the Dallas offense, although he was already emerging as Dak Prescott’s preferred inline option before Jarwin was lost for the season.

Coming off a stellar season as PFF’s sixth-highest-graded tight end (78.2), he could command a pretty penny on the open market that Jerry Jones might not be able to match. Dallas has the third-lowest salary cap space available in 2022. 

Regardless, Schultz is worth monitoring for fantasy after he wrapped up the 2021 season sixth in route participation (77%) and third in overall routes run (586). It is worth mentioning Schultz does have a long-shot of returning to Big D because the team has an out on Jarwin’s contract in 2022. 

Keeping Schultz in Dallas would be the best-case scenario based on his production the last two seasons. I’d be less optimistic about his fantasy outlook elsewhere for fear he won’t have as great a role or be in a top-tier offense. 

Related content for you:

NFL Free Agency Fantasy Football Primer: Wide Receivers via Andrew Erickson

ROB GRONKOWSKI AND O.J. HOWARD

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