NFL Draft News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Best tight end landing spots in 2024 NFL Draft, including the Washington Commanders and Los Angeles Chargers

2NWDN5T Texas Tech Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury during an NCAA football game. Saturday, November 3, 2018 in Lubbock, Tex. Oklahoma won 51-46. (TFV Media via AP)

Washington Commanders: New offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury’s fast pace and frequent play-action usage create a high-scoring fantasy football environment for his starting tight end.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: New offensive coordinator Liam Coen deftly deployed tight end Tyler Higbee as his primary pass-catching weapon for much of the 2022 NFL season, helping Higbee to a career-high 9.9 yards after the catch per reception on play-action targets. 

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Rookie NFL players need the perfect blend of talent and situational fit to produce a high-end fantasy football season in Year 1. The article below identifies and explains the ideal landing spots for the 2024 NFL Draft’s rookie tight end class. 

Washington Commanders 

The Washington Commanders offense will employ a fast pace while frequently calling play-action pass plays, but the current tight end personnel is ill-equipped to handle a high-volume passing game role. Fantasy managers should carefully monitor Washington’s 2024 NFL draft picks at Nos. 36 and 40 overall. Should the team select a talented dual-threat tight end, the player could assume a fantasy-friendly role by Week 1. 

High-volume passing offenses benefit all players involved. Kingsbury’s 2024 starting tight end will have an elevated floor-to-ceiling profile in points-per-reception (PPR) and tight end-premium scoring formats. 

As Legeneday Upside owner Pat Kerrane details in Mark Andrews Checks All The Boxes, fantasy football managers should target pass-catching tight ends who can hold their own as run blockers. Pat explains, “[in 2022,] 33% of [tight end] targets came on play action, but those targets produced 45% of all tight end [touchdowns]. The last five seasons bear out this overall trend… 44% percent of play action [tight end] targets were out of [single-tight end] sets last season.” 

The trend decreased slightly in 2023 but generally held true, as 28.2% of tight end targets (1,089) and 39.3% of touchdowns (75) came via play action. Single-tight end sets accounted for 46.3% of play-action targets (504) and 36.0% of touchdowns (27). 

Washington offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury relied heavily on play-action passing while running the offense at a break-neck pace, calling plays as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach from 2019-to-2022.

Kingsbury’s 2019-to-2022 play-calling data among NFL teams:
Kliff Kingsbury Play-Action Passing Data Play-Action Passing Rates Offensive Plays Per Drive
ARI Head Coach – 2022 Weeks 1-7 18.4% (No. 27) 7.3 (No. 1)
ARI Head Coach – 2022 sans Kyler Murray 24.0% (No. 20) 5.8 (No. 21)
ARI Head Coach – 2021 29.4% (No. 7) 6.5 (No. 4)
ARI Head Coach – 2020 29.4% (No. 6) 6.3 (No. 13)
ARI Head Coach – 2019 27.4% (No. 12) 5.9 (T-No. 19)

Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray’s 2022 season was derailed by a quadriceps strain and subsequent ACL tear, so Kingsbury’s 2022 play-calling data is split between Murray’s healthy Weeks 1-7 and the remaining weeks, where Murray was either inactive or played only single-digit snaps. Kingsbury drastically reduced the offense’s pace when forced to play with statuesque backups. Murray’s 86.7 PFF passing grade in the team’s apex 2021, 11-6 season ranks fifth among 32 NFL quarterbacks with at least 235 passing attempts.

Kingsbury’s pace-related alterations in 2022 further reinforce the likelihood that the team selects a talented and, crucially, mobile rookie quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft. He hamstrings the offense when fielding a traditional pocket passer.

Washington let four-year starter, tight end Logan Thomas walk in free agency following his team-tenure-worst 55.8 PFF receiving grade. New general manager Adam Peters signed 33-year-old tight end Zach Ertz, who is coming consecutive seasons ruined by injury (2022 ACL tear and 2023 quadriceps strain) and a career-worst 51.7 PFF receiving grade, to compete with third-year backup Cole Turner, whose 2023 62.1 PFF receiving grade and 68.3 PFF run-blocking grade mildly intrigue. Ertz has failed to clear a 54.0 PFF run-blocking grade since 2016. 

The ideal rookie tight end landing spot will allow the youngster to compete for both team-leading roles and the Washington tight end room fits the bill. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers make for a welcoming rookie-tight end landing spot with new offensive coordinator and play-action enthusiast Liam Coen taking over for the Carolina Panthers-bound Dave Canales. Tampa Bay also desperately needs a capable starter at the position. 

Coen served the same role with the Los Angeles Rams in 2022 and Kentucky in 2023, utilizing the NFL and Power Five’s seventh- (31.1%) and 17th-highest (36.3%) play-action passing rates, respectively. 

After No. 1 wide receiver Cooper Kupp (88.1 PFF receiving grade in 2022) landed on injured reserve in Week 10, Coen pivoted to Los Angeles tight end Tyler Higbee as his primary pass-catching weapon. Higbee pummeled the opposition as a short-area (0.3-yard average depth of target (aDot)) play-action weapon, ranking top three among 11 NFL tight ends to earn at least 25 play-action targets in target rate (33.7%), missed tackles forced (four) and yards after the catch per reception (9.9). His 77.7 PFF receiving grade on play-action targets ranks 10th. 

Among the four tight ends currently rostered by Tampa Bay, not one produced a 60.0 PFF receiving grade nor a 61.0 PFF run-blocking grade. Should Tampa Bay select a tight end with the 26th or 57th overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft, the player would immediately compete for a fantasy-friendly role against subpar in-house competition.

Los Angeles Chargers 

Los Angeles Chargers‘ new head coach Jim Harbaugh famously features at least one pass-catching tight end in his balanced offensive attack. The team’s current tight end room only includes moderately competent one-trick-pony role players, none of whom present insurmountable hurdles for a talented rookie. 

Former San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis epitomizes Harbaugh’s ideal player, garnering the team’s second-highest target total in three of Harbaugh’s four seasons as head coach (2011-to-2014). 

Things played out similarly through Harbaugh’s nine seasons at Michigan, where a tight end finished top three in targets eight times. Highlight performances include Jake Butt’s 2015 (70 targets, third) and 2016 campaigns (66 targets, second), Erick All’s in 2021 (48 targets, second) and Colston Loveland’s (80.5 PFF receiving grade) in 2023, when his 51 first-read targets ranked No. 1 among Michigan pass catchers. Harbaugh funneled Loveland looks despite having the PFF big board’s ninth-ranked wide receiver Roman Wilson (84.5 PFF receiving grade, 49 first-read targets) at his disposal.

Harbaugh cleaned house upon his arrival in Los Angeles, jettisoning the team’s Nos. 1 and 2 wide receivers Keenan Allen (87.4 PFF receiving grade) and Mike Williams (73.5 PFF receiving grade), No. 1 tight end Gerald Everett (68.1 PFF receiving grade) and No. 1 running back Austin Ekeler (57.4 PFF receiving grade) upon arrival, leaving replacement-level wide receiver Joshua Palmer (67.6 PFF receiving grade) and impending second-year bust Quentin Johnston (58.7 PFF receiving grade) to lead the way. 

Should Los Angeles select a tight end with the 37th or 69th overall pick, they will immediately compete for the No. 2 pass catcher role at worst. 

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