Fantasy Football: Sleeper tight ends for 2024

2M9JJTE Tennessee Titans tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo in action during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Chigoziem Okonkwo is too talented to forget: The Tennessee Titans tight end has the most potential for greatness among the players at his position available late in drafts.

Zach Ertz might have one more great season left in him: The Washington Commanders new tight end was a consistent fantasy starter during most of his career, including whenever Kliff Kingsbury was his offensive playcaller.

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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

These sleepers are players who have an ADP outside of 120 in consensus rankings and are ranked notably higher than their ADP. The goal here was to identify tight ends with the highest odds of ranking not just in the top 12 but also the top six this season. Some of these players will have an ADP inside of the top 120 at other sources where a higher percentage of users are experts, but a variety of players were picked so some players could be considered a sleeper at any site.

Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Friday, July 5

Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 17.06, From consensus ADP)

Tight end is the position in fantasy where talent and fantasy production most closely align. Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Mark Andrews have ranked top-six in fantasy points per game each of the past five years, and they are also the three highest-graded tight ends in that time. Darren Waller, Dallas Goedert and T.J. Hockenson are three of the other four tight ends with a PFF grade above 80, and they are the other three tight ends to finish top 12 in fantasy points per game in four of the last five seasons. If a tight end has the talent, he should perform well regardless of his situation.

Of the 17 highest-graded tight ends of the last two seasons, 14 have an ADP of 128 or better, and there is a large gap after that. The other two tight ends with an ADP in that range are Brock Bowers, who is a rookie, and Dalton Kincaid, who would have fit that category if you ignored his slow start to the rookie year. The three tight ends who graded well but don’t have an ADP in the top 128 are a retired Darren Waller, Gerald Everett, who is now a 30-year-old backup with the Chicago Bears, and Chigoziem Okonkwo.

Okonkwo made several big plays as a rookie that led to more playing time in his sophomore year. He wasn’t nearly as efficient, leading to a TE21 performance. He will be 25 years old this year, which is right around the time tight ends peak. He has a new head coach in Brian Callahan, who doesn’t have much of a history with successful fantasy tight ends, but given Okonkwo's talent, it’s better to pick him than Juwan Johnson or Tyler Conklin, who might be in better situations but have more limited upsides.

Zach Ertz, Washington Commanders (ADP: 22.12)

Ertz once belonged in the conversation among the best fantasy tight ends. From 2015-2019, he consistently gained at least 70 receptions for 800 receiving yards. After a down 2020, he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals during the 2021 season, where he finished as a top-12 fantasy tight end in fantasy points per game in both 2021 and 2022.

Ertz played seven games in 2023 but suffered a quad strain and didn’t return that season. He was also starting to get phased out by Trey McBride, which is understandable considering how well McBride played. Ertz has since signed with the Washington Commanders, reuniting him with Kliff Kingsbury, who was his head coach with the Cardinals and is now the Commanders' offensive coordinator.

There is a lot working against Ertz considering that he's 33 years old, his recent injury history, and the fact that Washington drafted a potential replacement in Ben Sinnott in the second round. It’s hard to imagine anyone with this low of an ADP to be a top-six fantasy tight end, but there is a path for Ertz to get there. He just needs to stay healthy, hold off Sinnott and Father Time for a season, and play as well as he did the last time Kingsbury was calling plays for him.

Colby Parkinson, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 23.09)

The majority of teams are sticking with the same top tight end or two as last season which could lead to the fantasy leaderboard looking very similar to last season. Most of the teams who have changed their lead receiving tight end are going with an experienced option, including Ertz to the Commanders, Mike Gesicki to the Cincinnati Bengals, Jonnu Smith to the Miami Dolphins, and Hayden Hurst and Will Dissly to the Los Angeles Chargers. All have had some level of fantasy success before and there is a chance they can repeat it, but outside of Ertz, there is a very low chance of an elite season.

Parkinson is the biggest unknown out of all the potential fantasy starters. The 25-year-old tight end spent the last four years with the Seattle Seahawks, where he started fourth on the depth chart, moved his way up to second last season, but was always part of a heavy rotation of tight ends in Seattle.

Tyler Higbee has been the Los Angeles Rams‘ tight end for several years but dealt with multiple injuries in 2023 and will be 32 years old before the season is done. The Rams gave Parkinson one of the most surprising contracts of free agency with a practically two-year, $22.5 million contract with $15.5 million guaranteed. He’s making more money than half of the starting tight ends in the NFL, but so is Higbee.

While Parkinson has performed decently well in some specific situations, nothing has indicated he’s ready for fantasy stardom outside of the contract. While most of this article has focused on the tight ends with the talent to potentially be fantasy stars, for Parkinson it’s a combination of the contract while his talent is much of an unknown.

It can be better to draft Parkinson over some players who have been around the league for years and consistently aren’t top-12 fantasy tight ends. After Week 1 or potentially earlier, we’ll know if he’s earned enough playing time to remain on your fantasy roster.


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