• Juwan Johnson should thrive: Johnson has one of the better matchup advantages among all tight ends this week against Jack Gibbens, a 2022 undrafted free agent who played just 214 snaps on defense last season once the Titans injury crisis struck.
• Jake Ferguson should rack up production underneath and up the seam: It’s likely that we’ll see Ferguson hitting the flats on some bootleg actions, giving Dak Prescott an easy underneath option while allowing the tight end to flash his run-after-catch ability. Prescott is also a big fan of targeting those seam routes up the middle, often to CeeDee Lamb, but Ferguson has the frame and the catch ability to make plays in the middle of the field.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
With the 2023 NFL season underway, the time to draft is over. Now, it’s time to set your lineups and hunker down for the fantasy season ahead. The road ahead is long and will be paved with tough decisions, but we’re here to help with some sleeper options to start at the tight end position.
This year has been the year of the late-round tight end. There’s so much tight end depth in fantasy right now that the difference between the TE7 and the TE15 is barely a few points. That means we’ve been drafting tight ends later, picking up more depth and receiver and running back but still potentially landing a productive tight end in the back half of the draft.
That’s all fine and well, but now you’ve likely got two late-round tight ends on your fantasy roster and don’t know who to start in Week 1. Well, worry no longer. We’re here to help.
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Opponent: Miami Dolphins
The seventh-year TE had the best fantasy season of his career in 2022, finishing as the TE15 in PPR after catching 58 passes for 555 yards and four touchdowns and earning a 70.6 overall grade — 16th among all tight ends. He proved to be one of the more consistent YAC tight ends in the NFL as well, averaging 5.8 yards after catch per reception — that’s where his bread is buttered.
He’ll have a pretty favorable Week 1 matchup against the Miami Dolphins. Our Week 1 TE matchup tool has Everett pegged to have a 17% advantage over his likely primary defender, DeShon Elliott. The Dolphins' defense is one of the more vaunted units on paper, but the Chargers' offense with Justin Herbert under center and Kellen Moore calling the plays has the potential to go nuclear in 2023.
Even with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen at the receiver positions, Everett is going to garner targets in the underneath areas, especially against a Vic Fangio defense that is more equipped and focused on limiting big plays. He’s projected to score 7.7 points in Week 1, and there’s a good chance Everett matches that or bumps his total up a little.
Opponent: Tennessee Titans
We’ve been banging the Johnson drum for the last few weeks, and it’s not going to stop now. Johnson finished as the TE15 in PPR formats last year and had top-10 scoring weeks five times. A lot of those points were accrued via touchdown catches, as Johnson is an excellent red zone option, but he’s shown enough to be the Saints' undoubted TE1 heading into the season.
Johnson and the Saints take on the Titans in Week 1 and, initially, this feels like a tough matchup. The Titans have been written off entirely this year, but their defense could still be one of the toughest units to face in the NFL, especially against the run. However, Johnson has one of the better matchup advantages among all tight ends this week against Jack Gibbens, a 2022 undrafted free agent who played just 214 snaps on defense last season once the Titans injury crisis struck. Our matchup tool has Johnson gaining a 14% matchup advantage, the fourth-highest among all tight ends in Week 1.
The Saints are pretty light at running back right now, with Jamaal Williams the only healthy running back on the roster. Pair that with a dominant Titans defensive line and there’s a good chance to Saints could be throwing the ball early and often on Sunday. Plus, once they get in the red zone, Johnson becomes an even bigger target. He caught five red zone touchdowns in 2022. If you have Johnson as one of your tight end options, you should feel comfortable starting him.
Opponent: New York Giants
All the offseason talk surrounding the Cowboys was linked to their big-name players, but there was a question mark above the starting tight end position. Dalton Schultz was out, and the position was up for grabs. It looked like Luke Schoonmaker, the Cowboys' second-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, would be the favorite for the job, but Ferguson won the job during camp and deservedly so.
Ferguson, a fourth-round pick in 2022, flashed during his rookie season, catching 19 of his 22 targets for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yards after catch per reception in 2022, 13th-most among all tight ends with at least 20 targets, and was ninth in yards per route run. He also has a 16% matchup advantage against the New York Giants on Sunday night.
It’s likely that we’ll see Ferguson hitting the flats on some bootleg actions, giving Dak Prescott an easy underneath option while allowing the tight end to flash his run-after-catch ability. Prescott is also a big fan of targeting those seam routes up the middle, often to CeeDee Lamb, but Ferguson has the frame and the catch ability to make plays in the middle of the field. A sneaky starting option.
Opponent: Las Vegas Raiders
Another 2022 draft pick looking to break out in 2023, Dulcich is our final sleeper tight end pick for Week 1. The Broncos’ third-round pick caught 33 passes for 411 yards and two touchdowns in just 10 games last season and was a rare bright spot on an anemic offense. With Sean Payton at the helm, there’s a solid chance the Broncos and Russell Wilson bounce back in 2023.
If that’s the case, Dulcich is likely going to be a big part of the offense, and it’ll start immediately. The Broncos take on the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1, a great matchup for an offense looking to get some confidence with a hot start. Dulcich’s matchup advantage is only 3% over Divine Deablo, but the Raiders have one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL on paper, and the Broncos could take full advantage.
Jerry Jeudy’s potential absence could also benefit Dulcich. The wide receiver missed practice on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury suffered earlier in the preseason and if he misses Week 1, there’ll be a greater opportunity for Dulcich to be a bigger part of the gameplan. If Jeudy doesn’t play, Dulcich is a surefire starter. It’s a little more tenuous if Jeudy does play, but Dulcich could be a feature in Denver this season.