2023 Fantasy Football Player Profile: Chigoziem Okonkwo could be a top fantasy tight end

2M9JK5R 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 could be one of the best tight ends in the NFL: Okonkwo breaks every tight end graphic using rate stats and 2022 data due to how many big plays he made as a rookie.
  • He’s not the first Tennessee Titans sleeper tight end: A number of other tight ends under Mike Vrabel have been sleepers and haven’t panned out, but Okonkwo is the most talented of the group.
  • The Titans quarterback situation could be a problem: Ryan Tannehill just turned 35 and his PFF passing grade has declined every year since 2019.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

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Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Monday, August 7

Chigoziem Okonkwo‘s player outlook

The fourth-round rookie was one of the few bright spots for the Tennessee Titans last season.

  • Okonkwo started his career third in the Titans' tight end rotation. He averaged 12 snaps a game over his first month, with nearly 40% of his snaps coming in three tight end sets.
  • He caught three passes for 38 yards and a touchdown in that fourth game, leading to an increased role over the rest of the season.
  • The increase in playing time didn’t initially come with an increase in targets, with just one catch from Weeks 5-8.
  • He caught one pass in each game from Week 9-11, but those plays went for 48, 41 and 31 yards respectively.
  • This led to at least four targets for every game over the rest of the season. He finished as TE7 from Weeks 12-18 with the seventh-most receptions and seventh-most receiving yards.
  • He was the most efficient tight end all season on a per-route basis.
  • Out of 55 tight ends with at least 150 routes, he ranked second in targets per route (0.26), first in receptions per route (0.19), first in yards per route (2.61), fifth in touchdowns per route (0.017) and fourth in avoided tackles per catch (0.219).
  • Okwuegbunam achieved an 84.6 receiving grade on his limited sample, which was second only to Travis Kelce.
  • His grade was the third-best for a rookie tight end with at least 150 routes since PFF started collecting data in 2006.
  • The sky is the limit for Okonkwo in terms of talent, but we can only be so confident his great play will continue given his limited sample as a rookie.

Competition for touches

The biggest concern for Okonkwo is how much playing time he will receive this season compared to last.

  • He started last season mostly playing in three-receiver sets.
  • Once he saw his first boost in playing time, he spent the rest of the season as the primary tight end in 21 personnel, as well as one of the primary tight ends in 12 personnel.
  • He remained third on the depth chart in 11 personnel, including just 16.8% of possible snaps on third downs in 11 personnel from Week 6 on.
  • Austin Hooper and Geoff Swaim were the two players ahead of him on the depth chart at times, and neither one is on the roster.
  • Tennessee added run blocker Trevon Wesco, who will not be a threat to Okonkwo on passing downs.
  • The big concern for Okonkwo is if the Titans don’t expand his role in a significant way. Austin Hooper, Anthony Firkser and Jonnu Smith have all been sleeper tight ends in recent seasons, but none have worked out for fantasy managers.
  • Tennessee has had a different tight end lead the team in snaps on first and second downs compared to third down in each of the last four seasons.
  • The Titans drafted Josh Whyle in the fifth round, and he is likely to be more of a receiver than a blocker.
  • Okonkwo has graded better as a receiver than any Titan tight end in the Mike Vrabel era, so ideally, he can be an exception. 
  • This also isn’t a black-and-white issue. He can see a slight increase in snaps and be a fantasy starter, but ideally, he becomes an every-down player, in which he has top-five potential.
  • The Titans let go of Robert Woods and brought in DeAndre Hopkins, so Okonkwo will likely have more competition for targets from wide receivers this season compared to last season.

Impact of teammates

Okonkwo will continue to catch passes from Ryan Tannehill but with a new offensive coordinator.

  • The Titans let go of offensive coordinator Todd Downing this offseason and replaced him with former passing game coordinator Tim Kelly.
  • Kelly had spent two seasons as a tight end coach before getting elevated to offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans.
  • Those Texans teams were surprisingly average in how often they targeted tight ends when he was offensive coordinator, despite having DeAndre Hopkins, Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller at wide receiver compared to Jordan Akins and Darren Fells as his top tight ends.
  • Downing also had a history as a tight end coach before becoming offensive coordinator
  • Downing’s Titans threw more to tight ends compared to other players relative to other teams.
  • This all mostly adds a little uncertainty to how Okonkwo will be used, but there is no strong reason to expect the change in offensive coordinator will help or hurt.
  • Ryan Tannehill will remain the Titans starting quarterback to start the season.
  • He’s slowly but surely declined with age, so the situation isn’t great for Okonkwo in 2023.
  • The Titans drafted Malik Willis in the third round a year ago and Will Levis in the second round this year. If the Titans make a change at quarterback at some point in the season, it will ideally be a change for the better.

Bottom line

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Okonkwo’s situation, but the best tight ends in real life tend to become the top fantasy tight ends regardless of the situation, and Okonkwo looked like he could be one of the league’s best.

  • There aren’t many tight ends with a realistic shot at making the top five, and he is one of them.
  • Anyone drafting Okonkwo should draft a safer tight end with a higher floor but a lower ceiling.

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