These tight ends might have disappointed fantasy gamers in 2022, but they are 2023 fantasy bounce back candidates in 2023!
2022 Let Downs
It is time for the final part of my four-part series looking into bounce back candidates who let you down in 2022. This time, we cover three tight ends who finished with high negative Expected Fantasy Points Per Game differentials last season. Let’s identify some receivers who are looking to outperform their output from last season.
Bounce Back Candidates
FPG Differential: -3.32
FantasyPros Expert Platform Ranking TE1
The first two years for Kyle Pitts managers certainly haven’t gone as expected. Many felt he would come out well ahead of the third-year tight end breakout season curve based on draft capital and physical profile. This has not been the case.
Despite a 100-target season and 1,000-yard rookie season, he wasn’t able to crack the top 10 tight ends in points per game. Last season, a hamstring strain and MCL sprain cost him five games. However, despite significant volume, when healthy, he disappointed managers to the tune of the No. 22 tight end in points per game. His expected fantasy points per game of 10.9 would have made him the No. 5 tight end.
There are some positives that will work in his favor next season to bounce back and finally pay managers dividends. Included, as expected, the all-important third year in the league for a tight end. Beyond Bijan Robinson, the Atlanta Falcons added no new weapons to their offense that threaten Pitts’ workload. Which means Pitts’ target share and target rate should still remain top three among tight ends. Last season his target share was No. 2 among tight ends at 27.3-percent. His target rate was 34.3-percent No. 1 among tight ends.
He suffered through some terrible quarterback play with Marcus Mariota last season. He went from a catchable target rate with Matt Ryan of 79.1-percent, or No. 11 among tight ends, to a 59.3-percent catchable target rate with Mariota last season, No. 37 among tight ends.
Plus, for the second straight season, he finished top five in Unrealized Air Yards. In two straight seasons Pitts has had at least 400 Unrealized Air Yards. Last season, Pitts ranked No. 1 among tight ends with 541 unrealized air yards. We already mentioned he missed five games, right? His unrealized air yard pace if he had played all 17 games – 919 yards. This would have put him at the top of this category amongst wide receivers, not just tight ends.
Pitts’ injury deprived us of a preview of what to expect with his new starting quarterback, Desmond Ridder, at the end of last season. However, there is no way it can be worse than last season with Mariota. Year three will be Pitts’ bounce back and breakout season!
FPG Differential: -1.04
FantasyPros Expert Platform Ranking: TE25
I get it, calling the TE6 overall a bounce back seems like a stretch. That is until you realize he had a Fantasy Points per Game Differential of -1.04. And then see where his expert platform ranking is, as the TE25! Then one realizes that Tyler Higbee being a top five tight end is realistic.
Higbee, despite having top ten usage among TEs last season, only finished the TE15 in points per game. But for total points, he was the TE6. His Expected Fantasy Points per Game of 9.98 would have made him the TE9. It was a season of tough luck for Higbee, plus self-inflicted wounds like nine drops, which ranked No. 2 among tight ends.
The Man Who Doesn’t Leave the Field
The first thing playing into Higbee’s favor for a bounce back is his ability to never leave the field. His last two seasons he has seen top five Snap Share and Routes Run. Last season, he had an 89.8-percent Snap Share which ranked No. 4 among tight ends. Additionally, Higbee had an 82-percent Route Participation Percentage. When Higbee is out there, he is out there to run routes and catch footballs. This is exactly what you want for your fantasy team.
74/79 (94%) of TEs that hit 90+ Targets over the last ten years finished Top 12
Tyler Higbee got 85 and 108 targets over the last two seasons… just saying
— Alex Caruso (@AlexCaruso) August 25, 2023
What worked against him that should improve this season? He had a career low 3.3 yards Average Depth of Target which ranked No. 36 amongst tight ends. He ended up with a total 9.4-percent Air Yard Share for the Los Angeles Rams, despite a 20.9-percent target share. This ultimately limits the upside of potential yardage he could get as 405 of his 602 receiving yards were after the catch.
Editor’s Note: This article was written prior to the news of Cooper Kupp’s hamstring injury setback.
Higbee will continue to be a prominent part of the Rams’ offense with limited new receiving threats to him in the picture. Cooper Kupp will be back to help open the offense up. Matthew Stafford will be back from injury. Higbee is in line to become a top five tight end.
FPG Differential: -0.4
FantasyPros Expert Platform Ranking: TE19
Dalton Schultz is only a year removed from being the TE3 in Total Fantasy Points, a TE5 in Fantasy Points per Game. Sure, TE9 in Points Per Game, as he had last season, is nothing to scoff at. However, scoring 2.8 less points per game puts a major dent in managers’ feelings and drops expectations.
The Dallas Cowboys ultimately let Schultz go after last season. Schultz ended up landing with the Houston Texans in an offense where he will be the most experienced pass-catcher for his rookie starting QB, C.J. Stroud.
Another piece of good news for Schultz as he enters 2023 is he will be healthy. Schultz ended up missing only two games last season but appeared on five injury reports as he was dealing with a knee sprain in Week 2 and then a PCL sprain in Week 5. If we remove Weeks 2, 4, and 5, where Schultz was playing while still recovering from a PCL injury, Schultz averaged 13.1 Fantasy Points per Game. This would have made him the TE3 behind Travis Kelce and George Kittle. And would have been better than his breakout season in 2021 where he averaged 12.3 points per game.
Schultz is ranking as the TE19 on the Fantasy Pro Expert Platform despite putting up three straight 50+ reception and 500+ yard seasons. All this was enough to land him as the TE16 or better each season. He has a better opportunity in Houston with less established competition. This team will be throwing the ball a lot in a negative game scripts, providing him the potential to exceed his career best 104 target season. It is wheels up for Schultz and you could be getting him as the second tight end on your roster!
Buy Into the Bounce Back
Every year, fantasy gamers are let down by players with high expectations entering the season. While the above players may have been on the list in 2022, it is time to turn the page. Kyle Pitts is entering the all-important third year in the league for a tight end. It tends to make or break the long-standing top tier tight ends from the pack breaking out in the third season. Tyler Higbee is an ironman, rarely leaving the field and always running routes. Then there is the seemingly forgotten Dalton Schultz. He’s falling down ranks but performing as a top three tight end in back-to-back seasons! Buy into these bounce backs now and win!