The New Class of Tight End – 2022’s Top 10 Rookies

by Neil Dutton · NFL Draft

The 2022 NFL Draft saw 19 tight ends drafted into the NFL. This is great news for people like me, people with an unhealthy fascination with the position that many would happily see banished from fantasy football. But I consider tight end an important spot, given the multitude of skills required to master the position. Whether the new class of tight end become fantasy stars or not, these are some seriously clever players.

To help you learn about the new batch, I have broken down the first ten taken in the draft. Once we pass the No. 10 player on the list, the players taken become less intriguing. The last nine are genuine longshots to ever contribute to a team in reality or fantasy. I will look silly should Teagan Quitoriano ever finish a season as a TE1. But that’s a chance I’m willing to take for the sake of this piece.

Let’s start with the first tight end drafted in 2022, Trey McBride.

Trey McBride, Arizona Cardinals

Trey McBride was selected with the No. 55 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals.

McBride caught our attention with his dominant form for Colorado State in 2021. He posted a 46.3-percent (99th-percentile among qualified tight ends) College Dominator Rating. He commanded a whopping 34.0-percent Target Share, catching 90 of his 134 targets for 1,121 yards. McBride’s monopoly of the passing game didn’t extend into the end zone. He scored just a single touchdown across the entire season. He held our gaze with his 4.61 (89th-percentile) 40-time at the NFL Combine, contributing to his 107.9 (85th-percentile) Speed Score.

McBride will have to compete for playing time as a rookie, especially after the Cardinals signed Zach Ertz to a healthy contract in free agency. But the news that DeAndre Hopkins will miss the first six games of the season should open up opportunities for McBride, as well as the newly acquired Marquise Brown, behind Ertz in the Cardinals’ passing attack. I’m not saying he’s going to be this year’s Kyle Pitts. But could he be this year’s Pat Freiermuth? It’s possible.

Jelani Woods, Indianapolis Colts

You may have been forgiven for not knowing who Jelani Woods was before the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. He made damn sure you knew his name after it. He dominated the athletic testing and announced himself as one of the top athletes at the tight end spot in this draft class.

Woods blazed a 4.61 (89th-percentile) 40-time, which coupled with his 6-7, 252-pound frame gave him a 115.4 (94th-percentile) Speed Score. He also showed off his exceptional explosiveness with a 130.1 (95th-percentile) Burst Score. Not to mention a centaur-like 10.42 (98th-percentile) Catch Radius. Woods didn’t exactly rack up the counting stats in college, with no more than 129 yards in three seasons with Oklahoma State. But he posted a 44-catch, 598-yard season in 2021 with Virginia. Eight of those receptions went for touchdowns too, so he has a nose for the end zone.

Jelani Woods Workout Metrics

The Colts used the No. 73 overall pick on Woods, adding him to a tight end room that had lost Jack Doyle to retirement over the offseason. Woods has Mo-Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson for company. But the Colts wide receiver situation is so bleak behind Michael Pittman you would assume Woods would see some opportunities to make some plays. The Colts under Frank Reich have been annoyingly tight end by committee, however. So it’s difficult at first to go overboard with excitement about Woods’ potential to emerge as a rookie. But time will tell.

Greg Dulcich, Denver Broncos

2022 was supposed to usher in the Albert Okwuegbunam era for the Denver Broncos. Especially with Russell Wilson under center and Noah Fant in Seattle. But the Broncos don’t want to reward fantasy managers who have whooped and hollered since the day Fant was traded away. So they spent the No. 80 overall selection on Greg Dulcich out of UCLA.

Dulcich got off to a slow start for the Bruins, with just nine receptions for 111 yards in his first two seasons. But over the next two seasons, he reeled in 66 of his 107 targets for 1,242 yards and ten total touchdowns. He finished his time with UCLA with an 18.6 (98th-percentile) College YPR and a 27.3-percent (83rd-percentile) College Dominator Rating.

Dulcich’s workout metrics were OK without being exceptional. He was above the 63rd-percentile in all the major Workout Metrics, including a 99.1 Speed Score. With Okwuegbunam, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and Denver’s desire to run the ball, it would be astonishing if Dulcich was a major contributor as a rookie. But his being drafted as early as he was should serve as a check against going overboard on Albert O in fantasy circles.

Jeremy Ruckert, New York Jets

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the New York Jets tight end production over the last 50 or so years all decide to run the 40-yard dash. Which of them comes out on top? NONE OF THEM AS THEY ARE ALL FIGMENTS OF YOUR IMAGINATION.

At least the Jets seem to be making moves towards correcting this over the last few months. Not content with signing C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin in free agency, the Jets also spent the No. 101 pick on Jeremy Ruckert out of Ohio State.

You would be a liar if you were to claim you were blown away by Ruckert’s counting stats with the Buckeyes. He set a high in 2021 with 26 receptions for 309 yards and three touchdowns. Although he did breakout reasonably early at 20.1 (78th-percentile). Ruckert’s 14.7-percent (40th-percentile) College Dominator Rating and 11.8 (30th-percentile) College YPR don’t exactly scream “This is the next Travis Kelce.” Although we do have to factor in that the quality of wide receivers produced by the Buckeyes lately can make it hard for a tight end to post huge numbers.

Jeremy Ruckert Measurables

Ruckert’s prototypical size (6-5, 250-pounds) would suggest that he may see the field plenty for the Jets as they look to establish a ground game to support Zach Wilson. The competition for targets among tight ends is notable. We mustn’t forget the Jets have an intriguing cadre of wide receivers at their disposal. Ruckert would seem a long way off the fantasy radar at this stage. Although (as much as I hate to admit it) fantasy points are not everything in the NFL.

Cade Otton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rob Gronkowski may still return to the Buccaneers this preseason. Cameron Brate continues to hang around after former first-round pick O.J. Howard flamed out and headed for Buffalo. But whatever the future for these two, they will be joined in 2022 by Cade Otton out of Washington.

With no athletic testing numbers to attract our attention, we should instead focus on how much of the Huskie’s passing game went through Otton. He posted a 31.8-percent (92nd-percentile) College Dominator Rating, buoyed by his breakout 2020 season. Cotton only played four games. But he commanded an 18.0-percent Target Share and caught 18 of his 20 targets for 258 yards and three touchdowns.

Otton’s best comparable player at this time is Ross Dwelley; a player who has made some fantasy noise when given an opportunity. Otton could certainly do that. But even if Gronkowski decides to stay away, Otton will have to fight for Tom Brady‘s attention with Brate, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Leonard Fournette. This makes a rookie breakout highly unlikely if you ask me.

Daniel Bellinger, New York Giants

The Giants took the step of improving their tight end room with their selection of Daniel Bellinger in the fourth round. Bellinger is another tight end with prototypical size. But he also boasts impressive speed for a big man. Bellinger logged a 109.7 (88th-percentile) Speed Score, thanks in no small part to his 4.63 (86th-percentile) 40-time. Bellinger wasn’t exactly a dominant receiver for San Diego State. But he did command a 15.8-percent Target Share in 2020. The Giants’ pass-catching corps in 2022 could look a lot different from the one in 2023. That is when I would be looking for Bellinger to start seriously contributing.

Charlie Kolar, Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens already have one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Mark Andrews. But they did what smart teams do. Namely, they reinforced a position of strength, which they did by taking Charlie Kolar with one of their multitude of fourth-round selections. Kolar was the focal point of the Iowa State passing attack, with a 28.5-percent (86th-percentile) College Dominator Rating. He also boasts impressive size-adjusted speed, backed up by a 109.6 (88th-percentile) Speed Score. Kolar has an impressive 10.33 (94th-percentile) Catch Radius. He may steal the odd red-zone look from Andrews as a rookie.

Jake Ferguson, Dallas Cowboys

You wouldn’t exactly call Jake Ferguson the most athletic tight end in this year’s class. This is evidenced by most of his workout metrics falling below the 50th-percentile. But he did show some pass-catching chops with Wisconsin, which is never an easy thing to do given their reputation for pounding the rock. Ferguson was an early starter, with a 19.6 (85th-percentile) Breakout Age, and was the focal point of the Badgers passing game. He posted a 28.2-percent (86th-percentile) College Dominator Rating.

Jake Ferguson College Stats

Ferguson should see the field a ton with the Cowboys leaning on their multiple tight end sets. But he will be behind Dalton Schultz in the 2022 pecking order.

Isaiah Likely, Baltimore Ravens

For the fourth time in their history, the Baltimore Ravens used two picks on tight ends in the same draft. They selected Dennis Pitta and David Dickson together in 2010. 2015 saw them bring in Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. While in 2018 they went with Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews. Isaiah Likely joined Charlie Kolar on the Ravens to vie for time behind and alongside Andrews.

Likely projects to see more work as a receiver based on his college profile. Likely was an early breakout, with an 18.4 (97th-percentile) Breakout Age. He posted a 15.5 (81st-percentile) College YPR and a 31.4-percent (91st-percentile) College Dominator Rating with Coastal Carolina. Likely does not possess blazing speed. But his 124.5 (85th-percentile) Burst Score makes him a player to mark down as one to watch.

Chig Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans

The Titans have been missing solid tight-end production ever since Jonnu Smith upped and left. They added Austin Hooper in free agency but also spent a fourth-round pick on Maryland tight end Chig Okonkwo. The one thing he can offer them is speed, with a 4.52 (96th-percentile) 40-time and a 112.8 (92nd-percentile) Speed Score. But he doesn’t exactly have a great track record of production, with 52 of his 77 receptions for the Terrapins coming in his final season. He’s a bit of a project, and that makes him tough to project.

Cole Turner, Washington Commanders

Cole Turner isn’t anything special athletically, with all of his workout metrics at the 73rd-percentile or lower. But he was able to showcase his receiving skills with Carson Strong at Nevada, with a 25.8-percent (78th-percentile) College Dominator Rating. Turner amassed 600-plus yards in each of the last two seasons, scoring 19 touchdowns in that time. The Commanders receiving corps is a bit of a mess behind Terry McLaurin, so he might see some opportunities as a rookie.

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