2022 Rookie Tight End Class: Diamond or DooDoo?

If you have been playing dynasty for any length of time, you know by now what everyone says about the tight end position as it pertains to dynasty (if you’re new to dynasty, this is what everyone says about the tight end position):  

Fade tight ends unless you’re willing to pay dearly for one of the elite options. 

Over the past handful of seasons, fantasy managers with those elite tight ends in their lineups have enjoyed a huge positional advantage due to how few tight ends actually score significantly more points per week than the field. 

In 2021, it was Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce both dominating the position in terms of fantasy production (17.7 and 16.4 points per week). After those two at the top, almost every other viable fantasy tight end was offering virtually the same level of production week-to-week. 

The stat: TE5 through TE16 all scored between 9.7 and 12.3 PPR fantasy points per game in 2021, a difference of just 2.6 fantasy points per week. 

In 2020, 16 different tight ends scored between 8.5 and 11 PPR fantasy points per game (while playing in at least 11 games)! 

This trend has been active for a number of seasons now, and many dynasty managers are starting to wise up, fading the position early on in startup drafts and instead taking late-round flyers on the likes of Dawson Knox and Dalton Schultz, and reaping the rewards as opposed to wasting a pick on a “better” tight end several rounds earlier for the same (or worse) production. 

This 2022 rookie tight end class is a microcosm of sorts of the overall landscape of the tight end position in dynasty in that there is an unquestioned stud at the head of the class (Trey McBride), and then “the rest” with very little consensus afterward among the next dozen or so prospects. 

Because of this lack of consensus and uncertainty, I feel as though this tight end class is not getting the recognition it deserves as there are several very talented players whom I believe can eventually be very viable options in fantasy. 

In fact, I would even be willing to go a step further and say that this 2022 group is a very strong class of rookie tight ends, especially the top five or six, and the lack of consensus at this point is being mistaken for lack of quality by many in the dynasty universe. 

While none of these 2022 tight ends are likely to immediately rise to that elite tier from Day One as Pitts did, I think there are plenty of talented prospects in this class who could turn out to be the next Knox or Schultz if they land in the right spot following the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Here is my breakdown and rankings of the 2022 rookie tight end class:

1. Trey McBride – Colorado State

2022 Rookie Tight End #1
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

6-4, 246 

Projected Landing Spot: Green Bay Packers at 2.27 (#59 overall)

First and foremost, McBride’s production in college last season was insane. His 1,125 receiving yards accounted for over a third of Colorado State’s passing yardage for the season, and 90 of the team’s 237 passing completions in 2021 went to McBride. Defenses knew the ball was going to him, and yet, McBride could not be stopped, especially down the stretch as he went for 80 or more receiving yards in five consecutive games to end the season. 

As the consensus TE1 at this point of the process, McBride smartly decided to stand by his amazing college production and a strong Senior Bowl week and not concern himself with the 40-yard dash and other drills at the NFL Combine. McBride did participate in the broad jump where he was a relative disappointment at just 9’9”, second-worst among all tight ends who jumped. McBride did find a little redemption at Colorado State’s Pro Day, where he reportedly ran in the mid-4.5’s in the 40, which more than checks that box for scouts wondering about his speed. 

All in all, I would not be concerned about McBride’s workout results. What he puts on tape in terms of his overall game is likely to make him the first tight end taken in the 2022 NFL Draft, and if he lands on a team where he can get consistent targets, McBride has already shown what he is capable of in that type of favorable scenario. 

2. Greg Dulcich – UCLA

Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

6-4, 243

Projected Landing Spot: New York Giants at 3.17 (#81 overall)

Dulcich is someone to watch for during the draft. We might hear his name much earlier than some expect. He is probably the fastest and most consistent riser at the position because he’s just been dominating this pre-draft process. 

Dulcich really began to turn heads at the second session of the Senior Bowl practices where he repeatedly displayed the ability to release at the line with receiver-like fluidity and get down the field to make plays. He has solid straight line speed (ran in the 4.6’s in the 40) to consistently push the seam in the NFL and create mismatches over stretched-out linebackers, and if we are being honest, Dulcich is a better overall athlete than McBride, for whatever that is worth. 

Dulcich continued his ascent at the NFL Combine, looking smooth and comfortable catching the ball, forcing teams to go back and review Dulcich’s solid career at UCLA where he compiled 1,353 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns in 24 games, including a 42-catch, 725-yard, five-touchdown season in 2021 as the Bruins’ leading receiver. 

3. Jelani Woods – Virginia

2022 Rookie Tight End #3
Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

6-7, 259

Projected Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys at 4.24 (#127 overall)

Woods is another tight end prospect whose stock is reportedly on the rise due to his dynamic showing at the NFL Combine where he ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.61) and put up the most bench reps (24). 

Woods’ impressive testing numbers continued at Virginia’s Pro Day where he put up a 37.5” vertical and a 10’9” broad jump, both of which would’ve been the best marks among tight ends at the combine. All of this explosiveness and athleticism from a prospect of Woods’ size and frame is what has scouts excited about him. 

Woods began his collegiate career at Oklahoma State where he was signed to play quarterback but switched to receiver/tight end just prior to the end of his redshirt season. After Woods’ first season as a tight end for Oklahoma State in 2019, he was voted as an All-Conference honorable mention, but Woods’ true breakout season occurred this past year after he transferred to Virginia and produced a 44-598-8 receiving line. 

4. Charlie Kolar – Iowa State

Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

6-6.5, 252

Projected Landing Spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 3.27 (#91 overall)

After his initial redshirt year, Kolar very quickly established himself as a difference-maker for the Cyclones. In 2019, his first year as the full-time starter, Kolar posted an impressive 51-697-7 line and won third-team All-America and first-team All-Big 12 honors. 

Over the next two seasons, the highly-decorated Kolar collected another AP All-America award, an All-Conference nod and was twice named a finalist for the John Mackey Award (2020 and 2021). He finished his impressive college career with 168 catches for 2,181 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns (more than Trey McBride in all three categories). 

Kolar followed up his great college career with an impressive showing at Iowa State’s Pro Day, showing off impressive athleticism in position drills and did not drop a pass all day.

5. Cade Otton – Washington

2022 Rookie Tight End #5
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

6-5, 257

Projected Landing Spot: Tennessee Titans at 3.26 (#90 overall)

Otton does not have the eye-popping statistical production that McBride brings to the table, and he doesn’t have the quick-twitch explosiveness that Woods possesses, but I would not be surprised if Otton ultimately ends up being the best pro out of the three because of the well-rounded nature of his game. 

Otton also shows plus blocking ability, which is not helpful from a fantasy perspective, but does help increase the chance that he will see the field early on in his career. 

In the passing game, Otton, who did not participate in the NFL Combine due to a prior ankle injury, displays good enough pace to be a factor in all three levels if his eventual NFL team is willing to use him in that manner.

6. Isaiah Likely – Coastal Carolina

Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

6-4.5, 245

Projected Landing Spot: Buffalo Bills at 4.25 (#128 overall)

Likely has lost some of his luster this pre-draft process with a 4.80 40-yard dash and 7.33 three-cone drill at his Pro Day, leading many to question if Likely has the athleticism to project as a difference-maker in the NFL. Likely was already going to be something of a project, coming from Coastal Carolina, but his calling card was always thought to be his superior athletic traits in his wide-receiver-like body, so his stock has fallen in many people’s eyes. 

Likely really burst onto the scene during Coastal Carolina’s great 2020 season with 30 catches, 601 receiving yards and five scores in ten games while playing through a leg injury that required surgery after the season. 2021 was even better for Likely as he exploded for 59-912-12 this past season on his way to All-Conference honors. 

Despite his disappointing test scores in this pre-draft process, Likely does check the boxes regarding college production, target share and early-breakout age with his contributions to Coastal Carolina as a freshman and sophomore. He also did still boast a 36” vertical at the NFL Combine, best among all tight ends, so he does possess nice explosiveness somewhere in there. It remains to be seen if he can — or will be given an opportunity to — translate that to NFL success.

7. Jeremy Ruckert – Ohio State

2022 Rookie Tight End #7
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

6-5, 250

Projected Landing Spot: Atlanta Falcons at 6.11 (#190 overall)

Ruckert first got my attention last year while watching Justin Fields clips from 2020, when Ruckert caught five touchdowns in five games during the Covid-shortened Ohio State season. In 2021, Ruckert essentially doubled his production, finishing his senior season with a 26-309-3 receiving line. 

Unlike McBride, Kolar and Likely, Ruckert does not have the big-time statistical production in college to hang his hat on, and unfortunately for Ruckert, he sustained an ankle injury at the Senior Bowl that has hampered him, even up to the Buckeyes’ Pro Day earlier this month. Ruckert did string together some nice practices during Senior Bowl week before his injury, however. 

Ruckert likely will not project to be a team’s TE1 early on if ever, and his athletic profile and modest college production suggest he will need to catch on as a role player, but he does bring a good understanding on zones and good hands to perhaps be a force in the red zone as he was for Fields in 2020.

8. Jalen Wydermyer – Texas A&M

Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

6-4, 255

Projected Landing Spot: Indianapolis Colts at 5.16 (#159 overall)

What the hell happened to Wydermyer? He was at the top of many experts’ pre-2021 tight end rankings and was still being mentioned as an exciting dynasty pick as recently as earlier this winter before his stock completely fell off a cliff after he ran a 5.03 40-yard dash at A&M’s Pro Day. Wydermyer also disappointed with a 9’1” broad jump and 25.5-inch vertical, all of which are extremely poor results in terms of his athletic potential at the next level in a league where all or most of the elite tight ends are considered “athletic freaks.”  

On film, Wydermyer is an impressive jump-ball winner, especially down the field, but the worry now is that he will have a tough time separating from linebackers and safeties in the short and intermediate game, and NFL competition will prove difficult for Wydermyer to dominate down the field on a regular basis. The mismatches he was able to create against some of the weaker college competition he faced will no longer be there against NFL defenders. Additionally, he isn’t much of a blocker and suffered from dropped passes in 2021, so he will need to make an impression early on in his rookie year to find a decent chance at playing time. 

Wydermyer made a name for himself immediately as a freshman at A&M with 32 catches, 447 yards and six touchdowns. That early success fueled his NFL draft buzz, but in reality, Wydermyer failed to significantly develop in terms of his route-running and blocking, completely relying on his 50/50 ability to make plays.

9. Jake Ferguson – Wisconsin

2022 Rookie Tight End #9
Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

6-5, 250

Projected Landing Spot: Minnesota Vikings at 6.13 (#192 overall)

Ferguson was a former top-five tight end recruit nationally, but he elected to stay home and attend Wisconsin. During his college career, Ferguson was a reliable target for the Badgers’ run-first attack, compiling 145 receptions for 1,618 yards and 13 touchdowns over his collegiate career. 

Ferguson is the epitome of average. Buzzwords like “reliable” and “consistent” will be commonplace when people discuss Ferguson’s game, meaning he will likely latch on in the NFL as a backup or special teams specialist who is capable of helping a team in the red zone but more than likely will not be a huge factor in the passing game as a whole. 

The one area where Ferguson excels on film is in jump-ball, 50/50 situations where his concentration, ball-skills and frame can be on full-display. Teams who need a big body for red zone duty might consider him late, but with him not being a particularly strong blocker and with just average athleticism, I would not be surprised to see Ferguson ultimately become an UDFA.

10. Cole Turner – Nevada

Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

6-6, 246

Projected Landing Spot: UDFA

If you watched any Carson Strong film over the past couple of years, chances are that you saw Turner making plays. He switched from wide receiver to tight end following the 2019 season, and he immediately started contributing much more to the Nevada offense after the position change with 111 catches for 1,282 yards and 19 scores in his last two seasons in college. 

Projection to the NFL is difficult however, because Turner needs to get stronger to play the position consistently and in a somewhat traditional sense. His functional strength just is not there yet, and he will have trouble making an NFL roster if that does not improve. Turner did not show the type of speed and athleticism at the NFL Combine to show that he can make up for that lack of play strength at this time. 

Turner’s length and ability to make plays on the ball in the red zone will be what gets him a look, and he does have the ability to be an asset in the blocking game when he wants to; again, his length gives him a huge advantage against defensive backs in the blocking game.

There you have it, my top ten tight ends in this 2022 rookie class. Which tight end(s) do you think should be much higher? Any that I’m entirely too high on? Which (if any) of these prospects are you excited to draft? We’d love to hear your feedback either in the comments section or on Twitter (@fakefootballs).

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