The NFL offseason moves quickly. Free agency and the NFL Draft are already in the rearview mirror. It is now full steam ahead toward the 2023 fantasy football season. But before we really dive into redraft, there are keeper leagues, dynasty leagues, and Devy leagues with year-round action. With the new landscape following the draft, let’s take another look at some dynasty TE trade targets.
Top Dynasty TE Trade Targets for the 2023 NFL Offseason
Over the past few years, the wealth gap at the tight end position has become more and more pronounced. We’ve always had the haves and the have-nots. But more recently, the elite tight ends have been smaller in number and greater in power.
Another issue is the elite tight ends are all older. There’s no bigger positional advantage than Travis Kelce, but he’ll be 34 years old next season. Darren Waller is over 30, and George Kittle will turn 30 by the end of the 2023 season.
We need to find young, ascending tight ends that won’t be overly expensive. It’s not an easy endeavor.
To see the new tight ends entering the league that might matter for fantasy, check out our rookie rankings. For those looking for established veterans, let’s take a look at a couple of TEs fantasy managers should target in trades this offseason.
Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers
After reviewing TE performances in 2022, first, I cried (figuratively, of course). Then, I went looking for young tight ends that are both getting better as players and in situations that could improve.
Pat Freiermuth showed substantial growth from his rookie to sophomore season. His fantasy points per game were largely the same (9.5 to 9.3), but that was due to touchdown variance not going his way. Make no mistake about it, Freiermuth was much better during his second season.
He topped his rookie season by nearly 250 receiving yards. Yet, he scored five fewer touchdowns. Touchdowns are random, and he’s unlikely to be this unlucky going forward. What I’m more intrigued by is his usage.
Freiermuth’s target share shot up from 13% to 19%, which was good for top six at the position. He also was used downfield more than most tight ends, as evidenced by his eighth-ranked average depth of target.
I’m not sure if Kenny Pickett is the Steelers’ answer at quarterback. In fact, I’m pretty confident he’s not. But he’s still likely to be better this year than he was last year.
Regardless, the Muth is just 24 years old. He will be good for a very long time — enough time for the Steelers to move on from Pickett, if necessary, and find someone new.
If I’m wrong about Pickett, and he’s better than I expect, Freiermuth has a real shot at a top-five finish as early as this season. He’s someone fantasy managers should look to acquire via trade.
Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints
Juwan Johnson was a revelation last season, randomly popping off for 508 yards and seven touchdowns. The 2020 UDFA largely came out of nowhere, which made him a questionable bet for the future. Was his 2022 usage a blip? A product of circumstance? I’m banking on the answer to that being no.
The Saints showed their belief in Johnson when they signed him to a two-year, $12 million extension this past March. Every move the team has made so far has displayed confidence in Johnson as their TE1 of the future.
Johnson was quietly a huge winner from the NFL Draft. Not only did the Saints decline to draft a tight end, they only drafted one pass catcher, WR A.T. Perry, in the sixth round.
Furthermore, the Saints traded their other tight end, Adam Trautman, during the draft. Since Taysom Hill doesn’t really count as a tight end, that leaves Johnson very well positioned to be the Saints’ every-down player at the position this season.
New quarterback Derek Carr has shown a propensity to target his athletic tight ends before. He did it with Darren Waller.
Even with Chris Olave as the clear target leader on this team, there’s still room for Johnson to improve upon his 14.1% target share. He also projects to be a red-zone target once again. This time, he has a far better quarterback throwing him the ball.
With Michael Thomas unable to stay on the field and Alvin Kamara likely facing a suspension, Johnson could have moments as this team’s No. 2 or 3 pass catcher.
There’s just a lot of upside with Johnson and not a heavy price associated with it. He’s a very sneaky addition, and someone fantasy managers can likely get for cheap, making him an ideal dynasty TE trade target.
Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans
The proverbial cat is out of the bag when it comes to Chigoziem Okonkwo, but it may not matter. There’s so much to like here. The man ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at 6’2″, 243 pounds.
Okonkwo was a fourth-round pick in 2022 but wasn’t on the field much as a rookie. That makes what he did in his limited playing time all the more impressive. His peripherals are fantastic. He scored three touchdowns on just 32 receptions. And there was a deliberate intent to use him near the goal line.
Most importantly, when Okonkwo was running routes, he was targeted. He was targeted on 33% of his routes run, the third-highest rate at the position.
As a fourth-round rookie buried on the depth chart, it makes sense that Okonkwo was barely used. Heading into his sophomore season, I was expecting a timeshare. After the NFL Draft, I’m expecting Okonkwo to play a near-every-down role.
The Titans lost two of their tight ends from last season and only replaced them with fifth-rounder Josh Whyle. Okonkwo is the unquestioned starting tight end.
As if that isn’t reason enough to be bullish on him, look at the Titans’ wide receiver situation. Their WR1 is sophomore Treylon Burks, who is coming off a disappointing rookie year that saw him fail to reach the 500-yard threshold that indicates long-term success.
Beyond Burks, the Titans released Robert Woods, leaving them with Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Kyle Philips as their WR2 and WR3. Okonkwo saw a 10.6% target share last season. That number could legitimately double this season.
Whether it’s Ryan Tannehill or Will Levis, I like Okonkwo’s chances of emerging into a true fantasy TE1 this season.
I’m not sure how popular Okonkwo will be in your dynasty league, but if his manager doesn’t really have a strong opinion of him, see if you can pry him away for cheap.
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