Tight End Hit Rates 2020-2023

The National Football League (NFL) holds its annual entry draft each season where teams select eligible college football players to add to their rosters. The draft enables teams to acquire new players, intending to strengthen rosters and address areas of need. Dynasty fantasy football leagues operate similarly. The rookie draft can be a key component of building your roster. League participants manage their rosters year-round and keep all of their players from one season to the next. This setup allows for long-term team building and player development strategies.

There is a phenomenon in Dynasty leagues I refer to as Rookie Fever. Rookie Fever is the overvaluing of rookie picks, driving up their perceived value. Dynasty managers should have a more realistic expectation of what value their rookie picks hold, but as a rule, we overvalue youth and like shiny new toys. Some rookies will have an immediate impact, more will take time to develop, and even more likely will never reach the fantasy value we had planned for them when we added them to our rosters. This article defines the level of success a player may or may not achieve during their career as their Hit Rate.

Since joining RotoHeat, I have utilized historical data annually to estimate the expected hit rates of drafted prospects. In this 4-part series, I dive into the drafts over the past twenty-four seasons to identify trends and help set a level of expectation for this upcoming rookie class. 

This process began in 2018, and I have compiled the results of every skill player drafted since 2000. With many players drafted in the early years of my data collection no longer playing, and the game changing over the past 24 years, I have reduced the data measured to the last four draft classes. Data from 2000-2009 and 2010-2019 are referenced to give us a larger sample size.  

The final installment of this four-part series covers the Tight End position. When reviewing hit rates, defining what a hit is is important. I define Tight End hit season as any season where a TE has delivered a top-12 campaign at any point in their career. In addition, I have crunched the data to determine which TEs accomplished the feat on more than one occasion, and which TEs did it in their rookie season.  

Since the 2020 NFL draft, there have been 349 tight ends drafted. 26 were selected in Round One, 41 in the Second, 59 in the Third, 54 in the Fourth, and a total of 169 were selected in Rounds Five through Seven. Quarterback, Running Back, and Wide Receiver positional reviews highlighted the importance of draft capital. The trend continues with the Tight End position.

Rounds 5-7

So, if this is your first visit to the Hit Rates series, thanks for being here, if you have read the previous articles it won’t surprise you that Rounds Five through Seven are underwhelming. Entering 2024 there have been 23 Tight Ends selected in this range in the previous four seasons and none of them have delivered a hit season in 42 seasons of play. The best this group has to offer is 55.8 PPR points from Brevin Jordan in his 2021 rookie season. Jordan finished that season as TE43.

Looking back at 2010-2019 we find 62 Tight Ends were selected in these three rounds. They combined to play in 220 seasons to date. Two have delivered 7 hit seasons; Darren Waller, (2), and George Kittle, (5). Waller’s hit rate is 28.6%, and Kittle’s is 83.3%. The odds of drafting a TE selected in this range is a whopping 3.23%

84 Tight Ends heard their name called between 2000 and 2009. This group delivered 13 hits in 324 seasons. These 13 hit seasons are courtesy of eight different Tight Ends. Delanie Walker leads them all with five top-12 seasons on his resume. If you added Walker in your 2007 rookie draft, chances are high that you dropped him before he ripped off these five hit seasons. Walker played six seasons before appearing in the top 12, averaging 52.8 PPR points.

Brent Celek is the only other multi-hit TE in the group and neither finished their rookie season in the top 12. The odds of drafting a hit TE from these three rounds in 2000-2009 is 9.52%

From 2000-2023 the TEs drafted between rounds 5-7 combined for 20 hit seasons in 586 seasons, a hit rate of 3.41%. The 20 hit seasons are courtesy of 10 of them. Four of the ten have hits in multiple seasons, and none of the 169 had a hit season as a rookie. Your odds of drafting a TE from this group that delivers a hit is 5.9%, and 2.37% you’ll grab one that will do it more than once.

Round 4

Moving into Round Four, not much has changed in our pursuit of hit seasons. The 2020-2023 group totals 12 TEs that collectively have played in 34 seasons and have generated one hit season. Dallas Cowboys Jake Ferguson averaged 10.7 PPG in 2023 on route to a TE9 finish. The best result from the other eleven is Cade Otten’s TE20 finish last season.

Tight End PickSeasonsTE1TE1%
Harrison Bryant115400%
Albert Okwuegbunam118400%
Colby Parkinson133400%
Brycen Hopkins136400%
John Bates124300%
Kylen Granson127300%
Cade Otton106200%
Daniel Bellinger112200%
Charlie Kolar128200%
Jake Ferguson1292150%
Isaiah Likely139200%
Chigoziem Okonkwo143200%
Tight End Hit Rates 2020-2023

The Round Four group from 2010-2019 totaled 25. These 25 combined to play in 135 seasons and put up 13 hit seasons. Houston Texan TE Dalton Schultz leads this group with four hit seasons. The thirteen-hit seasons come from seven TEs and Dennis Pita, Julius Thomas, and Tyler Higbee are multiple-hit TEs in addition to Schultz. No one in this group had a hit rookie season. Your odds of bagging a hit TE here is 53.8% and 16% that TE generates multiple hit seasons. The hit rate here is 9.62% as a group, vastly outpacing the 2020-2023 clan.

From 2000-2009 there were 17 drafted that gave us 9 hits in 95 seasons of play. These 9 hit seasons came from 3 different TEs, Randy McMichael, Owen Daniels, and Jacob Tamme. McMichael recorded five hit seasons, Daniels three, and Tamme pitched in one. McMichael recorded a hit season in his first five campaigns making him the lone TE here to bring us a hit season as a rookie.

Since the 2000 NFL Draft, we have had 54 tight ends drafted in Round Four that combined to date for 264 seasons. 23 have generated at least one hit season, six have done it on multiple occasions and one did it as a rookie. The odds of drafting a 4th round TE that generates a hit season since 2000 is surprisingly high at 42.59%. Over half of these hit generators were selected between 2010 and 2019.

Round 3

The 2020-2023 group of Round Three TEs totals 13. This group collectively is in search of its first hit season. In 23 seasons thus far, the best we have gotten is Greg Dulcich’s 86.1 PPR point TE29 finish in 2022. I do feel that there are hits still to come here. Hold onto Jelani Woods, Tucker Kraft, and maybe even Dulcich.

Tight EndPickSeasonsTE1TE1%
Devin Asiasi91300%
Josiah Deguara94400%
Dalton Kenne101100%
Adam Trautman105400%
Hunter Long81300%
Tommy Tremble 83300%
Tre’ McKitty97300%
Jelani Woods73100%
Greg Dulcich80200%
Jeremy Ruckert101200%
Tucker Kraft 78100%
Darnell Washington93100%
Cameron Latu101100%
Tight End Hit Rates 2020-2023

Looking back at the Round-Three selections from 2010-2019, we find a group of 23 Tight Ends. This group appeared in 128 seasons and has generated 26 hit seasons, (20.3%). Two TEs drafted here leap off the page as massive drivers of hit seasons, Jimmy Graham, and perhaps the greatest TE of all time Travis Kelce. These future hall-of-fame TEs have played in 24 seasons, posting 17 top-12 TE finishes. Mark Andrews joins this dynamic duo with four hits in his six seasons of action.

Jordan Reed and Austin Hooper join the trio above as multi-hit TEs with two hit seasons a piece. On the surface, the group selected here appears to be a Tight End goldmine. In reality, Graham, Kelce, Andrews, Reed, and Hooper delivered 23 of the 26 hit seasons.

The 2000-2009 group consisted of 23 players that appeared in 157 seasons. There were 29 hit seasons here, with 25 coming from Jason Witten, (15), Chris Cooley, (6), and Jared Cook, (4). Witten finished as a top-12 TE in 15 of his 17 seasons of action.

Since the 2000 NFL Draft, there have been 59 Tight Ends selected in Round Three, with 11 of them, or 18.6% having delivered a top-12 season. 10, (16.9%), have produced multi-hit seasons and none finished with a hit season as a rookie.

Round 2

As we near the top of the draft the sample size of Tight Ends reviewed gets smaller and smaller. NFL teams historically avoid using this type of draft capital on the position. Since 2020, there have been eight TEs scooped up in Round Two. They have played in 14 seasons to date yielding five hit seasons. Cole Kmet is the lone muti-hit TE in the group and Sam LaPorta is the lone rookie to produce a hit season.

Parts of this group of TEs should be fantasy-relevant for years. Many have LaPorta atop their Dynasty Tight End rankings, with Trey McBride not far behind. There is a lot of potential here. Pat Friermuth has bounce-back potential, and the best is yet to come for Michael Meyer and Luke Musgrave.

Tight End PickSeasonsTETE1%
Cole Kmet 434250%
Pat Freiermuth553133%
Trey McBride552150%
Sam LaPorta3411100%
Michael Mayer35100%
Luke Musgrave42100%
Luke Schoonmaker58100%
Brenton Strange61100%
Tight End Hit Rates 2020-2023

The Round Two group from 2010-2019 consists of 18 Tight Ends, with eight producing 30 hit seasons. Six of the eight archived a top-12 season on multiple occasions led by Rob Gronkowski, (9), Zach Ertz, (6), and Kyle Rudolph, (4). Rob Gronkowski is the only one to finish in the top 12 as a rookie.

There were 15 TEs to hear their name called in Round Two from 2000-2009. These 15 tight ends combined for 99 total seasons, 17 of which were hit seasons. The hit seasons came from six different TEs with Alge Crumpler leading the way with five.

In total, since 2000 there have been 41 drafted in Round Two. 18 have delivered a top-12 season at some point in their career, 12, have done it on multiple occasions and two of them achieved a hit season as a rookie.

The odds of drafting a TE from Round Two that will bring you a hit season is 43%, and the odds of that hit TE doing it on more than one occasion is 67%. Similar to the previous positions studied, Round Two is where we find some consistent performers.

Round 1

Round One will be the smallest group of Tight Ends studied thus far. In the past four seasons, there have been two selected, Kyle Pitts and Dalton Kincaid. Both have a hit season and both accomplished the feat as a rookie. Everyone who knows my work knows how I felt about Pitts coming into the 2021 Draft. For those that are new, Pitts was my top-ranked rookie. I feel strongly that Pitts and Kincaid will produce several hit seasons in the coming seasons barring injury.

Tight End Pick SeasonsTE1TE1%
Kyle Pitts 43133%
Dalton Kincaid2511100%
Tight End Hit Rates 2020-2023

The Round One group from 2010-2019 comprises eight tight ends. All but one have at least one top-12 season on their resume. O.J. Howard is the exception. Howard came close with a TE14 finish in his second season.

Four of the eight have produced multi-hit seasons thus far in their career, Evan Engram, David Njoku, T.J. Hockenson, and Noah Fant. Engram is the lone rookie to finish in the top 12.

The Round One group from 2000-2009 saw 15 TEs drafted in Round One. 12, (80%) recorded at least one hit season in their career, and all 12 recorded multiple hit seasons. Greg Olsen leads this group with seven top-12 finishes in his 14 seasons.

We expect Round One drafted TEs to be successful. After all, they are supposed to be the best of the best and these are the players we are using high rookie draft picks on especially those of us playing in a TE Premium scoring leagues. For the most part, these players have delivered. Since 2000 there have been 26 selected in the first round, 22 have at least one hit season and 16 have multiples.

The first-round drafted TE may be the safest rookie draft pick with one major difference from the other positions studied. You are going to need to be patient with these guys. Jeremy Shockey, Evan Engram, Kyle Pitts, and Dalton Kincaid are the only ones to be top-12 TEs in their first season. The last two first-round selected TEs, Pitts and Kincaid accomplished this feat, so perhaps this is changing.

Tight End Summary

The 2023 tight-end class was loaded with talent. This time last season there was a lot of hype surrounding Dalton Kinkaid and Michael Meyer. When the season started Sam Laporta, and Luke Musgrave emerged. Entering last season, since 2000 there had only been five rookies to record a hit season, and in 2023 both LaPorta and Kincaid joined them. The 2024 class does not appear to be as deep as last season, but Brock Bowers has the potential to be better than all of them.

Since 2000 five TEs have been top-10 draft picks, and Bowers likely becomes the sixth in 2024. In his three seasons at Georgia, he led the team or tied for the lead in catches, yards, and receiving TDs. There are two Tight Ends that I would consider drafting in my rookie drafts this season. Bowers, and Ja’Tavion Sanders. Consider Bowers the “safest” fantasy prospect in the class.

There has been a shift in the landscape of fantasy football as the tight end position. For as long as I have played Fantasy Football this position has been as deep as a puddle. Dating back to 2000 on average 9 PPR points a game will net you a top-12 finish at the Tight End position, in 2023, eleven exceeded 10 PPR/PPG and five exceeded 12 PPR/PPG.

This annual exercise highlights the importance of draft capital. Draft capital matters at all positions, Tight End is no different. We see the difference in TEs selected in the first two rounds versus the last four. The drop-off after Round Two is significant in the number of Tight Ends that hit and those that do it in multiple seasons.

RoundDraftedSeasonsHit Seasons% Hit Seasons% of TE
That Hit
% of Multiple
Hit Season TEs
Rookie
Hit %
1262255825.78%84.6%61.54%19.23%
2412185223.80%43.90%29.27%2.43%
3593135517.57%20.34%16.95%0%
454264228.33%20.37%11.11%1.85%
5-7169567203.53%5.32%1.78%0%
3491,58720713.04%20.347%13.47%2.01%
Tight End Hit Rates 2000-2023

What is important to note is Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce skew the Round Two and Round Three results. Gronk delivered 9 hit seasons in his 11-year career, and Kelce has delivered 10 in his 11 seasons thus far. The hit seasons rate percentage in Round Two drops to 19.72% without Gronk and 14.38% in Round Three without Kelce.

Hold on to a Tight End on your roster that records a hit season. That may sound like a rather obvious statement, but the reality is other than the QB position, a TE that hits has the highest likelihood of doing it again than any other position. Since 2000, there have been 207 hit seasons recorded by 71 TEs. 47 of those 71, (66.20%) have recorded at least one more hit season.

The intent of this article is not to deter you from selecting a Tight End in your upcoming rookie drafts. The intent is to highlight the importance of draft capital and to suggest that if you do draft a TE, avoid those selected outside the first two rounds of the NFL draft. Don’t draft any TEs picked in rounds three through seven. The odds are you are wasting that pick, let the other managers in your league clog their rosters with assets that will almost certainly never produce.

Thank you for reading the 2020-2023 Tight End Hit Rates

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