Top 4 Sleeper TEs for Fantasy Football in 2023
We’re running through our 2023 fantasy sleepers and busts series with a look at 2023 TE sleepers. Check out more in the series here:
- 2023 QB sleepers
- 2023 QB busts
- 2023 RB sleepers
- 2023 RB busts
- 2023 WR sleepers
- 2023 WR busts
- 2023 TE sleepers (you’re reading it now)
- 2023 TE busts (coming 4/26)
Looking for a tight end to draft in the later rounds? Here are four potential sleeper candidates for the 2023 fantasy season.
Note: These four TEs are currently being drafted outside the top 12 at their position, making them excellent TE sleeper candidates for fantasy football in 2023.
2023 Fantasy Football TE Sleeper Candidates
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
Cole Kmet developed into a key cog in the Bears’ 2022 offense, and he’ll be an integral part once again in 2023 for what appears to be an ascending unit thanks to the addition of DJ Moore and the “we’re going all in on Justin Fields” approach.
Kmet was a popular breakout candidate in 2022, and while it didn’t pan out completely, he did have some nice spike weeks, scoring 22 and 23.4 PPR points in Weeks 9 and 10 while adding two more fantasy TE1 finishes (top 12 at the position) in Weeks 13-18.
Overall, he finished 2022 as the No. 7 TE. So why is he being drafted outside of the top 12 in 2023 when things only look like they are going up? His target market share was 17% last year – seventh among TEs – but that won’t be deeply threatened by the arrival of Moore.
Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints
Juwan Johnson, who emerged as one of the best red-zone TEs in the league last year, has only seen his stock grow with the arrival of Derek Carr in New Orleans. In a six-game mid-season stretch, Johnson posted five fantasy TE1 finishes with seven TDs.
The big man is paired with Carr, who supported Darren Waller for several fantasy TE1 years in Vegas/Oakland. While Johnson isn’t in the same athletic tier as Waller, he scored the third-most TDs at the position last year behind only Travis Kelce and George Kittle.
Irv Smith, Cincinnati Bengals
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Irv Smith’s career has yet to take off despite his clear athletic prowess. A slow start to his career, followed by years of bad injury luck, has rendered Smith an afterthought.
But landing with the Bengals and stepping into one of the most elite offensive units in the NFL is enough to make us ex-Smith truthers come back to the light.
As of now, Smith sits atop the TE depth chart in Cincy with Drew Sample, Devin Asiasi and Tanner Hudson behind him. The big three WR trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd will soak up most of the work, but there’s still enough meat on the bone for Smith to produce tail-end TE1 numbers.
Smith started to come on in his second year (2020) when he caught five TDs over his final six games of the season, but then he missed all of 2021 and half of 2022. And the first half of 2022 that he did play, he was still in “recovering from 2021” mode.
From Weeks 1-8 last year (seven games for Smith), he caught 2 TDs and averaged four receptions per game. He was TE20 in that span, and I’d consider it his floor in Cincy. He’s currently being drafted as TE19 on Underdog.
Cade Otton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
More of a coma pick than a sleeper pick, Cade Otton is a talented TE who is currently being drafted as TE32 – if he’s being drafted at all.
There isn’t too much from Otton’s rookie year to draw on – he was TE2 in Tampa for most of the year and caught 42 passes for 391 yards and 2 TDs – but when we dig a little deeper, there are some advanced stats to really like. One of them is RACR, which is simply a calculation of how many real yards the player gained compared to their Air Yards (really good players have a high RACR ratio). Otton ranked eighth among TEs last year in RACR, earning 1.22 actual yards for every 1 Air Yard. Right next to him on the list? Travis Kelce (1.24 RACR).
Otton will be the undisputed TE1 in Tampa in 2023, and while Tom Brady is no longer there, Baker Mayfield is more than capable of getting his players the ball. From a fantasy perspective, I think we see Otton take a leap.