The 2023 NFL season is quickly approaching, so it’s time to dive into some sleepers ahead of everyone’s draft. Last year’s sleepers at tight end included the likes of David Njoku, Evan Engram, Robert Tonyan, Gerald Everett, and Kyle Rudolph. Of course, Engram ended up finishing as the No. 5 TE in PPR leagues, while Njoku and Everett finished in the top 15.
Looking for sleepers for fantasy football isn’t about finding players nobody has heard about, because that isn’t happening. When we talk about sleepers, we’re highlighting players who should outplay their average draft position. Instead of the term “sleeper,” we can replace it with “value” and still be on the right track.
Dalton Schultz, Houston Texans
Schultz is entering a new chapter in his career as he made the move to the Texans after spending his first five seasons in the league with the Cowboys. 2021 saw his best year on record as he logged a career-high 808 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in Dallas. The 26-year-old is just entering his prime despite a dip in production last year, but will have a good chance to prove himself in Houston under newly-hired offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik. With an overall 133 ADP in and a TE13 ranking in PPR leagues, he’s worth a look in his first season with Houston.
Irv Smith Jr., Cincinnati Bengals
Smith was poised for a big year in 2022 after missing the entire 2021 campaign with a torn meniscus. Unfortunately for the fourth-year TE, he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 8 that kept him out until Week 18, logging just 182 yards and two touchdowns in eight games for the Vikings. The Bengals signed him to a one-year deal where the 24-year-old will hope to lock down the starting role and have that breakout season he’s been looking for since his injuries have kept him sidelined for so long. In PPR leagues, he’s listed at 155 ADP with a TE17 ranking, definitely putting him in the sleeper category if he can have a productive season with Joe Burrow under center.
Michael Mayer, Las Vegas Raiders
Mayer was widely viewed as the top tight end in this year’s draft class, though he ended up being picked by the Raiders as the third TE to go in the draft. Mayer had a successful career at Notre Dame with his breakout year in 2021 during his sophomore year, racking up 840 yards and seven touchdowns from 71 receptions. He’s projected at a 211 ADP and TE29 in PPR leagues but many speculate he’ll have a banner year as a rookie in Vegas.
Trey McBride, Arizona Cardinals
McBride didn’t see a whole lot of action in his rookie year with the Cardinals, logging 265 yards and a lone touchdown from 29 receptions through 16 games. He found himself in a bigger role near the end of the season due to Zach Ertz’s season-ending ACL tear. McBride earned a season-high 78 yards in Week 17 against the Falcons, catching 7-of-10 and scoring his only touchdown of the campaign. With Ertz’s return date still unclear, McBride could see some real upside especially early on in the season as he’ll be set to be the starter if Ertz isn’t available.
Isaiah Likely, Baltimore Ravens
Likely had a decent rookie season in 2022 considering the fact that he was playing behind Mark Andrews. His best effort came in Week 18 when he caught 8-of-13 for 103 yards, averaging 12.9 yards per reception. He logged three touchdowns throughout the season and has shown flashes of brilliance when he gets a good amount of time on the field. Likely should be a good handcuff pick for Andrews and could potentially see some real production as he continues to fight for a starting spot in Baltimore.