I gotta tell ya – last week was a grind with those 2023 free agent wide receivers. What can I say? It just wasn’t pretty. After Lamar Jackson, Tom Brady, Saquon Barkley, and Josh Jacobs got us off to a strong start in free agency at the quarterback and running back positions respectively, we were left to “seriously” discuss Noah Brown and Richie James at wide receiver. Parris Campbell even got a mention, yikes.
But… I’m feeling optimistic this week! After one of the worst fantasy seasons in the history of the tight end position – one absolutely dominated by the GOAT, Travis Kelce – at the very least we have an intriguing free agent crop, here. Let’s dive into my top 10 to get a closer look from a fantasy perspective.
1. Evan Engram: You might initially think – but he only got hot in the second half! But seriously that’s enough for me at this point. I’d like to see Engram back in Jacksonville next season, as Calvin Ridley, Travis Etienne, Christian Kirk and Zay Jones will provide ample balance to Trevor Lawrence’s offensive attack. That’s exactly the sort of situation I like in fantasy – how is Engram ever going to get double-teamed when you gotta worry about all that strong surrounding talent? But of course, Ridley comes over with a price, so I don’t know how financially feasible Engram truly is for Jacksonville at this point. If not the Jags, how about staying in-state with Mike McDaniel, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and the Dolphins? Mike Gesicki is a free agent, as you’ll be seeing in just a bit.
2. Dalton Schultz: If Jerry Jones can somehow get Ezekiel Elliott off the books in Dallas, maybe he can make room for both Tony Pollard and Schultz going forward. Dak Prescott seems to have taken a real liking to Schultz, a tight end who is good, solid and steady. There’s nothing particularly flashy about Schultz’s game, but I like his underrated ability in space and he’s particularly reliable in the redzone when healthy.
3. Hayden Hurst: He’s fit well in Cincinnati, but Hurst also sort of strikes me as a “gun for hire.” I think he’ll go where the money takes him this offseason. How about taking some big money from the Houston Texans while they attempt to rebuild their entire program?
4. Mike Gesicki: Let’s get real, here – it’s not great if he’s No. 4 on this list. Gesicki is big, strong, athletic and has WOW factors in a vacuum, but where’s the consistency of production? In my opinion, he should have been feasting this year in Miami. When healthy, Tua Tagovailoa had the best year of his career, while Hill and Waddle provided excellent balance in their air attack. Gesicki should have been reaping the benefits, sort of like T.J. Hockenson did once he settled in around Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn in Minnesota. But it just never materialized with Gesicki. This relatively high ranking here is purely on “spec”.
5. Robert Tonyan: If you put him ahead of Gesicki, obviously I’m not gonna fight with ya. We liked what we saw from Tonyan 2-3 years ago, but he can’t seem to stay healthy now and his production has fallen off a cliff. I don’t see much reason for Green Bay to bring him back at this point. I’m thinking maybe the Tennessee Titans as they continue to look to add some offensive weapons around franchise centerpiece Derrick Henry.
6. Irv Smith: This kid’s name always pops up in fantasy circles – but does the tepid hype ever lead anywhere? Not really. But we’re getting into the weaker portion of the list, now. Just on youth and some nice natural ability, No. 6 becomes a reasonable enough ranking here. Obviously, Minnesota doesn’t need him back with Hock. I’m thinking of Arizona or Carolina for young Irv.
7. Jordan Akins: This one is gonna come down to coaching. I believe Akins can shine if he’s placed in the proper positions to do so. I’d be willing to rank him as high as No. 4 on this list, but the substance just hasn’t been there yet. I’d love to see him with Zac Taylor and the Bengals if Hurst ultimately skips town.
8. Donald Parham (Restricted Free Agent): Ultimately makes sense for the Los Angeles Chargers to retain him because he’s cost-effective and a decent-enough backup to Gerald Everett within their up-tempo passing attack. I think he stays in L.A. for a multitude of different reasons.
9. Austin Hooper: A boring veteran option at this point. Not explosive, not sexy in fantasy circles. He’s the type of veteran who goes to the Bills or Eagles as a backup if he wants a late-career shot at a strong playoff run.
10. O.J. Howard: What the heck ended up happening to this kid? Once thought of as a promising, high-upside pass-catcher in our fantasy sphere, Howard just sort of dropped off the face of the earth. I don’t know what his long-term prospects are at this point, really. Still, the remaining pool is so weak I’m willing to throw a “one last shot” guy here at the end. Maybe the Lions could take a shot on him since Hock is gone? Never say never, I suppose.
I’ll see ya right back here next week!
John Frascella is a published sports author who has been covering the NFL for 19 years. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy football and basketball.
no didn’t think d.foreman’s season was a fluke. even chubba looked ok at times too. with those QB’s it was extremely impressive actually.
oh my dear god no don’t let engram go to the coaching that allowed gesicki to be completely useless when tua was playing and team was doing well (honestly most of the other games too though).
Joey, yes but what if Gesicki was the problem in Miami, not the coaching?
if he was a rookie that’d be an easy option. he had a few years of useful production until just now. we’ve seen a floor for him prior to 2022. engram had a floor too, not great (partially at least since injuries) though, was barely used at NYG near the end most of the time. JAX decided to actually use him a lot this year, esp the last half or so. with how much these teams hide injuries it’s entirely possible gesicki was playing hurt the whole year, but no news to that affect (yet).
and MIA specifically has a long history of recent cover ups (owner paying the coach to lose, tua’s 1st concussion being called a “back injury”, GM just lately claiming tua’s “no more likely than anybody else to get future concussions” (this is directly opposite most modern medicine)
i mean even making that statement, you know you are lying about it. you could say “our medical team doesn’t see anything specific (other than 3 previous concussions over like 2.5 months, one of which we pretended didn’t happen till the media blew us up, causing the NFL to pretend to stop us) that would indicate future concussions” but to actually say “he’s no more likely to get future concussions than anybody else” that 2nd wording (the one actually used) yeah that’s jumping the line from trying to present info that might make him look ok in the future into straight out going against literally what actual doctors say (doctors not paid specifically to make NFL teams look like they give a shit about the human gladiators they employ)
Yeah, this is gonna be a real situation to monitor in the 2023 NFL season. Will Tua be healthy enough to play consistently? What’s the fantasy fallout when it comes to both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle? Time will tell, I suppose.
I think with Engram, the Giants just got lazy because he was injured so many different times. I think they (incorrectly) lost optimism in what he could potentially produce.
some amount of that was d.jones being not good too of course, not a lot of useful pass catchers in fantasy on NYG for a large % of his tenure. plus till right lately the coaching didn’t do well either. i mean even barkley wasn’t doing well during no small part of this time period, some of that injuries of course. barkley of course had better draft grades for an offensive skill position player than anything i’ve seen across 8-10 years, even higher than zeke’s (who had been the highest i’d seen in this time period to that point).
Joey, I agree with you – Carolina’s rushing attack was solid, given the lack of balance provided by the quarterback position.