Dynasty Report: An Early Look at the 2024 Tight End Class (Fantasy Football)

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While August marks the beginning of preseason in the NFL, it also signals the imminent return of college football. Especially for dynasty managers in the middle of a rebuild, you might already be looking ahead to some of the top prospects set to enter the league in 2024. If you are one of those managers, then this article is for you! In this piece, I will provide you with an early look at some of the top tight ends in the 2024 class. By using historical data as our baseline, we can assess how each of their career trajectories compare to some of the best prospects to enter the league in recent history. 

The tight end position is especially intriguing next year since the 2024 class includes one of the most productive prospects we have seen in recent history (more on this later). However, based on the current trajectory of some of the other tight ends in this class, the 2024 draft will likely not feature the depth that we saw this past year. Regardless, there are still multiple intriguing prospects in this class. And depending on how the upcoming college football season unfolds, we could see a few more prospects cement early-round capital in next year’s draft.

Note: College football data referenced in this article was sourced and provided by cfbfastR. Because this data package does not include snaps, there is no clean way to determine if a player was active unless they received an opportunity. As a result, we are unable to perfectly calculate their per-game production as there are certain games where tight ends are only asked to block. However, the production profiles below should still provide insight into each player’s receiving upside when given the opportunity.

At the tight end position, we are always looking for the next Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, or T.J. Hockenson.

Enter Brock Bowers, who is widely regarded as the unquestioned TE1 in the 2024 class and one of the top prospects over the last decade.

As a four-star recruit, Bowers garnered plenty of attention from programs such as LSU, Clemson, and Notre Dame. However, he would ultimately commit to Georgia, making an immediate impact as a true freshman. What makes Bowers’ skillset so appealing for fantasy football is that he essentially operates as a big-bodied wide receiver for the Bulldogs, lining up in the slot and out wide on over 50% of his plays. In addition, per his high school measurables, he also projects to be an elite athlete. As a sophomore, he clocked in at 4.50 (40-time) and measured at 40 inches for his vertical. In other words, no matter where he lines up on the field, Bowers has the potential to be a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses. 

From a production standpoint, Bowers was an immediate difference-maker for the Bulldogs. He would average an impressive 2.23 Receiving Yards per Team Pass Attempt (RY/TPA), accounting for over 25% of the Bulldogs’ receiving offense in 2021. In fact, his production truly places him in elite territory. Since 2013, his freshman season ranks in the 99th percentile, becoming the only true freshman tight end in that timespan to produce over 2.00 RY/TPA. For context, his production would be considered a breakout season for a wide receiver. The fact that he achieved these numbers as an 18-year-old tight end makes it even more impressive.

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Fast forward to his 2022 campaign, Bowers did take a slight step back despite setting a career-high in total receiving yards (942) and receptions (63). He would average a slightly lower receiving yards market share at 21%, while also finishing with a 1.91 RY/TPA. However, while those production numbers are career lows, Bowers still had an outstanding season. Compared to all sophomore campaigns since 2013, his season would still rank in the 95th percentile, producing at an elite level for the second season in a row. In short, Bowers is on pace to become one of the most productive tight end prospects in recent history. Assuming he is selected in the first round of the NFL draft, similar to Kyle Pitts and Dalton Kincaid, Bowers should be immediately valued as a TE1 for dynasty football as soon as he enters the league.

Surprisingly, Bowers was not the highest-ranked tight end in his recruiting class. This title belongs to Ja’Tavion Sanders, a five-star recruit out of Denton, Texas, who played both receiver and edge rusher in high school. And at 6’4” and 243 pounds, he certainly has the frame to excel at both positions. Despite his versatility, Texas would opt to play Sanders exclusively as a tight end in 2021, though it did not immediately yield production. As you can see above, Sanders did not record a single reception in his true freshman season, primarily contributing to special teams. It was not until his sophomore campaign that we saw Sanders break out. In 13 games, he averaged over 20% of the Longhorns’ receiving production, operating as the third option in their passing offense. He would also finish the season ninth among all tight ends in Receiving Yards per Team Pass Attempt at 1.51. And while Bowers was still the more productive tight end, Sanders’ season still ranks in the 91st percentile among all sophomore campaigns since 2013. 

In short, Sanders is my early pick for TE2 in the 2024 class. Similar to Bowers, Sanders provides a unique blend of size, athleticism, and smooth route running that should appeal to many NFL teams. From a production standpoint, there is still room for improvement, ideally finishing closer to 2.00 Receiving Yards per Team Pass Attempt in his final season. And with Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson declaring for the NFL, we could see Sanders take on an expanded role in the Longhorns’ offense. So assuming he can build off of his breakout campaign, he should be a day-two pick at the very least in next year’s NFL draft. 

Another tight end vying for day-two capital is Florida State’s Jaheim Bell. A senior who spent most of his career with South Carolina, Bell has been one of the most versatile tight ends in the nation. By far the most intriguing aspect of his game is his vision with the ball in his hands. He excels after the catch and has the speed to break away from defenders in the open field. And while he is not the biggest tight end at only 6’3” and 235 pounds, he makes up for it with his fluid athleticism and dynamic versatility as a receiver.

As for his production profile, Bell was buried on the depth chart as a true freshman, finishing with only one reception and 29 yards. His sophomore campaign would be far more productive as he accounted for over 20% of South Carolina’s receiving yards, averaging 1.48 Receiving Yards per Team Pass Attempt in 12 games. In fact, his season would rank in the 89th percentile among all sophomore campaigns since 2013, finishing the year as one of the most productive tight ends in the nation. In 2022, Bell would take a step back as a receiver, averaging only about 8% of South Carolina’s receiving production. However, that was heavily driven by Bell’s unique running back usage in 2022, totaling 73 rush attempts and 261 rushing yards as South Carolina had to overcome multiple injuries to their backfield last season. Because of his added opportunities as a rusher, we also saw his efficiency decline significantly in 2022. After averaging over 14 yards per touch as a sophomore, this number would drop to 5.0 in his junior year.

Heading into 2023, I expect a bounce-back campaign for Bell as he now finds himself in a more efficient Florida State offense that should utilize him exclusively at tight end. And if he can return to his receiving usage from 2021, he should be much more productive and efficient this year, paving the path for day two capital in the 2024 draft.

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With Josh Downs and Antoine Green declaring for the NFL, Bryson Nesbit has a clear path to more opportunities and could become the top target for Drake Maye this season. Similar to some of the other tight ends highlighted in this article, Nesbit is not the biggest prospect, measuring in at 6’5” and only 235 pounds. However, while he is not the most physically imposing tight end, Nesbit has the athletic ability to excel as a receiver. He has the speed to create separation against linebackers and the length to be a mismatch against some of the smaller defensive backs. In addition, he was also an effective deep threat in the Tar Heels’ offense last season, averaging an impressive 11.8 average depth of target (per PFF) and 14.5 yards per reception in 2022. This is especially important as deeper targets are generally more valuable for fantasy football. And assuming his usage translates into the NFL, we could see Nesbit operate similarly to Evan Engram, who lined up primarily out of the slot since joining the league.

As you can see above, Nesbit’s production does not necessarily jump off the page. While he did set career highs in multiple metrics as a sophomore, he still played behind Downs and Green for most of the season. As a result, he only accounted for 14% of his team’s receiving yards, leaving plenty of room to improve in his junior year. Where Nesbit did excel is in his efficiency, finishing fifth in yards per route run (2.21) according to PFF. So while his overall production is far from perfect, there are underlying metrics that lead me to believe that he could elevate his game in 2023. Assuming he does take on a more prominent role in this offense, Nesbit has the upside to be one of the most productive tight ends in the nation. 

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