Fantasy football: Tight end rankings clearer following Rob Gronkowski retirement

The retirement of Rob Gronkowski opens up a spot in the top 10 at tight end. Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

Rob Gronkowski "officially" announced his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday afternoon.

I put "officially" in quotes since he's already retired once before and his agent Drew Rosenhaus has speculated that Gronkowski could be lured back later in the season. Of course, for now, we must approach the 2022 fantasy football drafts as if Gronkowski will not play.

Gronkowski's retirement undoubtedly leaves Tampa Bay with one of the league's shakiest situations at tight end. Eight-year vet Cameron Brate defaults to the No. 1 slot (remember, O.J. Howard is also gone) and while Brate has flirted with fantasy relevance at times, he hasn't had a top-10 fantasy campaign since 2017. Of course, Brate has very little competition for snaps, with Day 3 rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft next up on the depth chart. It's possible the Buccaneers add a veteran like Jared Cook or Eric Ebron, but for now, Brate (who ranked fourth among TEs with nine end zone targets last season) should be considered a late-round sleeper.

Gronkowski's retirement also affects the overall landscape at tight end, as he was third in fantasy points per game in 2021 and a good bet for his ninth career top-10 fantasy campaign in 2022.

Below is an updated look at the top 30 at the position in tier form. Be sure to also check out our full capsules and projections for each player.

Tier 1

1. Mark Andrews, Ravens
2. Travis Kelce, Chiefs

The class of the field, Andrews paced all tight ends in fantasy points in 2021 and Kelce did the prior five seasons. If you want one of these superstars, plan on investing a second round pick in 12-team leagues.

Tier 2

3. Kyle Pitts, Falcons

Pitts' hype season is in full form and we're not even getting a discount for his unlucky TD production as a rookie. Even in a weak Atlanta offense, it should surprise no one if he emerges as the class of the position in 2022. He's likely to cost you a third or fourth round pick.

Tier 3

4. Darren Waller, Raiders
5. George Kittle, 49ers

Waller also had poor TD luck in 2021 and, while that will regress to the mean this season, his target share will take a hit with Davante Adams in the fold. Kittle's inconsistent production was problematic last season and it's hard to know what to expect from new QB Trey Lance, but he's been top-5 on a PPG basis the last four seasons. Neither veteran tight end is cheap (~fifth round) and might a bit pricey considering the wideouts available in that range.

Tier 4

6. Dalton Schultz, Cowboys
7. T.J. Hockenson, Lions

Schultz was fantasy's No. 3-scoring TE last season and could see even more targets with Dallas dealing with departures and Michael Gallup's injury at wide receiver. Hockenson has been top 7 in fantasy PPG the last two seasons and remains a solid TE1 target. Both tight ends are available in the middle rounds and look like the best values in early drafts.

Tier 5

8. Dallas Goedert, Eagles
9. Zach Ertz, Cardinals
10. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins
11. Pat Freiermuth, Steelers

Goedert was sixth at the position in fantasy PPG after Ertz was traded last season and remains a solid TE1. Ertz flourished in Arizona last season and finished fifth in fantasy points. He's positioned for another big workload in a good offense, especially with DeAndre Hopkins suspended. Expect fewer targets for Gesicki with Tyreek Hill added, but his TDs should rebound. Freiermuth put up the 13th-most fantasy points ever by a rookie TE in 2021 and he's a candidate for more targets in his second season. This is another excellent tier to target in the Round 8-to-11 range.

Tier 6

12. Hunter Henry, Patriots
13. Dawson Knox, Bills
14. Noah Fant, Seahawks

Henry and Knox tied for the TE lead with nine touchdowns last season, but both figure to max out in the 70-to-80 target range, same as last year. Knox's ninth-round ADP is too rich, but Henry can be had much later. Fant is a good, young talent, but he may struggle to get back to the TE1 mix in Seattle.

Tier 7

15. David Njoku, Browns
16. Cole Kmet, Bears
17. Irv Smith Jr., Vikings
18. Logan Thomas, Commanders

Any of these tight ends make for fine fliers in the double-digit rounds. Njoku got a big payday and will be a big part of the Cleveland passing game. Kmet will bounce back in the TD department this season (zero TDs on 60 catches last season), but he's coming off the board earlier than Gesicki, Henry and Fant in many early drafts. Smith is a post-hype target after missing all of 2021 due to injury. Thomas would be on the top-12 radar if not for a torn ACL that could cost him a few games.

Tier 8

19. Robert Tonyan, Packers
20. Tyler Higbee, Rams
21. Evan Engram, Jaguars
22. Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos
23. Gerald Everett, Chargers
24. Austin Hooper, Titans
25. Hayden Hurst, Bengals
26. Brevin Jordan, Texans
27. Cameron Brate, Buccaneers
28. C.J. Uzomah, Jets
29. Mo Alie-Cox, Colts
30. Adam Trautman, Saints

Most of these players won't be drafted in 10-to-12-team leagues, but they are names to monitor. Engram, Everett, Hooper, Hurst and Uzomah found new homes during the offseason and are positioned as starters. Okwuegbunam is a breakout candidate as Denver's replacement for Fant. Tonyan's ACL recovery will need to be monitored, but when healthy, he'll be a favorite target of Aaron Rodgers near the goal line (11 TDs in 2020). Higbee has settled in as a good TE2, but a limited ceiling makes him an unintriguing late-round flier. Keep an eye on second-year Jordan and third-year Trautman for potential leaps in production. Alie-Cox has a path to relevance with Matt Ryan under center and Jack Doyle retired.