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The Spotlight Series
A Footballguys Spotlight is an in-depth look at a player. His plusses and minuses are examined, and we give you our bottom-line stance on his 2022 prospects. If a player listed below doesn't yet have a link, don't worry. It's coming soon.
For five years, managers could pencil Travis Kelce in as fantasy's best tight end and move on to other positions. Then, in 2021, that changed. Mark Andrews took the crown from Kelce, and a world of possibility seemed to open up.
Maybe not an entire world of possibility, but we finally saw someone else could top this group. Looking at Footballguys consensus rankings for 2022, we now see Kelce, Andrews, and even Kyle Pitts receiving first-place recognition. One name not on that list is last year's No. 3 fantasy tight end, Dalton Schultz.
In his second season as the starter, Schultz set career marks for targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Notably, nothing he did last season is unrepeatable.
In fact, looking at this Dallas offense, there is a much better case to be made that Schultz will improve on his 2021 numbers. So while middle-round tight ends often disappoint fantasy managers, Schultz has a legitimate chance to finish 2022 as the best tight end in fantasy football.
The 2021 season started with more questions than answers around Dalton Schultz. He won the starting job in 2020 by default. The hype that season was for Blake Jarwin, but a torn ACL in the first game ended that story before it started. Schultz took over and would finish the season as the No. 11 tight end in fantasy, with over 600 yards and four touchdowns.
As we moved into the 2021 offseason, there was still no guarantee that Schultz would keep the job. He was entering his fourth season and had done almost nothing his first two years in the league. With Jarwin now back, the expectation was that, at best, they would split time as the team's starting tight end. Despite his top-12 finish the previous year, Schultz's ADP was outside of the positional Top 20. That was a mistake.
In 2021, Schultz built on his solid 2020 season, and Jarwin rarely saw the field. Playing over 80% of the team's snaps, most of any pass-catcher on the team, Dak Prescott targeted Schultz 104 times, second only to CeeDee Lamb.
Schultz caught 78 balls for 808 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021. His 75% catch rate was best among tight ends with over 100 targets.
TABLE: 2021 Tight Ends with 100+ Targets, Sorted by Catch Rate
His eight touchdowns put him right behind the league leaders at the position, all of whom scored nine times. Overall, it was a career year and better than any fantasy manager expected.
TABLE: 2021 Tight Ends, Sorted by Touchdown Receptions
|Rank||Tight End||Touchdowns||Rank||Tight End||Touchdowns|
|1||Mark Andrews||9||7||George Kittle||6|
|1||Dawson Knox||9||7||Rob Gronkowski||6|
|1||Travis Kelce||9||9||Zach Ertz||5|
|1||Hunter Henry||9||9||C.J. Uzomah||5|
|5||Dalton Schultz||8||9||Tyler Higbee||5|
Why 2022 Can Be Better
While Schultz did finish as the third-best fantasy tight end, he was 54 points behind Kelce and trailed Andrews by 93 fantasy points. That is a large gap to overcome, but not impossible.
The first thing he will need is more targets. Over the last three seasons, the top fantasy tight end has averaged 145 targets and never had fewer than 136. Schultz was targeted 104 times last season and would need at least two more targets per game to hit those numbers. Enter Amari Cooper. Or rather, exit Amari Cooper.
The Cowboys sent Cooper to the Cleveland Browns, freeing up over 16% of the team's targets. Cooper averaged 7.5 targets per game over the last two seasons. As CeeDee Lamb grows into the team's top wide receiver, we can send 2.5 his way. Michael Gallup was already at seven targets per game before his injury last year, so let's give him just one more.
The team drafted Jalen Tolbert in the third round. He will likely act as the third wide receiver. He will start with the 61 targets vacated by Cedric Wilson, and we'll give him two of Cooper's as well. So that leaves, you guessed it, two targets that could easily find their way to Schultz.
That alone would put Schultz at 138 targets, not quite enough to get him over the 150 he would need to match Andrews. However, the team also threw to Jarwin 18 times last year, and he's no longer on the roster. So now we're talking 156 targets, a 24% target share, assuming the Cowboys don't throw the ball more than they did in 2021. Andrews had over a 23% target share last season, so these are not unrealistic numbers.
With 156 targets, Schultz will end the season in the Top 3 again and could easily win the top spot. For his career, he catches 72% of the balls thrown his way for about 10 yards per catch. Assuming average numbers, that would give him 112 receptions and 1120 yards. That would represent a 65 fantasy point increase to his 2021 season, putting him ahead of Kelce and just behind Andrews. While 273 fantasy points would not have taken the top spot last year, it would have in two of the previous five seasons.
These are bold numbers but far from unattainable on a team that led the NFL in total offense last year. Of course, there is no guarantee that Schultz even receives a target increase, but he doesn't need it to be a draft value. He was No. 3 in total points last year, No. 5 in points per game, and one of the guys ahead of him retired. Yet, his ADP marks him as the sixth-best at the position. Schultz has a real chance to finish as fantasy's best tight end, but still a safe floor. And he will cost you far less than Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, or Kyle Pitts in your fantasy draft.
Stats and Projections
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