Tight ends always have around five elite players each season, and another five with enough production and consistency that they merit fantasy attention. All the rest – “just another player.” And the usage of a tight end on a third-down play is the least of all positions. Just five players ended up with more than 17 third-down plays, therefore averaging more than one per game.
This breakdown is very fantasy relevant in that it shows the true importance that these players have to their offenses. And those with the higher yards-per-catch are used more as a receiver than as a blocker.
The below considers any tight end that had at least ten third-down catches.
The rookie Pat Freiermuth impressed on a Steelers team that did not throw the ball downfield due to weak-armed Ben Roethlisberger. That called up his number more often than expected, and it could change with a new quarterback taking over for 2022. But he’s already a big cog in the passing machine and in just his first season. Freiermuth will only get better.
Kyle Pitts also ranked well with 19 first-down catches. Anthony Firkser was an oddity in that he had a very marginal year (34-291-2) but well over half of his catches came on third down, after The first two downs usually went to Derrick Henry. Mike Gesicki turned in a career year (73-780-2) and stepped up not only in fantasy points but on how often the Fins looked his way when they needed a first down.
The average tight end gains under ten yards per catch, so producing more than that on the most critical down of a drive is a true measure of what value they bring to the passing scheme. And the top five – Rob Gronkowski, Dallas Goedert, George Kittle, Mark Andrews and Dawson Knox all averaged higher on third down than their overall averages. They got better when the pass was thrown on third down.
There are no major surprises here, but Dallas Goedert’s hefty 16.3-yard-average impressed more considering the offense around him.
Third-down success rate
Once again, Dallas Goedert bubbled up to the top as the only tight end that logged a first down each time he caught a pass on a third down. Hunter Henry (93%) and Dalton Schultz (87%) did not gain many yards on third down but were more successful than most. Any tight end with more than 50% success on third down is notable for their team, but the Top-10 were all 75%.
Pat Freiermuth fell in this metric, and worse yet, he only gained 6.9 yards per catch. Such was the Steelers passing game last year. Noah Fant also fell badly in this measurement with only four first downs despite 17 third-down passes.
The most notable here were Goedert, Henry, and Schultz. Jared Cook rated well but at 34 years old, may not be back. That could get more work for Donald Parham, who caught three third-down passes and two were touchdowns.