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CFF Discussion - One TE to rule them all
VP provides a high-level overview of the 2023 TE landscape for CFF
And into this [offence], he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life. One [TE] to rule them all…
- Galadriel, Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (with minor adjustments)
There’s been a lot of chatter in the CFF community about TEs lately, and there is good reason. An elite TE is the cherry on top of championship winning squads in CFF; indeed, the scarcity of elite options makes getting this position right a high upside proposition. I highly recommend all readers to checkout Chris Moxley’s TE manifesto over at C2C, and also Eric Froton’s historical trend analysis of TEs over at NBC sports.
Given all the buzz, I figured I’d chime in with some musings about the CFF TE landscape headed into 2023. From where I stand, there are two players at the top and then the rest. In this article, I’ll also cover some of the guys in that next tier, and guys that I think are intriguing late round options. This is not meant to be an all-encompassing rankings list (those will come later this summer).
Brock Bowers — 6’4, 230
Emerging from the fires of Mount Doom, the UGA football progrum spawned its legendary TE in the year of 2021. Brock Bowers — immediately upon arrival — wielded his power as if he had a master ring attached to his finger, dominating Power-Five (P5) competition from literally day one. One by one, the free lands of the SEC fell to the power of his yards after catch ability. He was a key cog in the back-to-back championship machine that was the 2021-2022 UGA Bulldogs; indeed, these days he simply goes by the name: The Lord of the Rings.
His new OC Mike Bobo, may be just what the doctor ordered to take Bowers to an even higher level in 2023. There are also some other factors at play that might benefit him, that is—UGA needs to do a major rebranding of its offence amongst the national crowd. Gone are the days of the slow, boring, run-first offence. OC Todd Monkey changed all of that shortly after his arrival in 2020. This is a balanced outfit now, but without a 1000-yard receiver since the 2000s, UGA has a hard time closing on any of the elite WRs on the trail. While Bowers isn’t a WR, he probably presents the best chance for the Dawgs at producing that elusive 1000-yard pass catcher, which would go a long way in quelling the haters. Even more so if Bowers finds himself in New York for the Heisman ceremony, which—with the amount of hype he’s had since his freshman year, plus with a nickname like The Lord of the Rings, is not actually that far fetched.
His new OC Bobo brings a track record of multiple 1000-yard receivers, and the whispers around Athens are that he is going to continue the offence Monken put in place—with some wrinkles, of course. If there’s one thing consistent about Bobo’s playcalling during his days at UGA and beyond, it’s that he does like to get his best players the ball often.
So what should we expect from the dark lord Bobo in 2023? I think it will probably be best summarized by this line:
And into this offence, Bobo poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life. One TE to rule them all…
Orande Gadsden — 6’5, 216
Syracuse’s Gadsden is a WR1 who is eligible in your TE slot. Enough said. If you want more to chew on, checkout my full write up here:
The Next Tier
Jalin Conyers — 6’4, 265
Arizona State TE Jalin Conyers, a 6’4 265 pound behemoth, is entering his third season of CFB with the Sun Devils. He had a phenomenal end to the season in 2022—catching 30 passes in his final 5 games, tracking to 346 yards and 5 TDs over that span. This uptick in usage coincided with QB Trenton Bourguet taking over as the starter. Conyers has blown up this spring, routinely making spectacular catches and is a mainstay in beat writer headlines. Overall, he finished 2022 with 38 receptions for 422 yards and 5 TDs (9.8 FPG).
No matter who ends up starting at QB to open the season, Conyers looks poised to see solid usage in Dillingham’s first season as head coach; but should Bourguet start again for the full season, based on the rapport they had to end 2022, Conyers could legitimately challenge for TE1 in 2023.
Jatavion Sanders — 6’4, 241
Texas TE Jatavion Sanders was once thought to be a potential All-American defensive prospect in high school. The former five-star was a two-way player at Dallas powerhouse Denton Ryan, playing both TE and DE to great effect. Ultimately, he chose to play offence with the Longhorns, and it appears he’s made a good choice for himself. In 2022, Sanders officially broke out, establishing a good rapport with both QB Quinn Ewers and backup Hudson Card—catching 54 passes (on 73 targets!) for 613 yards and 5 TDs in 13 games (5.61 targets/game). He had a season-high of 12 targets vs. TCU on Nov. 12th, of which he caught seven of those for 61 yards (Ewers played this game, attempting 39 passes total).
While the Longhorns have a plethora of pass-catching options, namely Adonai Mitchell, Isaiah Neyor and Xavier Worthy, Sanders will likely still be a fixture in their offence and especially around the redzone.
Utah Utes’ TEs
I’m combining both of Utah’s TEs because I do not have one valued over the other in my evaluation. It is hard to pick which one between them will be more productive so I will just cover both here. Of course, once the season starts one of these players will be more productive then the other, but it’s not obvious to me that it will be Kuithe.
Brant Kuithe — 6’2, 219
Kuithe has been around the Utes program long enough that he could be the TE coach by now. In fact, when writing this article I figured I’d better double check who’s been at the program longer between he and coach Kyle Whittingham, just to make sure I wasn’t mixing up the coach and the player.
Jokes aside, I think most CFF players know who Brant Kuithe is by now. He’s been productive over multiple seasons and came out in 2022 hot, catching a TD in each of his first three games while garnering 13, 5 and 9 targets before going down with injury in the Utes’ fourth game. Indeed, I think it’s accurate to suggest that he was the default TE1 coming into the season. His injury however, gave way to another TE stud in Dalton Kincaid. Kincaid went on to have a massive season at TE garnering 94(!) targets, catching 70 of them on his way to 890 yards and 8 TDs. He was one of the best TEs in CFF that year.
Kincaid leaves behind a massive production vacancy as he’s headed to the NFL- yet the underlying ingredients to the success (OC Andy Ludwig and QB Cam Rising) remain. This is good news for Kuithe, who’s physical measurables more-so resemble that of a jumbo WR or H-Back; he should be a focal point of the offence once again this season.
Thomas Yasmin — 6’5, 250
With respect to Yasmin, I guess I can start with the fact that for two years in a row, the presumed ‘second’ TE in the offseason has led the Utes in receiving TDs.
Kuithe, who has been a known commodity in CFF and CFB since 2019, was typically the TE taken first from this roster in the majority of CFF drafts in the last two seasons. However, it was Kincaid, who broke out in 2021, that led the team in receiving TDs each season. Despite Kincaid pacing the Utes in TDs in 2021, CFF managers still prioritized Kuithe over Kincaid in 2022. Maybe they would have been rewarded had Kuithe not gone down; he had a strong start to the season. However, the point here is that we should pay attention to the ‘other guy’ in the TE room this spring.
When Kincaid injured his shoulder late in the year last season, it was Yassmin’s name that Whittingham mentioned first as far as guys they were going to rely on more, and his name came up again heading into the Utes’ bowl game. Here is Whittingham on Yassmin leading up to their bowl game in January:
We've got a couple more tight ends we feel really good about, Thomas Yassmin is the guy who really is going to be picking up a lot of the slack for what those two guys that we're missing.
And again Whittingham mentioning Yassmin when Kuithe went down in September:
Thomas Yassmin is really the guy that takes most of the reps that it would be typically for Brant, so just got to continue to move forward…
He was pretty darn good in the game Saturday, when he came in for Brant. He started from ground zero when he got to us, there was no football experience so everything has been a process, a learning process, and he's better now. He's got size, speed, good hands, athletic and he's a prototypical tight end at 6-foot-5, 251 pounds
In case you haven’t had enough quotes let me throw one more at you, here’s starting QB Cam Rising on Yassmin:
We've been working together since 2019 scout team and it's always been productive . . . He's a phenomenal player, just got to get the ball in his hands and watch him do the rest.
Yassmin ended up catching a TD in each of the Utes’ last three games, and garnered a season high five targets in the bowl game vs. Penn State. Granted, those five targets only materialized into one catch for a TD. But wait! While we’re on the topic of ‘one reception’ I should point out that Kincaid’s 2020 season with the Utes prior to his breakout the following season ended with a singular reception for 14 yards too, only his wasn’t a TD.
The precedent has been set here for a veteran TE to step in and see a high target share in this offence. Especially if Kuithe were to go down again. Yassmin offers a cheap, low risk, yet high upside asset in CFF.
You saw coach Whittingham mention Yassmin starting from “ground zero” upon arrival in Salt Lake. His path to CFB is certainly a unique one.
Originally from Sydney, Australia, he played rugby for The Scots College in New South Wales and competed in something called the “Tri Nations Series” in 2017 against Fiji and New Zealand. I mention this only to articulate the point that he appears to be an elite athlete, which bodes well for his future in American Football. I should also point out that while I joked about Kuithe’s age, it actually turns out these two came to Utah in the same class in 2018 (Utah really out here playing with two NFL veteran-aged TEs in the PAC-12, that’s hard).
Ball State TEs
Similar story to the Utah TEs. One difference is that both of these players were already productive last season, so there’s less projection here. Without other notable names at WR for the Ball State Cardinal in 2023, both TEs are a good bet to see strong volume once again.
Brady Hunt — 6’6, 245
Hunt broke out last season catching 46 passes (62 targets) for 498 yards and 5 TDs in 12 games (5.16 targets/game). He finished 2022 averaging 10.6 FPG, which was good enough to land him in the top 10 TEs in CFF. Other than the fact that the Ball State QB situation isn’t ideal (journeyman Layne Hatcher is likely the starter), and Hunt will have to share volume with another TE, there aren’t many blemishes on his CFF profile. Hunt is a solid option for those who don’t want to pay up for the top guys.
Tanner Koziol — 6’7, 230
Koziol was a bit of an enigma last season. He mysteriously disappeared for a long stretch midway through the season, but when he was playing he saw strong target volume. He had a season-high 11 targets vs. NIU, 10 targets vs. Murray State, and also had 8 target games vs. Kent State and Ohio. Same sort of deal with Hunt as far as evaluating his profile. If he’s cheaper than Hunt give me Koziol all day if I’m picking from the two.
Side note: Where the hell are my Indianans at? My assistant tells me we have to increase the diversity quota of VolumePigs in the midwest, and seeing a hole right in middle America makes me sad (insert sad face). I’m starting to think that the state of Indiana — like the town of Hawkins from Stranger Things — is just a fictional fragment of some Hollywood writer’s imagination.
Tyler Devera — 6’4, 227
New Mexico State TE Tyler Devera transferred to the Aggies this offseason by way of the FCS school Stony Brook. He finished 2022 with 22 receptions for 308 yards and 3 TDs in 9 games. Notably, he had one of his best games of the season vs. G5 opponent UMass, in which he caught 4 passes (7 targets) for 62 yards (10.2 FPs). His best performance of 2022 came against FCS school UNH, in which he caught 4 passes for 99 yards and a TD.
David Martin Robinson — 6’4, 255
Temple’s big TE ‘DMR’ finished 2022 incredibly strong, with two of his last three games producing over 26 fantasy points. He was targeted 11 times vs. Houston, of which he caught 10 passes for 114 yards and a score (27.4); and 14 times vs. ECU, catching 9 of those for 93 yards and a TD (26.3). The sixth year TE is a sneaky play in CFF.
Dominick Mazotti — 6’4, 252
SJSU’s TE Dominick Mazotti has hung around CFF relevancy for a few years now but never truly had a his breakout season. Something to note is that Mazotti was not targeted and did not register a stat in the first two games he played in during the 2022 campaign (he played seven total), which weighed his FPG averaged down (8.2). If you average the numbers in games where we know he played, he finished 2022 with 12.12 FPG in five games, with his best games being 23 points vs. UNLV, 15.4 vs. Nevada, and 14 vs. Colorado State.
Dallin Holker — 6’5 240
I’ve written about Holker in the article below.
Mason Taylor — 6’5, 245
See the end of the article linked below for the section on Taylor.
George Takacs — 6’6, 243
With respect to Boston College’s TE Takacs, I don’t think I can explain it any better than CFFNate did on twitter:
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