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Low-scoring tight ends

Kmet, Pitts caught passes but not touchdowns

I find Kyle Pitts and Cole Kmet to be interesting tight ends. Both caught a ton of passes last year, but with only one touchdown between them. What are the chances of them again being lightly used in the red zone in 2022?

I don’t consider them to be interchangeable players. With Pitts, he was drafted with the hope he might develop into another Travis Kelce or Darren Waller. He had some big games as a rookie, finishing with 68 catches for 1,026 yards to go along with his one touchdown. In general, he seems to be on schedule, with a reasonable chance he’s a top-5 tight end in many of the upcoming seasons.

Kmet is a little different in that he’s been around for an extra season. And he’s not the same kind of freaky mismatch athlete. He finished with 60 catches for 612 yards last year, but with no touchdowns. Now the Bears have a new coaching staff and a new offense, with some chance he’ll have a bigger role but also a possibility they might use him less.

I don’t think Chicago has any interest in bringing back Jimmy Graham. That should or might free up Kmet to see a few more looks around the goal line. But I can’t say with confidence Kmet will be a big, featured part of their offense in that area of the field. (And can the Bears get Justin Fields going a little bit?)

With these kind of issues, I like to poke around with the historical numbers – see what’s happened to similar candidates. With this one, I was curious about how previous low-scoring tight ends have tended to perform. Specially, when a tight end catches 40-plus passes but scores fewer than 2 TDs, how many of those players come back the next year and start putting up touchdowns?

The numbers aren’t great. In the past 20 years, I see 22 tight ends having caught 40-plus passes but scored only 0-1 TDs. Only four of those guys came back the next year and scored more than 4 TDs. Jordan Reed, most notably, who zoomed up to 11 touchdowns for Washington in 2015. (Of the tight ends listed, Reed arguably is the most like Kyle Pitts – a mismatch receiving weapon rather than an in-line tight end.)

I’ve got the tight ends who scored more than 4 TDs tagged with black dots.

YearPlayerRecYdsTDPPRRkPrevious Yr
2003Freddie Jones, Ariz.555173124.7544-358-1
2003Stephen Alexander, S.D.0002.08945-510-1
2005Stephen Alexander, Den.21170144.03641-377-1
2007• Jason Witten, Dall.9611457252.5164-754-1
2008Bo Scaife, Ten.585612126.11146-421-1
2009Zach Miller, Oak.668053164.51156-778-1
2009Jeremy Shockey, N.O.485693122.91750-483-0
2009Chris Cooley, Was.29332274.22883-849-1
2009Desmond Clark, Chi.19145245.54241-367-1
2010Bo Scaife, Ten.36318491.82945-440-1
2011• Tony Scheffler, Det.26347699.22545-378-1
2013• Brent Celek, Phil.325026118.22057-684-1
2013Rob Housler, Ariz.39454190.42845-417-0
2013Tony Scheffler, Det.782015.26942-504-1
2014Heath Miller, Pitt.667613162.11158-593-1
2015• Jordan Reed, Was.8795211248.2250-465-0
2016Jacob Tamme, Atl.22210361.03959-657-1
2017Eric Ebron, Det.535744134.41361-711-1
2017Will Tye, NYJ43807.89348-395-1
2021Gerald Everett, Sea.484784121.82041-417-1
2021Evan Engram, NYG464083104.52363-654-1
2021Drew Sample, Cin.1181019.17340-349-1
2022Kyle Pitts, Atl.?????68-1026-1
2022Cole Kmet, Chi.?????60-612-0

For those interested in the like numbers from the ‘90s, they appear below. Just one of the guys from that decade moving to over 4 TDs, and just two others reaching the 4 level. But with the league and the game changing dramatically, I don’t think these numbers are all that meaningful.

YearPlayerRecYdsTDPPRRkPrevious Yr
1994Ethan Horton, Was.15157348.72843-467-1
1994Jay Novacek, Dall.474752106.5844-445-1
1994Steve Jordan, Min.32305.36856-542-1
1995Tony McGee, Cin.557544154.4540-492-1
1996• Frank Wycheck, Hou.535116140.4540-471-1
1996Jackie Harris, T.B.30349172.91662-751-1
1996Keith Cash, K.C.1480022.04742-419-1
1997Pete Mitchell, Jac.35380497.01452-575-1
1997Lonnie Johnson, Buff.41340287.61746-457-0
1997Brian Kinchen, Balt.1195126.54655-581-1
1998Ryan Wetnight, Chi.23168251.82946-464-1
1998Eric Bjornson, Dall.15218149.53247-442-0
1998Jamie Asher, Was.28294057.42749-474-1

In general, I like both Pitts and Kmet, but I think both will be higher on my board in PPR formats rather than in scoring systems were touchdowns are at a premium.

—Ian Allan

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