Dalton Kincaid: Exciting Fantasy Football Complement to Dalton Knox

May 01, 2023
Dalton Kincaid: Exciting Complement to Dalton Knox

As part of one of the deepest tight end classes we’ve seen in a while, Dalton Kincaid was the first off the 2023 NFL Draft board at pick No. 25 to the Buffalo Bills. The Utah product joins an already talented offense, bringing with him immediate move-the-chains ability and red zone prowess.

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Dalton Kincaid Pre-NFL

A basketball star in high school, Kincaid played just one year of football before heading to the University of San Diego as a non-scholarship athlete. In two years as a Torero (24 games), he had 68 receptions for 1,209 yards and 19 touchdowns, and subsequently, Utah came knocking with a scholarship in 2020.

COVID ruined his first season with the Utes, but by his senior year, Kincaid put up 890 yards and eight touchdowns on 70 catches while earning 1st-team all-Pac-12 honors. He led all Power Five TEs in receptions (70) and was second to Michael Mayer in yards per route run (2.42). The 23-year-old is a quick, solid route runner with fantastic playmaking ability and should be an exciting addition to both the real and fake football world.

Rookie Tight End History

It’s no secret that first-year, particularly first-round TEs, rarely move the needle when it comes to fantasy football. In fact, only three NFL Draft first-rounders since 2000 have ended their rookie year as a starting fantasy tight end (Jeremy Shockey, Evan Engram, and Kyle Pitts).

We are seeing more rookies enter the TE2 conversation with some spike weeks in recent years though, due to the volatility of the TE position at the NFL level. Last year Greg Dulcich was the TE16 in half-PPR points per game, with several others not too far behind as TE2/3s, and in 2021, Pat Freiermuth put up TE17 numbers in half-PPR points per game and was the TE13 in overall half-PPR points.

Kincaid does have the potential to be one of the outlying exceptions and landing in a high-scoring offense certainly doesn't hurt his chances.

How Dalton Kincaid Fits with the Bills

Buffalo has been searching for that missing receiving piece behind Stefon Diggs for several seasons. Kincaid is a large-bodied (6’4, 246 lbs) mismatch, who can be utilized in various spots. Last year at Utah, Kincaid saw 55.1% of his snaps from the slot which is a stellar spot to live in this Josh Allen offense. When looking at last year's numbers, TE Dawson Knox and slot guy Isaiah McKenzie saw an almost identical target share—12.6% for Knox and 12.5% for McKenzie—so adding an impactful TE who excels in the slot could bode well for the rookie’s place in Allen's pecking order.

McKenzie is gone, but Khalil Shakir is still on the roster and filled in nicely in the slot for several contests with McKenzie sidelined due to injury. The 23-year-old posted 75 yards and a score in Week 5, then added another 51 yards on three receptions in their Wild Card game against the Dolphins. He saw little to no volume the rest of the season, though, so we can infer that the Bills aren’t that into him, particularly with the decision to leapfrog the Cowboys to draft the versatile Kincaid in the first round.

Grabbing a first-round TE seemed a bit puzzling, considering the Bills extended Knox’s contract to make him the sixth-highest paid at his position with a deal through 2026. However, when we break it down, Knox’s pass-catching acumen doesn't seem to be improving as they haven’t gotten the production from the position one would expect from such an efficient offense. In 2022, Knox was TE17 in receptions, TE14 in receiving yards, and TE22 in yards after the catch, despite seeing 53 catchable targets, which was among the top 12 at the position. While he’s flirted with decent fantasy numbers over the last two years, Knox is inconsistent from game to game which is frustrating to us fantasy managers and most likely the Buffalo coaching staff.

When asked about the draft pick, Bills GM Brandon Beane stated "(Kincaid)'s a tight end, but he's a receiving tight end. We think he'll pair well with Dawson and give us another target. He's not your standard Y tight end, he's gonna be flexed out more than necessarily you would do with Dawson."

We can assume they’ll decide to use Knox as more of a blocker which is less of a strength for the rookie and deploy Kincaid to move the chains and create some YAC in zone coverage which the Bills should see plenty of in 2023.

Buffalo has 157 available targets from 2022, and Kincaid has the potential to see north of 80 of those with fifth-rounder Justin Shorter from Florida the only other addition to the passing corps.

The Fantasy Football Side to Kincaid’s Arrival

Stefon Diggs is still the alpha on this offense (after Josh Allen, of course) and nothing will change there. That second look may be Gabe Davis, but could also be Kincaid if he’s a quick study and acclimates well to the pro level. That first-round price tag is an indication that the 23-year-old should see significant playing time with possible high-level volume, but expectations should also be tempered due to his rookie status.

Before the NFL Draft, Knox was leaving Underdog draft boards as TE12 at spot 11.08 and since Kincaid joined the team, he’s fallen one positional spot to TE13 and down to 12.01. Meanwhile, the newest Buffalo TE was the TE25 in ADP with a 17th-round price tag pre-NFL Draft and has spiked to TE16 at spot 14.03. With only a few days of drafts determining this capital, he’ll likely climb and we could see these two flip-flop in ADP over the course of the summer.

For fantasy football purposes, consider both Knox and Kincaid in the TE2 conversation, with more upside and a sneak-up to TE1 possible for the rookie. Diggs remains a WR1, with Davis falling down to WR3/4 territory and Shakir a late-round dart in best ball only.

James Cook will still see his fair share of touches, likely similar to his volume down the stretch in 2022, with Nyheim Hines sprinkled in as well and Damien Harris the starter on paper. Kincaid’s presence shouldn't do much to change the backfield dynamic.

Bottom Line

  • Dalton Kincaid led the Power Five in receptions and was second at his position in yards per route run in 2022.
  • He joins a Bills team starving for big bodies with pass-catching prowess and could make an immediate impact despite the historical lack of rookie TE fantasy production.
  • Kincaid’s past slot experience could vault him to eat up a large portion of the 157 targets available from last year’s Buffalo offense.
  • Both Knox and Kincaid complement one another skill-wise and both fall in the fantasy TE2 category. Kincaid has the potential to sneak into TE1 territory and for now, boasts an Underdog ADP of TE16 at pick 14.03.
  • With Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs carrying hefty price tags, Kincaid makes for a nice stacking option with either one if you can’t stomach using your first two picks on that WR-QB stack, or as a third Bill if you do pay up for them.
  • In redraft, neither Knox nor Kincaid is a solid option in a one-TE format, but both could be streamers early on, with Kincaid a likely hot waiver add if he adjusts well to the NFL from the start.
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