The Titans were looking to recapture some of that old Jonnu Smith magic in their offense when they drafted another move tight end in Okonkwo, and he certainly flashed as a rookie. Okonkwo was a weapon in space for the Titans and averaged 9.8 yards per target with receptions of 48, 41, 31 and 41 in four of his five games from Weeks 9-13. The July signing of DeAndre Hopkins pushes Okonkwo down in the passing-game pecking order, taking shine off the young tight end as an intriguing sleeper. Smith's best season with Ryan Tannehill featured 41 catches, 448 yards and eight touchdowns on 65 targets. It's hard to expect eight scores from Okonkwo, which played a big part in Smith's quality Fantasy finish. Okonkwo is the type of young tight end who could break out if he commands a bigger portion of the passing game than expected, but he's now a late-round flier rather than a potential starting option in Fantasy.
The biggest question facing Okonkwo this year will be just how much time he spends on the field. Based on Tennessee’s changes at TE and general lack of weapons (even after the DeAndre Hopkins signing), we’re willing to bet he plays a big role.
The Titans’ run-heavy approach figures to limit the ceiling on passing volume. But there’s a path for Okonkwo to rank third on the team in targets.
He’s capable of a top-12 TE season.
What We Learned Last YearOkonkwo landed with the Titans in Round 4 of the draft. He was the 10th TE drafted, sixth in the fourth round alone.That followed a mostly quiet college career but a breakthrough final season. Okonkwo caught 25 balls across 17 games through his first three years, then finished with a 52-447-5 receiving line in his final year at Maryland.He ranked second on that team in receptions, third in receiving yards, and tied for first in TD catches.His 8.6 yards per catch ranked just 12th among Maryland players with multiple receptions, though.Okonkwo delivered rare speed at the Scouting Combine, registering a 94th-percentile 40 time among TEs. Even at 4th-percentile weight for the position, that was good enough for a 92nd-percentile speed score.He started quietly with the Titans, playing 16 snaps or fewer in each of the first five games. The playing time increased in Week 6 and hit 40% or higher in eight of the remaining 12 contests.Okonkwo averaged just 1.5 targets and 0.8 receptions per game through the first 10, never exceeding 3 targets in a game over that span.The final seven contests, however, found Okonkwo averaging 4.4 targets, 3.4 catches, and 39.7 yards per game. He led all Titans in receptions and ranked second in receiving yards over that span (behind Treylon Burks) while tying Austin Hooper for third on the team in targets.Among 43 TEs who drew 30+ targets for the season, Okonkwo ranked third in Pro Football Focus receiving grade and first in yards per route. He also ranked third in targets per route among all TEs who ran at least 10 routes. Kyle Pitts was the only TE with more than 77 routes who beat Okonkwo in targets per route.What to Expect in 2023The Titans let Austin Hooper go this offseason. They also let TE Geoff Swaim walk after three years with the team. Their biggest addition to the position was fifth-round pick Josh Whyle.All signs have pointed to Okonkwo’s role continuing to grow in his second season.He might need to improve his blocking to stay on the field enough to approach his ceiling. Okonkwo did get more run-blocking reps than Hooper last season, though. He also graded out better than Hooper in that category but trailed Swaim in both run-blocking snaps and grade.Okonkwo has never graded well in that area, and he earned weaker run-blocking grades than new teammate Whyle throughout college.Swaim, despite leading Titans TEs in playing time last season, drew just 16 targets all year. So the blocking might also not matter too much.It’s worth noting that not many TEs have succeeded in the NFL at Okonkwo’s size. His 32 receptions last year are the 14th most by any TE 6’2 or shorter and 245 pounds or lighter. That group does, however, include former Washington TE Jordan Reed and Denver great Shannon Sharpe.The July signing of WR DeAndre Hopkins alters the target share outlook in Tennessee. The Titans ranked 30th in pass attempts last year, their fourth time ranking 30th or lower in HC Mike Vrabel’s five seasons. The only time they didn’t was 2021, when Derrick Henry lost nine games to a foot fracture. That team ranked 25th in pass attempts.Perhaps the Hopkins addition signals at least some increase in passing share. That would obviously help everyone in the passing game.Tennessee still sports an iffy pass-catching depth chart. Burks and Henry led all returning Titans with just 33 catches apiece last season.
A fourth-round rookie, Okonkwo first played more than 30% of Tennessee's offensive snaps in Week 7 last season. From that point forward, the Maryland product handled a 13% target share (3.3 per game) despite only running a route on 37% of the Titans' pass plays. He wasn't much of a fantasy option (he ranked 26th with 6.9 PPG) and struggled with drops, but he flashed upside by finishing top two at TE in yards per target (10.0), yards per reception (14.1) and RAC (7.9). Only four TEs had more receiving yards after Week 8. Austin Hooper departed via free agency, leaving Okonkwo clearly atop the depth chart in Mike Vrabel's TE-friendly offense. Okonkwo is an intriguing breakout candidate worth a look in the late rounds.