Let’s be real, nothing is safe in fantasy football, so play Week 17 at your own risk. At the time of this writing, we already know luminaries such as Landry Jones, Sean Mannion, and Paxton Lynch will start for their respective franchises this week. Nate Sudfeld and Christian Hackenberg could relieve Nick Foles and Bryce Petty at some point, too.
It bears mentioning that rookie Patrick Mahomes will draw the start for the Chiefs, but everyone is excited about this so it gets to be in the positive paragraph.
As you can tell, deciding your league’s fantasy crown in the last week of the season is a ghastly endeavor. Still, to the select few who may need a quality tight end or flex player to finish out the season, here are some lesser-owned options for you.
Note: All ownership percentages are derived from Yahoo.
Eric Ebron, 57% owned (vs. GB)
Ebron is the premier option on this list despite the recent elimination of the Lions from playoff contention. Matt Stafford will play, and despite the rough matchup on paper the Packers showed cracks in Week 13 against Cameron Brate (2-39-2) and Week 15 to Greg Olsen (9-116-1). Ebron hasn’t finished worse than the TE12 in any week since Week 13, so he has earned some leash as a legitimate TE1. I like him slightly more than the next guy on this list...
Antonio Gates, 24% owned (vs. OAK)
Old Man Gates led the Chargers in receiving last week in Hunter Henry’s absence, but his primary talent is red-zone usage. With Hunter Henry on the shelf, Gates profiles as the most dangerous red-zone threat for the Chargers outside of Keenan Allen. He missed Thursday’s practice with an illness but is expected to suit up this Sunday. Gates should be highly motivated in what could be his last regular season NFL game, especially with an elusive playoff berth on the line. I was a sucker for the Gates scoring narrative in 2016 and I will be a sucker for the Old Man again in Week 17.
Charles Clay, 36% owned (@ MIA)
Clay has been a favorite of mine all year, including the preseason. I am extremely bummed that a knee injury derailed his early momentum. Anyway, Clay has mustered 19 targets over the last two weeks, which is pretty epic and points to a return to health (and to the ineptitude of the Bills receiving corps). Buffalo has a playoff spot on the line against Miami, and the ‘Fins allow the third-most fantasy points to tight ends on the season. With Kelvin Benjamin (knee) still a little banged up, Deonte Thompson (shoulder) questionable to play, and Zay Jones the incarnation of ineffectiveness, Clay should see heavy work once again in Week 17. Sidenote: Play Shady McCoy. Play that man everywhere you can.
Vernon Davis, 48% owned (@ NYG)
I hesitated to list Vernon Davis after his previous letdown against the Giants in Week 12 (1 target, 0 receptions, 0 yards). That, and his volatility over the past five weeks is sketchy (two top-10 finishes and three finishes outside of the top 40). Still, the law of averages has to come into play in VD’s second go-round with the GMen, right? Pro-Bowl safety Landon Collins is now on injured reserve and cornerback Eli Apple is suspended (and this secondary was already the worst in the league against tight ends). I’ll stack Davis up with Captain Kirk in DFS one more time, just so I don’t miss the inevitable fireworks.
Trey Burton, 9% owned (vs. DAL)
George Kittle was a consideration here, but he is still splitting time with the upstart Garrett Celek and I like Burton’s ceiling with the likelihood of Ertz getting an early hook on Sunday. Burton has performed admirably when called upon this season and has a chance to be a target-hog if the Eagles rest some key starters. Burton has converted seven red-zone targets into four touchdowns, and has a higher aDoT than Ertz this season (12.7 to 8.1). Burton actually had a TE2 floor for six weeks running, too, prior to Week 16’s bagel. From Week 8 to Week 15 these were his finishes: 25th, 5th, bye, 28th, 18th, 1st, and 14th. Now you’re telling me there’s a chance Ertz may not play the whole game? Burton is a TE15 with upside and he isn’t owned anywhere. Even though the targets might come from Nate Sudfeld, you can sign me up for Burton this week. I will have all the Burton shares in 2018, too, as he is slated to move on into free agency. More on that later. For now, good luck out there in Week 17. Yikes!