The big news this week is Evan Engram, who has been ruled out of Thursday’s game with a sprained MCL. It was a brutal matchup against New England, anyway. The other news is that we all stashed Chris Herndon IV for five weeks just so he could injure his hamstring and be week-to-week with said injury. SO TILTING.
We also have a four bye week teams to deal with. No Buffalo Bills (Dawson Knox), Chicago Bears (Trey Burton), Indianapolis Colts (Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle), or Oakland Raiders (Darren Waller) this week. Losing Engram, Waller, and a bunch of TE2 types might make this week one of the worst on record for tight ends. And I think we also lost the hope of Rob Gronkowski, too, as the big man accepted a gig as an analyst for Fox Sports. I cut him for Stephen Anderson in a 15-team league where we start two tight ends...this is how sad my life has become.
Let’s see what the week has in store, shall we? Hold your nose, ladies and gents...
1 Travis Kelce vs. IND - The Texans are fresh off of letting Austin Hooper post a 6-56 line on 9 targets—and Hooper also converted a 2-point conversion. Hooper is the best tight end the Texans have faced, so don’t let the Texans’ performance against tight ends (4th fewest fantasy points allowed so far) scare you off of Kelce. Kelce’s 48 targets among tight ends trails only Evan Engram (51). That, and Kelce’s 11.2 average depth of target (aDOT) is tops among all tight ends. At least, it’s tops among all tight ends who actually receive targets. Kelce’s 481 air yards obliterates the rest of his position, as the next highest number belongs to Zach Ertz, all the way down at 367.
2 George Kittle @ LAR - It’s encouraging that Kittle saw a healthy 8 targets in a game that the Niners dominated last week, beating Cleveland 31-3. Kittle parlayed those 8 looks into a 6-70-1 line and nabbed his first score of the season. The Rams should put up much more of a fight, and Kittle’s 9 red zone targets rank second to only to Evan Engram (10). And Kittle has played one fewer game than Engram, since he’s already had his bye week. Kittle ranks ninth in air yards and fifth in YAC among tight ends despite only playing in four games so far. His 25% target share is tied with Zach Ertz for the 2nd highest mark in the NFL among tight ends—only Darren Waller (26%) is higher.
3 Zach Ertz at MIN - The Vikings weren’t good against Darren Waller (13-134) but stymied Evan Engram (6-42) and the Giants last week. They also let Austin Hooper (9-77) get loose in Week 1. I like Ertz to take advantage here, as he’s cut from the same cloth as the aforementioned guys—except Ertz (8.2) has a higher aDOT and more air yards than any of those guys. Ertz also has 7 red zone looks already, tied for third behind only Engram (10) and Kittle (9).
4 Austin Hooper @ ARI - The preeminent matchup for tight ends. The Cardinals only allowed 2-16 to C.J. Uzomah last week, and they are still the worst in the league at allowing fantasy points to tight ends. 36 receptions allowed (TB and KC have allowed 37) is 2nd worst, while 461 yards is the most allowed to tight ends so far. The six scores is also the highest amount allowed (TEN and CLE have each allowed four). Hooper’s 43 targets is TIED WITH JULIO JONES for team lead for Atlanta. Just let that ruminate for a bit. Only difference is Hooper has corralled 35 of those for catches, compared to Jones’ 26. Lastly, Hooper is THIRD among tight ends in YAC, at 163 yards. Only Engram (219) and Waller (203) have more. Waller is on a bye, and Engram is battling a knee injury and may not play. Just sayin’. Hooper is underrated.
5 Will Dissly @ CLE - The Browns allowed the No. 2 tight end performance in Week 4 if you combine the lines of Mark Andrews (4-31-1) and Hayden Hurst (2-39). Last week, the Browns allowed the top tight end performance, as Kittle tagged them for 6-70-1 and added in one rush for 18 yards. This week the Browns host Will Dissly, who only saw four targets last week but caught all four for a strapping 81 yards. Dissly’s four scores leads all NFL tight ends, and he’s currently the No. 1 tight end in standard scoring leagues. His 18.06% target share is tied for second in Seattle with D.K. Metcalf, behind only Tyler Lockett (25.81%). However, Metcalf hasn’t seen more targets in a game than Dissly since Week 2. From Weeks 3 to 5, it’s Dissly (20) and Metcalf (13). Dissly has also converted four of his six red zone looks for scores, while the rookie Metcalf is 0-for-8 in the red area so far. Dissly sounds like the No. 2 option to me...
6 Greg Olsen @ TB - Tampa has allowed the most receptions to tight ends (37 to Arizona’s 36), the 2nd most yardage (445 to Arizona’s 461), and three scores (tied for 4th worst). This Bucs defense funnels to the pass...the only question is how much will Kyle Allen take advantage? That, and will Olsen be the beneficiary? It’s tough to project tons of volume for Olsen given the usage of Christian McCaffrey and the presence of D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. But this matchup makes him viable. For example, the Cardinals (461) and Bucs (445) are worst and next-worst in yardage allowed to tight ends. Pretty close, right? Welp, the third-worst team is the Seahawks, who have allowed nearly 100 yards less to enemy tight ends, at 349 yards. The Bucs have hemorrhaged yardage to the big guys, and Olsen himself posted a 6-110 line against Tampa in Week 2. The Bucs have allowed solid performances to tight ends every single week—if Olsen doesn’t contribute in this matchup, I say you can safely drop him in season-long formats.
7 Mark Andrews vs. CIN - Even though he’s banged up I’m not dropping him from my top-10. Strangely enough, the Bengals have only allowed a 14-214-1 line to enemy tight ends through five weeks (10th fewest points allowed). A closer look will tell you they’ve not had much competition though, as the still banged up Week 1 version of Will Dissly (1-12), Nick Vannett (2-28), and Charles Clay (1-27) were all no-shows. George Kittle (3-54) and Dawson Knox (3-67-1) each produced. I’d side with Andrews here, given Lamar Jackson’s affinity for throwing to his tight ends.
8 Delanie Walker at DEN - The Broncos are a decent matchup, having allowed a 23-206-1 line to enemy tight ends thus far. However, Denver has been really fortunate, facing the likes of Lance Kendricks (0-0), James O’Shaughnessy (1-18-1), Jimmy Graham (0-0), and Adam Shaheen (3-24). The only real threat they’ve seen was Darren Waller, who posted a healthy 7-70 line against them way back in Week 1. Walker has only seen 5 targets in total over the last two weeks, but last week was a rough matchup against Buffalo and the week prior was when Marcus Mariota slung three first half touchdown passes and the Titans rolled over Atlanta 24-10—setting a season-high with 34 team rushing attempts while running out the clock. I’m not ready to give up on Walker just yet. He is tied for the team lead with 26 targets, and still leads Tennessee with four red zone looks. Add in that wideout Corey Davis should be erased by Chris Harris Jr., leaving Walker, Adam Humphries, and A.J. Brown as the most viable candidates to produce...I’ll side with Walker for one more week.
9 Jared Cook @ JAC - He posted a 4-41-1 line against the Bucs last week, who are a cheeeeeese matchup for tight ends. The Jags are a bit tougher than Tampa, having allowed 19 fewer receptions, 200 less yards, and two fewer scores than the Bucs. But working in Cook’s favor is a lack of wide receiving options in New Orleans. After Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn’s 34-year-old deep threat prowess is the second-most used wideout (10.71% target share). It’s Thomas (32.74%), Alvin Kamara (19.64%), and then Cook (15.48%) in the passing game. Cook has seen exactly 7 targets in three of his five games so far. That’s not a bad floor for a guy who is still integrating into the offense.
10 Jimmy Graham vs. DET - Graham only saw three balls go his way in Week 5, a week that was supposed to be a guaranteed day of volume. Alas, Aaron Jones went full beast mode on the Cowboys, so flinging the ball all over the yard wasn’t imperative. The Lions have been stingy to enemy tight ends, allowing a 16-221-0 line so far. It’s a better matchup than the next guy gets, though...
11 Gerald Everett vs. SF - This is a brutal matchup for tight ends, as no big guy has amassed more than 32 yards against them—and only one touchdown has been allowed (to the ghost of Tyler Eifert). In fact, the Niners have only allowed 87 yards receiving to tight ends over four games, which is the lowest mark in the NFL. This is a stifling matchup for Everett, so maybe you can buy in on him after a “letdown” in Week 6. Just know that he’ll see this same Niners defense again in Week 16, which is when most championship matchups will be held.
12 T.J. Hockenson @ GB - The Packers are a rough matchup, as only Ertz (7-65) and Goedert (2-16-1) did anything of note against them. Green Bay gives up the 6th fewest points to tight ends. Still, Hockenson’s 15.22% target share ranks third behind Kenny Golladay (26.09%) and Marvin Jones (18.12%). I like Hockenson a little bit better if Danny Amendola (13.77%) doesn’t play. Amendola has some things in his favor, coming off of a bye and playing in a Monday night game. So Hock’s ranking is probably staying right where it is.
13 Vance McDonald @ LAC - The Chargers were carved up on the ground by Phillip Lindsay (15-114-1) in Week 5, and Royce Freeman (13-61) also produced. I’d assume the Steelers try to roll with a similar game plan and use a heavy dose of James Conner. Conner played 80% of snaps in Week 5, and I imagine that number goes up with Jaylen Samuels sidelined. Point is, it’s tough to get excited about McDonald, especially with Mason Rudolph at the helm.
14 Vernon Davis @ MIA - There’s not much else, I promise. At least he has some upside against this defense, if he plays. Davis was back at practice on Wednesday, so there’s a chance he can be out of concussion protocol ahead of the weekend. If not, Jeremy Sprinkle would take his place but would not be in consideration.
15 Noah Fant vs. TEN - The kid has moves, and in general this is a solid defense. However, it’s possible that Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders receive more of the attention, and the Titans actually allow the 4th most fantasy points to tight ends. David Njoku (4-37-1), Eric Ebron (3-25-1), James O’Shaughnessy (2-18-1), and Lee Smith (1-8-1) have all found the end zone against the Titans. And Austin Hooper shredded them for 9-130 in Week 4. At least Fant has some moves...
Noah Fant's 1st NFL TD. Nice!pic.twitter.com/HLWFPVWOjq— FantasyPros (@FantasyPros) September 29, 2019
16 Dallas Goedert @ MIN - He’s a low-floor, mid-range ceiling option. But that’s what we are reduced to at this juncture. He hasn’t seen more than three targets in a game, but the Vikings were porous against Austin Hooper (9-77) and Darren Waller (13-134). There are worse darts than the guy on a quality offense.
17 O.J. Howard vs. CAR - He’s an afterthought for Tampa right now. You’re only starting Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. If you’re starting Howard anywhere, you messed up. The Panthers have allowed the 5th fewest fantasy points to enemy tight ends, and they shut out Howard in Week 2.
18 Jason Witten @ NYJ - The Jets defense is getting healthier, and they were already good against tight ends. Witten is a low volume red zone threat at this stage, and he’s never been a guy we relied on for touchdowns, anyway. Add in that Michael Gallup is back, and I’m totally out on Witten right now.
19 Jordan Akins @ KC - We expect a shootout between the Texans and Chiefs, and the Texans are probably still without Kenny Stills. Sure, Keke Coutee (3-72) stepped up a week ago, but if this game turns into a smorgasbord of fantasy goodness there’s at least a chance that Akins falls into relevance. Akins is third on the team with a 10.24% target share, besting Kenny Stills (9.04%) and Keke Coutee (7.23%). He’s even ahead of the formerly buzzy Duke Johnson (7.83%), who has become a non-factor. Lastly, for some reason the Texans have gone to tight ends in the red area more than you’d think this year, as both Akins and Darren Fells each have four red zone looks—tied for second on the team behind Will Fuller (5). DeAndre Hopkins (2) better not become a decoy the way of Julio Jones...
20 Mike Gesicki vs. WAS - Look, there are worse darts to take, okay? You’d rather have Preston Williams or DeVante Parker, but if you need a desperate heave into the end zone, Gesicki is your guy. Just be advised—in two of his four games he has only seen ONE target. So the floor here is spectacularly low.
If you’re rolling past this point, I pity you. Maybe just taking a dart on athleticism (Irv Smith Jr.) or a scoring chance (Cameron Brate). Hayden Hurst would become really interesting if we got more negative reports on Mark Andrews—and honestly he’s a worthwhile dart at this point given Jackson’s affinity for the tight end. You could consider Darren Fells for a scoring chance or consider Geoff Swaim if you want a starter, now that James O’Shaughnessy is out. No, you can’t talk me into Kyle Rudolph or Tyler Eifert...don’t even try. The best matchup remaining belongs to Ricky Seals-Jones, who gets the Seahawks. I could make a case for RSJ over any of the guys on the second half of my list...so consider him if you’d like.
Who did I miss? Who are you desperate enough to play at tight end this week, now that Chris Herndon IV has abandoned you?