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2019 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight ends in Week 12

Heath ranks the safety blankets.

NFL: New York Jets at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone else feel like this is the longest week ever? Or is it just me? Real life can be a chore sometimes. Thankfully, we have fantasy sports to give us a break from our day-to-day doldrums.

Anyway, last week yours truly ranked fifth in tight end ranking accuracy over at FantasyPros, out of more than 130 experts. For the season I’m up to 14th overall with regard to tight ends, so I’ll take that as a some validation given that tight ends are my sole focus for Fake Teams during the season. I’d love to expand said focus at some point, but then we went back around to that whole real life being a chore sometimes thing. I really enjoy how we split up the burden here at Fake Teams, meaning that you get a little bit more focus at each position!

For now, let’s narrow the focus on the big guys and see what Week 12 holds. The playoffs are upon us, so it’s time to play for keeps.

On bye this week are the Cardinals, Chiefs (Travis Kelce), Chargers (Hunter Henry), and Vikings (Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr.). Coming back to us is David Njoku, who returns from a broken wrist. Njoku was activated from IR and promptly participated in practice with no restrictions on Wednesday. If he suits up this weekend, you’ll have to consider him given the dearth of talent at the position. Lastly, this is the last week we’ll be affected by the dreaded bye weeks. Next week and thereafter, we’ll have everyone at our disposal. Maybe we’ll even get Rob Gronkowski...

And the injury front is more severe than I recognized. George Kittle probably will not play. Austin Hooper is already ruled out. Evan Engram is unlikely to play. And it sounds like Delanie Walker is out, too, but stay tuned on that front. We aren’t interested in Atlanta tight ends, but Ross Dwelley (4-14-2) delivered last week and would be a worthy dart throw if Kittle missed. Jonnu Smith would be a boring TE2 option if Walker was ruled out again.

1 Zach Ertz vs. SEA - I doubted the big guy last week against New England, and he posted a 9-94 line on 9 targets. Given the absence of so much high-end talent this week, he’s my de facto No. 1 option in the ranks.

2 Mark Andrews @ LAR - Andrews is a close second for me, but the truth is that he and Ertz can each lay claim to the top spot this week. Andrews gets an extra day of rest as this is the Monday night game, and this contest should be a bit closer than the 41-7 beatdown the Ravens put on the Texans a week ago. I’m thinking Andrews will see more than just 4 targets this week. On the season, the big guy’s target share is still a healthy 23.97%, barely trailing Ertz. The Rams have allowed 102 fewer receiving yards and one less receiving score than the Seahawks so far, though...making Andrews my close No. 2 option for this week.

3 Darren Waller @ NYJ - In recent weeks the Jets have allowed Mike Gesicki (6-95), Rhett Ellison (3-42), and Jeremy Sprinkle (2-16-1) to all contribute quality weeks. Though the season-long numbers against enemy tight ends look solid, I’m going to side with Waller’s YAC ability and with the Jets’ overall ineptitude on pass defense. The Jets are bottom-10 in passing scores allowed (10) and are susceptible to volume via the air, as the Jets’ run defense is the best in the NFL (3.0 Y/A). 376 passing attempts against the Jets is the 8th highest mark in the NFL. The Raiders want to try to establish the run, but given the strength of the Jets defense, the Raiders may need to air it out a bit more this week. And Waller can do major damage on a single catch. I can’t bump him lower than this.

4 Ryan Griffin vs. OAK - The Raiders have long been a team to target with tight ends, and that has been true in 2019. Oakland has allowed seven scores to enemy tight ends so far, the 2nd highest in the league after the Arizona Cardinals—who are on a bye this week. Griffin is fresh off of a 5-109-1 performance against Washington, and should be a safe enough bet for 50+ yards and the threat of a score in this one. You can’t do much better than this in Week 12 given the byes and all the injuries, unfortunately.

5 Vance McDonald @ CIN - The Steelers are hurting at receiver, with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson both unlikely to play. Add in the potential loss of James Conner again, and you’re looking at what could be an ugly, field position game that the Steelers try to win with their defense against opposing QB Ryan Finley. All that said, there’s not much else at tight end this week, and Vance has seen exactly 7 targets in each of the last three weeks. The Bengals are a green light against tight ends, allowing the 10th most fantasy points to the big guys on the season. Over the last two weeks, the Bengals have been shredded by the Ravens and Raiders tight ends. I give Griffin the slight nod due to superior QB play, but McDonald has a great opportunity this week given his recent floor, the Steelers’ injuries, and the quality matchup.

6 Cameron Brate @ ATL - You’ve got to talk yourself into some upside somehow, and Brate’s whopping 14 looks last week certainly qualifies, as does the matchup against the Falcons. O.J. Howard was benched after dropping his first target last week, and assuming he’s still in hot water for this week you can’t ignore Brate in this matchup. Brate knows how to find paydirt, as his six scores apiece over each of the last two seasons attests. This year, he’s not had the same volume in the red zone, but if Howard stays in the doghouse we could see an uptick in Brate’s scoring over the next few weeks.

7 Ross Dwelley vs. GB - This ranking assumes George Kittle is out. Dwelley delivered in a solid matchup last week, and has another shot this week given the absence of Kittle and the banged up nature of the Niners receiving corps. Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel each missed practice on Wednesday. Stay tuned here, but it looks like Kittle will be out at the very least, making Dwelley a legitimate streamer once again.

8 Jacob Hollister @ PHI - He saw 10 targets in a rough matchup against the Niners last week, logging a 8-62-1 line. The Eagles are tough against tight ends, but Hollister has become a focal point for the Seahawks, especially in the red zone. And especially if Tyler Lockett is limited in any way after Week 10’s shin injury. No matter what, Hollister is a solid play at a thin position.

9 Eric Ebron @ HOU - Ebron posted a strong 4-70-1 line against these Texans back in Week 7, and I’m just paying attention to his ankle injury heading into the weekend. He is questionable to play, but he’s also not missed a game yet this year. Over the last five weeks, Ebron ranks 8th in air yards among tight ends...and the top two guys are on a bye this week (Henry, Kelce). Ebron doesn’t get a ton of targets, but his 9.6 aDOT only trails Hunter Henry (10.7) and Mark Andrews (9.7). Compare that to teammate Jack Doyle’s 5.8 aDOT, and you’ll get an idea of who the deeper threat is on this team.

10 Dallas Goedert vs. SEA - The Seahawks allow the 7th most yardage to tight ends, and are bottom third with regard to receptions and scores allowed. The Eagles were forced into using Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews alongside their talented tight end duo last week. I’d bet money Goedert finishes as a TE1 in Week 12, either due to his recent scoring streak or to breaking loose on a couple of big gains in a good matchup.

11 Greg Olsen @ NO - Olsen has posted lines of 3-40, 8-98, and 5-57 over the last three weeks. His target counts over that stretch are 6, 10, and 5. It’s been a tiny bit of a revival, and it’s enough to sneak him into the TE1 conversation despite a tough matchup against the Saints.

12 Mike Gesicki @ CLE - Look, there’s no one else. Guys like Jared Cook and Darren Fells have a two-target floor, Jack Doyle is boring and in a timeshare, etc. etc. etc. So I’m chasing any form of upside. Over the last three weeks, Gesicki’s target counts are 6, 6, and 6. We call that a really good floor in the tight end world. The Browns have allowed five scores to tight ends, tied for the 5th most in the league. Over the last couple of weeks they’ve allowed decent games to Noah Fant (3-115-1), Dawson Knox (4-55), and Vance McDonald (3-33). Okay, so the 3-33 by McDonald last week was a major letdown, but he did see 7 targets. You could do far worse as a low-end TE1 or high-end streamer at tight end this week.

13 Noah Fant @ BUF - Fant would be much higher ranked were it not for his difficult matchup this week. The Bills have allowed the fewest receptions (29), 2nd fewest yards (296), and the fewest scores (1) to opposing tight ends in 2019. However, Fant has target counts of 5, 8, 4, and 10 over the last few weeks. He and Courtland Sutton are the primary targets in this narrow passing tree. I don’t love the draw, but I do like the volume.

14 Darren Fells vs. IND - This is a good matchup and Fells is always a threat to score. The Colts allow the 10th most receptions to tight ends, and this funneling of targets over the middle is enough for me to consider Fells...especially if Will Fuller is ruled out. Even if Fuller suits up, Fells is worthwhile given the scoring threat and the matchup.

15 Jared Cook vs. CAR - Cook did score last week, but he only had 2 targets (one week after a whopping 10). Carolina is a team the Saints should run on and mostly handle with ease, so the volume doesn’t look enticing for Cook this week.

After this, you can consider Jack Doyle (PPR only), Gerald Everett (but the wrist injury scares me), T.J. Hockenson, or David Njoku if he gives it a shot. I’m not really excited about many other prospects this week. If you think I’m missing something, I’d love for you to let me know!