The bad news is it took me until Thursday to get the tight end rankings out. The good news is that allows me to adjust to the HORRIBLE news on Hunter Henry (out 4-6 weeks, tibia fracture). I feel like we can’t have anything nice at this position. To quote Bill Shakespeare: “Wherefore art thou, Gronk?”
Also on the injury news front, you may not want to bet on Greg Olsen heading into Thursday Night Football. The veteran tight end “tweaked” his back in Sunday’s game and missed practice Monday and Tuesday. The Wednesday injury report says he “hopes to play.” If he does, I think you can use him—he did run a route on 93% of Cam Newton’s dropbacks in Week 1—but it is dicey. For now, he’s not in my ranks, as I assume he won’t play.
1 Travis Kelce @ OAK - A matchup against the Raiders and no Tyreek Hill (injured) means Kelce is probably in for an explosion in Week 2. He’s in a tier of his own, just like Geena Davis when she played Dottie Henson. I’m still in love, 27 short years later.
2 George Kittle @ CIN - Caught 8-of-10 targets in Week 1 and nearly had two scores. He’s well ahead of Ertz in my book due to his ability to rack up yards after the catch (870 yards after the catch last year, tops in the NFL among tight ends). CIN is historically a bottom-feeder with regard to allowing enemy tight end production, and did little to upgrade their defense from a year ago.
3 Evan Engram vs. BUF - Welcome to the big three, Evan Engram! Volume pays the bills in fantasy football, even if your quarterback is Eli Manning. Engram caught 11 of 14 targets in Week 1 against a solid Dallas defense, and he’ll need that same sort of volume again against Buffalo. Generally that would be a sketchy proposition for a guy on a bad team, but sans Saquon Barkley there isn’t another guy in this offense that will demand targets. Engram managed an 11-116-1 line last week—you could cut that in half and he’s still a TE1 option.
4 Zach Ertz @ ATL - The matchup against Atlanta is the only reason I’m hesitating at dropping him below Engram...but the reemergence of DeSean Jackson and the plethora of weapons at Wentz’s disposal have me concerned about Ertz’s volume. Ertz is not a field-stretcher, so without a high level of volume like he had a year ago he is merely a solid option, not an elite one. Last week against Washington he had a decent seven targets, managing a 5-54 line for your fake teams. This might be one of the few weeks moving forward that he could outproduce Engram, assuming Engram’s volume holds up. We shall see.
5 Delanie Walker vs. IND - Mr. Reliable is back, and maybe the Titans offense is as well? It can’t be worse, right? I said in the offseason that he was due for some positive regression in the scoring department, and look at that pair of touchdowns last week! I expect the Colts to make a fight of this thing, given that it is a divisional matchup, but I think Walker will be solid once again.
6 O.J. Howard @ CAR - The Panthers fell three points short in a shootout with the Rams in Week 1, but that game gave us 57 total points. There’s at least a little hope for a fantasy bonanza here in Week 2, despite this being a divisional game. I won’t write off Howard just yet, as he has a gunslinger for a QB and the ability to gain yardage in big chunks. He’s the upside to Walker’s floor, just pick how you want to play, okay?
7 Darren Waller vs. KC - It IS officially “Waller szn.” Waller paced the Raiders with eight targets in Week 1, catching seven balls for 70 yards. No, Antonio Brown isn’t in Oakland anymore, but Josh Jacobs is and it appears the Raiders might be a bit improved in 2019. Derek Carr, in particular, looked pretty sharp and was getting the ball out of his hands quickly. Jared Cook finished 2018 as the TE5 last year, behind the big three (Kelce, Kittle, Ertz) and Eric Ebron’s touchdown-laden TE4 season. It seems possible that Waller reprises that sort of production in 2019, and has a safe role on his team. I mean, it’s possible that Waller leads this team in targets each week. Would surprise no one.
8 Austin Hooper vs. PHI - Hooper crushed it in Week 1, with nine catches and 77 yards (9 targets). This same Philly defense let Vernon Davis amass a 4-59-1 line (7 targets) last week. In what could be quite the shootout, I don’t see how I can slot Hooper any lower in Week 2.
9 Vance McDonald vs. SEA - Let’s just toss out last week’s debacle against the Patriots. McDonald should be one of the recipients of JuJu getting consistently double-teamed, and I’m still banking on him long-term this season as a TE1 in leagues of all sizes. That is, unless you play in a six-team league or something...looking at you, friend Jim...
10 Mark Andrews vs. ARI - He actually had fewer snaps than Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst in Week 1, which is a bit sketchy. However, he ran a ton of routes, so he’s got enough upside to slot in where I have him, though I prefer him as a lower-end TE1. I’m not ready to write off Hayden Hurst just yet, and that plays a part in this. I think Hurst will remain involved.
11 T.J. Hockenson vs. LAC - The rookie was last week’s overall TE1 against a Cardinals defense that was missing Patrick Peterson, but it hurts Hockenson’s case that this is a tough matchup against the Chargers. It isn’t all bad though. Pay special attention to Hockenson on DraftKings, where he is the TE11 this week (TE6 on FanDuel).
12 Jared Cook @ LAR - Maybe this is a bit over-reactive, but in a game where Drew Brees attempted 43 passes, Cook only saw three targets. That’s an issue. He’s a streaming candidate or low-end TE1 until he gets integrated more into the offense (he should).
13 David Njoku @ NYJ - Njoku will be the third fiddle in this passing game, at best. But he can make his hay in the red zone. That’s tough to bank on week in and week out, so I think high-upside streamer is the best place for him right now.
14 Vernon Davis vs. DAL - I’m assuming Jordan Reed—who is still in concussion protocol—will not play this week. The Cowboys were torched by Evan Engram (11-116-1) and Eli Manning last week. Perhaps Davis and veteran signal-caller Case Keenum can keep the mojo going.
15 Trey Burton @ DEN - Burton missed Week 1 with a strained groin, but it sounds like he’s trending towards playing. He’s the last guy on this list that could potentially offer you yardage and a score, in my opinion. We’ve steered clear of boundary targets against Denver in the past, making Burton appealing if he plays. If he does, pour some cold water on Tarik Cohen’s prospects, as he’ll no longer be the de facto slot receiver.
16 Jimmy Graham vs. MIN - Graham opens up the tier of “touchdown-dependent” options. I’ll give him the nod over Ebron, given that his quarterback is Aaron Rodgers...
17 Eric Ebron @ TEN - This is a rough matchup for tight ends, but Ebron remains the man most likely to catch a score for Indianapolis—especially now that Devin Funchess is out at least eight weeks with a broken left clavicle. Ebron only managed one catch for eight yards in Week 1, but he did have three targets and one of those was a red-zone look (one he dropped). That scoring potential means I can’t go lower on him.
18 Tyler Higbee vs. NO - Five targets and a score last week were good enough to finish as the 10th-best tight end. In this matchup with the Saints, I could see another handful go his way.
19 Jack Doyle @ TEN - I know he only saw a pair of targets in Week 1, but he out-snapped Ebron (typical) and the loss of Devin Funchess opens up a few more looks...theoretically? Come on now, we are 19 men deep at a crummy position. Work with me.
20 Dallas Goedert @ ATL - At this point, give me a guy who is in a shootout and tied to a good quarterback.
And once we get to here, you can consider names like Mike Gesicki, Tyler Eifert, Jason Witten, Noah Fant, Hayden Hurst, Cameron Brate, and Kyle Rudolph. But you’re at the bottom of the barrel, mate.
Good luck this week, and let me know who I was too high or too low on!