It has been a tad tricky in the tight end landscape thus far, unless you took a shot on cheap guys like Mark Andrews or Darren Waller. Andrews missed Wednesday’s practice with a foot injury, but let’s all hope it was precautionary. If not, Hayden Hurst would somersault up the boards into at least the low-end TE1 conversation. David Njoku has a broken wrist and is expected to be out for a least a month. Demetrius Harris is the next man up for Cleveland, but I’d adopt a wait-and-see approach on Harris unless you’re in a league with 15+ teams.
1 Travis Kelce vs. BAL - The Chiefs’ home-opener against the high-flying Lamar Jackson and the Ravens is sure to be a fantasy bonanza...right? Kelce has not disappointed through two weeks, logging a 3-88 line (8 tgts) against Jacksonville and a 7-107-1 line (9 tgts) against Oakland. Kelce is tied for fourth among tight ends with 17 targets, behind Ertz (23), Engram (22), and Olsen (18). There’s no benching him in fantasy football, not for any other tight end. It helps that the Ravens run defense is allowing only 1.8 Y/A so far...time for the Chiefs to do what they do best and throw.
2 George Kittle vs. PIT - The Niners draw the Steelers, who were smoked by the New England Patriots in Week 1. In Week 2, the Steelers let Will Dissly go nuts (5-50-2). Kittle had a quiet Week 2 of his own against the Buccaneers, totaling 8-54 on 10 targets. In fact, Kittle’s season has been a little quiet, with 11 receptions and 108 yards on 13 targets (and no touchdowns). I’ll bank on this week being a reminder of his awesomeness, and expect to see Kittle finding paydirt once again. Kittle’s five red zone targets is tied for second in the NFL among tight ends—only Zach Ertz (6) has more.
3 Zach Ertz vs. DET - Don’t look now, but Ertz is leading all NFL tight ends in targets (23) and red zone targets (6). However, he’s only caught 13 of those targets and has zero scores, so he checks in as merely the TE10 through two weeks. The Lions have been stingy to enemy tight ends so far, allowing 1-15 to Maxx Williams and 1-9 to Virgil Green. Not exactly the best competition, but still noteworthy. However, the Lions have also given up 281 yards per game, the 9th-worst mark in the NFL. Money’s on Ertz in this one, and the truth is you just don’t have any other “elite” options to consider at this point. If Dallas Goedert is out again, I wouldn’t fault you for moving Ertz as high as your No. 2 tight end.
4 Evan Engram @ TB - Engram is second among NFL tight ends in targets (22) and is the clear No. 1 option in New York, as the next closest receiver has 14 targets (Saquon Barkley). However, Engram is about to get a new quarterback in Daniel Jones. You can spin that whichever way you choose to, but for now Jones is an unknown commodity. The Giants are hoping to jump-start their offense, though, and we know the ball is going to go to Engram. The volume alone will keep him relevant as a TE1.
5 Mark Andrews @ KC - Most will probably have Andrews behind Ertz and Engram this week, and only the Wednesday foot injury is keeping me from bumping Andrews up to the No. 3 spot this week. Andrews has caught 16 of 18 targets for 220 yards and two scores, making him the best tight end in fantasy football so far. The Chiefs allowed eight receptions on nine targets (49 yards) in Week 1 to James O’Shaughnessy and Geoff Swaim. In Week 2, Darren Waller (6-63) and Derek Carrier (3-33) combined for another nine catches against Kansas City. Sky’s the limit for Andrews if he is healthy in Week 3.
6 Darren Waller @ MIN - The Vikings shut out Green Bay tight ends in Week 2 (not that noteworthy) but allowed Austin Hooper (9-77) to run wild in Week 1. Enter Darren Waller, who has seen 15 targets over his first two games (8 and 7). Waller finished as the TE13 in Week 1 and the TE10 in Week 2, so he’s been consistent. The week he finds the end zone, he’ll be in the running for top honors.
7 Greg Olsen @ ARI - Olsen surprised me by being active last week, and by crushing it on Thursday Night Football. Through two weeks, the Cardinals have been the worst team in the league at covering opposing tight ends, allowing huge games to rookie T.J. Hockenson (6-131-1) and second-year man Mark Andrews (8-112-1). The unknown here is that Kyle Allen is trending towards starting for Cam Newton, but it’s possible that’s a push for Olsen’s value...especially in this matchup.
8 Austin Hooper @ IND - The Colts allowed 4-60 to Hunter Henry and 4-39 to Delanie Walker in the first two weeks. Hooper has 13 receptions for 111 yards so far, and those 13 catches is tied for third among tight ends right now. Last year, Hooper’s 71 catches ranked fourth among all tight ends, behind only Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, and George Kittle.
9 Delanie Walker @ JAC - The Jaguars have faced Travis Kelce (3-88) and Jordan Akins (2-25), so opposite ends of the spectrum there. The Jalen Ramsey drama actually doesn’t concern me a ton for the Jags defense—I feel like NFL players are accustomed to drama. Anyway, Walker is the focal point of Tennessee’s passing game, and that has amounted to six targets in each of the first two weeks. He’d need to find paydirt to really hop into the upper tier, and I’m still a believer in this Jags defense. Walker is a classic “floor” option this week, without a ton of upside.
10 O.J. Howard vs. NYG - This is generally the matchup of all matchups for enemy tight ends, if you’ve been paying attention the last couple of seasons. That trend continued in Week 1, as Jason Witten (3-39-1) and Blake Jarwin (3-15-1) each found the end zone against the GMen. Buffalo’s Dawson Knox had 1-18 (4 targets) in Week 2, but that came on a 6.15% target share for that week, and Knox is sitting at only a 9.23% share over the first two weeks—i.e. the Bills don’t use their tight ends much. Of course, O.J. Howard had one target in Week 2 and has only an 8.33% target share (8 targets), so that’s why he’s so low. Still, this is a nuts matchup. I feel like a yo-yo.
11 Vance McDonald @ SF - He caught two scores from Mason Rudolph last week, so there’s a non-zero chance that maybe the youngster will look his way a little more. We’ve seen quarterbacks have “their guys” before, and if Vance turns into Rudolph’s guy (or one of them) that will be enough to vault him up higher on lists in the future. This isn’t the greatest matchup, but the Niners did allow a score to the ghost of Tyler Eifert last week, so there’s some hope. I feel better about Vance ROS than I do for him in Week 3, if that makes sense.
12 Jared Cook @ SEA - It’s a good matchup and there’s a least a little hope that Teddy Bridgewater can keep the offense afloat in the absence of Drew Brees. I’m not quite ready to give up on Cook just yet. Let’s see how this plays out over the next couple of weeks. Cook’s seven targets in Week 2 (when Brees was injured) trailed only Michael Thomas (13). Even Alvin Kamara (4) was behind Cook. I’m just sayin’, there’s a chance.
13 Jason Witten vs. MIA - Speaking of being a yo-yo, I am afraid that I’m too aggressive with the Witten ranking, while also being afraid that I’m too low on him given this ridiculous matchup. The Dolphins have allowed the 2nd most points to enemy tight ends, including the Week 1 dismantling by the Ravens, which included 8-108-1 by Mark Andrews and 3-41 by Hayden Hurst. In Week 2, the Fins let someone named Matt LaCosse catch two more balls for 33 yards. That’s not a huge line, but the Patriots just plain don’t use LaCosse. For reference, LaCosse’s two targets in Week 2 amounted to a 2.78% target share. Anyway, Witten has a marginal 13.43% target share on the year, but leads the Cowboys with five red zone targets, or a 41.67% target share (two touchdowns). A pair of scores wouldn’t surprise me, but neither would a 3-30 line if the Dolphins don’t even need to pass it 20 times to win this one.
14 T.J. Hockenson @ PHI - Can the Week 1 hero rebound? Or was that performance more indicative of Arizona Cardinals defense woes? Working in his favor is the startling 340 yards per game that the Eagles have allowed, the 2nd highest mark in the NFL (only the Raiders are worse).
15 Will Dissly vs. NO - This isn’t a good matchup by the numbers, and yours truly keeps getting Dissly wrong. However, he’s a better bet for yardage than some of the guys that come after him, and the Seahawks might low-key have a plethora of passing options right now (given the play of one D.K. Metcalf). The more attention Lockett and Metcalf command, the better for Dissly, who has two of Russell Wilson’s five red zone targets thus far (two touchdowns).
16 Eric Ebron vs. ATL - The Falcons have the best pass defense in the league so far, allowing only 167 yards per game (to the Vikings and Eagles). I wouldn’t bank on the Colts bucking the trend with Jacoby Brissett under center, but Ebron will remain the best bet for touchdowns in this offense all year, and I don’t like putting him any lower.
17 Jimmy Graham vs. DEN - I don’t like this any more than you do, but this position dries up in a hurry. Graham is severely touchdown-dependent in an offense that has failed to utilize a tight end properly for a long, long time. I’d rather bank on an Ebron touchdown.
18 Jordan Reed vs. CHI - Jordan Reed szn certainly didn’t last long, as the talented but oft-concussed tight end sustained another brain injury earlier this year. He returned to practice on Wednesday, however, and would be a better bet than a lot of the guys who come after him, based on talent level alone.
19 Gerald Everett @ CLE - It’s a good matchup historically and fellow tight end Tyler Higbee is out. With the three ballin’ wideouts at the Rams’ disposal, Everett still won’t be a safe bet for more than 3-5 targets. He’s another touchdown-dependent option this week.
20 Kyle Rudolph vs. OAK - I hate myself already for this, but Rudolph squeaks into the top-20 given that his matchup against the Raiders is the best in the NFL. The 341 yards per game allowed by Oakland is the highest mark in the league, and the Raiders allow the 9th most points to enemy tight ends so far. Sure, it’s only two weeks, but the high yardage totals and the long history of struggling against tight ends lets Rudolph slide into the No. 20 spot. Good luck with that.
After these guys, have fun with Trey Burton (boy, that’s been a bust), Tyler Eifert (doing nothing despite the awesomeness of that offense), Jack Doyle (splitting time with Ebron but less likely to score), and Dallas Goedert (if he plays after getting hurt in warmups a week ago). Honestly, if you have to dig this deep, I’d consider Cameron Brate—at least we know he has a chance to score.
Good luck out there, and let me know who YOU think I am too high or too low on.