Welcome to the beginning of the bye weeks, as we bid adieu to the New York Jets and the San Francisco 49ers for one week. No George Kittle is a major bummer. Anyway, life goes on. Here’s a rudimentary observation from the first three weeks:
Week 1’s top overall tight end: T.J. Hockenson @ ARI, 19.10 fantasy points
Week 2’s top overall tight end: Mark Andrews vs. ARI, 17.20 fantasy points
Week 3’s top overall tight end: Greg Olsen @ ARI, 19.50 fantasy points
Pure rocket science, that. Welcome to Will Dissly week, ladies and gents. Sort of. More on that in a tick, as there is a wee bit of risk...
And that’s a nice segway into the position as a whole, which is turning into a crapshoot. We’ve lost Hunter Henry (knee fracture) and David Njoku (broken wrist) already, and we never even had Jordan Reed (concussion). Add to that a Vance McDonald shoulder injury and the Nick Vannett trade to Pittsburgh—as well as the loss of Big Ben—and it’s possible we’ve lost the “Vance Dance” as a viable option, too. Perhaps there is some delayed hope in Chris Herndon’s return from suspension (Week 6), a potential return for Rob Gronkowski, and even the return of David Njoku (but I wouldn’t bank on it). In general, this position is as top-heavy as ever, in my humblest of opinions.
1 Travis Kelce @ DET - What, you thought I would rank Dissly No. 1? Nope! If I would rank anyone over Kelce this week, it would be Darren Waller. But I’m not a moron, and neither are you. Get Waller into those flex spots.
2 Darren Waller @ IND - Fresh off of 14 targets against the Vikes last week—and a 13 for 134 line—Waller has a prime matchup against the Colts, who attempt to make a living by giving up the short stuff and preventing big plays. So far, Indy has seen Hunter Henry (4-60), Delanie Walker (4-39), and Austin Hooper (6-66-2). They also gave up 3-12 to Atlanta tight end Luke Stocker last week, so that was a 9-78-2 line to Falcons tight ends in all. Waller should have a floor of 60+ yards in this one, which is like the holy grail for tight ends. A former wide receiver, Waller’s YAC totals read like it, as he leads all NFL tight ends with 150 yards after the catch (and that number is tied for 2nd in all of the NFL behind only Sammy Watkins’ 194). Waller’s 30% target share is the highest mark among all NFL tight ends, and tied for third in the whole of the NFL. Only Keenan Allen (36%) and Michael Thomas (31%) have commanded higher target shares.
3 Evan Engram vs. WAS - The insertion of Daniel Jones at quarterback paid immediate dividends, as Engram shredded the Bucs pass defense in Week 3. Engram saw a modest eight targets, but parlayed that into a 6-113-1 line. Washington hasn’t allowed a huge game to an enemy tight end yet, but they haven’t been great, either. Ertz (5-54), Witten (4-25-1), and Burton (4-20) are the performances thus far. Personally, I think if you allow Trey Burton to catch four passes you are an abject failure. Anyway, Engram is another YAC monster, whose 149 yards is second only to Waller at the position. He’s also one of only seven tight ends playing this week with over a 20% target share (Kittle qualifies but is on a bye). Volume is king, and now we have reason to believe that Engram has an upgrade at QB.
4 Zach Ertz @ GB - This is the week to go nuts with the downgrade of Ertz, if you want. The Packers are a legitimate defense, having allowed only a single passing score and 592 yards via the air through three games. Only the New England Patriots (0) have allowed fewer passing scores. Only the Patriots (487), Panthers (499), Titans (569), and Rams (578) have allowed fewer passing yards. The Packers have shut down Adam Shaheen (1-6), Kyle Rudolph (3-9), and Noah Fant/Jeff Heuerman (5-57 combined). Obviously they’ve not seen a tight end of Ertz’s caliber, but this is not a good matchup for the Eagles tight end. Add in that Dallas Goedert and Alshon Jeffery will return to give Carson Wentz a full stable of weapons, and I’m skittish on Ertz in Week 4. That isn’t enough to drop him out of my top four, however. He still leads all tight ends with 30 targets and is tied for second with six red zone targets (Kittle has 7). Don’t be stupid.
5 Mark Andrews vs. CLE - He was a game-time decision last week, and only managed to haul in three of seven targets for 15 yards. That tiny bit of uncertainty is enough to drop him below Engram and Ertz, but I’m not dumb enough to rank him outside the upper echelon. I’ll be paying attention to practice reports heading into Sunday’s game, but for now it seems like Andrews should be back to normal in a quality matchup. The Browns shut out Jets tight ends in Week 2 and limited Gerald Everett to a 2-15 line on two targets in Week 3...but Delanie Walker hung 5-55-2 (6 targets) on them in Week 1. Despite all the talk of a timeshare at tight end, the Ravens passing offense runs through Marquise Brown (25.93%) and Mark Andrews (23.15%). The next highest target share is 11.11%, belonging to Nick Boyle.
6 Will Dissly @ ARI - What, you think this ranking is too high? I think it might be too conservative! The Cardinals BLEED to opposing tight ends, and Dissly’s 13% target share is actually tied for 12th among all NFL tight ends—despite being eased in with two targets in Week 1. Dissly has seen five and seven targets in the last two weeks, and also leads the Seahawks with four red zone looks (three TDs) so far. Okay okay, D.K. Metcalf also has four red zone looks, but zero TDs. I’m not pushing Dissly any lower given how bad Arizona has been. The Cardinals have allowed 23 receptions to tight ends in three weeks (only the Chiefs have allowed more, at 26). The Cards have also allowed five scores (most in the NFL) and 348 yards (most in the NFL) to enemy tight ends. It’s a dream matchup for Dissly. The only fear is that the Seahawks blaze out to an early 14-0 lead and Russell Wilson throws the ball 18 times...
7 Delanie Walker @ ATL - Another good matchup, as the Falcons play similar to the Colts with the allowing of underneath stuff and the limiting of big plays. The Falcons also lost safety Keanu Neal in Week 3, so this pass defense should be ripe for the picking for veteran Delanie Walker. Walker has seen target totals of 6, 6, and 9 in the first three weeks. He has a 22.34% target share for Tennessee, and is clearly the man as the next closest is Corey Davis at 15.96%. Walker also has four red zone looks already (two scores), which is notable as no other Titans player has more than a single red zone target. It’s probably safer to rank him inside the top five or six every week, but I’m paying homage to Dissly’s ceiling, so sue me.
8 Greg Olsen @ HOU - It follows that upstart signal-caller Kyle Allen may look Olsen’s way frequently this week, as the Houston Texans should manage more pressure than the Cardinals did in Week 3. Olsen saw seven of Allen’s targets last week, tied with Curtis Sameul for the team lead. Olsen and Samuel each saw a whopping three red zone looks last week, too. The Texans have only allowed 11-90 to opposing tight ends through three weeks, but they’ve also faced Jared Cook, James O’Shaughnessy, and Lance Kendricks. So basically, a team that hasn’t yet incorporated Cook, a team that never throws to O’Shaughnessy, and a team that lost Hunter Henry. Allen will need the safety blanket feature to deal with Houston’s defense. Maybe we’ll see more targets for Run-CMC, as well.
9 T.J. Hockenson vs. KC - The Chiefs’ 26 receptions allowed to enemy tight ends is tops in the NFL. The 4th most yardage (232) is also encouraging. The Chiefs haven’t allowed a score to a tight end yet, but Hockenson’s four red zone looks barely leads the Lions through three weeks, as Kenny Golladay has three. In a game that should total over 50 points, Hockenson is a legitimate mid-range TE1.
10 Austin Hooper vs. TEN - The Titans haven’t allowed tons of yardage to tight ends, only 109 so far. However, they’ve also allowed a score to a tight end in each of the first three weeks, to David Njoku (4-37-1), Eric Ebron (3-25-1), and James O’Shaughnessy (2-18-1). The Chargers have also allowed three scores, but only the Cardinals have been worse at keeping tight ends out of the end zone (5 scores). Julio Jones commands a 23.20% target share, but after him it’s Austin Hooper (not Calvin Ridley) with a 18.40% share and three red zone looks (again, only Julio has more, with four). I’m buying Hooper again in Week 4.
11 Vernon Davis @ NYG - Davis hasn’t done much since his breakout in Week 1, but the Giants breathed new life into a lifeless O.J. Howard (3-66) in Week 3, so there’s at least a chance that VD surprises us again in Week 4. Say, 40-50 yards with the chance of a score? This is what we are reduced to already at this juncture, and we aren’t even through the TE1s yet...
12 O.J. Howard @ LAR - How the mighty have fallen. The Rams are not a good matchup either, allowing only 8-77-1 to tight ends through three weeks. That was limiting Greg Olsen (4-36), Jared Cook (2-25), and Demetrius Harris (1-2-1). Olsen saw nine targets, while Cook saw a solid enough seven—so it’s not like those guys weren’t being looked for. Howard is lucky to slide in as a TE1...
13 Jason Witten @ NO - Unfortunately we’ve already reached “who might score?” territory. Witten’s six red zone looks is tops for this week given the absence of George Kittle (7). The Saints faced the Texans and Rams in the first two weeks, two teams who don’t utilize the tight end much. In Week 3, the Saints allowed Will Dissly’s second big game in a row (6-62-1). Witten has six of the seven red zone looks for Dallas, and could be considered as high as the second option in the passing game after Amari Cooper, with Michael Gallup shelved. Let’s just hope the Saints keep this one close.
14 Eric Ebron vs. OAK - I feel like we’ve attacked the Raiders with tight ends forever. They’re off to a fast start in 2019, allowing 207 yards (7th most) to the position. Most of that was Travis Kelce (7-107-1) in Week 2, but Irv Smith Jr. (3-60) had a useful game last week. It could help Ebron if T.Y. Hilton (day-to-day, quad injury) misses time. Ebron’s 12 targets on the year isn’t much, but that ranks second on the team to only T.Y. Hilton’s 25. In Week 1, Devin Funchess was the No. 2 option, but in the two following weeks that mantle has gone to Ebron. Sure, it’s only nine targets over that stretch, but the ball has to go somewhere...and I feel like Frank Reich would be scheming Ebron open more if he was forced to do so.
15 Vance McDonald vs. CIN - This is a quality matchup, as the Bengals have allowed 3-54 to Kittle and 3-67-1 to Buffalo’s Dawson Knox. McDonald gets an extra day this week, as this game is played on Monday. Head coach Mike Tomlin is “optimistic” he will play, but make sure you have a backup plan and monitor practice reports as long as possible.
16 Trey Burton vs. MIN - Burton caught four passes for only 20 yards a week ago, against Washington. However, as abysmal as Burton has been, that qualifies as a full-fledged reincarnation. The Vikings are fresh off of allowing Darren Waller to go absolutely insane (13-134). I’m just sayin’, there’s a chance.
17 Dawson Knox vs. NE - Knox is the main man at tight end in Buffalo with Tyler Kroft still injured. He’s seen target counts of 2, 4, and 4 in the first three weeks, but had a nice 49-yard catch last week. Yep, we’re near the bottom of the barrel, folks.
18 Jimmy Graham vs. PHI - Aaron Rodgers wants to get him more involved. We shall see.
19 Jack Doyle vs. OAK - Again, no T.Y. Hilton would improve his chances a bit. Stay tuned on that front.
20 Jared Cook vs. DAL - He’s been invisible in this offense through three weeks, and only saw two targets in Teddy Bridgewater’s Week 3 start.
Hayden Hurst, Gerald Everett, Noah Fant, and Mike Gesicki are other names you could consider if digging this deep, but I wouldn’t be too excited. I’d take Everett from this grouping if Tyler Higbee (bruised lung) doesn’t play this week.
Who did I miss? Who are you banking on this week?