Yours truly is back for Year 3 (or 4?) of tight end rankings here at Fake Teams. I honestly can’t remember how long I’ve been at it. Probably a side effect of having to labor over guys who might log a 3-30 line or just absolutely post no score at all. If we go past the top-30 or so at this position, the outlook gets grim. Most weeks we’ll settle on the best 24, but for Week 1 we can go with the best 30.
Google isn’t really my friend right now, so we’ll be prose-style for this week and this week only (no fancy table). And on the injury-related front, it seems like the Bears might play it safe and hold Trey Burton out for the Thursday Night game. At least, that’s what I’m thinking they’ll do. In my book you can’t expect much from Adam Shaheen and company—Shaheen is oft-injured himself. Also, Jordan Reed is currently in the league’s concussion protocol, and it would seem prudent for Washington to play it safe given Reed’s history of brain trauma. I think it is likely Vernon Davis takes on TE1 duties, but he’s a TE2 only in my book.
1 Travis Kelce @ JAC - Should be a heated matchup. My only fear is a Kelce ejection.
2 George Kittle @ TB - The Bucs were a plus matchup last year and Kittle should be a target-hog no matter what San Francisco brass have to say about reducing his workload a bit.
3 Zach Ertz vs. WAS - He set a tight end record with 156 targets a year ago, and though that number is destined to come down, I can’t drop him any lower in the rankings.
4 O.J. Howard vs. SF - This was a brutal matchup for tight end production a year ago, so there’s merit for picking a better one. However, Howard’s ability to rack up chunks of yardage gives him the highest upside of any tight end not inside the top three—and arguably more than Ertz, who produces more on volume. I bought OJ in plenty of spots in my drafts this year, and I’m playing him.
5 Hunter Henry vs. IND - No Melvin Gordon might improve his outlook just a bit, and this was a good matchup for tight ends a year ago.
6 Evan Engram @ DAL - I’m expecting some inefficiency, both due to the Dallas defense and the erratic arm of Eli Manning. However, Engram could be showered with targets—in this game and in this NFL season. Volume is king.
7 Vance McDonald @ NE - I might be a tad ahead of the consensus on this one, but I think the Patriots will zero in on JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner. Make the other guys beat you, so to speak. Vance is that other guy, with Antonio Brown and Jesse James no longer in Pittsburgh.
8 Jared Cook vs. HOU - This was a plus matchup a year ago and the Saints and Texans should be a high-flying affair on Sunday. Other than Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, who do you think is going to catch balls in New Orleans in 2019?
9 Delanie Walker @ CLE - An ankle injury erased his 2018 chances, but heading into the first game this year, he looks like the best bet for Tennessee in this matchup.
10 Mark Andrews @ MIA - The drumbeats have been pretty loud for Andrews. I’m ready to see him capitalize on all the hype in what should be a game of Baltimore beating down the Dolphins.
11 David Njoku vs. TEN - I think Njoku can “athlete” his way to relevance, but the Browns team is loaded with mouths to feed and he seems like the fourth option at best, after the run game, OBJ, and Jarvis Landry. Plus, the Titans were stingy against tight ends in 2018, anyway.
12 Will Dissly vs. CIN - Look, there’s no way the top-12 looks this way after Week 1 concludes. We gotta have at least one surprise in here, and I should have more, honestly. The Bengals were a plus matchup for the big guys a year ago, plus Russell Wilson has Tyler Lockett and a bunch of injured wideouts to throw to in Week 1. It’s possible Dissly gets a bit more work this week than usual, so he’s in the TE1 conversation for me, for sure.
13 Darren Waller vs. DEN - If you’re following the drumbeats, they’ll lead you to Waller. This was a good matchup for tight ends a year ago, and Antonio Brown should command plenty of attention. There are worse dart-throws at tight end this week.
14 Tyler Eifert at SEA - Same deal as Dissly, with A.J. Green out this offense is a bit more opened up. Eifert may not crack the top-15 often in 2019, so enjoy this ranking, Eifert-truthers.
15 Eric Ebron @ LAC - I know Luck is gone, but with his red area dominance a year ago I can’t drop him any lower than top-15. He’ll be a staple in this area all year due to his scoring ability.
16 Austin Hooper @ MIN - I might be underselling Hooper’s upside, and I do like him for season-long purposes. However, this road matchup against the Vikings is not what I had in mind. A mid-range TE2 is as high I as I go this week.
17 Greg Olsen vs. LAR - I assume this one will showcase plenty of defense, but it’s not inconceivable that Olsen gets loose in this one. After all, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Run-CMC are plenty to contend with—not to mention Cam himself.
18 Kyle Rudolph vs. ATL - It was either Rudolph at home or Jimmy Graham on the road against the Bears (brutal). Rudolph by a hair, but get ready for that 3-31 receiving line.
19 Jimmy Graham @ CHI - The Bears are a nasty defense and Graham has a finger injury, but he was a full participant in Friday’s practice, so there’s that. Aside from Davante Adams, he has as good a chance to score as any Packers receiver for Sunday.
20 Jack Doyle @ LAC - I know Ebron dampens the outlook, but Doyle is a reliable guy when healthy.
22 Noah Fant @ OAK - If I give you guys the two rookies everyone is dying for, will you get off my back already? The Raiders were a great matchup last year.
23 T.J. Hockenson @ ARI - From one extreme to the other, the Cardinals were NOT kind to opposing tight ends last year.
24 Dallas Goedert vs. WAS - For now he’s claiming this spot due to upside alone in that Eagles offense, but we’ll have to circle back around and check the status of Adam Shaheen and Vernon Davis—to see whether those guys can be safely projected for more snaps or not based on the guys ahead of them on the depth chart (Trey Burton and Jordan Reed).
Other than the two injury fill-ins, you’ve got Matt Lacosse starting for New England and Irv Smith Jr. getting some time when the Vikes run 12 personnel (likely often). There’s also Mike Gesicki in Miami, but I’m unconvinced about that marriage of skill set and opportunity. He’ll have to show me something, first.
This was the first pass! Let me know who I missed or who I was too high or low on. Let’s get after it this year!