We’ve got three weeks of data now, but it’s probably a week or so too soon to start drawing finite conclusions about tight end matchups. But I’m constantly trying to get an “overview” in my head of each matchup and each player’s given situation in a week. So I’ll be weaving in some matchup information as I go this week, and from here onward.
I’ll likely miss a news tidbit or two. If you see something, please share so we can all get better at the fake game! The big piece is the cancellation of the Steelers and Titans, so we are down a couple of strong plays in Jonnu Smith and Eric Ebron. Ugh.
1 Travis Kelce vs. NE
Kelce has finished as the TE6, TE6, and TE7 thus far. We just saw the Patriots erase Darren Waller (2-9) in Week 3, but Mahomes and Kelce are on another level. You didn’t draft Kelce to bench him. And I’m not putting Andrews’ floor or Ertz’s rough matchup ahead of Kelce this week. Not considering Kittle off of an injury over him, either.
2 Mark Andrews @ WAS
He’s got six red zone looks so far, twice the amount of any other Raven. He trails only Mike Gesicki (8) and Jimmy Graham (7) in the red area among tight ends. Last year, Andrews’ 19 looks trailed only Kelce (22) and Ertz (20). Point is, he’s always a major threat to score. Through three games he’s tied for 13th among tight ends in overall targets, though—whereas last year he ranked fourth in that regard by season’s end. It’s still early and that’s a ranking that will probably trend upward.
3 George Kittle vs. PHI
Kittle logged a full practice on Wednesday, so it’s all systems go in this matchup against the Eagles. I could goof around and rank him as a low-end TE1, like the general consensus has so far. But if he’s healthy, I’m playing him. Watch the practice reports leading up to this weekend’s game. If he’s in, I’d take him over these next streamer types and over Ertz’s matchup.
4 Mike Gesicki vs. SEA
Gesicki is in one of the games of the week, as this one has a 53-point total. He has back-to-back top 12 finishes among his tight end counterparts, and after the top flight guys I’m down with chasing this upside. He leads the Dolphins in targets overall and has more than double the amount of red zone targets of any other Dolphin—Gesicki has eight, while Preston Williams has three. If it’s the high-scoring game that Vegas projects, it follows that Gesicki should be a major part of the action.
5 T.J. Hockenson vs. NO
The Saints funnel to the pass, given the top five mark of 3.4 Y/A allowed to opposing running backs. Also, the presence of stud cornerback duo Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins means that passes are further funneled (to tight ends). The Saints have allowed the most targets to tight ends in the league so far, 38 in all. As a result, New Orleans has also allowed the most receptions (29), yards (290), and touchdowns (4) to enemy tight ends. It’s only three weeks of data, but it reads like a prime spot for Hockenson based on the numbers we have so far. I like him a bit better than his TE9 consensus ranking at FantasyPros.
6 Zach Ertz @ SF
He’s probably back to being a target-monster given that Dallas Goedert is on IR for at least three weeks with an ankle fracture. When Goedert was injured last week, Ertz soaked up 10 targets. Ertz is sitting on one score so far, and he’s also the best bet for red zone looks on this Eagles squad moving forward. The Niners are a brutal matchup for tight ends, but I’m leaning on the volume here. You’re hoping he finds paydirt, as the Niners have allowed a measly five receptions to enemy tight ends so far, and a paltry 40 yards. Oh, and zero scores. I like his volume moving forward given the additional injuries to the Eagles’ wide receiver corps, but this isn’t the week to go nuts with Ertz. He’s the TE3 at FantasyPros, and I think that’s too high.
7 Darren Waller vs. BUF
He’s seeing elite volume when he’s not getting shut down by Bill Belichick (only four targets last week). The Bills have allowed 245 receiving yards to tight ends through three games, the second-worst mark in the NFL. That’s a hair over 81 yards per game, if you’re counting at home. If Waller is healthy I see no reason he can’t rebound this week.
8 Hunter Henry @ TB
Henry offers a tiny bit more floor than the next guy given his target counts so far. His 25 targets through three weeks ranks third among all tight ends, with only Travis Kelce (28) and Darren Waller (28) ahead of him.
9 Tyler Higbee vs. NYJ
He’s scoring dependent, as evidenced by the wide range of outcomes shown during his three weeks so far, finishing as the TE21, TE1, and the TE20. Trouble is, he’s got competition for red zone looks in Cooper Kupp (4) and Robert Woods (3). Higbee’s four red zone looks is tied for seventh among tight ends, which is solid. It’s enough to justify a top 10 ranking each week, especially if you aren’t in a full PPR format. Where he’ll struggle is with volume, as his 12 targets through three games is ranked 21st among all tight ends—which is basically how he finished in each of the two weeks when he didn’t find the end zone.
10 Noah Fant @ NYJ
You can’t bank on many points being scored by the Broncos with Denver slated to start their third quarterback of the season in Brett Rypien. But the bar to be a top 10 tight end is pretty darn low, and Fant can get there against a struggling Jets defense. New York has allowed three scores to tight ends so far, tied for the fourth-most in the NFL. Fant has scored in two of three games to begin the year, is tied for fifth among all tight ends in targets (22). He is also tied for fourth in red zone targets (5), so the scoring prowess might not go away. He’s a really solid play this week given his production and the matchup.
11 Evan Engram @ LAR
He was a disappointment last week, but it was a brutal matchup versus the Niners. The Rams have allowed three scores to tight ends so far, but it’s tough to get too excited about anyone who is traveling on the road to face that Rams defense.
12 Hayden Hurst @ GB
He has touchdowns in back-to-back weeks, and has finished as the TE22, TE8, and TE18 so far. That’s not too shabby given that he’s 17th in targets (16) and 33rd (!!) in red zone targets (2) among his peers. With Julio Jones (hamstring) and Russell Gage (concussion) potentially out again, Hurst is in a decent spot to produce, especially with stud third-year cornerback Jaire Alexander doing his best to erase Calvin Ridley this weekend. A few more targets could go Hurst’s way this week.
13 Logan Thomas vs. BAL
I’m keeping the faith with Logan Thomas:
Logan Thomas among tight ends:— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 28, 2020
4th in routes (nice)
2nd in targets (wow!)
3rd in end zone targets (omg!)
10th in receptions (umm)
20th in yards (wait what is happening)
17th in fantasy points (you've got to be kidding me)
Soooooo, blame Haskins for being erratic? This could be a chemistry or timing thing, too. I mean, the season is still young, Haskins is barely into Year 2, and Thomas is a former quarterback. Working in his favor is that the Ravens haven’t been good against tight ends in 2020. In this matchup the Browns tight ends combined for a 5-65-1 line, Darren Fells (2-23-1) and Jordan Akins (7-55) each produced for Houston, and Travis Kelce (6-87) did Travis Kelce things. Thomas makes for a high-end TE2 option this week given his volume, and I like him better than his TE17 consensus at FantasyPros.
14 Austin Hooper @ DAL
15 Dalton Schultz @ CLE
The Browns have allowed the third-highest target count to enemy tight ends so far, at 22. They’ve also allowed three scores to the big guys already, and Schultz has seen target counts of 10 and 6 over the last two weeks. He’s a solid TE2 option that could finish as a TE1 if he finds the end zone this week.
16 Jared Cook @ DET
Cook missed Wednesday’s practice with the same groin injury that forced him out of Sunday night’s game. Michael Thomas returned to practice in a limited fashion yesterday, so this is a situation to monitor heading into the weekend. It’s a dome game between two signal-callers that can put up points, and the Lions’ outlook is less grim now that Kenny Golladay is back in the fold. If the news on Cook is positive heading into the weekend, I could see bumping him up into the low-end TE1 area, regardless of the status of Michael Thomas.
17 Jimmy Graham vs. IND
Guess who has a whopping seven red zone looks and four scores already? That’s right, Jimmy Graham leads all tight ends in scores and is tied for the NFL lead. Unfortunately the Colts are a brutal matchup, so don’t go crazy for Graham in PPR formats this week. You’re hoping for a touchdown or two if you’re desperate enough to play him—something that’s possible given his involvement so far. He’s seen target counts of 7, 1, and 10 over the first three weeks. One of those is not like the others, and he’s coming off of a two-score game. If he stays involved with that volume and that red zone attention, he’ll be moving up in these weekly rankings. It’s just that this week is the week to pump the brakes a little. It’s the week to try to pry him away from his owner if he throws up a dud, too.
18 Mo Alie-Cox @ CHI
19 Rob Gronkowski vs. LAC
20 Jordan Akins vs. MIN
21 Drew Sample vs. JAC
22 Robert Tonyan vs. ATL
23 Tyler Eifert @ CIN
24 O.J. Howard vs. LAC
You’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel with this grouping. Best of luck to you if you’re looking this far. If I had to roll with one, I’d go with the long-term upside of Mo Alie-Cox, who might have supplanted Jack Doyle as the starting tight end for Philip Rivers. Take a chance, why don’t ya?