The Bengals got shelled by Browns tight ends last week, so you know it’s going to be Jonnu szn here at Fake Teams. We’ll also want to pick on the Dallas defense, who allowed even Logan Thomas to find the end zone last week. The Falcons, Jaguars, Titans, and others are teams we’ll see if we can pick on, too.
1 Travis Kelce vs. NYJ
The Jets are a nonthreatening matchup, and Kelce should shine in this home game coming off of a dud on the road.
2 George Kittle @ SEA
Not a great matchup for tight ends, as the Seahawks have allowed a combined 19-281-0 line so far in 2020. But Kittle managed a decent day against a similarly tough Patriots defense last week, and he’s a huge volume play given the injuries to San Francisco. Kelce’s the only guy I’d start over him.
3 Darren Waller @ CLE
The absurd volume of Waller coupled with this matchup makes him a lock at the No. 3 spot.
4 Jonnu Smith @ CIN
The Browns passing offense—and tight ends specifically—beat up on the Bengals last week. Smith was tracking as the overall TE1 before the Titans’ bye and his ankle injury. He had a tough matchup with the Steelers last week, but this week I’m putting him right back into the elite tier. The return of A.J. Brown is of some concern, but Smith doesn’t need tons of volume to make an elite impact at a weak tight end position.
5 Mark Andrews vs. PIT
Like I said, the Steelers are a rough matchup. For instance, despite being tied for 13th in targets allowed to tight ends, Pittsburgh has allowed the fourth-fewest yards (234) and the third-fewest scores (1). Andrews is always a good bet to score a touchdown (or two), but I think we can safely temper expectations this week. Andrews is quietly only sixth among tight ends in red zone looks, with only nine such targets so far. He trails Kelce, Graham, Gesicki, Waller, and Gronkowski.
6 Rob Gronkowski @ NYG
His 38 targets so far ranks 11th among all tight ends, but that outlook is improved this week with Chris Godwin already slated to miss. He also has 10 red zone looks already, trailing only Kelce (13), Graham (12), and Gesicki (11). With his role growing, he’s a slam dunk TE1 option for this week and appears to be a very good play moving forward.
7 Hunter Henry @ DEN
Henry’s matchup at Denver is a bit better than Andrews’ at home, and Herbert has been cookin’. The Broncos have allowed a 32-311-2 line to tight ends, and Henry’s 44 targets ranks fifth among all tight ends. He’s got 11 more than Andrews, for reference—which is good, because Herbert hasn’t looked his way much in the red area, with Henry sitting on only six red zone looks this season.
8 Jared Cook @ CHI
The Saints don’t throw much, ranking 29th in attempts so far. The Bears are pretty stout against the pass and a bit easier to run on...so I can’t really see a ton of volume for Cook in this one. All that said, the Bears do seem to funnel targets inside, as tight end volume, yards, and touchdowns all rank inside the bottom third of the league. He’s still a decent (if low-end) TE1 option.
9 Noah Fant vs. LAC
Not the best of matchups, have to hang your hat on the four scores allowed to enemy tight ends thus far—as the Chargers don’t allow a ton of volume to big guys. Drew Lock likes throwing to his tight ends, too. Fant (6) and Albert Okwuegbunam (7) each saw a healthy amount of targets last week. Long-term, I expect Fant to re-assert himself in this offense.
10 Evan Engram vs. TB
The Bucs aren’t a great matchup, having allowed 29-320-3 on 47 targets so far. However, Engram is a studly volume play and at least worthy of lower-end TE1 status.
11 Richard Rodgers vs. DAL
Rodgers slides into a defined tight end role for Philadelphia, given the absences of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. The Cowboys are a plus matchup for tight ends, allowing a 34-347-4 line on 47 targets thus far. I mean, if Logan Thomas can pop in this matchup, so can Richard Rodgers.
12 Hayden Hurst @ CAR
He’s been fairly consistent. A solid floor option, even if the ceiling isn’t super-high due to the Falcons’ plethora of passing game weapons.
13 Mike Gesicki vs. LAR
Gesicki should see volume, as the Rams have allowed 64 targets to enemy tight ends, tied with the Bengals for the most in the NFL. The Rams have allowed a healthy 41-379-4 receiving line to enemy tight ends as a result of their cornerback talent funneling targets inside. Gesicki is the definition of boom-or-bust, but I’d rather his upside than the next guy’s floor...
14 T.J. Hockenson vs. IND
The Colts have allowed just 17-134-0 receiving to tight ends so far, and Hockenson is pretty much scoring-dependent. He’s an easy fade for me this week.
15 Robert Tonyan vs. MIN
The Vikings have only allowed 30 tight end targets so far, the second-fewest in the NFL. That’s turned into the eighth-fewest receptions, but the 11th-most yardage (363). Chunk gains, basically. I’d say Aaron Rodgers’ tight end is a viable streamer given this matchup...but I’m pouring a bit of cold water on this one given Tonyan’s recent “meh” stretch that coincides with Davante Adams hogging nearly every target for Green Bay.
16 Harrison Bryant vs. LV
Bryant erupted for two scores in a cushy matchup against the Bengals last week, aided by the absence of Odell Beckham Jr. and Nick Chubb. When Chubb returns I think this team is safely going to ground-and-pound for forever. But right now that isn’t working.
17 Jimmy Graham vs. NO
You’re chasing a score, as usual. Graham’s 12 red zone looks trail only Travis Kelce (13) among NFL tight ends.
18 Gerald Everett @ MIA
Tyler Higbee was a surprise scratch last week with a hand injury and it’s reportedly still bothering him. That makes Everett a viable play for me. He’s still not a full-time player—he ran 20 routes to Johnny Mundt’s 14, for instance...but tight end drops off in a hurry and Everett did score last week.
19 Trey Burton @ DET
It’s not a great matchup, but Burton is getting plenty of work. The Colts even gave him a goal-line carry in Week 7. You could do much better, but you could also do much worse.
20 Dalton Schultz @ PHI
The quarterback play is a nightmare, but the matchup is pristine.
21 David Njoku vs. LV
With OBJ and Chubb out, it was the tight end show for Cleveland last week. Both Bryant and Njoku are viable.
22 Eric Ebron @ BAL
Diontae Johnson is battling a toe injury, so it’s possible the Steelers’ passing tree narrows a bit this week. The Ravens are a pretty middling/neutral matchup for tight ends by the numbers.
23 Anthony Firkser @ CIN
Call it a hunch. Firkser has flashed at times, and the Bengals were beaten up on by Cleveland guys last week.
24 Irv Smith Jr. @ GB
He’s running more routes now, and I’d rather chase the upside of youth than roll with a boring veteran in this space.
If you’re going past this point, maybe take a chance on Ian Thomas of Carolina. He hasn’t been involved much at all, but it’s a matchup-driven league and the Falcons have allowed the most receptions, yards, and scores to enemy tight ends. He’s my first choice outside of the top 24 guys, a high-end TE3 option. Now isn’t that exciting?