1 Travis Kelce @ LV
2 Darren Waller vs. KC
These two have 80 and 77 targets on the season respectively, and the only other guy that’s close is Evan Engram with 67—but he’s on a bye this week. These two play each other in the Sunday night game, a tilt with a total of 56.5 points at the time of this writing. Waller should have a higher ceiling than normal in a game where the Raiders will be forced to throw—and both of these tight ends found paydirt in the first clash between these two squads back in Week 5.
3 Mark Andrews vs. TEN
He got back on the proverbial map last week, amassing a 7-91 line on nine targets in a tough matchup with New England. This coincided with a season-ending knee injury to fellow tight end Nick Boyle, so it follows that Andrews should see all the work he can handle moving forward. The Titans are a middling matchup for tight ends, even though they’ve not faced the stiffest of competition.
4 T.J. Hockenson @ CAR
He only managed four targets last week as he battled a toe injury, harnessing two receptions for a measly 13 yards. That’s the bad news. The “good” news is that the Lions receiving group is banged up, with Marvin Jones Jr. (knee) and Danny Amendola (hip) both missing practice on Wednesday. Kenny Golladay returned to practice, but this could be a game where Hockenson sees an unusually high number of targets if his toe is up for it. Lastly, Matthew Stafford (torn ligament in thumb) did not practice on Wednesday, but my money would be on Stafford making a gutsy start come Sunday. The Panthers have been lit up by tight ends in recent weeks, allowing Jared Cook (3-32-1), Hayden Hurst (5-54), and Travis Kelce (10-159) to have solid games. And just last week, a pair of Buccaneers tight ends got in on the action, with Gronk (2-51-1) and Cameron Brate (3-31-1) each finding paydirt. I’ll be reading up on these Lions injuries, the status of Stafford, and Hockenson’s toe injury as the week progresses.
5 Dallas Goedert @ CLE
I know the output was underwhelming against the Giants last week, but he saw six targets despite missing time with a concussion. His teammate, Richard Rodgers, saw five targets. Add it all up and we can’t ignore this Philly tight end role, especially in a good matchup against the Browns. Cleveland has allowed the sixth-most receptions to the big guys so far this year, which bodes well for Goedert’s outlook.
6 Hunter Henry vs. NYJ
He’s pretty much the definition of “meh” this season given his lack of red zone attention. His modest nine red zone looks is tied for 14th among NFL tight ends, for reference. He’s trailing Greg Olsen (10) and Drew Sample (10) for cryin’ out loud. Anyway, it’s the general passing volume that keeps him relevant, as his 62 targets is fourth among all tight ends, trailing only Kelce, Waller, and Engram. He’s basically got a floor of about 6-7 targets each week, and that’s nothing to laugh at given the thin nature of the tight end position. And hey, the Jets have allowed six scores to enemy tight ends on the season, tied for the fourth-most in the NFL.
7 Noah Fant vs. MIA
I’ll feel better about Fant if we get good news on Drew Lock’s rib injury throughout the rest of the week. That said, Fant did catch five of six balls in backup Brett Rypien’s lone start of the year, albeit for only 35 yards. Fant has been nursing a high-ankle sprain for some time now, but he still managed seven targets last week so I think we can safely trot him out again. The Dolphins just allowed Hunter Henry to score only his second touchdown of the season last week, and the week prior they allowed a pair of no-name Arizona tight ends to each find paydirt. Assuming the Broncos do find some glory in Week 11, there’s a good chance Fant is involved.
8 Jared Cook vs. ATL
He’s got more of a volume floor than either of the next two guys, and a pristine matchup against the Falcons.
9 Eric Ebron @ JAC
I like Ebron a shade better than Gronk, as the matchup with the Jags is much softer and he and Gronk are pretty darn close in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns thus far.
Ebron: 50 TGT, 33 REC, 3 TD (10 RZ TGT)
Gronk: 51 TGT, 30 REC, 4 TD (14 RZ TGT)
Overall I think these situations are similar. Two scoring-dependent tight ends on good offenses that have very good wide receivers and great veteran quarterbacks. Again, it’s the matchup against the Jaguars that helps me break this tie.
10 Rob Gronkowski vs. LAR
From Week 5 to Week 7, Gronk saw target counts of 6, 8, and 8. So far that’s been the brightest spot of his season, but he has managed to score in four of his last five games. The downside is it’s a brutal matchup, as the Rams have only allowed one tight end to truly get loose all year, and that was George Kittle (7-109-1). No other tight end has topped 45 yards receiving against Los Angeles, and the Rams have allowed only four touchdowns all season. One of those scores was Kittle’s, and the other three came in Josh Allens’ Week 3 barrage, when he tossed four total scores en route to a 35-32 victory for Buffalo. So the Rams don’t allow yardage, and sans Kittle they haven’t allowed a touchdown since Week 3. Yikes.
11 Hayden Hurst @ NO
He’s in the clear second tier of tight ends with regard to volume, as his 55 targets ranks seventh among all tight ends. The Saints are not a good tight end matchup, but the volume keeps him in play. He has a disturbingly low five targets in the red zone this year, ranking 30th among all tight ends.
12 Jonnu Smith @ BAL
Smith does rank seventh with 12 red zone looks on the season, but the return of A.J. Brown has severely dampened his volume.
13 Logan Thomas vs. CIN
The Bengals have allowed the third-most yards (583) and fourth-most scores (6) to tight ends, despite only having played nine games thus far. This is a defense that is targeted frequently by enemy tight ends, with 76 targets allowed to tight ends thus far. The Bills, Panthers, and Bears have all allowed 78 targets, but they’ve all also played 10 games. Only the Saints (77) have allowed more targets (one!) and have played nine. Thomas doesn’t often see a ton of volume and he’s often inefficient...but this week it’s possible he could see more work than normal.
14 Austin Hooper vs. PHI
15 Mike Gesicki @ DEN
These two are the last sort of hope for any kind of volume at the tight end position. Hooper had to slog through an ugly weather game last week, so it’s possible he rebounds if the weather isn’t inclement against a Philly team that is vulnerable to tight ends. As for Gesicki, he hasn’t seemed to get it going yet with Tua under center, but again—we are rapidly heading for the bottom of the barrel now.
16 Tyler Higbee @ TB
He and Gerald Everett continue to cannibalize each other, but Higbee did see six targets last week and is worth a dart throw to see if he’ll begin to command more of the lion’s share of looks now that he’s getting healthier.
17 Robert Tonyan @ IND
18 Trey Burton vs. GB
19 Drew Sample @ WAS
20 Dalton Schultz @ MIN
Your guess is as good as mine, gents. I like to lean into a “quality of target” sort of thinking if I’m digging this deeply.
After these guys, it’s Kyle Rudolph (maybe Irv Smith Jr. is eased back in), Gerald Everett, or Mo Alie-Cox if you’re in desperate need of another guy. Tyler Eifert (5, 4) has seen a decent amount of targets over the last two weeks, but he’s in a brutal matchup with the Steelers. Like we say all the time...tight end is ugly!