It’s Week 16 of fantasy football, also known as championship week in most leagues. Here’s a brief overview of some high points regarding tight ends this week:
George Kittle returns, though he does so to third-string signal-caller C.J. Beathard.
Mike Gesicki is questionable to play with a shoulder injury. I’m not excited for his prospects, and I think the best you could consider him would be as a low-end TE1.
Hunter Henry (reserve/Covid-19 list) is out this week. Donald Parham Jr. is a candidate to see more snaps, and perhaps even enter the streaming conversation.
Robert Tonyan scored AGAIN last week, making it five weeks in a row that he’s found paydirt. He’s tied with Kelce with 10 touchdowns, most among any NFL tight end.
Travis Kelce and Darren Waller remain in a tier of their own, but Mark Andrews is knocking on the door.
1 Travis Kelce vs. ATL
2 Darren Waller vs. MIA
Kelce (136) and Waller (130) are the only two tight ends to have crested the 100-target plateau in 2020, with Evan Engram’s inefficient self a distant third at only 97 looks.
That said, their stat lines are pretty different in one facet:
Waller has more than adequately shed the “he can’t score” label in 2020, and he’s obviously catching tons of balls—but he’s still miles behind Kelce in yardage. For reference, Kelce’s 13.4 Y/R mark ranks 31st in the NFL, sandwiched between Terry McLaurin and Brandin Cooks. Waller’s 10.4 Y/R ranks 95th, similar to short-area man Laviska Shenault. Waller is still a beast, but Travis Kelce is on another level. Kelce’s $8,500 price tag on DraftKings (a record!) still won’t be enough to drive some gamers away from him this weekend.
Lastly, Kelce and Waller have both exceeded 500 yards after the catch this year, with Kelce at 539 and Waller at 501. No other tight end has even reached 400 yards, which is insane. Noah Fant checks in at third, with a mere 316 yards after the catch. Start these two studs if you have them.
3 Mark Andrews vs. NYG
He leads all tight ends in air share, at 27 percent. Waller and Kelce are tied for second at 26 percent, but Andrews outpaces them due to a superior 10.6 aDOT. And despite dealing with early injuries and the mercurial nature of Baltimore’s passing attack, he still has seven scores on the season. Only Kelce (10), Tonyan (10), and Waller (8) have more.
4 Robert Tonyan vs. TEN
You would really bench Tonyan for a guy coming off an injury, catching passes from a third-string quarterback? No, you wouldn’t. BOB TONYAN SCORED AGAIN LAST WEEK. That’s five weeks in a row with a score, and 10 scores on the season. Tonyan has nearly singlehandedly propelled some of your teams into your fantasy finals. Don’t bench him now, not in a game the Packers need to in order to keep their one-game lead on the rest of the NFC.
5 George Kittle @ ARI
Kittle returns, but to an offense guided by C.J. Beathard. And how healthy will he be? If we knew the answer to that question, he’d easily be in the first tier conversation. As is, I can’t put him over all-he-does-is-score Tonyan for championship week. That’s a move you make if you’re the clear underdog and need a Hail Mary sort of play. Sure, Kittle could go nuts in his return. But he could also be limited.
6 T.J. Hockenson vs. TB
Hock put up a dud last week (2-18) but the upside to this matchup is that the Lions should need to throw plenty to keep pace.
7 Noah Fant @ LAC
He exited Week 14 without a catch due to an illness, but had his best game of the year (sans Week 1) last week. He managed 8-68-1 on 11 targets, and he’s about all the Broncos have going on offense.
8 Logan Thomas vs. CAR
Thomas exploded for 13 catches and 101 yards last week, on a whopping 16 targets. The Panthers have allowed 78 receptions to enemy tight ends, fifth-most in the NFL. Dwayne Haskins may not make the best of decisions off the field, but if he keeps peppering Thomas with targets on the field we’ll have to keep paying attention.
9 Dallas Goedert @ DAL
The Eagles are 4-9-1, the bottom-feeders of the NFC East. But a win against Dallas (5-9) put them right back into the thick of things. Goedert has seen an extremely stable floor of targets since his return from injury, despite the added presence of Zach Ertz. Since Week 10, here are Goedert’s target counts by week: 6, 6, 10, 7, 6, and 8. Trust him in what should be a high-flying matchup, one where Jalen Hurts should do all he can to triumph in a must-win game.
10 Jared Cook vs. MIN
The Saints are without receivers Michael Thomas, Deonte Harris, and Tre’Quan Smith. The Vikings are a good matchup. Cook is coming off of a disappointing 2-29 on five targets last week, but I think you have to lean into his potential volume here.
11 Austin Hooper @ NYJ
He showed signs of life last week (5-41-1) and the Jets are the stone worst in the NFL at allowing scores to tight ends, at 13 total so far. Some will call him a streamer this week. I call him a legitimate TE1 option.
12 Rob Gronkowski @ DET
He’s scoring-dependent, but he’s seen at least six targets in three of his last four games.
13 Cole Kmet @ JAC
He snagged both of his targets last week, but unfortunately it was the first week in three that he did not see a healthy seven targets. The Jaguars are a great matchup for the Bears passing attack to get back on track, and they are especially generous to tight ends—allowing 11 scores on the season, second-most in the league.
14 Evan Engram @ BAL
The Ravens are an unremarkable matchup for tight ends, not good, not bad. Engram remains in play ONLY because of his volume—not because he has been consistent at any point. What a maddening player to own in 2020. His whopping 97 targets ranks third among all tight ends, yet he ranks sixth with only 59 receptions.
15 Jonnu Smith @ GB
It’s not a great matchup, but there were some signs of life from Smith last week, as he caught all five ball thrown his way (52 scoreless yards).
16 Hayden Hurst @ KC
Hurst found paydirt last week, and one would expect the Falcons to need to throw plenty in order to keep pace with the Chiefs. The absence of Julio Jones hasn’t seemed to aid him much, but for what it’s worth Jones is still iffy to play this weekend.
17 Dalton Schultz vs. PHI
Again, I like this game. Schultz’s target counts have been on a downward trend, but he did score last week and Michael Gallup is dealing with a hip injury (though he is expected to play). Still, perhaps Schultz sees an extra look or two, and the Eagles are a plus matchup for tight ends anyway—they have allowed the eighth-most catches (73), 10th-most yards (770), and seventh-most scores (8) on the year.
18 Zach Ertz @ DAL
He’s getting out-snapped by Goedert, but like 85% to 75%. And he worked up to seven targets last week. I’m not excited about Ertz as a legitimate TE2, but I do love this matchup for Philly and you could do worse than his upside this week.
19 Jordan Akins vs. CIN
Akins is as maddening as the tight end position itself—as soon as you start to trust him, he flops. And when you’re probably ignoring him (like last week) he posts a useful 5-50 line on six targets. He’s now seen six looks in each of the last two weeks. The Bengals are a very good matchup, allowing the third-most yardage (867) to tight ends on the season.
20 Mike Gesicki @ LV
Gesicki was a surprise inactive last week, but is trending towards playing on Saturday evening.
21 Tyler Higbee @ SEA
22 Irv Smith Jr. @ NO
23 Eric Ebron vs. IND
You know the drill by now. You’re hoping for a score. I actually like Irv Smith Jr. if I’m chasing upside, especially on that fast track at New Orleans. Ebron gets the coveted revenge game narrative, but he’s tough to trust after exiting Week 15 with a back injury.
24 Dawson Knox @ NE
Knox has three scores in his last four games, though his volume has been nothing to write home about.
25 Dan Arnold vs. SF
He isn’t seeing tons of snaps, but he does have four scores since Week 11, including one two-score game. And while he didn’t see a red zone target last week, he’s been seeing one per week recently.
26 Tyler Eifert vs. CHI
27 Gerald Everett @ SEA
28 Jimmy Graham @ JAC
We’re really scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel here, folks.
29 Drew Sample @ HOU
30 Durham Smythe @ LV
Smythe is a candidate to move into solid TE2 territory if Gesicki ends up not playing. There was some uncertainty between either he or Adam Shaheen stepping up for Miami last week, but it was Smythe (5-40) who caught all five balls thrown his way, while Shaheen managed one 15-yard catch on only two targets.
If you’ve made it down this far, I commend you. Good luck in those championships, ladies and gents!