No matter how much mental preparation we make for the NFL season, it catches us by surprise every time. We tell ourselves there will be injuries but we are still shocked when Javonte Williams and Breece Hall go down. We know there will be bye weeks but we panic when Cooper KuppSteffon Diggs, Justin Jefferson, and AJ Brown all have the same bye week. And we know that trades can happen, but it blows our minds when Christian McCaffrey and James Robinson get traded. How do you prepare for the unknown?
Despite that, we are going to do our best to plan for a chaotic landscape by ranking tight ends based on their value rest of the season. Then, on Thursday, I will Tweet out my Week 7 specific rankings. We’ll do our best to navigate this choppy landscape filled with injuries, byes, and trades.
As a reminder, here is the full write up on how the strategy works. The short and sweet is that, if you don’t have an elite tight end, you should roster two: the safest possible play (Yin) to start each week and the highest upside bench stash (Yang) to see if we can catch lightning in a bottle. The rankings themselves are based on ten years of research we have done on the position which is all compiled into this one article on What Makes An Elite Tight End.
*Orange players have potentially injury issues
- Travis Kelce – The only thing separating Andrews and Kelce rest of season is the fact that Andrews is banged up. Kelce is on bye this week so you need a fill-in.
- Mark Andrews – Mark Andrews was not seen at practice today which is not good news at all considering they play Thursday. If he’s out, Isaiah Likely is a viable fill-in. He likely has very similar usage to Andrews-he’s run 86.5% of his routes from a WR spot and rarely pass blocks so he’d take on a big role in the absence of Andrews. If Andrews misses this Halloween weekend things could get even spookier after that as they have their bye Week 10 so could be tempted to sit him Week 9 as well.
- George Kittle – We’ve laid it out in this article each week so the production should come as no surprise – George Kittle‘s usage is pretty much the same as it’s been when he’s been a high-end tight end. The game script was to blame but he’s shown these last two weeks what he is capable of. now with Trent Williams back, there is no reason for him to block anymore as usual. Roll him out every week where you have him.
- Dallas Goedert – He’s not a top two target on his team and he runs low aDot routes. Those are the two knocks on him. But he’s been fairly consistent at an inconsistent position and he’s already had his bye week. He is safe, albeit boring.
- David Njoku – We really can’t have nice things, can we? David Njoku was one of the lone bright spots starting in Week 3 when Jack Conklin returned and he shifted away from blocking. Now he has an injured ankle and should miss 2-5 weeks. If you have an IR spot, stash him. If you have shallow benches, you might have to drop him but it would be a shame to not have him for the playoff stretch when Deshaun Watson comes back.
- Tyler Higbee – Tyler Higbee was in a similar boat to Goedert – low aDot but consistent targets. When healthy he was playing 90-95% of the snaps and running a ton of routes though which is what moved him up to this section. The injury concerns for him right now are two-fold in that he himself has a bum ankle and injuries to the offensive line could force him to hang in and block more. Hopefully, he got healthy over the bye but, if he blocked on six pass plays again as he did in Week 6, he’s getting moving down to the Yin section.
Safe Plays (YIN)
- T. J. Hockenson Zach Ertzand Gerald Everett – These guys continue to benefit from injuries to other pass catchers. The Lions are missing DJ Chark, Jameson Williams, and D’Andre Swift. Meanwhile, Ertz and Everett got lucky in that, right as DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen returned, Marquise Brown and Mike Williams got injured. They all remain viable options as long as guys are missing time.
- Pat Freiermuth – Freiermuth is kind of in a tier of his own here and the Chase Claypool trade rumors make me want to move him up. as of now, Diontae Johnson is the top target on the team while Claypool (44), Freiermuth (41), and George Pickens (40) battle for second. You technically could call Muth the 2nd dog since he did miss a game there. But Pickens ramps up every day. So the reality is that Muth probably fits right where he is a safe option but not quite a top option.
- Dalton Schultz – I know it’s not his fault, especially this week when he was tackled awkwardly. But there is nothing more frustrating in fantasy football than when a guy who is hurt suits up and then leaves the game because he’s hurt. Which Schultz has now done twice in a row. You can start him but just know the downside. He will be lower in the weekly rankings than he is in ROS.
- Robert Tonyan – We were hoping that he would continue to get ramped up but his snaps actually reverted a bit this week – he only played 30 of 54 snaps and ran 29 routes on 41 dropbacks. Unless that moves up he has capped upside. Washington is a tough matchup for tight ends though so it won’t always be this bad.
- Hayden Hurst and Mike Gesicki – We know who the top targets on this team are. And it’s not these guys. Chase, Higgins, Hill, and Waddle are on another level which hurts the upside. At least Gesicki doesn’t also have to content with Tyler Boyd.
Upside Plays (Yang)
- Darren Waller – Darren Waller work still Darren Waller but conditions have changed. they now have Dave Adams and Hunter Renfrow. And he’s also banged up. If he can get healthy the upside is there. But he’s no longer must start.
- Evan Engram – We’ve been saying this for a long time. This is a good player that plays more like a wide receiver. And that’s how he’s been used. After a small rough patch, he’s had 10, 6, and 7 targets in the last three games. You aren’t really getting that anywhere else.
- Kyle Pitts – Kyle Pitts at 24.6% has the second-highest target share of any tight end. higher than Travis Kelce. But, if the team doesn’t throw, that doesn’t matter. So he continues to slide down these rankings until the Falcons actually prove they are willing to throw the football. save us, Desmond Ridder.
- Greg Dulcich – Dulcich has a decent route participation once again (72%). The offense and QB situation stinks but the Jerry Jeudy trade rumors are what put him high. If Jeudy gets traded, Dulcich could immediately be the second target on this team. Value.
- Taysom Hill – I cannot tell you when or where to start this player. He’s a complete wild card. And you can’t statistically compare him to any other tight end. So starting him or not is entirely your call.
- Juwan Johnson – As long as Jarvis Landry, Michael Thomasand/or Adam Trautman miss time, he’s a viable option. That’s why he was a TE1 for us in our rankings last week. This guy is running a lot of routes and he’s a converted WR so he’s running a lot of them from a WR spot. James Winston likes him (12 targets over the first two weeks) so we are rooting for Winston to return.
- Logan Thomas – You really need an IR spot to hold on here but the other tight ends and John Dotson are all banged up. The upside could be there down the stretch.
Tight End Handcuffs and The Rest
- Harrison Bryant – with David Njoku out for multiple weeks, Bryant steps into a viable role almost immediately. I would add him over any player in The Rest column. If you would start him this week, I’d honestly add him over Hurst, Gesicki, and Tonyan as well. The opportunity is too great.
- Cade Otton – Cade Otton is a highly viable option anytime Cameron Brate is out. In Week 5, he played 94% of the snaps and caught 6 of 7 targets. Last week with no Brate he caught 4 of 5 for 67 yards. When Brate returns he’s not appealing.
- Isaiah Likely – We mentioned this but Likely becomes viable immediately if Mark Andrews is ruled out. Worth a speculative add if you are banking on Andrews.
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