Welcome to the NFL DFS TE Coach, where we identify the best tight ends for our lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel.
It’s important to note this article is posted mid-week, so injuries and other news can change our reads as we get closer to Sunday.
The Tight End position is the thinnest of all positions in the NFL for fantasy purposes. I want to start by quantifying that statement so people understand what we are working with here. At the wide receiver position we had over 25 guys with 100+ targets and another dozen that saw 90 on the season. At the tight end position, only 5 guys reached that 100 target mark with only one other who cracked 90. We saw 19 wide receivers reach the 1000 yard plateau last season, while only three (Kittle, Kelce, and Ertz) managed to do it from the TE spot. Only two tight ends ended up with double digit touchdowns (Ebron, Kelce), Ertz had 8, and no other player at the position finished with more than 6. In contrast we had about 20 wide receivers that were over 6 touchdowns in 2018. Just based on these numbers, the amount of WRs that reach any of these milestones is four times more likely. This is why the old adage holds true that to be a top 10 tight end on the week, really all you need to do is find the endzone.
What makes the tight end position tough is that we have very few mispriced players or secrets. The guys who get consistent volume and consistently out produce the rest of the field are never going to be cheap. The cheap guys are very rarely going to be safe and that forces us to make a major weekly decision. Do we spend up for the safe floor and higher upside? Or do we try to get lucky with finding the cheap guy who goes off for a big number? Remember the old season long adage that all you need to do to be a top 10 tight end is find the end zone on any given week. Considering that many of these guys see 5 targets or less and come away with 2-4 catches and under 40 yards per game, it’s easy to see how one catch with a 6 point TD bonus is often enough to leapfrog most of the field and end up in the top 10 at the position.
Even across different sites we have differences in pricing that need to be discussed. On DraftKings the cheap options are very cheap compared to the higher end guys. On FanDuel, the spread between the middle tier and the high end options is not as great. We also get full PPR points on DK vs. just half on FanDuel. With so few TDs and big yardage games coming from guys outside the top 5-6, the full PPR on Draftkings coupled with the dirt cheap pricing of the middle and lower range guys actually make more players viable there vs. the viability of many of them on FD. I am more likely to go away from the top priced options on DK, but do it very rarely on FanDuel.
For analysis purposes, we are going to break down the position into tiers. The tiers are not always in line with each other from site to site, so I will point out spots on either DK or FD where I think a player is over/under priced. I will also section off the Sunday and Monday night games at the bottom, since most of the action is on the main slate and very few places even have those games included with the guys we will talk about for the main.
The most talented tight end in the league has a decent matchup for Week 1. The Jags were around mid pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to TEs last year, but that was the softest part of the defense as they shut down most WRs and RBs, holding them to bottom 20% production at each of those positions. Kelce had the second most targets to Ertz at 150 to 156, the second most touchdowns to Ebron at 10 to 13, and the second most yards to Kittle at 1336 vs. 1377. This game has a huge total over 51 and the spread is only 3. Kelce had 5 catches on 8 targets for 100 yards in this game last year, so we have seen him produce in this matchup. He has the highest floor and ceiling at the position and that’s going to be a common theme most weeks, so get used to seeing him on this list.
No knock on Zach Ertz, but we have reasons to not love him as much this week. Between the talk of a lighter workload and the game script not being in his favor due to the Eagles being a big favorite, he’s the one of the big three I’m not as interested in. If you mass multi-enter, I would definitely have some shares of Ertz, but my ownership would be well below the other two studs here. As far as Kittle goes, this is a great spot for him. His matchup against Tampa also has a huge total at 50 and it is basically a pick’em spot meaning the game should be a back and forth shootout featuring heavy passing workloads for both teams. Kittle averaged double digit fantasy points last year and only failed to reach double digits in 4 contests. He never had less than 4 targets in any game and through the last seven weeks of the season he had at least 8 in every contest, topping out with 4 games of double digit targets during that stretch. The San Francisco pass corps is very weak with guys like Dante Pettis and Deebo Samuels lining up alongside Marquise Goodwin. Kittle should remain the highest targeted pass catcher on this team and against a defense that was passed all over last season I expect him to produce here. Kittle had a lot of games around 8-12 points and a few upside ones where he hit 18+. He’s more of a GPP option than a cash game play because you find cheap options that can match his 8-12 point floor. Very few outside of Kelce are even capable of matching his ceiling games, which screams GPP only.
The Giants have a lot of targets that need to be soaked up after the departure of Odell Beckham. With Golden Tate suspended, their receiving group is untested and unappealing. Eli Manning can’t throw the ball down the field, which means underneath stuff to guys like Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram should be staples of the offense this season. With Odell out the last few weeks of 2018, we already caught a glimpse of what Engram’s role should be this year. They played without Beckham the last four games of last season and Engram had 22 catches on 31 targets with at least 75 yards each game over that stretch. That averages out to 5.5 catches on just shy of 8 targets for 80 yards. Over a 16 game season, that would equate to 80+ catches, 125+ targets, and 1200+ yards. Those numbers would put him in the top 4 with Ertz, Kittle, and Kelce in all of those categories. TE was the position that had the best relative production against the Dallas defense last year as RBs and WRs were near the bottom 20% in fantasy points allowed. Engram caught all 7 of his targets for 67 yards and a TD in the first matchup and followed that up in week 17 against Dallas with 5 catches on 8 targets for 81 yards and a TD. Engram has a very high floor and the third highest ceiling behind Kittle and Kelce. On Draftkings you get almost a $2000 difference from the top end options, so I like that better than the $1000 difference from top to mid tier on FanDuel. Plus the full PPR on DK is better for a guy like Engram who sees more targets than the average TE.
A lot of people are down on Ebron this season, because the 13 TDs from last year are likely to regress. I’m not going to argue that his TD rate from 2018 is unsustainable, but we do have some positive news people are overlooking. Jacoby Brissett in the preseason and as his time as a starter has thrown to the TE position over 20% of the time, which is higher than the league average. Ebron is not likely to be a high target guy even with this stat mentioned, but he will continue to be out on the field and be the receiving threat when they do go with two tight end sets. He will remain a viable red zone target as the WR options are not big, so they are not great red zone options. Ebron’s TD equity gives him a high ceiling, but TDs being so variable means his floor is low. He had one big game with double digit targets where he reached 16 fantasy points without a TD, but that was a week where Jack Doyle was out and he was the main TE option. With Doyle active we still saw some big games from Ebron, but they were all games where he got into the endzone. That makes him a GPP option with upside, but other guys have much safer floors for cash game play. I do like Ebron more on FanDuel than DK, because TD equity counts for more over there and his lack of massive targets and catch numbers is less of an issue on the half PPR site.
This is one of my absolute favorite plays on the weekend. Hunter Henry missed almost all of last season, but he is now healthy and a full time TE with no Antonio Gates to share the load with anymore. The Colts were not great, giving up the 10th most fantasy points to the TE position last season. The Chargers are playing without big time TD scorer Melvin Gordon to start the season, which means other guys are going to have to step up and help them get into the endzone. Phillip Rivers has never been shy to use his TE, especially in the Red Zone, which gives Henry upside. Henry had 62 targets in 2017 with Gates grabbing another 50+. If you give most or all of that production to Henry as the main option now, we are taking over 100 targets, something less than half a dozen guys did in 2018 at the TE position. On FanDuel at $6100 I think he is in play, even though that is not a huge discount from the high end options. On DraftKings at $3900, this is way under his value. He is my favorite floor and ceiling play on a points per dollar basis and you can bet I will have a ton of exposure in GPPs as well cash game play on that site.
I really like OJ Howard this season and think he is in for a big year. I like the high total and projected back and forth type of game script here too. You would probably assume I loved OJ Howard given those reasons, but this is not the softest spot for him. The one place this SF defense was tough last year is against the TE. Part of that was good LB coverage and the bigger part of that is bad CB coverage on the WRs. The WR groups crushed the 49ers for the 4th most fantasy points and this week they draw a very talented duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The path of least resistance is going against those CBs with the WR advantage, thus OJ Howard doesn’t set up to be leaned on heavily here. Still Howard is talented enough to make an impact even in bad spots, especially in a pass heavy offense with a weak running game. I do not count him out if I was making a bunch of lineups this week, but I would not be looking his way in cash games and probably would not look at him if I was only making 2-4 lineups for GPPs.
By far my favorite cheap tight end this week for any format. Walker was hurt in Week 1 of the 2018 season, but seems to be back to 100% health. His DK price is just $3500 and his FD price in the mid $5K range is $2000 cheaper than the high end guys. Almost everyone expects the game script to be pass heavy for a likely trailing Titans team, which means he should see increased opportunity. He saw at least 102 targets in four straight season from 2014-2017, a streak that was broken by his early injury last year. 102 targets was his worst year of that stretch and it would have been the fifth most targets for any TE last year if he repeated his recent floor. His floor for catches over that run was 63 and the yardage floor was 800. The 63 catches would have landed him 8th overall last season and the 800 yards would have been fifth. Remember, these were his worst totals from 2014-2017. It was not his best or even his average, which were both much higher. Delanie Walker has been a top five TE over the past couple years and he’s now fully healthy. At least ten guys on both sites are priced higher than him in a game where he has a positive game script for targets. Cleveland allowed the 8th most fantasy points to the TE position last year too, so even the matchup is one of the better ones to look at.
So Delanie Walker is my preferred play down here in all formats, but Andrews is an interesting guy for upside at a cheap price. The Miami corners are the strength of that defense, meaning passes to the middle of the field are higher percentage. Andrews may not play a ton of snaps in a crowded TE group, but when he is on the field he usually is running routes. He showed flashes of brilliance late last season with 31 or more yards in 7 of the last 9 games. He had 5 games with at least 47 yards receiving and saw his targets increase all year culminating in four catches on five targets for 54 yards in week 17 before seeing his season high of 7 targets in the playoffs as his team trailed. Andrews has big play ability, although the targets in a run heavy offense are unlikely to ever match some of the other options at the position. Still on Draftkings especially at $3000 he has some upside if he can find his way into the end zone here. Walker is much safer and also has a decent ceiling, but Andrews is likely to be much lower owned and is a few hundred cheaper for Qs or large field GPPs with that potential upside on his price.
As of this writing, Jordan Reed is still in concussion protocol and listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Even when Jordan Reed does play, the Redskins have gone with two tight end sets and used Vernon Davis as a pass catcher. If Reed sits, he should see a ton of the snaps in what projects as a game the Redskins will be trailing in. Davis is never going to be an elite play capable of the highest score at the position, at least not in this putrid offense. He is only $2700 on DraftKings and just $4000 on FD though. I would still not expect more than 5 targets or a massive 50-60 yard game, but at the price if he has 2-3 catches for 20-30 yards and finds the end zone that’s a smash of his price tag for 2.5-4X. If you are trying to pay up at other spots and need a guy that you can punt with in GPPs, Vernon Davis is the price point with potential upside to look at. The matchup is not a friendly one and his team has one of the lower totals, but the game script does project pass heavy and that WR group is a joke. Someone has to catch passes here and this is at least the only guy with a decent track record of having done anything at the NFL level.
As far as talent goes, few others are in the same group as Cook. As far as opportunity goes, he’s playing with a much better QB in a much better offense this season, but that may or may not translate into more targets. He should have a higher efficiency though as his QB is more accurate and teams have other weapons on the Saints to worry about. The Texans were beat up by tight ends last season, allowing the second most fantasy production to the position. Cook is the priciest TE on the weekend slate, but not overly expensive at just $6K on FanDuel and $4500 on DK. It’s tough to predict his targets in a new offense, but he is clearly the main TE on his new team. This game does have sneaky shootout potential, which is why he tops my list for Sunday/Monday slate options.
The clear #2 on the primetime slates for me is Vance McDonald and I wouldn’t rule out him out producing Cook either. Jesse James and Vance McDonald basically split snaps and shared targets the last few years and James is gone. I know coach speak says his role won’t increase that much, but his playing time with the 1s this off season would beg to differ. McDonald’s saw 72 of the 119 targets to TEs in this offense last season. Even if he only splits the James workload with Xavier Grimble that still equals another 20 targets, which would put him in the top 8 at the position based on last year’s numbers. He is athletic enough to break tackles and rumble into the end zone and big enough to be a solid red zone target. Remember that the Steelers have a lot of targets to make up for with not only James gone, but highly targeted Antonio Brown too. The Patriots gave up the 12th most points to the position last year and the Steelers project to be trailing and pass heavy in this one. A lot of positive signs for Vance McDonald, although a few are things we have to infer since we haven’t seen him in this current role before.
This kid has been getting a lot of hype throughout Raiders training camp and is the cheap option I like most on this slate. With the Antonio Brown fiasco and him being unlikely to play, that should force everyone else to see more targets. Waller is replacing Jared Cook who had a big role in this offense last year. With the targets up for grabs and few competent options to fill in for them, Waller has a chance to put up some decent numbers here. The Broncos did allow the 6th most fantasy points to the position in 2018 and with the Brown news the spread has flipped to the Broncos being favored here. The Raiders could find themselves trailing with few options to pass to for positive yardage, which means Waller is cheap and has a nice potential floor and a god chance for solid point per dollar upside. I doubt he ends up the highest scoring TE on the slate, but at $3K on DraftKings and $4800 on FanDuel he could end up the best value in the primetime slot.