Welcome to the NFL DFS TE Coach, where we identify the best tight ends for our DraftKings and FanDuel lineups!
What’s up my peeps? Week 6 was suboptimal when it came to tight end choices, however, with Week 7 comes new opportunities. Early in the week, there was a chance that injuries to Jonnu Smith (TEN) and Noah Fant (DEN) would lead to tight end salary relief in the form of Anthony Firkser (TEN) and Albert Okwuegbunam (DEN). Both Smith and Fant have both practiced in full this week, so those cheap NFL DFS options have been thrown out the door. Fear not, for as my grandmother used to say, “When God closes a door, He opens up a window!”
Just when things were looking rather bleak at the tight end position, we get late-breaking news that Joe Mixon (CIN) has been ruled out with a foot injury. You know what that means? Gio Bernard (CIN) chalk y’all! What could go wrong? With guys like Bernard, Jerick McKinnon (SF) and (possibly) Justin Jackson (LAC) at our disposal, we can spend up for beefcake at the tight end position in cash games and take a risk on cheaper guys who could fall into the end zone one or two times in tournaments.
Something tells me the Covid/injury bug isn’t done just yet, so be sure to keep an eye open for any upcoming situations prior to kickoff. You never know when you’ll need to pivot. That being said, let’s take a look at this week’s top options, shall we?
Travis Kelce (KC) – FanDuel $7900 / DraftKings $6300
Kelce is the top tight end option on the season and is an obvious choice for the “gold-medal” winner in this week’s “tight end Olympics.” His talents were on full display the last time he took the field, as he hauled in five of seven targets for 65 receiving yards and two touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills. He did lose a fumble that game, however, no one’s perfect.
Kelce has scored more than five touchdowns in a season only twice since 2014, however, he’s currently on pace to score more than 13 touchdowns this year (as per Pro Football Focus). Allow that to sink in for a few minutes. He has at least five receptions and/or 70 receiving yards and/or a touchdown in every game this season. His worst performance was a three reception outing against New England, however, he still ended up with 70 receiving yards.
I know positive performances aren’t necessarily predictive of future outcomes, however, he has a history of torching the Denver Broncos. Denver is currently ranked 16th in DvP versus tight ends, however, we don’t really care about that when it comes to Kelce, do we? The answer is a resounding, “No!”
George Kittle (SF) – FanDuel $7100 / DraftKings $6500
Kittle also falls under the “matchup proof” category, however, this weekend’s meeting against the New England Patriots leaves him with a “silver medal” in this week’s “tight end Olympics” (New England ranks fifth in DvP versus tight ends and managed to fend off Kelce and Waller).
Kittle had seven receptions on 10 targets for 109 receiving yards and a touchdown last week against the Rams. The guy continues to do everything except clean the stadium after the game. He has over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown in two of his last three games (against Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Rams). He could put up excellent numbers again this weekend, despite the tough matchup, and remains an excellent option in all formats (current DraftKings ownership projection of 10.73%, with a FanDuel ownership projection of 10.36%).
I wouldn’t fault you if you chose him as your top tight end option this week. However, for me, Kelce has the advantage of being on a team with an implied team total of 27.8 (San Francisco has an implied team total of 21.0). They are both beefcake options, however, as they say in the movie Highlander, “There can be only one!”
Darren Waller (LV) – FanDuel NA / DraftKings $6100
Waller was originally slated to play Sunday night, however, a last-minute change to the Sunday schedule puts him in play as an excellent GPP option during the main slate (on DraftKings). This gives us a full level of “cream” at the top of the tight end position, as opposed to last week’s slate, where we were left with whatever was left below.
Waller hasn’t performed at the level of Kelce or Kittle thus far, however, he did have five receptions on seven targets for 48 receiving yards and one touchdown against Kansas City prior to the bye week. He’s received double-digit targets in two games this season and has been targeted less than seven times only once (four targets against New England).
This weekend, he faces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who rank 10th in DvP versus the position (fewest PPR points per game allowed to tight ends as per Pro Football Focus). It’s an overall difficult matchup for the Raiders (implied team total of 24.0), leaving Waller as the “bronze medal” winner on this week’s “tight end Olympics” podium. I’m not willing to pull the trigger in cash games, however, he should be a high ceiling/low owned option in tournaments (current DraftKings ownership projection of 5.93%, with a FanDuel ownership projection of 7.34%).
Hunter Henry (LAC) – FanDuel $5800 / DraftKings $4500
Henry currently sits as my cash game tight end, however, with the late-breaking news that Gio Bernard (CIN) will become viable chalk this week, I may try to upgrade to a beefcake option (in the form of Kelce). That could lead to Henry falling in between the cracks (current DraftKings ownership projection of 10.69% with a FanDuel ownership projection of 8.43%). Don’t let that happen.
Jacksonville ranks 25th in DvP versus tight ends, and the Los Angeles Chargers have an implied team total of 28.3 (third highest on the slate). The Jaguars are one of seven defenses that have already allowed at least five scores to the tight end position (as per Pro Football Focus). The guys (and ladies) at Pro Football Focus are expecting a breakout game for Henry to occur this week. Who am I to disagree?
Jonnu Smith (TEN) – FanDuel $6200 / DraftKings $4700
Smith was “my dude” in cash games last week, however, an ankle injury put the kibosh on his game against the Texans, leaving me with a whopping 2.3 fantasy points at the position. Smith has recovered from his injury and has logged full practices this week, which puts him back in play as an option better used in tournaments. He’s currently the number two receiving option on the Titans and could get a boost to number one if teammate AJ Brown (TEN) is hampered by a knee injury.
The Titans are -1.5 home favorites with an implied team total of 26.0, however, they’ll need to keep their foot on the pedal if they want to fend off the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend. The Steelers rank seventh in DvP versus tight ends, however, a two-touchdown effort from Smith would go a long way as a low owned option in GPPs (current DraftKings ownership projection of 4.72%, with a FanDuel ownership projection of 2.69%).
Robert Tonyan (GB) – FanDuel $6000 / DraftKings $4600
As expected, Tonyan fell back to earth last week in a difficult matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hauling in three receptions on four targets for 25 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. In his defense, Tampa Bay has been tough on everyone, so I’m willing to give him a pass. He gets a much softer matchup this week against the Houston Texans, as they rank 22nd in DvP versus the position. I still don’t expect another three-touchdown performance from Tonyan, especially with the likes of Davante Adams (GB) healthy, however, anyone who has the trust of Aaron Rodgers (GB) in Green Bay’s potent offense has my trust, as well.
The Packers have the highest implied team total on the slate (30.3), so a nice outing from Tonyan is not out of the question. He won’t make it as a building block in my cash games, however, I’ll certainly have my fair share of him in GPPs (current DraftKings ownership projection of 7.54%, with a FanDuel ownership projection of 4.47%). One thing you should know is that he’s been sidelined with an ankle injury this week, leading to a very limited sideline practice on Thursday. If for some reason he doesn’t suit up, Jace Sternberger (GB) would be the team’s only healthy tight end option, making him an automatic “Kool-Aid” play.
T.J. Hockenson (DET) – FanDuel $5900 / DraftKings $5000
Hockenson managed to save his otherwise lackluster fantasy outing last week against the Jaguars with a touchdown reception (two receptions on five targets for 17 yards). The fact he and teammate Jesse James (DET) were extremely close when it came to snap count last week scares me (Hockenson had 46 snaps, while James had 42 snaps). What doesn’t scare me is this weekend’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. They rank 30th in the league in DvP versus tight ends and offer Hockenson a shot at redemption. I don’t expect him to lead the slate in receptions or receiving yards. However, if you’re looking for a guy who could fall into the end zone a couple of times this week, he’s your dude (official “Kool-Aid” play unless Sternberger starts).
Hon. mentions that almost made the article include David Njoku (CLE) and Harrison Bryant (CLE), who will fill in for an injured Austin Hooper (CLE) and take on the Cincinnati Bengals (ranked 27th in DvP versus tight ends).
You might be asking yourselves, “What is a Kool-Aid play?” Well, it’s a player who is very low owned, in a unique spot, and could either catapult you to the top of the leaderboard or send you to the depths of the Atlantic. It’s a pick that’s not for the faint heart. Only drink the Kool-Aid if you truly believe. You might not die, but you will get sick.