Last week was a fantasy bloodbath at the tight end position. The best guys all underperformed and the best plays were guys you probably had no way to get to with any analysis. Travis Kelce went 7/61 for 13 points and frankly if you had him that wasn’t a horrible day. George Kittle was not even the highest scoring TE on his team with that honor going to Garrett Celek who had one of the best weeks at the positions with just 2/61/1.
Last week was a fantasy bloodbath at the tight end position. The best guys all underperformed and the best plays were guys you probably had no way to get to with any analysis. Travis Kelce went 7/61 for 13 points and frankly if you had him that wasn’t a horrible day. George Kittle was not even the highest scoring TE on his team with that honor going to Garrett Celek who had one of the best weeks at the positions with just 2/61/1. Ertz went just 3/22, Ebron 1/8, Gronk was 2/21, and Jared Cook just 2/23. All season long we have seen solid production from the top end of the TE spectrum. Those are the guys with almost all of the 20 point games and just shy of all the 30 fantasy point performances. Even the guys right below them didn’t go off. Trey Burton had 4/36/1 and Evan Engram went 8/75 and they were really the two guys who made some sense to play that actually did anything. Even in full PPR, that was only 13.6 and 15.5 fantasy points, but on a day when Kelce was the best of the high priced studs, they still outperformed him.
The real question is how do we view this going forward? Was it a freak one time thing or does it change my long held belief this season that for higher floors and higher ceiling upside you need to spend? I’m sticking with the original thesis. It took a swing and miss by no less than 6 top end guys at high ownership for you to really finally benefit from punting the TE position. Even if you did punt, there was no slate breaking score. The benefit to punting TE this week was that you had the extra cash to spend up and grab higher end WRs and RBs to go with your cheap TE. Overall the best chance for you to get both a high floor and potential upside is by paying up for the studs at the position. Variance is a funny thing. Last week it worked against us with the studs all underperforming, but think about that for a second. You were not only fading a big performance from one guy at the top, but from 6 guys that all have proven to be the best options for a high 15-20 point floor and really the only options for 30+ point outbursts. One bad week that flies in the face of almost a full season of data is not enough to say the trend has changed. I’m willing to go right back to the high end studs here and I think that should be the thought process of everyone when building lineups for week 16. The problem, as we will see, is that not many of them have good matchups.
High End Options
Travis Kelce – It wasn't a great game for him last week with only 7/61 on 9 targets. Still a bad Travis Kelce game is worth a top 8 fantasy finish at the position, so it’s relative. Good Kelce games have gone for 20+ and great ones a slate breaking 30+ fantasy points so that’s what matters most. Seattle is in the bottom half of the league for allowing fantasy production to TEs, but not by much. Kelce is a different kind of option as well and that bottom half of the league number was aided by some of the teams they play not using TEs much. With the KC run game grasping for straws, they may have to throw it more today. Kelce can work down the field, make yards after the catch, and also is a weapon in short yardage situations to pick up first downs. He’s still going to get in his looks as even in the “BAD GAME” for Kelce he saw 9 targets. 9 targets is not his ceiling, but it trumps the ceiling on 95% of the other guys at the position. The biggest issue with Kelce this week is that game was flexed to Sunday night meaning you will have him for Primetime and weeklong slates, but not on the main slate.
Jared Cook – I know the Raiders suck and you want nothing to do with them, but Cook is the major exception for me. First off the fact they suck tends to benefit the passing game, especially if they are playing from behind. He had a couple monster games before crapping out last week, but he’s been more good than bad lately and was bound to have a slip up at some point. The Broncos are also one of the worst when it comes to allowing fantasy production to the position. They are in the top 5 for production allowed to the position. I am going to get into why I have less faith in some of the other top end guys in a second, but Cook also has a major flaw that makes this week tough. Like Kelce, he also is not on the main slate with his game being Monday night. The two best options I have on top of my list are both not available for the main slates and that’s a major problem.
This is a list of the other guys on the high end and why I am not a huge fan of them this week. I want to caution that due to the lack of production at the position overall and the fact we lose a couple studs from the main slate, these guys listed are still viable. In case you don't figure it out by the end of this breakdown, I’m paying up on the Primetime slate and for Sat-Mon games, but fading the high end on the weekend.
George Kittle – Kittle is still one of the few guys seeing 7+ targets a game, so fading him may seem scary. He is coming off a bad game where his teammate Celek caught the TD and outproduced him in week 15. The real reason I am not on Kittle is the matchup. The Bears have limited TEs to under 50 yards all season. Kittle would need to do something that no one else has done to hit value. Nick Mullens is actually producing pretty well in fantasy, so Kittle would be the guy if I did pay up, but I don't trust him enough. Overall, I am looking to pay up elsewhere and go cheap at TE.
Rob Gronkowski – No more Josh Gordon should theoretically help Gronk. Gronk does tend to go off against Buffalo too, although the narrative about home cooking would work better if the game was in Buffalo. My bigger beef with Gronk is you have to view him as a GPP play. He’ll explode one week and disappear the next. That means at best you use him in GPPs for the upside. Buffalo D is pretty good and they have allowed the fourth lowest production to fantasy TEs this year. The spot is not great and to expect upside in a matchup that isn't great is really pushing it.
Eric Ebron/Evan Engram – Eric Ebron and Evan Engram are indirectly polar opposites this week and Odell Beckham Jr. is the lynchpin. This is weird, so let me explain. Without Beckham the Giants offense can't score. That means the Colts are likely to have a big lead, which makes the passing game less of a focal point. That would hurt Ebron. Indirectly though it would benefit Engram. Without Beckham, the Giants have moved Shepard to an outside role where he has struggled. That means the best pass catcher over the middle and new security blanket for Eli is Engram. Now if Beckham plays, that moves Shepard back inside, thus crushing the value and target potential of Engram. It would also mean the Giants may be able to score and keep the game closer, which would mean more passing to the benefit of Ebron. If OBJ plays, I prefer Ebron > Engram. If Beckham sits, play Engram and fade Ebron.
Zach Ertz – I saved Zach Ertz for last because people are not going to like what I have to say here. There are a lot of reasons I am down on Ertz this week. Let’s start with him being limited at practice. He’s likely to play as at least he is doing some practicing, but he’s not 100%. Next thing that worries me is just the splits for Ertz with Wentz v. Foles. Wentz and Ertz are close and he’s the top target for the young QB. Foles doesn't avoid throwing Ertz the ball, but he also does not force it to him like Wentz did. Now I do think the Eagles will be forced to throw more as I do not see the running game having success here against a Houston team allowing just the fifth fewest fantasy points to the position. The Eagles will have to throw and are using a lot more 2 TE sets with Goedert and Ertz on the field together and less snaps for Tate with Agholor also seeing less targets. You can pick on Houston with TEs and Ertz is likely to be chalk on the main slate. I just can't justify paying up for him today with so many down arrows in the stats I look at.
Blake Jarwin – Jarwin is a guy I keep clicking on the initial teams I built for this week. Tampa is one of the worst defenses in the league, although they have played better. They allow the 8th most porduction to fantasy TEs, so the matchup is ideal. Jarwin has emerged as the top TE target in Dallas and has seen 7 targets each of the last two games. It makes sense becomes teams need to stack the box to stop Zeke and use a LB to cover him out of the backfield. Cooper is seeing safeties shade to his side with big games too, leaving a very soft middle for Jarwin to operate in. He also remains relatively cheap and is one of the few guys you probably can look at even in cash this week.
Gerald Everett – I have been mildly impressed watching him make some plays the last few weeks. Higbee is still involved too, so this is more a GPP play as I’d rather Jarwin in cash. Still with teams playing deep safeties to stop the big plays from the WR group, the TEs have found space underneath. Everett does have 7 targets each of the last two weeks. He has not found the end zone, but 4 and 5 catches is a decent amount of volume at a tough to fill position.
Dallas Goedert – This is a boom or bust GPP type play, but the Eagles are using more two TE sets at the expense of Golden Tate in the slot with Foles as QB. Goedert could end up with another big game like he had two weeks ago. It’s risky and GPP only, but there is TD upside from a real cheap option if you want to go that route.
Cameron Brate – I’m not going to waste much time here, but let’s say he is a GPP play due to his TD scoring ability. He doesn’t see enough targets to justify playing him otherwise, but that’s how he can sneak into the back of the top 10 TE list any week. He does little if he doesn;t get into the end zone though, so you have to understand he’s a boom or bust TD dependant TE that has a low ceiling even when he booms.
Matt LaCosse – Listen, he finally had a decent game, but it was only 4/43 on 6 targets. There are better punts and he’s on a Primetime slate with Cook and Kelce, so there is no reason to really go here, but since everyone in chat always asks about him, I thought I would give you guys my finals thoughts.
You won’t see another NFL article from me before the Holiday, so for those that aren’t NBA subs, let me just wish you all a Merry Xmas now. Good luck this week, see you one last time for the week 17 TE article before the New Year.