In this piece, I highlight tight ends who stand out in our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically, our FantasyLabs Player Models. While the models are built for DFS contests, this is an all-purpose fantasy article with actionable information for all formats.
As news breaks throughout the week and we adjust our projections, player ratings in our Player Models will change. For updates, visit the models directly.
Top Tight Ends in the FantasyLabs Models
There are four tight ends atop the individual Pro Models that Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, and Ryan Hodge have constructed, as well as our proprietary Cash Game and Tournament Models.
Here’s where they place within our Week 12 Fantasy Rankings (as of Wednesday evening):
- Kyle Pitts (4th)
- Rob Gronkowski (9th)
- Dan Arnold (11th)
- Jared Cook (22nd)
We’ll discuss why these four are popping in our models, as well as take a look at some other wide receivers in potential high-scoring games.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
- Quarterbacks on Tuesday
- Wide Receivers on Wednesday
- Running Backs on Friday
For more in-depth NFL analysis, check out The Action Network.
Top Model Tight Ends
Kyle Pitts ($6,100 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel): Atlanta Falcons (-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (46 total)
It couldn’t have gone much worse for the Falcons the past two weeks. They’ve scored zero points in the seven or so quarters they’ve played without Cordarelle Patterson as the offense was unable to move the ball. Pitts had 12 targets over the course of those two games but turned them into a disappointing seven catches for 89 yards.
It’s exceedingly difficult for Pitts to operate effectively when he’s the only offensive threat for Atlanta, as has been the case. However, relief could be coming in Week 12 in the form of Patterson, who got in a limited practice on Wednesday. Pitts has played three games without Calvin Ridley but with Patterson. One of those (against the Jets) was his best game of the season, and he’s averaging just under five catches for 70 yards in those contests.
Pitts, as we all know, clearly has the talent to excel in any matchup. The problem this year (if you consider being the TE8 in PPR scoring as a rookie a “problem”) is the Falcons’ overall offense. With Vegas implying them for a reasonable 24 points this week, that problem should be at least somewhat ameliorated.
Pitts has one of the better tight end matchups on the slate as well. The Jaguars rank 31st in overall passing DVOA. They also allow a reasonable +1.2 Opponent Plus/Minus (FanDuel) to the position, which is in the top-five on the slate. It’s reasonable to be Wary of Pitts, who hasn’t topped four catches or 62 yards since before Halloween, but the signs are pointing up for him in this one.
Pitts stands out on FanDuel, where he leads four of the five Pro Models surveyed. That Includes the Cash Game Model, thanks to his slate leading Pts/Sal (tied with Dan Arnold.) On DraftKings, he’s a bit less attractive but still has slate-breaking upside with Travis Kelce and Darren Waller absent from the Week 12 main slate.
Rob Gronkowski ($4,400 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) at Indianapolis Colts (53 total)
The Brady to Gronkowski connection continues to be a special one. They picked up right where they left off upon Gronk’s return from injury, with Gronk catching six of eight targets for 71 yards. He was held without a touchdown — which is somehow the expectation — but still had a great price-considered score.
This week, Gronk’s odds of finding the endzone are improved. The Bucs are implied for a slate-high 28 total points, and Gronk has caught four of Brady’s 11 passing touchdowns in games that the tight end played. Gronk may not be the player he was in his prime, but the red-zone connection (and ability) is still there.
He was the slate’s best tight end matchup this week against a Colts team that allowed a +6.0 Opponent Plus/Minus to the position. Gronk has excelled in similar situations in the past, per our Trends tool:
Antonio Brown is expected to miss another game for Gronk, so the targets should continue to be there. The Bucs throw the ball regardless of game script, but a game that’s expected to be close doesn’t hurt the passing volume either.
Gronkowski stands out on DraftKings, where he has a 97% Bargain Rating. He leads the Cash Game and Tournament Models there. He’s probably too expensive to play on FanDuel, although a multi-touchdown game is in his range of outcomes. That would lead to a solid score even at his elevated FanDuel salary.
Dan Arnold ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel): Jacksonville Jaguars (+2) vs. Atlanta Falcons (46 total)
Arnold is the only tight end other than Pitts to lead a FanDuel Pro Model this week, where he leads one. The Jaguars’ tight end had a ridiculous run in Weeks 5-10, ranking as the TE5 in PPR scoring over that stretch. Naturally, at the peak of his hype (and DFS salaries) in Week 11, he cratered. Despite playing 30 (roughly two-thirds) of the Jags snaps, he failed to draw a single target.
We’re expecting his Week 11 performance to be an anomaly, though, especially with Jamal Agnew (16% target share) joining the list of Jaguars skill-position players who are done for the season. The Jaguars only have Laviska Shenault, Marvin Jones, and running back James Robinson left as players with at least a 10% target share.
While wide receiver injuries don’t necessarily impact tight end usage, in Arnold’s case, they will. Arnold is effectively a wide receiver we get to roster as a tight end. He’s lined up in the slot or out wide for 232 snaps this season, compared to only 121 as a true tight end. That ratio will likely increase this week. The Jaguars have other tight ends available but very little else at receiver.
Look for Arnold to go back to his customary seven-target role on Sunday, with upside for more. He’s also been held without a touchdown this season. That could change against the Falcons’ 29th-ranked pass defense and would do wonders for his fantasy production.
He leads the FanDuel slate in Pts/Sal and is among the leaders (fourth) on DraftKings. On a thin tight end week, he’s a solid choice on both sites.
Jared Cook ($3,000 DraftKings, $5,000 FanDuel): Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) at Denver Broncos (48 total)
Cook is a DraftKings-specific salary saver this week, he leads the slate in Pts/Sal as well as two of our Pro Models. It’s difficult to find much to say about Cook — we know what we’re going to get with him. He has between three and eight targets every game this year and only game over 12.5 DraftKings points. We can write in a catch or two for Cook in pen, but rarely much more.
The biggest issue for Cook is his lack of touchdown equity. The Chargers use running back Austin Ekeler in the red zone a ton and have big-bodied Mike Williams as an outside receiver. They even prefer fellow tight end Donald Parham close to the goal line — Parham has more opportunities inside the 10-yard line, despite having less than half of Cook’s targets on the year.
That lack of upside makes Cook a challenge to roster in tournaments, but he’s fine for cash games. This week is exceedingly tight from a salary standpoint, so going down to Cook at tight end helps fit some of the other top players.
Other Tight Ends With Week-Winning Upside
George Kittle ($6,400 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel): San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings (49 total)
With Darren Waller, Travis Kelce, and Mark Andrews off the main slate, Kittle stands out as a premium option this week. He’s scored a touchdown in each of his three games since returning from injury. He also has a 26% target share in that span. No tight end has more than 24.11% of their team’s targets over the entire season.
Overall passing volume is always a concern for San Francisco, who run the ball at the fourth-highest rate in the league. However, this game could turn into a shootout (as the Vikings’ last game did). That would mean more volume for Kittle.
Kittle is a better play as an underdog. He averages over nine targets per game in 49ers losses and only five in wins. But this game is close enough that it could go his way. He’s tied with Pitts among tight ends for the lead in Ceiling Projection on both sites. Whoever comes in at lower ownership will be a solid leverage play.
Mike Gesicki ($5,300 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel): Miami Dolphins (+2) vs. Carolina Panthers (42 total)
Gesicki’s 75 targets on the season are fourth among tight ends, ahead of players like Pitts and TJ Hockeson. Much like Dan Arnold, Geiscki is a big wide receiver listed at tight end. With the Dolphins struggling to find any healthy receivers (Will Fuller and Devante Parker are both out in Week 12), Gesicki will be a top option for the Dolphins passing attack. It’s a challenging matchup against the Panthers’ top-five pass defense, but not an unbeatable one. Gesicki trails only Pitts and Kittle in Ceiling Projection on DraftKings this week.
Dallas Goedert ($4,800 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel): Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) at New York Giants (45.5 total)
Since Zach Ertz departed for Arizona, Goedert leads all tight ends with a 28% target share. Unfortunately, the Eagles have been extremely run-heavy in that span. They’ve thrown the ball less than 23 times per game over the past five. However, Vegas expects a close game which could raise the pass attempts a bit. Goedert hasn’t had any huge games this year. He’s in line for one if the Eagles take to the air.