The bye weeks are over, and the 2018 NFL season is still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.2 points per game per team. The action continues with a 13-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at four tight ends at the top of the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
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Model Tight Ends
- Travis Kelce: $7,000 DraftKings; $7,800 FanDuel
- George Kittle: $5,900 DraftKings; $6,800 FanDuel
- Greg Olsen: $4,100 DraftKings; $6,000 FanDuel
- Matt LaCosse: $2,500 DraftKings; $4,700 FanDuel
Travis Kelce: Kansas City (-14) at Oakland Raiders, 55.5 Over/Under
UPDATE (12/1): Running back Kareem Hunt (personal conduct) has been waived by the Chiefs and placed on the Commissioner Exempt list following the release of a disturbing TMZ video on Friday. Running back Spencer Ware will now lead the Chiefs backfield. Center Mitch Morse (concussion) will play after practicing in full this week. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (hamstring) is out.
Raiders defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (ankle), defensive end Arden Key (knee) and cornerback Daryl Worley (shoulder) are questionable but tentatively expected to play. Cornerback Leon Hall (back) is out.
The Chiefs opened as the largest road favorites since 2007, head coach Andy Reid is 16-3 straight up coming off the bye week and Kelce leads the team with 101 targets and 67 receptions. Game on.
Although they lost to the Rams in an epic Week 11 Monday Night Football matchup, the 9-2 Chiefs still lead the AFC, and on a per-game basis, they have …
- Outscored their implied total by 8.2 points (No. 1 in NFL)
- Exceeded their game total by 10.0 points (No. 1)
- Surpassed their spread by 6.5 points (No. 2)
They rank second in scoring at 36.7 points per game, and the Chiefs have a slate-high implied Vegas total of 35.25 points.
Since 2016, Kelce leads all tight ends with 12.9 FanDuel points per game, and this season he has top-two marks with 101 targets, 67 receptions, 914 yards receiving, 917 air yards, 437 yards after the catch and seven touchdowns. Kelce has been great ever since his 2014 breakout, but this year he’s having the best season of his career.
As I highlight in The Action Network Chiefs-Raiders betting preview, Kelce could have a massive performance this week. I’m talking a full-on #ZeusMode type of game. Kelce has a great matchup against the Raiders, who are in full rebuild mode. This season, the Raiders have a league-low three wins against the spread, and their -8.1 spread margin is significantly worse than that of any other team (per Bet Labs). Even on the road as double-digit favorites, the Chiefs could exceed expectations.
The Raiders rank 30th against the pass with a 30.7% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and they rank dead last against tight ends (61.0% DVOA). Safeties Karl Joseph and Marcus Gilchrist and linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Marquel Lee have collectively allowed a 77.3% catch rate, 900 yards and 12 touchdowns in their coverage.
As if that’s not enough, wide receiver Sammy Watkins (hamstring) is out, so Kelce could steal a share of his 5.5 targets per game. If you roster Kelce in guaranteed prize pools, you might want to use our Lineup Builder to stack him with quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Since 2014, No. 1 tight ends on average have had a 0.48 correlation with their quarterbacks, but Kelce has had a 0.78 correlation with his passers.
On Sunday morning, I might look to bet the over on Kelce’s yardage prop. Even if Kelce sees a reduced number of targets, he has a shot to hit the over through chunk plays: The Chiefs have the slate’s best explosive passing-game matchup.
To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 199-91-9, good for a 67% win rate. Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Kelce leads all tight ends with his median and ceiling projections, and he has a position-high nine Pro Trends on DraftKings and a 68% Bargain Rating on FanDuel, where he’s the No. 1 option in the Bales, Koerner, SportsGeek and Freedman Models.
George Kittle: San Francisco 49ers (+10) at Seattle Seahawks, 45.5 O/U
UPDATE (12/1): Center Weston Richburg (knee) will play after practicing in full on Friday. Wide receivers Pierre Garcon (knee) and Marquise Goodwin (personal) are out.
Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright (knee) is out.
Coming off a disappointing Week 12 in which he had a 6-48-0 receiving line against a Tampa Bay defense that is one of the worst in the league, Kittle could have reduced ownership, which makes him intriguing.
There’s nothing notable about Kittle’s matchup with the Seahawks, but strong safety Bradley McDougald — despite his respectable season-long 79.5 Pro Football Focus coverage grade — has allowed a 94.1% catch rate and 16-205-2 receiving line since Week 10, when linebacker K.J. Wright (knee, out) aggravated his lingering injury.
It’s possible that Wright’s absence has impacted McDougald’s responsibilities, especially in the running game, which could make him more vulnerable in pass defense. On top of that, McDougald is playing through a shoulder injury, which might be limiting his effectiveness.
Regardless of matchup, Kittle has been a revelation this season. He leads the 49ers with 84 targets, 56 receptions, 823 yards receiving, 547 air yards and a magnificent 557 yards after the catch. To put some context to that last number: Kittle has more yards after the catch than any NFL wide receiver. He has a 120 more yards after the catch than Kelce, who ranks second. When Kittle gets the ball in space, he makes plays.
Even though he is now playing with third-string quarterback Nick Mullens instead of #ShowerNarrative backup C.J. Beathard, Kittle is still playing well, serving as the undrafted passer’s go-to receiver. In fact, he’s been more productive with Mullens on a per-game basis than he was with Beathard or even starter Jimmy Garoppolo (knee, out).
- With Jimmy Garoppolo (Weeks 1-3): 9.0 FanDuel points, +2.77 Plus/Minus, 6.7 targets, four receptions, 63.7 yards receiving, zero touchdowns
- With C.J. Beathard (Weeks 4-8): 12.8 FanDuel points, +4.69 Plus/Minus, 7.4 targets, five receptions, 78.6 yards receiving, 0.4 touchdowns
- With Nick Mullens (Weeks 9-12): 13.5 FanDuel points, +3.31 Plus/Minus, nine targets, 6.3 receptions, 79.7 yards receiving, 0.33 touchdowns
Of course, part of Kittle’s surge in production is due to the absence of wide receivers Pierre Garcon (knee) and Marquise Goodwin (personal). Garcon hasn’t played since Week 9, and Goodwin last week unexpectedly left the team to deal with a family matter. Both of them are out again this week, so Kittle should continue to function as the team’s top receiver. He leads all tight ends with DraftKings and FanDuel floor projections.
Kittle has a position-high nine Pro Trends on FanDuel, where he’s the No. 1 tight in the Levitan and Raybon Models.
Greg Olsen: Carolina Panthers (-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 53.5 O/U
UPDATE (12/1): Wide receivers Devin Funchess (back) and Curtis Samuel (hamstring) are fully expected to play after practicing this week.
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David (knee) is questionable but expected to play after practicing in full on Friday. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) will play after a full practice on Friday. Cornerback Brent Grimes (knee) is questionable but seems unlikely to play after a midweek downgrade. Cornerbacks M.J. Stewart (foot) and Carlton Davis (knee) are out.
Olsen (foot) is playing through a lingering injury and at this point in his career is little more than a #DadRunner. But since returning to action in Week 6, he’s averaged five targets per game and had eight-plus DraftKings points every week but one. Olsen is no longer the team’s primary receiver, but he’s played at least 95% of the offensive snaps in every game since his return except for a 52-21 Thursday Night Football loss in Week 10, when the Panthers rested some of their veterans after the game was out of hand.
Since Week 6, Olsen has a team-high four touchdowns receiving. Despite his age, health and the presence of running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receivers D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Devin Funchess, the Jason Witten-impersonating tight end can still produce.
And now Olsen has the honor of facing perhaps the worst defense in the league. The Bucs have allowed a league-high 30.7 points per game, and they are 28th in pass defense against tight ends (26.7% DVOA). They’ve allowed a top-four mark of 16.2 DraftKings points per game to the position.
They have been trashed by almost every starting-caliber tight end to face them, including Olsen himself in Week 9.
- Zach Ertz (Week 2): 20.4 DraftKings points, 11-94-0 receiving on 13 targets
- Vance McDonald (Week 3): 24.2 DraftKings points, 4-112-1 receiving on five targets
- Trey Burton (Week 4): 16.6 DraftKings points, 2-86-1 receiving on four targets
- Austin Hooper (Week 6): 22.1 DraftKings points, 9-71-1 receiving on 10 targets
- David Njoku (Week 7): 15.2 DraftKings points, 4-52-1 receiving on six targets
- Greg Olsen (Week 9): 19.6 DraftKings points, 6-76-1 receiving on six targets
- Jordan Reed (Week 10): 9.1 DraftKings points, 4-51-0 receiving on six targets
- Evan Engram (Week 11): 8.6 DraftKings points, 2-66-0 receiving on two targets
- George Kittle (Week 12): 11.8 DraftKings points, 6-48-0 receiving on 13 targets, 1-10-0 rushing
And to make matters worse, Tampa Bay’s entire defense is the walking wounded.
In the front seven, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (knee, IR) is out, as is backup middle linebacker Jack Cichy (ankle, IR). Strong side linebacker Kendell Beckwith (ankle, IR) is out after there was hope earlier in the year he’d be able to return to action. Weak side linebacker Lavonte David (knee) has sat out the past two games and is questionable.
The secondary might be even worse off than the front seven. Strong safety Chris Conte (knee, IR) and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (shoulder, IR) are out. No. 1 cornerback Brent Grimes (knee) was downgraded during the week and did not practice on Friday after practicing in full on Wednesday: He’s questionable, although it would be surprising if he played after his midweek setback. Outside cornerback Carlton Davis (knee) and slot corner M.J. Stewart (foot) are both out. And free safety Justin Evans (toe) is questionable after missing the past two games.
Against such a defense, Olsen has a lot of upside, especially since the Bucs-Panthers game leads the slate with an 76.21 pass funnel rating. Thanks to their magnificent combination of high-scoring offense (26.7 points per game) and basement-level defense, the Bucs have an 8-3 over/under record this season, which is the best mark in the league for over bettors (per Bet Labs). I’m betting this game makes it nine.
Olsen is the No. 1 DraftKings tight end in the Levitan Model.
Matt LaCosse: Denver Broncos (-5) at Cincinnati Bengals, 44.5 O/U
UPDATE (12/1): Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil (knee) will play after practicing on a limited basis this week.
On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, there was some enthusiasm for LaCosse as a punt play, and not just because CSURAM88 is a Broncos homer.
With Jake Butt (knee, IR) and Jeff Heuerman (back, IR) out for the year, LaCosse is slated for the bulk of the team’s tight end work, and even as a backup he’s played at least 40% of the offensive snaps over the past six weeks and averaged 2.8 targets per game.
As the starter, LaCosse should inherit a large share of Heuerman’s vacated 4.4 targets per game. Considering that Heuerman had seven targets inside the 10-yard line and six in the end zone, LaCosse could have some high-leverage opportunities in this game, especially since the Bengals have allowed an NFL-high 18.4 DraftKings points per game to opposing tight ends.
Most importantly, LaCosse is cheap, especially on DraftKings, where he’s the stone minimum. At his price and with his matchup, it’s not a surprise that LaCosse leads the position with his projected DraftKings Plus/Minus. Expected to have an ownership rate of less than 5%, he offers some contrarian value for GPPs.
LaCosse is the No. 1 DraftKings tight end in the Koerner, Raybon, SportsGeek and Freedman Models.
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 13 positional breakdowns.
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