The Week 10 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Nov. 10, at 1 p.m. ET. In this piece, I highlight the tight ends who stand out in our large suite of analytical DFS Tools, most specifically the industry-leading FantasyLabs Models.
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Top Tight Ends in the FantasyLabs Models
There are three tight ends atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
- Travis Kelce: $6,400 DraftKings; $6,700 FanDuel
- Michael Gesicki: $3,100 DraftKings; $5,300 FanDuel
- Rhett Ellison: $2,500 DraftKings; $5,000 FanDuel
Travis Kelce: Kansas City Chiefs (-6) at Tennessee Titans, 48.5 Over/Under
UPDATE (Nov. 9): QB Patrick Mahomes (knee) is in after practicing fully all week. LT Eric Fisher (groin) is still out. RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle) is questionable. Titans DT Jurrell Casey (shoulder) and LB Jayon Brown (groin) are out.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) is expected to return to action after suffering a dislocated knee in Week 7. He practiced in full on Wednesday and Thursday.
With Mahomes back, Kelce is likely to be popular, especially since “Big Three” compatriots George Kittle and Zach Ertz as well as breakout superstars Darren Waller and Hunter Henry are off the main slate. Even so, I probably won’t roster Kelce, at least not in cash games. I’d rather pay down at tight end so I can spend up elsewhere. But in guaranteed prize pools, Kelce is always in play.
In 2018, Kelce had a historic fantasy season for a tight end. And his 2019 season has gone pretty well so far. He’s had eight-plus targets in every game but one and 50-plus yards in every game but one.
He’s No. 1 at the position with 101.9 air yards and yards after the catch combined per game (per AirYards.com).
Kelce has been a top-12 fantasy performer in almost every week (per the RotoViz NFL Stat Explorer).
And yet it’s undeniable that Kelce’s campaign has disappointed. Even though wide receiver Tyreek Hill missed most of the first five weeks of the season, Kelce has so far seen fewer targets per game this year than he saw last season (9.2 vs. 8.2, including playoffs).
With fewer opportunities, his year-over-year performance has declined (per our FantasyLabs Trends Tool).
- 2019 (nine games): 11.5 FanDuel points, +0.83 Plus/Minus, 55.6% Consistency Rating
- 2018 (18 games): 14.9 FanDuel points, +3.83 Plus/Minus, 61.1% Consistency Rating
Kelce’s position at the top of the league-wide tight end depth chart is hardly secure.
But I expect that Kelce’s issues will sort themselves out. His primary problem this year is not his volume and yardage: 8.2 targets per game is still a high number for a tight end, and Kelce’s 9.0 yards per target is right in line with his 2016-18 mark of 9.0. The problem is that he has just two touchdowns.
But Kelce is tied with Jimmy Graham and Austin Hooper with a position-high six end-zone targets. And he leads the position with 19 red-zone targets (per Pro Football Focus). I would bet that in Weeks 10-17, Kelce scores more than two touchdowns.
And as the situation stands now, Kelce is still the King of Olympus. Dating back to his first All-Pro campaign in 2016, Kelce leads all tight ends with 12.8 FanDuel points per game, and he’s provided good salary-adjusted value with his +2.50 Plus/Minus. For a guy to disappoint with 11.5 FanDuel points per game, he has to be pretty good in the first place.
At a glance, Kelce has a bad matchup. The Titans have an above-average safety duo: Kevin Byard was a 2017 All-Pro, and Kenny Vaccaro is a solid-if-unspectacular seven-year veteran. The Titans are No. 12 overall with a 70.9 PFF coverage grade.
But against tight ends specifically they have are No. 24 in pass defense (per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric), and to the four tight ends they’ve faced most similar to Kelce in skill, athleticism and role — David Njoku (Week 1), Eric Ebron (Week 2), Hooper (Week 4) and Hunter Henry (Week 7) — the Titans allowed 13.0 FanDuel points, 72.3 yards and 0.5 touchdowns on 7.3 targets and 5.5 receptions per game with +5.94 Plus/Minus and 100% Consistency Rating.
Tight ends can put up points against the Titans.
Given that Mahomes is returning from injury and that other quarterbacks on the slate are in better overall situations, I doubt that Mahomes will be as popular as he usually is. So this actually might be a good week to use our Lineup Builder to stack Kelce with Mahomes. If Kelce goes off, there’s a pretty decent chance that Mahomes will as well: Kelce since 2014 has had a 0.78 correlation with his quarterbacks.
Even though he’s slightly underperformed this season, Kelce leads all tight ends with his median and ceiling projections in our Models.
Kelce is the unanimous No. 1 tight end in our Pro Models for FanDuel, where he has position-high marks with nine Pro Trends and a 99% Bargain Rating. He’s also the top option in the Bales, Levitan and Raybon Models for DraftKings.
Mike Gesicki: Miami Dolphins (+11.5) at Indianapolis Colts, 44 O/U
UPDATE (Nov. 9): Colts S Malik Hooker (knee) is in while CB Pierre Desir (hamstring) is questionable but seems likely not to play.
That I’m only two players into the breakdown and already talking about Gesicki highlights how thin this slate is at the top. But that doesn’t mean Gesicki isn’t worth talking about. He was to the 2018 draft class what Noah Fant is to the 2019 class: A big-and-fast tight end with good college production and the ability to become a superstar.
Gesicki disappointed as a rookie, posting a lethargic 22-202-0 receiving line on 32 targets in 16 games, but first-year tight ends often disappoint, and there are legitimate reasons to be bullish on Gesicki for the long term.
In his final college season, he led Penn State with 57 receptions and nine touchdowns. At the combine, he had a 97th-percentile SPARQ-x performance (per Player Profiler). In the draft, he was selected near the top of Round 2. And on the Dolphins, there is no established wide receiver ahead of him to prevent him from developing into an outsized target hog.
And there are signs that he’s starting to develop. Just last week, he had the best game of his career with a 6-95-0 receiving performance on six targets. And in the four games since the team’s Week 5 bye, Gesicki has averaged 8.7 DraftKings points and 49.3 yards on five targets and 3.8 receptions per game with a +3.90 Plus/Minus.
He is yet to score an NFL touchdown and has just one end-zone target this season, but Gesicki is a “baby steps” project. Focus first on the targets and yards. If he’s getting those, the touchdowns will eventually come.
For this week, he’s in a good situation. He’s likely to have a larger share of the target market with wide receiver Preston Williams (knee, IR) done for the year, and I also like his matchup.
Under defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, the Colts have been something of a tight end funnel. With their defense, they try to keep everything in front of them and to limit the exposure they have deep. As a result, the middle of the field tends to be more vulnerable, and tight ends get more targets. Since last season, tight ends have consistently produced against the Colts.
- 2019 (eight games): 15.4 DraftKings points per game allowed (5th)
- 2018 (16 games): 16.2 DraftKings points per game allowed (3rd)
I probably won’t go with Gesicki in cash games, because he could easily sabotage lineups with a one-reception, 10-yard performance. But I do like him for tournaments.
Gesicki is the No. 1 tight end in the Freedman Model for DraftKings, where he has a strong 96% Bargain Rating.
Rhett Ellison: New York Giants (-2.5) at New York Jets, 44.5 O/U
UPDATE (Nov. 9): WR Sterling Shepard (concussion), TE Evan Engram (foot) and C Jon Halapio (hamstring) are out. RT Mike Remmers (back) is doubtful. Jets LB C.J. Mosley (groin) and CB Trumaine Johnson (ankle, IR) are out while LB Neville Hewitt and CB Darryl Roberts (calf) are doubtful.
I’m Tio Salamanca, just sitting here ringing that bell trying to blow myself up.
That’s where we are in the season.
Ellison is cheap on FanDuel and as cheap as it gets on DraftKings.
Starter Evan Engram (foot) is yet to practice this week and is expected not to play. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) is also likely to be out. Ellison should start in Engram’s place, and in Shepard’s absence, he might get a couple extra targets.
In Week 6, Ellison’s one game this year without both Engram and Shepard, he had a non-catastrophic 3-30-0 receiving performance on a career-high seven targets and a palatable 25 routes.
Last season, in Ellison’s four games without Engram, he was actually serviceable.
- Week 4 (vs. Saints): 5.9 DraftKings points, 3-29-0 receiving on five targets, 36 routes
- Week 5 (at Panthers): 5.7 DraftKings points, 2-17-0 receiving on three targets, a two-point conversion, 31 routes
- Week 12 (at Eagles): 11.7 DraftKings points, 4-77-0 receiving on six targets, 29 routes
- Week 13 (vs. Bears): 8.2 DraftKings points, 4-42-0 receiving on six targets, 29 routes
On average, last year Ellison had 5.25 targets, 3.25 receptions and 41.3 yards receiving per game without Engram (per RotoViz Game Splits App).
Famous last words: For a guy who’s incredibly cheap … that looks like cash-viable usage and production.
I never thought I’d say this in 2019, but there’s a strong possibility Ellison will be my guy in cash games. He offers so much roster flexibility, and he has an actual path to production.
Ellison is the No. 1 tight end in the CSURAM88, Koerner and SportsGeek Models for DraftKings, where he has an elite 98% Bargain Rating.
Upside Tight Ends for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons ($5,500 DK, $6,600 FD): Assuming quarterback Matt Ryan (ankle) plays, Hooper is an option in all formats. He’s the No. 1 tight end with 18.6 DraftKings and 14.6 FanDuel points per game. Despite competing for targets with wide receivers Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and formerly Mohamed Sanu, the tight end leads the team with 52 receptions. The Falcons are No. 1 with a 71.1% pass-play rate. Hooper has position-high floor projections in our Models. UPDATE (Nov. 9): Ryan is in. RB Ito Smith (neck) is out. LG James Carpenter (knee) and RG Jamon Brown (foot) are in.
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens ($5,200 DK, $6,800 FD): Andrews is No. 4 among tight ends with 90.3 air yards and yards after the catch combined per game, and he leads the team with 58 targets, 38 receptions and 470 yards receiving. He has played just 47.5% of the team’s offensive snaps, so he’s more of a receiving specialist than an all-around block-and-catch contributor, but Andrews is No. 2 with 0.30 targets per route and No. 3 with 2.49 yards per route run (per PFF), so he doesn’t need to be on the field a lot to produce. The Bengals are No. 28 in pass defense DVOA against tight ends. UPDATE (Nov. 9): Jackson missed practice on Thursday with an illness but practiced fully on Friday. He’s playing. WR Marquise Brown (ankle, thigh) popped up on the Friday injury report with a questionable designation, but he got in a limited practice and is expected to play. Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) is out.
Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams ($4,500 DK, $5,700 FD): The third-year size/speed project has blown up over the past six weeks with 12.1 DraftKings, 50.8 yards and 0.2 touchdowns on 7.4 targets and four receptions per game. With wide receiver Brandin Cooks (concussion) on the sideline, Everett could see extra targets this week. The Steelers have allowed tight ends with similar salaries — George Kittle, Mark Andrews, Hunter Henry and Eric Ebron — to average 14.5 DraftKings points per game. UPDATE (Nov. 9): WR Brandin Cooks (concussion) is out. RB Malcolm Brown (ankle) is in.
Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints ($4,100 DK, $5,700 FD): Cook (ankle) has been out since Week 7, but he’s practiced in full this week and is expected to play. He’s averaging 4.5 targets per game, the Saints have a slate-high 32.5-point implied Vegas total and his ownership rate will be extremely low. Points upon points will be scored at the Coors Field of fantasy football. With quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints have a 64-45-2 record to the over at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, good for an A-graded 15.2% return on investment (per Bet Labs). UPDATE (Nov. 9): RB Alvin Kamara (knee, ankle), WR Tre’Quan Smith (ankle) and Jared Cook (ankle) are in. Falcons CB Desmond Trufant (toe) is a questionable game-time decision.
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions ($3,900 DK, $5,300 FD): Hockenson’s 6-131-1 receiving breakout in Week 1 seems so long ago. Hock hasn’t done much since then, but he has a respectable 65.5% snap rate, and last week he saw seven targets and got 56 yards receiving. He has five-plus targets in three of four games since the Week 5 bye. The Bears have allowed the third-most DraftKings points to opposing tight ends with 16.0 per game. UPDATE (Nov. 9): QB Matthew Stafford (hip, back) is officially questionable but expected to play.
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts ($3,600 DK, $5,200 FD): Wide receivers T.Y. Hilton (calf) and Parris Campbell (hand) are out, and No. 2 tight end Eric Ebron has been reduced to a 39.8% snap share, so Doyle could see extra work. In his two Hilton-less games this year, Doyle has averaged six targets. The Dolphins are No. 26 in pass defense DVOA against tight ends. UPDATE (Nov. 9): QB Jacoby Brissett (knee) is out. QB Brian Hoyer is expected to start. Dolphins CB Ken Webster (ankle) and S Reshad Jones (chest) are out.
Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans ($3,500 DK, $5,100 FD): Starter Delanie Walker (ankle) is yet to return to practice and seems likely to be out once again. In extended action over his past three games, Smith has put up a 12-160-1 receiving line on 15 targets. The Chiefs have had a relatively soft schedule against tight ends, but last week they allowed Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. to combine for 7-56-1 receiving on 11 targets. UPDATE (Nov. 9): TE Delanie Walker (ankle) is out and WR Corey Davis (hip) is doubtful.
O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($3,300 DK, $5,000 FD): Howard (hamstring) missed Weeks 8-9, but he practiced in full on Wednesday and Thursday and will play on Sunday. Howard is a high-end developing talent with 11.2 yards per target for his career, but he has just three targets per game this year. But he has the “flow chart” matchup against Cardinals, who are No. 32 in pass defense DVOA against tight ends and have allowed a league-high 22.6 DraftKings points per game to the position. UPDATE (Nov. 9): Cardinals slot CB Tramaine Brock (hamstring) and defensive end Brooks Reed (hamstring, IR) are out.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
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Pictured above: Evan Engram
Photo credit: USA Today-Sports