The Week 2 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 15, 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.
- George Kittle: $7,300 DraftKings; $8,000 FanDuel
- Mark Andrews: $3,800 DraftKings; $6,100 FanDuel
- T.J. Hockenson: $3,000 DraftKings; $6,000 FanDuel
George Kittle: San Francisco 49ers (+1.5) at Cincinnati Bengals, 45.5 Over/Under
Kittle entered the season with a lot of hype thanks to his record-setting 1,377-yard receiving campaign last year as well as the return of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. And in Week 1 he delivered. Sort of.
To his credit, he led the 49ers in basically every receiving category with 10 targets, eight receptions, 54 yards receiving, 52 air yards and 32 yards after the catch. And yet there’s nothing all that special about an 8-54-0 receiving line.
Here’s the thing: In the first quarter, he lost an eight-yard touchdown reception because of an offensive pass interference penalty on fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and in the second quarter, he lost a 22-yard touchdown because of an illegal formation penalty on left tackle Mike McGlinchey.
So although Kittle’s final stat line is uninspiring, in reality he was the same dominant player he was last year.
For Week 2, he’s an enticing option for those who want to pay up at the position.
To start with, he’s on the positive side of the reverse home/underdog splits he exhibited last year. As an underdog, Kittle benefited from pass-heavy game scripts.
- As underdog (2018, 12 games): 15.0 FanDuel points, +6.38 Plus/Minus, 9.2 targets, 5.7 receptions, 90.1 yards, 0.33 touchdowns
- As favorite (2018, four games): 8.8 FanDuel points, +0.19 Plus/Minus, 6.3 targets, 5.0 receptions, 74 yards, 0.25 touchdowns
More importantly, he’s facing a Bengals defense that last year allowed a league-high 13.6 FanDuel points per game to opposing tight ends. Last year, linebackers Nick Vigil and Preston Brown had poor coverage grades of 59.1 and 57.0 (per Pro Football Focus): Neither one will be able to hang with Kittle.
He will face a tougher challenge when he goes against safeties Jessie Bates III and Shawn Williams, who had good 2018 PFF coverage grades of 80.9 and 78.7, but even they are beatable: Last year they allowed a combined seven touchdowns in their coverage.
Whether you roster Kittle will probably come down to roster construction and site. If you’re opposed to spending at the position, then you’ll avoid him, but even though he’s costly he does offer significant value, especially on FanDuel, where he leads all tight ends with a 99% Bargain Rating, +3.76 Projected Plus/Minus and 10 Pro Trends.
He also has a position-high floor projection on FanDuel, where he’s the unanimous No. 1 tight end in all our Pro Models.
Mark Andrews: Baltimore Ravens (-13) vs. Arizona Cardinals, 46.5 O/U
In quarterback Lamar Jackson’s eight starts (including playoffs), Andrews was No. 1 on the team with 339 yards receiving and No. 2 with 16 receptions. Those numbers aren’t huge, but it’s hard to ignore a rookie tight end who has a 25.1% market share of his quarterback’s passing yards, especially when he has an elite average depth of target of 11.7 yards and is a legitimate downfield threat.
The sample is small, but in L-Jax’s starts, Andrews led the Ravens with 14.1 yards per target. That number will regress in 2019, but it speaks to the big-play ability Andrews has.
Andrews already has an established connection with Jackson, and he might actually be the best pass-catching option currently on the team. He could seize a significant portion of the evacuated market share.
I don’t want to sound extreme, but Andrews has some low-end 2018 George Kittle potential.
In Jackson’s eight starts, Andrews led all Ravens pass-catchers with an elite 2.87 yards per route (per PFF). Over that same time, the only tight ends with double-digit targets to have a better mark were Evan Engram (3.19) and Kittle (3.04).
Given his upside, Andrews is a fine punt play. Eventually, he’s going to break out.
And break out Andrews did. Against the tanking Dolphins, Andrews had a triumphant 8-108-1 receiving line on eight targets in a glorious 59-10 victory. In a game that saw the Ravens attempt just 26 passes, Andrews led the team with a 30.8% target share, and he was second only to the high-flying Marquise Brown with his 74 air yards and 34 yards after the catch.
I’m not pretending as if all of the concerns with Andrews have disappeared after one game. Last year, he played just 35.4% of the offensive snaps in Jackson’s starts, and in Week 1 he still theoretically played behind Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst, both of whom saw 43 snaps to Andrews’ 31.
But as pass-catching options, Boyle and Hurst are not in Andrews’ league. In Jackson’s eight starts last year, Andrews was used way more as a receiver even though he played fewer snaps.
- Mark Andrews (2018, eight games): 118 routes, 24 targets, 339 yards receiving, 2.87 yards per route
- Hayden Hurst (2018, eight games): 68 routes, 14 targets, 106 yards receiving, 1.56 yards per route
- Nick Boyle (2018, eight games): 64 routes, 10 targets, 77 yards receiving, 1.20 yards per route
And Andrews’ route-running and pass-catching edge was easily seen in Week 1.
- Mark Andrews (Week 1): 18 routes, eight targets, 108 yards receiving, 6.00 yards per route
- Hayden Hurst (Week 1): 12 routes, three targets, 41 yards receiving, 3.42 yards per route
- Nick Boyle (Week 1): Eight routes, three targets, 26 yards receiving, 3.25 yards per route
It would be nice if Andrews played more snaps, but when he’s on the field, he’s out there to catch passes. If he’s not playing on a lot of run-blocking snaps, what does it matter?
The strong matchup Andrews has is obvious. Just last week, the Cardinals allowed T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James to combine for 30.6 DraftKings points and a 7-146-1 receiving line on 10 targets. Without starting cornerbacks Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (leg, injured reserve), the defense is stretched thin.
Whether Andrews is going against linebackers Jordan Hicks and Haason Reddick or safeties D.J. Swearinger and Budda Baker, he should be able to get open. All four of those guys allow receivers to catch the ball when targeted.
- Jordan Hicks: 75.3% career catch rate
- Haason Reddick: 88.5% career catch rate
- D.J. Swearinger: 63.5% career catch rate
- Budda Baker: 79.4% career catch rate
If you want to pay down at the position on DraftKings but have some salary flexibility and want to avoid the chalk, then Andrews is a good pivot play.
Andrews is the No. 1 tight end in the Freedman and SportsGeek Models for DraftKings, where he’s tied for the position lead with eight Pro Trends.
T.J. Hockenson: Detroit Lions (+2.5) vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 47.5 O/U
In my top 50 dynasty rookie rankings, I aggressively slotted Hockenson in as the No. 5 player on my board, which is unbelievably high for a tight end in a rookie draft.
Why am I so high on Hockenson?
Winner of the 2018 Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end, Hockenson has top-end potential as a Gronk-esque mismatch weapon in the blocking and receiving game. Entering the NFL from the same institution that produced George Kittle, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Tony Moeaki, Scott Chandler and Dallas Clark, the young tight end should be a solid professional right away — even if it takes some time for him to start producing as a fantasy asset.
Last year, he was first on the Hawkeyes with 760 yards receiving and second with 49 receptions and six touchdowns through the air, and he led all tight ends drafted with 47.4 expected points added.
Basically, I I think Hockenson is going to be the Gronk of the next decade: T.J. Gronkenson.
And he sure looked like it in Week 1, when he set the all-time scoring record for a tight end in his first game with 28.1 DraftKings points. His 131 receiving yards were also a first-game NFL high at the position. With his 6-131-1 receiving line, Hockenson finished as the No. 2 fantasy tight end on the slate.
And now — for some ungodly reason that only the salary makers know — Hockenson is $100 cheaper on DraftKings than he was last week.
Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me the pleasure of introducing to you the greatest tight end of all time (probably), T.J. Chalkenson.
Other than the fact that he will have a high ownership rate in guaranteed prize pools, I can’t think of a single reason why Hock shouldn’t be rostered: Last week he led all tight ends with 131 yards receiving and 142 air yards. He was second with 56 yards after the catch and third with nine targets and a 15.8-yard average depth of target. He was top-two on the Lions in every receiving category.
And his matchup isn’t imposing.
Last year the Chargers were No. 1 in pass defense against tight ends with a -52.4% DVOA, but this year they should be more vulnerable: All-Pro strong safety Derwin James (foot, injured reserve) is out. Without Derwin to lock down opposing tight ends, the Chargers will likely be no better than average at defending the position.
Even in a middling offense, Hock jumps out as one of the most appealing options on the slate.
Chalkenson is the No. 1 tight end in the Bales, CSURAM88, Levitan, Raybon and Koerner Models for DraftKings, where he leads the position with a 99% Bargain Rating and +4.40 Projected Plus/Minus.
Upside Tight Ends for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs ($7,300 DK, $8,000 FD): Kelce averaged 27.0 DraftKings points in his two matchups last year with the Raiders, he should have a higher target share this week with Tyreek Hill (clavicle) on the sideline and he has position-high median and ceiling projections in our Week 2 Models.
Evan Engram, New York Giants ($5,200 DK, $6,400 FD): The third-year tight end led the Giants in Week 1 in every receiving category with his 11-116-1 line on 14 targets, he should have high volume again with wide receivers Golden Tate (suspended) out and Sterling Shepard (concussion) and Cody Latimer (calf) uncertain to play and he leads all tight ends with his DraftKings floor projection.
Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints ($4,700 DK, $6,000 FD): Cook makes for a good pivot play on wide receivers Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn and even running back Alvin Kamara, the Saints-Rams game has a high 52-point over/under and this is a #RevengeGame against his former team (not as if that matters).
Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers ($3,700 DK, $5,400 FD): Graham had a respectable 3-30-1 receiving line in Week 1 on six targets, he was the intended receiver on both of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ end-zone attempts and last year he averaged 10.5 DraftKings points in his two games against the Vikings.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans ($3,500 DK, $5,900 FD): Walker had a satisfying return in Week 1 with a 5-55-2 receiving line on six targets, he played 59.3% of his snaps in the slot or out wide and the Colts last year allowed the third-most DraftKings points to opposing tight ends with 16.2 per game.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins ($3,400 DK, $5,300 FD): Reed (concussion) is expected to clear the league’s protocol in time to play in Week 2, he’s likely to have a rock-bottom ownership rate and he’s averaged 13.0 DraftKings points per game against the divisional rival Cowboys over the past three years.
Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders ($3,300 DK, $5,400 FD): Waller had a strong Week 1 performance with a 7-70-1 receiving line on a team-high eight targets, he played 100% of the offensive snaps and he comes with the Monday Night Football discount since Week 2 salaries were released on Sunday before the Raiders’ season opener.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals ($2,900 DK, $4,900 FD): Eifert had a respectable five receptions on six targets last week, he has averaged 0.66 touchdowns per game since 2014 and he leads all tight ends in Leverage Score thanks to his high ceiling and low ownership projections.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
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Pictured above: T.J. Hockenson
Photo credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports