The Week 5 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 6, 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.
All odds below as of Thursday and via PointsBet, where Action Network users can exclusively bet every NFL spread this season at reduced juice (-105).
Top Tight Ends in the FantasyLabs Models
There are four 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.
- Zach Ertz: $6,000 DraftKings; $6,600 FanDuel
- Evan Engram: $5,800 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
- Austin Hooper: $4,500 DraftKings; $6,700 FanDuel
- Jared Cook: $3,400 DraftKings; $5,300 FanDuel
Zach Ertz: Philadelphia Eagles (-13.5) vs. New York Jets, 44 Over/Under
The consensus opinion entering the season was that Ertz was due for regression. Last year, among all players (not just tight ends), he was No. 2 with 116 receptions and No. 6 with 156 targets. He was No. 4 with 27 red-zone targets. He was the team leader with 1,163 yards receiving, 1,122 air yards, 351 yards after the catch and eight touchdowns. He had career highs in games played, targets, receptions, touchdowns and catch rate.
With all of the other pass-catching options on the team, how could he hit those numbers again?
For the most part, the concerns for Ertz have been warranted. He hasn’t played poorly, but there has been a marked decline in production:
- Week 1 (vs. Redskins): 10.4 DraftKings points, 5-54-0 receiving on seven targets
- Week 2 (at Falcons): 17.2 DraftKings points, 8-72-0 receiving on 16 targets, two-point conversion
- Week 3 (vs. Lions): 10.4 DraftKings points, 4-64-0 receiving on seven targets
- Week 4 (at Packers): 13.5 DraftKings points, 7-65-0 receiving on eight targets
This year, Ertz is averaging just 12.9 DraftKings points per game. He has notably underperfomed salary-based expectations with a -0.48 Plus/Minus, and he has a subpar 25% Consistency Rating.
What’s worse is that he’s done this with a 12.9% ownership rate on the main slate.
And with tight ends Travis Kelce and George Kittle off the main slate, Ertz is likely to have high ownership once again.
Ertz has yet to score a touchdown, so he should see some positive regression there, but his overall usage has declined and that doesn’t seem likely to change soon.
The one outlier in his game log is Week 2, when Ertz saw a glorious slate-high 16 targets. But that game is utterly unrepresentative. In Week 2, the Eagles endured a pass-catching Armageddon. Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson and tight end Dallas Goedert all suffered in-game injuries.
Ertz got so many opportunities in Week 2 because the Eagles had almost no one else to target.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is questionable and has missed the past two games, but Jeffery and Goedert have returned.
On top of that, Ertz doesn’t have a good matchup. In fact, it’s rather bad.
The Jets have held opposing tight ends to a league-low 4.4 DraftKings points per game this year. The Jets have played just three games, so the sample is especially small, but that number probably is not irrelevant.
Pro-Bowl strong safety Jamal Adams has a league-high 90.1 coverage grade (per Pro Football Focus). For his career, he’s allowed a catch rate of just 56.9%. Since last season, only one touchdown has been scored against him.
In the words of Gimli, “You could have picked a better spot.”
So I probably won’t have Ertz in cash games. For what he offers, he just feels too expensive.
In tournaments, though, Ertz is much more intriguing. The Eagles have a slate-high 28.5-point implied Vegas total. With a little luck, Ertz could get a couple of touchdowns and lead the position in Week 5 scoring.
Since Ertz became a key contributor in 2014, he has been his best when the Eagles are laying points at home.
- Home favorite (35 games): 66.3 yards and 0.46 touchdowns on 5.9 receptions and 8.3 targets
- All other situations (44 games): 52.1 yards and 0.20 touchdowns on 5.0 receptions and 7.3 targets
Over the past half decade, Ertz has averaged 16.0 DraftKings points per game as a home favorite with a +5.43 Plus/Minus and 67.6% Consistency Rating.
Ertz is the No. 1 tight end in the Bales, Levitan and Raybon Models for DraftKings, where he leads the position with his median and ceiling projections.
He is also the No. 1 option on FanDuel, where he has a position-high +3.92 Projected Plus/Minus.
Evan Engram: New York Giants (+4.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings, 43.5 O/U
Engram is the No. 1 fantasy tight end with 19.5 DraftKings and 14.7 FanDuel points per game.
He easily leads the Giants with 37 targets, 27 receptions, 331 yards receiving, 190 yards after the catch and two touchdowns receiving.
One problem for Engram is that slot magnet Golden Tate (suspension) is returning: He seems likely to siphon away from Engram a significant share of his between-the-hashes targets.
Plus, it’s possible that with quarterback Daniel Jones now starting, we should adjust down our baseline expectations for Engram’s usage. The sample is small, but this year he has had notable quarterback-based splits.
- With Eli Manning (Weeks 1-2): 15.5 FanDuel points per game, 17-164-1 receiving on 22 targets
- With Daniel Jones (Weeks 3-4): 13.9 FanDuel points per game, 10-167-1 receiving on 15 targets
We can’t say for sure, but it’s possible that Manning was more willing than Jones to settle for shorter targets to Engram instead of downfield targets to a wide receiver.
Maybe because Danny Dimes is better than Manning, that will actually hurt Engram overall. But maybe not. Again, we need more data.
What we do know is that the Giants are massive underdogs, and with running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) doubtful to play, they will almost certainly have a pass-heavy game script, which should benefit Engram.
At first glance, Engram’s matchup doesn’t look good. The Vikings are No. 4 with a -29.1% pass DVOA against tight ends, and All-Pro safety Harrison Smith has a good 82.8 PFF coverage grade.
But Smith isn’t responsible for all of the defense against tight ends, and the Vikings have struggled mightily this year against the two athletic move players they’ve faced.
- Austin Hooper (Week 1, away): 12.2 FanDuel points, 9-77-0 receiving on nine targets
- Darren Waller (Week 3, away): 20.6 FanDuel points, 13-134-0 receiving on 14 targets
With a strong trio of cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, the Vikings pass defense actually might be most vulnerable against tight ends.
Even with the return of Tate in the slot, Engram could get a lot of opportunities against the Vikings and is an option in all formats for roster constructions that allow for a high-priced tight end.
Engram is the No. 1 tight end in the Bales, Levitan and Freedman Models for FanDuel, where he leads the position with 10 Pro Trends and a 99% Bargain Rating.
Austin Hooper: Atlanta Falcons (+4.5) at Houston Texans, 49 O/U
This is now the fourth week this season Hooper has been at the top of at least one of our Models.
Here’s what I had to say about him in the Week 3 TE Breakdown.
In full disclosure, I’m not that interested in him. Definitely not in cash. Almost certainly not in tournaments. Hooper is just the type of tight end I never want to roster.
He’s just good enough to be a low-end TE1. But he’s not reliable enough to trust in cash games. And Hooper’s not dynamic enough to make me want him in guaranteed prize pools.
In the two games since I typed that, Hooper has gone off for 15-196-2 receiving on 18 targets. He’s now the No. 2 fantasy tight end with 18.4 DraftKings and 14.2 FanDuel points per game.
When it comes to Hooper, I clearly have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m taking the L and moving on.
Although I tend to think of Hooper as secondary in pass-catching priority to wide receiver Calvin Ridley and maybe even slot receiver Mohamed Sanu, I am almost certainly wrong: Hooper is top-two on the Falcons with 33 targets, 28 receptions, 307 yards receiving, 138 yards after the catch and two receiving touchdowns.
On four fewer targets, he actually has five more receptions and just 10 fewer yards than Julio. That’s outstanding.
To this point in the season, Hooper is straight-up outclassing Ridley and Sanu.
- Austin Hooper (2019, four games): 18.4 DraftKings points, +11.44 Plus/Minus, 100% Consistency Rating
- Calvin Ridley (2019, four games): 12.9 DraftKings points, +2.59 Plus/Minus, 50% Consistency Rating
- Mohamed Sanu (2019, four games): 12.0 DraftKings points, +3.94 Plus/Minus, 75% Consistency Rating
I’m still not expecting Hooper to finish the year with more fantasy production than Ridley, but his early-season success is notable, as is the fact that Hooper frequently has GPP ownership rates below 5%.
In general, the market has been far too low on Hooper.
The Texans have held opposing tight ends to the third-fewest DraftKings points this year with just 5.6 per game, but that number probably doesn’t have much bearing for Hooper.
In Week 1, the Texans faced Jared Cook in his first game with the Saints. In Weeks 2-3, they faced the essentially tight end-less Jaguars and Chargers. And in Week 4 they faced Greg Olsen without starting quarterback Cam Newton.
Strong safety Tashaun Gipson has a 52.5 PFF coverage grade and has allowed all nine of the targets directed at him to be caught. If the Falcons want to get Hooper the ball, they should be able to do so.
In what’s expected to be a high-scoring pass-heavy game, Hooper is in play for cash games and GPPs. He’s especially intriguing as a run-back option for Texans-heavy game stacks.
Hooper is the No. 1 tight end in the Koerner and Freedman Models for DraftKings, where he is tied for the position lead with seven Pro Trends.
Jared Cook: New Orleans Saints (-3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 46 O/U
Last year with the Raiders, Cook was the No. 5 fantasy tight end with 12.9 DraftKings points per game and a 68-896-6 receiving line on 101 targets.
Unfortunately for him — and I can’t believe I’m about to type this — the Saints ain’t the Raiders.
Through four games, Cook has been an afterthought in the Saints offense. A chasm separates wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara from everyone else in the receiving game. A violently yawning chasm.
If you’re looking for 4.5 targets and two receptions per game — Cook is your man.
He hasn’t been helped by the Week 2 injury to quarterback Drew Brees (hand), but it’s not as if Cook was doing much before backup Teddy Bridgewater took over.
- Weeks 1-2: 5.1 DraftKings points per game, 4-62-0 receiving on 10 targets total
- Weeks 3-4: 3.4 DraftKings points per game, 4-28-0 receiving on eight targets total
Cook has basically just one factor in his favor this week: The Bucs are terrible. Their tight end defense is looser than your grandfather’s stool sample.
They have allowed the second-most DraftKings points to tight ends with 21.1 per game — and remember that George Kittle had two touchdowns called back against them in Week 1.
Collectively, safeties Jordan Whitehead and Mike Edwards and linebackers Lavonte David and Kevin Minter have allowed a catch rate of 76.7% this year. They are exploitable.
If you’re looking for a cheap tight end who will have almost nonexistent ownership and a decent chance of scoring a touchdown, Cook is probably the top option.
He’s the No.1 tight end in the CSURAM88 and SportsGeek Models for DraftKings, where he has a 90% Leverage Score based on his high-ish ceiling and low ownership projections.
Upside Tight Ends for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders ($5,000 DK, $6,400 FD): Waller leads the Raiders with 37 targets, 33 receptions, 320 yards receiving and 183 yards after the catch. He’s No. 4 among tight ends with 378 air yards and yards after the catch combined. The Raiders seem likely to have a pass-heavy game script as London dogs, and Waller has position-high floor projections in our Models.
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens ($4,800 DK, $6,100 FD): Andrews (foot) is dealing with a nagging injury but is expected to play. He is the No. 3 fantasy tight end with 18.4 DraftKings and 14.0 FanDuel points per game and the 1A pass-catching option on the Ravens, just behind wide receiver Marquise Brown. He trails only Kelce with his 390 air yards and yards after the catch combined.
Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers ($4,300 DK, $5,500 FD): Graham had zero-point “performances” in Weeks 2-3, and he has turned his 16 targets into just 91 yards. But he leads the team with eight red-zone targets, four end-zone targets and two receiving touchdowns. Wide receiver Davante Adams (toe) is uncertain, so Graham could have a larger target share than usual.
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers ($4,000 DK, $5,700 FD): Olsen has triumphantly returned from the injuries that hindered his 2017-18 campaigns. In usage and production (18-226-2 receiving on 29 targets), he is on equal footing in the offense with wide receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, and backup quarterback Kyle Allen has been the most productive when targeting Olsen.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals ($3,300 DK, $4,600 FD): Eifert has five-plus targets in three of four games and has averaged 0.65 touchdowns per game since his 2015 breakout. The Cardinals have allowed a league-high 29.3 DraftKings points per game to tight ends. Safety D.J. Swearinger owns an abominable 36.3 PFF coverage grade and has allowed an 11-153-3 receiving line on 15 targets. But fair warning: Eifert will be GPP chalk.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
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Pictured above: Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (81)
Photo credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports