The Week 6 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 13, 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 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.
- Travis Kelce: $7,000 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
- George Kittle: $5,200 DraftKings; $6,500 FanDuel
- Austin Hooper: $5,000 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
- Jared Cook: $3,400 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
Travis Kelce: Kansas City Chiefs (-4) vs. Houston Texans, 55 Over/Under
In 2018, Kelce had a historic fantasy season for a tight end. Not surprising. And his 2019 season has gone pretty well so far.
- Week 1 (at Jaguars): 10.3 FanDuel points, 3-88-0 receiving on eight targets
- Week 2 (at Raiders): 20.2 FanDuel points, 7-107-1 receiving on nine targets
- Week 3 (vs. Ravens): 12.4 FanDuel points, 7-89-0 receiving on eight targets
- Week 4 (at Lions): 12.0 FanDuel points, 7-85-0 receiving on eight targets
- Week 5 (vs. Colts): 9.0 FanDuel points, 4-70-0 receiving on four targets
He’s No. 3 at the position with 12.8 FanDuel points per game and No. 1 with 614 air yards and yards after the catch combined. Kelce has been a top-12 fantasy performer each week this year (per the RotoViz NFL Stat Explorer).
And yet it’s undeniable that Kelce’s start to the campaign has been a smidgen disappointing. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill (clavicle) has been out since his in-game Week 1 injury, and yet Kelce hasn’t seen any increase in his number of opportunities per game. All of the extra targets, yards and touchdowns that daily fantasy investors hoped would shift to Kelce have instead gone to wide receivers Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman and even Byron Pringle.
Additionally, Kelce’s performance seems relatively restrained in comparison to what the Chiefs offense is doing as a whole. As impossible as this might seem, quarterback Patrick Mahomes has played perhaps even better than he played last year. He leads the league with 1,831 yards passing, and his 10.5 adjusted yards per attempt dwarfs last year’s NFL-best 9.6 mark. It’s a little tilting to know that Mahomes has improved — especially with Hill out — and Kelce’s year-over-year performance has declined.
- Travis Kelce (2018, 18 games): 14.9 FanDuel points, +3.83 Plus/Minus, 61.1% Consistency Rating
- Travis Kelce (2019, five games): 12.8 FanDuel points, +1.35 Plus/Minus, 60% Consistency Rating
Finally, Kelce’s performance has underwhelmed within the context of what other tight ends have done this year. Mark Andrews, Will Dissly and Darren Waller have emerged as top-six players at the position and reasonable weekly alternatives to Kelce. Old-timers Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker have returned from injuries to put up Kelce-lite numbers. Evan Engram and Austin Hooper have flashed “Big Three” potential.
Kelce’s position at the top of the league-wide tight end depth chart is hardly secure.
Even so, Kelce is still the King of Olympus. Dating back to his first All-Pro campaign in 2016, Kelce leads all tight ends with 13.0 FanDuel points per game, and he’s provided good salary-adjusted value with his +2.66 Plus/Minus. For a guy to disappoint with 12.8 FanDuel points per game, he has to be pretty good in the first place.
At a glance, Kelce has a bad matchup. The Texans have held opposing tight ends to the fourth-fewest FanDuel points this year with just 5.3 per game, but that number probably doesn’t have much bearing for Kelce.
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.
Against Hooper in Week 5, the Texans allowed 10.6 FanDuel points on a 6-56-0 receiving performance with nine targets. That’s approaching Kelce territory.
Strong safety Tashaun Gipson has a 53.8 coverage grade and has allowed an 86.7% catch rate (per Pro Football Focus). As is almost always the case, if the Chiefs want to get Kelce the ball, they should be able to do so. As long as Kelce’s not going against an All-Pro safety, his matchup is automatically good enough anyway.
More concerning than his matchup is his location. The Chiefs are at home, and while that should theoretically be a positive, in actuality it’s a notable negative.
Since head coach Andy Reid joined the franchise in 2013, no home team has made under bettors more money than the Chiefs have with their 34-20-1 under record (including playoffs), good for an A-graded 26.1% return on investment (per Bet Labs).
In the Reid era, the Chiefs have actually scored 3.3 fewer points at home than on the road. That’s easily the most negative home/away offensive scoring differential in the league.
In fact, Chiefs games have an NFL-worst home/away total differential of -8.9 points. In Kansas City, NFL games rank No. 26 with a mediocre 42.9 points. On the road, Chiefs games blow out with a league-high 51.8 points. Arrowhead Stadium is a tough place to score, and apparently not just for the visiting team.
Even so, I’m still not worried about Kelce, who has had only minor location-based reverse splits throughout his career.
- Home (45 games): 11.5 FanDuel points, +1.84 Plus/Minus, 55.6% Consistency Rating
- Away (42 games): 11.9 FanDuel points, +2.66 Plus/Minus, 59.5% Consistency Rating
Pretty much wherever he plays, he’s still Kelce.
Given the slate-high over/under for the Chiefs-Texans game, Kelce is likely to be one of the weekend’s most popular tight ends. Even so, for roster constructions that allow for a high-salaried tight end, he’s an option in cash game and guaranteed prize pools. And given the fact that Kelce since 2014 has had a 0.78 correlation with his quarterbacks, he is incredibly stackable with Mahomes in tournaments.
Kelce leads all tight ends with his median and ceiling projections and is the No. 1 tight end in the CSURAM88, Levitan, Koerner, SportsGeek and Freedman Models for FanDuel, where he is tied for the position lead with nine Pro Trends and sets the bar with a 99% Bargain Rating.
George Kittle: San Francisco 49ers (+3) at Los Angeles Rams, 50.5 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. But through four games, he has underwhelmed.
- Fantasy production (per game): 13.6 DraftKings points, +0.21 Plus/Minus, 25% Consistency Rating
- Football production (for season): 23-235-1 receiving on 29 targets, 1-18-0 rushing
Those numbers, though, need to be placed in context. In Week 1, he lost two touchdown receptions because of penalties on other players. And in Week 2, he played only 67% of the snaps in an easy 41-17 victory over the Bengals. They simply didn’t need him to contribute.
But in Weeks 3 and 5 (with the bye in Week 4), Kittle played almost ever snap and he averaged a more dignified 16.3 DraftKings points per game.
He is still Kittle: He easily leads the team with 29 targets, 23 receptions, 235 receiving yards, 217 air yards and 120 yards after the catch. The passing offense still flows through him.
And he has an intriguing matchup this week. Early in the season, the Rams were strong in tight end defense, but recently they have been exploited.
- Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard (Week 4): 19.9 DraftKings points, 6-69-1 receiving on six targets
- Will Dissly and Luke Willson (Week 5): 14.8 DraftKings points, 5-91-0 receiving on five targets, 1-7-0 rushing
Over the past two weeks, literally every target to a tight end facing the Rams has been caught.
And last year Kittle destroyed the Rams in their two divisional matchups.
- Week 7 (home): 20.8 DraftKings points, 5-98-1 receiving on eight targets
- Week 16 (away): 32.9 DraftKings points, 9-149-1 receiving on 14 targets
For good reason, I expect Kittle to be the slate’s most-rostered tight end. He’s in play in cash games and GPPs.
Kittle has a position-high Projected Plus/Minus values of +4.05 and +3.46 on DraftKings and FanDuel.
He’s the No. 1 tight end in the Bales, CSURAM88, Levitan, Koerner and Raybon Models for DraftKings. He’s also the top option in the Bales and Raybon Models for FanDuel, where he leads all tight ends with his floor projection and is tied with Kelce for a position-high nine Pro Trends.
Austin Hooper: Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) at Arizona Cardinals, 51.5 O/U
This is now the fifth 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.
Yeah. About that. I was wrong. So wrong.
In the three games since I typed that, Hooper has gone off for 21-252-2 receiving on 27 targets. He’s now the No. 2 DraftKings tight end with 17.5 points per game.
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 definitely wrong: Hooper is top-two on the Falcons with 42 targets, 34 receptions, 363 yards receiving and 163 yards after the catch.
On two fewer targets, he actually has eight more receptions and four more yards than No. 1 wide receiver Julio Jones. That’s outstanding.
To this point in the season, Hooper is straight-up outclassing Ridley and Sanu.
- Austin Hooper (2019, five games): 17.5 DraftKings points, +9.99 Plus/Minus, 100% Consistency Rating
- Calvin Ridley (2019, five games): 14.3 DraftKings points, +4.08 Plus/Minus, 60% Consistency Rating
- Mohamed Sanu (2019, five games): 12.7 DraftKings points, +4.63 Plus/Minus, 80% 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%.
For a while, the market has been far too low on Hooper. But last week he was heavily rostered, and he will be again this week because he has the best matchup. The Cardinals have allowed a league-high 24.8 DraftKings points per game to tight ends.
In an attempt to stabilize their secondary, last week the Cardinals released abominable safety D.J. Swearinger and moved do-it-all safety Budda Baker to slot corner. In a vacuum, those moves are good, but as a result, the Cardinals are now playing two rookies at safety: Fifth-rounder Deionte Thompson and undrafted free agent Jalen Thompson.
Between them, the Thompsons have a not-so-nice 69 NFL coverage snaps to their surname.
This is not just a good matchup. This is an old-school pants-off fantasy get-down.
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 Cardinals-heavy game stacks.
Hooper is the No. 1 tight end in the SportsGeek Models for DraftKings, where he is tied for the position lead with eight Pro Trends.
Jared Cook: New Orleans Saints (+1) at Jacksonville Jaguars, 43.5 O/U
Last week, Cook made his first appearance atop one of the FantasyLabs Models, and he actually paid off, putting up 14.1 DraftKings points with 4-41-1 receiving on six targets.
Honestly, I was skeptical. Cook entered last week with an 8-90-0 receiving line on 18 targets for the season, and he had a naughty -4.25 Plus/Minus with a rock-bottom 0.0% Consistency Rating.
But then he finished as the slate’s No. 5 fantasy tight end — and now he’s once again at the top of one of our Models. I don’t really like it, but I also can’t ignore it: Last year with the Raiders, Cook was the No. 5 DraftKings tight end with 12.9 points per game and a 68-896-6 receiving line on 101 targets. It’s not as if he doesn’t have potential.
The main factor Cook has in his favor is the matchup: The Jags aren’t obviously bad against tight ends, but safeties Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson and linebackers Myles Jack and Quincy Williams are exploitable. Together, they have combined to allow 612 yards receiving with a 79% completion rate on targets in their coverage.
And the Jags haven’t done well against the three big, athletic move tight ends they’ve faced.
- Travis Kelce (Week 1): 11.8 DraftKings points, 3-88-0 receiving on eight targets
- Delanie Walker (Week 3): 13.4 DraftKings points, 7-64-0 receiving on nine targets
- Noah Fant (Week 4): 11.1 DraftKings points, 2-31-1 receiving on four targets
If you’re looking for a cheap tight end who will have sub-5% ownership and a decent chance of putting up 10-plus DraftKings points, Cook is probably the top option.
He’s the No.1 tight end in the Freedman Model for DraftKings.
Upside Tight Ends for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles ($5,400 DK, $6,600 FD): Entering 2019, Ertz seemed due for regression, but he leads the team with 45 targets, 29 receptions, 312 receiving yards, 367 air yards and 75 yards after the catch. With just one touchdown, Ertz could see his scoring luck change if his volume stays consistent. The Vikings have allowed 19.2 DraftKings points per game with a +10.12 Plus/Minus to Ertz-similar tight ends in Austin Hooper, Darren Waller and Evan Engram. Ertz has a position-high floor projection on DraftKings.
Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks ($4,900 DK, $6,000 FD): Dissly has picked up where his injury-shortened 2018 season left off. He’s the No. 6 DraftKings tight end with 14.8 points per game. In his eight full career games, he has averaged 13.8 DraftKings points with 51.6 yards and 0.75 touchdowns on 4.9 targets and 3.8 receptions per game. Against Dissly-comparable tight ends in Kittle, Mark Andrews and Delanie Walker, the Browns have allowed 18.8 DraftKings points per game with a +9.16 Plus/Minus.
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens ($4,800 DK, $6,300 FD): Andrews (foot, shoulder) is dealing with nagging injuries but is expected to play. He is the No. 3 DraftKings tight end with 18.4 points per game and the 1A pass-catching option on the Ravens, just behind wide receiver Marquise Brown. He trails only Kelce with his 457 air yards and yards after the catch combined. The Bengals are No. 31 with a 49.6% pass-defense DVOA against tight ends. Andrews is tied for the position lead with eight Pro Trends on DraftKings, and the Ravens have a slate-high 29.75-point implied Vegas total.
Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins ($4,100 DK, $4,800 FD): Davis (concussion) missed last game, but he has practiced this week and is expected to start once again in place of the injured Jordan Reed (concussion). In his 19 Redskins games without Reed, Davis has averaged 4.8 targets per game. The Dolphins are dead last in the league with a 60.5% pass-defense DVOA against tight ends.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans ($3,700 DK, $5,200 FD): Walker has just 3.4 DraftKings points over the past two weeks, but he was dealing with a knee injury that doesn’t seem to be an issue now. He practiced in full on Thursday and will play on Sunday. Walker has a position-high 97% Leverage Score on DraftKings thanks to his low ownership and high ceiling projections.
Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams ($3,600 DK, $6,000 FD): The third-year size/speed project has blown up over the past two weeks with 19.5 DraftKings points, six reception, 90 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game. The 49ers are No. 1 with a -112.1% pass-defense DVOA thanks to the play of strong safety Jaquiski Tartt, but the 49ers have had an easy tight end schedule so far. Everett has a position-high 98% Bargain Rating on DraftKings.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
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Pictured above: Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (81)
Photo credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports