The Week 7 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 20, 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.
Top Tight Ends in the FantasyLabs Models
There are seven 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: $6,700 DraftKings; $7,100 FanDuel
- Evan Engram: $6,500 DraftKings; $6,800 FanDuel
- Mark Andrews: $4,900 DraftKings; $6,700 FanDuel
- Hunter Henry: $4,000 DraftKings; $5,700 FanDuel
- Gerald Everett: $3,700 DraftKings; $5,900 FanDuel
- Jared Cook: $3,600 DraftKings; $5,800 FanDuel
- Tyler Higbee: $2,900 DraftKings; $4,500 FanDuel
George Kittle: San Francisco 49ers (-10) vs. Washington Redskins, 41 Over/Under
WR Deebo Samuel (groin) is out. Redskins CB Josh Norman (thigh, hand) is questionable.
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 five games, Kittle has been a smidgen underwhelming.
- Fantasy production (per game): 11.4 FanDuel points, +2.28 Plus/Minus, 60% Consistency Rating
- Football production (for season): 31-338-1 receiving on 37 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 3-6 (with the bye in Week 4), Kittle played the supermajority of snaps and averaged a more dignified 13.6 FanDuel points per game. Kittle (groin) is dealing with a lingering injury, but over the past two weeks especially he’s been on brand with 14-173-1 receiving on 16 targets.
He is still Kittle: He easily leads the team with 37 targets, 31 receptions, 338 receiving yards, 255 air yards and 185 yards after the catch. The passing offense still flows through him.
And he has an intriguing matchup this week. The 49ers are without offensive tackles Joe Staley (leg) and Mike McGlinchy (knee), which theoretically hurts their offense, but they still have a significant edge over the Redskins. The 49ers are No. 6 with a 50% passing success rate while the Redskins are No. 30 with a 55% passing success rate allowed.
And the Redskins are No. 26 with a 17.4% pass defense DVOA against tight ends (per Football Outsiders). Safeties Landon Collins and Montae Nicholson and linebackers Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb have collectively allowed a 78.3% catch rate this season (per Pro Football Focus). The Redskins really don’t have anyone who can hang with Kittle.
I’m a little hesitant to roster Kittle in cash games, because if the 49ers get out to a big lead as double-digit favorites, they’ll likely lean on the running game, which could result in fewer targets for Kittle: The 49ers are No. 32 in the league with a 44.0% pass-play rate.
But for guaranteed prize pools, he is always in play.
Kittle leads all tight ends with his median and ceiling projections and is the No. 1 tight end in the Freedman Model for FanDuel.
Evan Engram: New York Giants (-3) vs. Arizona Cardinals, 50.5 O/U
UPDATE (Oct. 19): RBs Saquon Barkley (ankle) and Wayne Gallman (concussion) and TE Evan Engram (knee) are in. WR Sterling Shepard (concussion) is out.
For good reason, Engram is likely to be the highest-owned tight end on the slate. He’s No. 2 at the position with 14.8 FanDuel points and 100.2 air yards and yards after the catch per game.
Engram (knee) sat out last week, but he’s practiced in full this week and is expected to suit up.
Even with his missed game, he easily leads the Giants with 48 targets, 33 receptions, 373 yards receiving and two touchdowns receiving.
He does face some challenges.
Running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) has missed the past few games, but he’s returning this week. With Barkley, the Giants might skew toward the running game, and some of the shorter targets that might have gone to Engram could be redirected to the talented pass-catching back.
Additionally, slot receiver Golden Tate (suspension) has averaged 7.5 targets per game since he joined the team in Week 5. Engram might lose significant between-the-hashes targets to the veteran.
Finally, quarterback Daniel Jones might be a less tight end-friendly passer than Eli Manning was. At this point, it’s too early to know.
But for this week, those challenges might not matter because Engram has the slate’s best matchup.
The Cardinals have allowed a league-high 20.8 FanDuel points per game to tight ends. Over the past couple of weeks they’ve attempted to stabilize their secondary by releasing abominable box safety D.J. Swearinger Jr. and moving do-it-all safety Budda Baker from the weak to the strong side. It helps the overall unit that this week it will get back No. 1 cornerback Patrick Peterson (suspension).
But even though Baker is small (5-foot-10, 195 pounds), he’s more of a run stopper and tackler than a cover guy. For his career, he’s allowed a 79.5% catch rate. As talented as Baker is, he’s probably not up to the task of manning up against Engram.
In roster constructions that allow for a high-priced tight end, Engram is an option in all formats.
Engram is the No. 1 tight end in the Bales, Levitan, Koerner and SportsGeek Models for FanDuel, where he has position-leading marks with his floor projection, nine Pro Trends and 99% Bargain Rating.
Mark Andrews: Baltimore Ravens (+3) at Seattle Seahawks, 48.5 O/U
UPDATE (Oct. 19): WR Marquise Brown (ankle) missed practice all week and is expected not to play.
Andrews isn’t exactly to 2019 what Kittle was to 2018, but Andrews has been a joy to watch in his second-season breakout. He’s No. 3 at the position with 95.3 air yards and yards after the catch and No. 4 with 16.3 DraftKings points per game.
Andrews has played just 48.3% of the team’s offensive snaps, so he’s more of a receiving specialist than an all-around block-and-catch contributor, but that doesn’t seem to have hindered his ability to produce. Andrews easily leads the team with 47 targets, 34 receptions and 410 yards.
In every game but one has Andrews been a fantasy TE 1 (per RotoViz Stat Explorer).
Along with Engram, as well as Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz (both of whom are off the main slate), Andrews is the only tight end with seven-plus targets in each game this year. And he seems likely to hit that threshold again on Sunday. No. 1 wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle) missed last week and is yet to practice, so seems unlikely to suit up, which means that Andrews will probably function as the top pass-catching option for quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Without Hollywood last week, Andrews had a team-leading 6-99-0 receiving performance on eight targets.
But the Seahawks secondary is no longer what it was. Gone are safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. In their place are Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson, who are less than legendary. This year, the Seahawks have allowed the fourth-most DraftKings points to opposing tight ends with 16.3 per game.
Especially on DraftKings, where Andrews is significantly cheaper than Kittle and Engram, he’s in play for both cash games and tournaments.
Andrews is the No. 1 tight end in the Bales and Levitan Models for DraftKings, where he leads the position with his floor projection and seven Pro Trends. He’s also the top option in the CSURAM88 Model for FanDuel.
Hunter Henry: Los Angeles Chargers (+2.5) at Tennessee Titans, 41 O/U
UPDATE (Oct. 19): WR Travis Benjamin (quad, injured reserve) and RB Justin Jackson (calf) are out.
Henry has been a hard-luck kind of guy for most of his career.
After winning the 2015 John Mackey Award as the top college tight end, Henry entered the league as a potential-laden second-rounder but was forced to spend the first two years of his career in a timeshare with long-time franchise fixture Antonio Gates.
Entering 2018, finally free of the stench emanating from Gates’ jettisoned corpse, Henry was poised to break out — and then he suffered an ACL tear in the preseason. His campaign was done before it even began.
And then in Week 1, he suffered a knee injury near the end of the game. He wasn’t expected to return till late in the year.
But amazingly Henry practiced in full last Friday and returned to action in Week 6. Although he was expected to play on a limited basis — and he did have a snap rate of just 66% — Henry was the top receiver for the Chargers with his 8-100-2 line on nine targets.
Henry. Is. Back.
The sample is small, but he has been impressive in his two games of action as the No. 1 tight end with 17 FanDuel points per game. He has provided immense value with his +9.96 Plus/Minus. He’s No. 4 at the position with 95 air yards and yards after the catch per game.
Henry’s matchup is intriguing.
I have respect for the safety duo of Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro: Last year, the Titans were No. 11 with a -10.6% pass defense DVOA against tight ends. But this year they have been more charitable to tight ends, ranking No. 24 with a 14.4% mark.
Against the three Henry-comparable tight ends they’ve faced, the Titans have struggled.
- David Njoku (Week 1): 11.7 FanDuel points, 4-37-1 receiving on six targets
- Eric Ebron (Week 2): 10.0 FanDuel points, 3-25-1 receiving on four targets
- Austin Hooper (Week 4): 17.5 FanDuel points, 9-130-0 receiving on 11 targets
If Henry continues to see heavy target volume, he has a reasonable chance to hit the 13.1 FanDuel points Njoku, Ebron and Hooper averaged against the Titans.
I’m hesitant on Henry in cash games because of his reduced snap share last week and the currently sub-standard state of the Chargers offense. For tournaments, though, I like him as a discounted option.
Henry is the No. 1 tight end in the Raybon Model for FanDuel.
Gerald Everett: Los Angeles Rams (-3) at Atlanta Falcons, 54.5 O/U
UPDATE (Oct. 19): Falcons CB Desmond Trufant (toe) is out.
We’re officially in the punt-play range of the salary scale. If you value money, you can’t even dream of rostering Everett in cash games. He’s a tournament-only option.
For the first two years of his career, the size/speed second-round project did little with the Rams, functioning as an afterthought behind wide receivers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks/Sammy Watkins and running back Todd Gurley. In the 2017-18 campaigns, Everett averaged just 2.5 targets per game (including playoffs), and he was lucky to see even that volume.
But this year he’s averaged 5.2 targets per game, and specifically over the past three weeks that number has bumped up to eight. Is this recent target inflation sustainable? Probably not. But since Week 4 he’s averaged 14.0 DraftKings points per game with a +7.78 Plus/Minus.
The Rams have a slate-high 28.75-point implied Vegas total, and in a high-scoring back-and-forth game with lots of passing, Everett could find his way to another 5-10 targets. The Falcons are No. 31 with a 39.7 PFF coverage grade, and they have especially struggle against the pass since Pro-Bowl strong safety Keanu Neal (Achilles, injured reserve) suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3.
Safeties Kemal Ishmael and Ricardo Allen have respective PFF coverage grades of 39.8 and 40.2 and have combined to allow an 87.5% catch rate this year.
I personally think Everett is thin as a GPP play, but he has an undeniably good matchup and situation. I can’t imagine rostering Everett when Henry is available at a comparable salary — but at least Everett will be available at almost 0% ownership.
Everett is the No. 1 tight end in the Koerner, SportsGeek and Freedman Models for DraftKings, where he has a strong 96% Bargain Rating.
Jared Cook: New Orleans Saints (+3) at Chicago Bears, 38 O/U
UPDATE (Oct. 19): TE Jared Cook (ankle) is OUT. RB Alvin Kamara (ankle, knee) and WR Tre’Quan Smith (ankle) are out.
For each of the past two weeks, Cook has appeared atop one of the FantasyLabs Pro Models. Amazingly, he paid off both weeks, averaging 13.4 DraftKings points per game with a +6.79 Plus/Minus on the strength of a total 7-78-2 receiving line.
But I’m not touching Cook this week. He averaged just 4.5 targets per game in Weeks 5-6 — and that’s exactly what he’s averaged for the season, so it’s not as if his volume has increased. He just happened to score two touchdowns because two of his targets came inside the 10-yard line.
It’s possible that his goal-line usage will persist, but I’m not going to bet on it, especially on the road against the Bears in a game with the lowest total on the slate. The Bears have allowed just one double-digit fantasy performance this year to a tight end — to Jimmy Graham in Week 1, when he had a 3-30-1 receiving line on five targets. And that touchdown to Graham is the only one the Bears have yielded to a tight end.
In Week 5 before the bye, the Raiders — without No. 1 wide receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) — did relentlessly attack the Bears with their tight ends in a 24-21 victory in London. Together, Darren Waller, Foster Moreau and Derek Carrier combined for a 10-107-0 receiving performance on 11 targets. And this year the Bears have allowed a 78% catch rate to the position, so perhaps safeties Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix really are more vulnerable than I imagine.
So with a nonexistent ownership rate, Cook does provide some theoretical value: He has an 86% Leverage Score in our Models. But if I opt for a cheap punt play, it still probably won’t be Cook. I have my limitations.
Cook is the No. 1 tight end in the CSURAM88 Model for DraftKings, where Cook has an attractive 96% Bargain Rating.
Tyler Higbee: Los Angeles Rams (-3) at Atlanta Falcons, 54.5 O/U
UPDATE (Oct. 19): Falcons CB Desmond Trufant (toe) is out.
It must be Week 7: We’ve reached that point in the fantasy season where I’m forced to write a blurb about Higbee and pretend that he’s not a 100% horrible option. I blame Raybon. It’s his DraftKings Model that has Higbee as the No. 1 tight end.
Higbee has three things going for him.
First, he’s utterly contrarian. He will have almost no ownership. If anyone is wild enough to roster a Rams tight end, that will almost certainly be Everett, not Higbee. So he’s a contrarian pivot on a contrarian play: #GameTheory.
Also, he’s averaging 4.2 targets per game. That’s not insignificant, and two of his targets have come in the end zone. It’s not a high number, but it’s tied for the team lead. And Higbee actually has more red-zone targets than wide receiver Brandin Cooks (5 vs. 4, per PFF).
Finally, there’s the situation: The Rams-Falcons games has a slate-high over/under, and the Falcons safeties are beatable. Without Neal defending the position, the Falcons have allowed three touchdowns to tight ends over the past three games.
I have to admit there’s a real non-zero chance Higbee scores a touchdown this weekend.
I guess he’s only a 98% horrible option.
Upside Tight Ends for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons ($5,300 DK, $6,600 FD): For just the second week this year, Hooper is not atop one of the FantasyLabs Pro Models, but he’s still an option in all formats. He’s the No. 2 FanDuel tight end with 14.8 points per game, and he actually leads the Falcons with 42 receptions and 480 yards. The Falcons are No. 2 with a 70.1% pass-play rate. The Rams have a funnel defense that ranks No. 5 against the run (-21.5% DVOA) but No. 20 against the pass (12.6% DVOA). Starting strong safety John Johnson III (shoulder, injured reserve) is out, so Hooper will have an excellent matchup against rookie fill-in Taylor Rapp, who has allowed a 75% catch rate. Hooper has a position-high +2.12 Projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel.
Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders ($4,700 DK, $6,200 FD): Waller (foot) was downgraded from full in practice on Wednesday to limited on Thursday, which is not ideal — you’ll want to monitor his injury status. Waller leads the Raiders with 42 targets, 37 receptions and 359 yards receiving. He’s the No. 5 DraftKings tight end with 15.3 points per game even though he’s yet to score a touchdown. And with his volume and yardage, the touchdowns will come. Waller will be especially attractive if No. 1 wide receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) is unable to play. UPDATE (Oct. 19): WR Tyrell Williams (foot) is out. RT Trent Brown (calf) is expected not to play. RG Gabe Jackson (knee) is questionable. Green Bay SS Darnell Savage (ankle) is out.
Jimmy Graham, Green Bay ($4,200 DK, $5,800 FD): Graham (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but he practiced on Friday and seems likely to play this weekend. Graham has dropped at least three touchdowns this year and been horrendously inconsistent, but the Packers could be without starting wide receivers Davante Adams (toe), Geronimo Allison (concussion) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle, knee). The Raiders have allowed the sixth-most DraftKings points to tight ends with 14.7 per game. UPDATE (Oct. 19): WR Davante Adams (toe) is out. WR Geronimo Allison (concussion) is expected not to play. WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle, knee) had a limited practice on Friday and is questionable. If MVS plays, Lazard will be far less attractive as a DFS option.
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions ($3,600 DK, $5,400 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 64.9% snap rate and average of five targets per game. The Vikings have yielded 16.5 DraftKings points per game to stretch-Hock comps in Austin Hooper, Darren Waller, Evan Engram and Zach Ertz. UPDATE (Oct. 19): Vikings LB Ben Gedeon (concussion) is out.
Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills ($3,300 DK, $4,800 FD): The rookie is averaging just 3.6 targets per game, but since Week 3, he’s averaged 45.7 yards per game. The Dolphins are No. 31 with a 55.9% pass defense DVOA against tight ends. I suppose you could do worse. UPDATE (Oct. 19): RB Devin Singletary (hamstring) is expected to play. Dolphins CB Xavien Howard (knee) is questionable.
Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins ($4,100 DK, $4,800 FD): Davis (concussion) has missed the past two weeks and is still in the league’s protocol. If he plays, he’ll once again start in place of the injured Jordan Reed (concussion). In his 19 Redskins games without Reed, Davis has averaged 4.8 targets per game. In his one career #RevengeGame against the 49ers (in 2017), Davis had a respectable 3-65-0 performance on four targets. UPDATE (Oct. 19): TE Vernon Davis is OUT.
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Pictured above: Evan Engram
Photo credit: USA Today Sports