The Week 9 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Nov. 3, 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 six 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: $6,900 DraftKings; $6,700 FanDuel
- Hunter Henry: $6,000 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
- Zach Ertz: $4,700 DraftKings; $6,000 FanDuel
- Greg Olsen: $3,500 DraftKings; $5,300 FanDuel
- Cameron Brate: $3,100 DraftKings; $5,100 FanDuel
- Jack Doyle: $3,000 DraftKings; $5,000 FanDuel
Travis Kelce: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Minnesota Vikings (Off the Board)
UPDATE (Nov. 2): QB Patrick Mahomes (knee) is questionable but tentatively expect to sit one more week.
As of writing, this game is off the board because Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) is questionable. His status should be monitored. If he plays, that will significantly improve Kelce’s outlook.
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 104.1 air yards and yards after the catch 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 been a smidgen disappointing. 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 year (9.2 vs. 8.1, including playoffs).
With fewer opportunities, his year-over-year performance has declined (per our FantasyLabs Trends Tool).
- 2019 (five games): 11.8 FanDuel points, +0.84 Plus/Minus, 50% 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: 8.1 targets per game is still a high number for a tight end, and Kelce’s 9.3 yards per target is better than his 2016-18 mark of 9.0. The problem is that he has just two touchdowns.
But only Jimmy Graham and Austin Hooper have more than Kelce’s five end-zone targets at the position. I would bet that in Weeks 9-17, 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 12.9 FanDuel points per game, and he’s provided good salary-adjusted value with his +2.53 Plus/Minus. For a guy to disappoint with 11.8 FanDuel points per game, he has to be pretty good in the first place.
At a glance, Kelce has a bad matchup. The Vikings are No. 5 with a 79.5 coverage grade (per Pro Football Focus) and specifically No. 2 against tight ends with a -40.3% pass defense DVOA (per Football Outsiders).
Four-time Pro-Bowl safety Harrison Smith is the team’s primary tight end defender, and he has a strong 84.8 PFF coverage grade. The Vikings are the only team in the league yet to allowed a touchdown to a tight end.
But the four tight ends most similar to Kelce in talent to face the Vikings — Austin Hooper, Darren Waller, Evan Engram and Zach Ertz — combined for 11.5 FanDuel points per game and a +4.08 Plus/Minus.
Even in a tough matchup, there’s no reason Kelce can’t continue to do basically what he’s done this year.
I doubt that quarterback Matt Moore will be popular, so if you want to be contrarian, use our Lineup Builder to stack Kelce with Moore. If Kelce goes off, there’s a pretty decent chance that Moore will as well: Kelce since 2014 has had a 0.78 correlation with his quarterbacks.
Even though he is likely to be without Mahomes and has a tough matchup, Kelce leads all tight ends with his median and ceiling projections in our Models. I doubt I’ll have Kelce in cash games, because I’d rather pay down at the position, but he’s clearly in play for guaranteed prize pools.
Kelce is the No. 1 tight end in the Bales, CSURAM88, Levitan, Koerner and SportsGeek Models for FanDuel, where he is tied for the position lead with eight Pro Trends and a 99% Bargain Rating.
Hunter Henry: Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5) vs. Green Bay Packers, 48.5 Over/Under
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 returned to action in Week 6, and has since lived up to the hype.
The sample is small, but in his four games of action, Henry has been the No. 2 tight ends with 13.4 FanDuel points per game and an overall 22-304-2 receiving line on 28 targets. He’s No. 3 at the position with 93.8 air yards and yards after the catch per game.
Th Packers are No. 8 with a 74.7 PFF coverage grade, but their strength of their pass defense is their cornerbacks, not their safeties and linebackers. The Packers have allowed the sixth-most FanDuel points to tight ends with 11.7 per game. And against tight ends similar to Henry — Zach Ertz, Darren Waller and Kelce — they’ve allowed 17.5 FanDuel points per game with a +9.10 Plus/Minus.
Since Week 6, Henry is No. 1 on the Chargers with 18 receptions, 244 yards receiving and two touchdowns, and he’s No. 2 with 23 targets.
For roster constructions that allow for high-priced tight ends, I like Henry in both cash games and tournaments.
Henry is the No. 1 tight end in the Freedman Model for FanDuel, where he is tied with Kelce for the position lead with eight Pro Trends and a 99% Bargain Rating.
Zach Ertz: Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5) vs. Chicago Bears, 41.5 O/U
UPDATE (Nov. 2): WR DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is questionable but seems likely to play. RBs Darren Sproles (quad) and Miles Sanders (shoulder) are in.
Remember the days when Ertz was a matchup-proof top-three tight end? Those days are gone. Ertz is barely a top-six option in our Week 9 fantasy football rankings.
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.
- 2018 (18 games): 17.5 DraftKings points, +3.21 Plus/Minus, 50% Consistency Rating
- 2019 (eight games): 10.8 DraftKings points, -1.84 Plus/Minus, 25% Consistency Rating
Perusing Ertz’s 2019 stat line is like looking at George Costanza’s 1992 hair line. “He’s not bald. He’s balding.”
And he’s got a tough matchup against the Bears, who have held similar tight ends — Darren Waller and Hunter Henry — to a reasonable 8.3 DraftKings points per game.
But Ertz has two big factors in his favor.
First, he’s on the positive side of his splits. Since he became a key contributor in 2014, Ertz has absolutely crushed as a home favorite, averaged 16.0 DraftKings points and a +5.37 Plus/Minus across 35 games.
Also, Ertz is incredibly cheap. He hasn’t been priced as low as $4,700 since Week 1 of the 2017 season.
Over the past couple of weeks, Ertz and second-year tight end Dallas Goedert have split targets evenly at 4.5 per game apiece, and Goedert has actually out-produced Ertz (7-91-2 vs. 4-58-0). But over that span, Ertz has out-snapped Goedert pretty easily (114 vs. 90), and for the season he is still averaging 7.9 targets per game.
At this point I feel a little uneasy about the idea of Ertz in cash — he’s coming off a scoreless two-reception, 20-yard game — but a guy with his combination of volume and salary is tempting.
As was the case last week, Ertz is the No. 1 tight end in the Levitan and Raybon Models for DraftKings, where he has position-high marks with a +2.51 Projected Plus/Minus and seven Pro Trends. For good measure, he’s also the top option in the Raybon Model for FanDuel.
Greg Olsen: Carolina Panthers (-3.5) vs. Tennessee Titans, 42 O/U
UPDATE (Nov. 2): QB Cam Newton (foot) and LT Greg Little (concussion) are out. WR Curtis Samuel (shoulder) is officially questionable but expected to play. Titans CB Adoree’ Jackson (foot) is in.
We’ve now reached the “I don’t want to write about ’em, you don’t want to read about ’em” segment of the breakdown. I’ll get through this as quickly as I can.
The bad news for Olsen is that starting quarterback Cam Newton (foot) is almost certain to be out at least one more week. The good news for Olsen is that it probably doesn’t matter if Cam is out.
Since 2017, when Olsen reached the “Jason Witten phase” of his career, he’s been pretty much as good with backup Kyle Allen as he has been with everyone else (per RotoViz Game Splits App).
The Titans are No. 21 with an 11.0% pass defense DVOA against tight ends. Against the five tight ends they’ve faced with Olsen-similar salaries — David Njoku, Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Dawson Knox and Hunter Henry — the Titans have allowed 9.6 DraftKings points per game with a +2.68 Plus/Minus.
Olsen is likely to have a sub-5% ownership rate, and if he hits the high end of his range of outcomes, he will likely provide GPP value as a lineup differentiator.
Olsen is the No. 1 tight end in the Bales Model for DraftKings, where he’s tied for No. 2 with five Pro Trends.
Cameron Brate: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+5) at Seattle Seahawks, 52.5 O/U
UPDATE (Nov. 2): TE O.J. Howard (hamstring) is out. Seahawks CB Tre Flowers (neck) is in while S Quandre Diggs (hamstring) and defensive end Quinton Jefferson (oblique) are doubtful.
Full disclosure: I’m not touching Brate in cash games or GPPs, but I get why he’s popping in a couple of our Models.
Bucs-Seahawks has a slate-high 52.5-point over/under, and No. 1 tight end O.J. Howard (hamstring) has been ruled out. Brate (ribs) is dealing with his own injury issue, but he at least practiced on Thursday.
Brate will have the majority of the positional work to himself. In each of the past three seasons, Brate has had at least six touchdowns and is an under-appreciated red-zone option.
Since 2016, Brate has managed 4.8 targets per game without Howard, and he’s been respectable with when Jameis Winston has been the full-time quarterback.
Last week, in his first Howard-less action of the year, Brate saw six targets.
The Seahawks have allowed the fourth-most DraftKings points to tight ends with 16.5 per game, and they have injury issues at safety: Starter Tedric Thompson (shoulder, injured reserve) is definitely out, and the recently-acquired Quandre Diggs (hamstring) is yet to practice with the team.
Brate is the No. 1 tight end in the Freedman and SportsGeek Models for DraftKings, where he has an elite 92% Bargain Rating.
Jack Doyle: Indianapolis Colts (-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers, 42 O/U
UPDATE (Nov. 2): WR T.Y. Hilton (calf) is out. TE Eric Ebron (calf) was not on the Friday injury report, so he’s in. Within Ebron in, I am much less likely to invest in Doyle.
After practicing fully on Wednesday, No. 1 tight end Eric Ebron (ankle) popped up on the injury report on Thursday and missed practice. Midweek downgrades are never good, and Ebron should officially be considered questionable to play on Sunday.
If Ebron is out, Doyle will get most of the tight end work to himself.
Since the Week 6 bye, Doyle has had five targets in each game, and in his pre-Ebron glory days of 2017, Doyle averaged 7.5 targets per game in quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s 14 starts. With that usage, he was actually a pretty good fantasy tight end.
It’s not as if I want to roster Doyle, but he put up 12.0 DraftKings points with a less polished Brissett and much worse coaching staff in 2017.
“That’s $182 right there. I don’t think that’s anything to sneeze at.” Indeed, Jerry. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
The Steelers have allowed the eighth-most DraftKings points to tight ends with 13.9 per game.
I can’t believe I’m putting this in writing … but if Ebron is out, I actually might consider Doyle in cash games. At $3,000, he provides a lot of roster flexibility.
Doyle is the No. 1 tight end in the CSURAM88 and Koerner Models, where he has a 92% Bargain Rating.
Upside Tight Ends for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders ($6,300 DK, $6,800 FD): Waller is No. 2 at the position with 17.2 FanDuel points and No. 4 with 91.4 air yards and yards after the catch per game. He’s coming off an 11-yard game, but he still had a team-high eight targets and saved his day with a touchdown. Even with the return of wide receiver Tyrell Williams, the passing offense belongs to Waller, who has a team-high 58 targets, 46 receptions and 496 yards receiving. Waller leads the position with his floor projection on FanDuel, where he has seven Pro Trends. UPDATE (Nov. 2): Lions CB Darius Slay (hamstring) practiced fully on Friday and seems likely to play.
Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers ($4,300 DK, $6,000 FD): Graham has been horribly inconsistent, and he’s dropped at least three touchdowns this year. But leads the position with six end-zone targets, and he has 5.2 targets per game since the Packers committed to getting him the ball more in Week 4. The Chargers have played no elite tight ends this year, but when targeted, they are vulnerable to the position. In Week 3, the Texans funneled 11 targets to Darren Fells and Jordan Akins, which they turned into an 8-122-3 receiving smackdown. UPDATE (Nov. 2): WR Davante Adams (toe) practiced on a limited basis all week and is tentatively expected to play. Chargers DTs Brandon Mebane (knee) and Justin Jones (shoulder) and safety Roderic Teamer (groin) are doubtful.
Chris Herndon IV, New York Jets ($4,000 DK, $5,400 FD): Herndon (hamstring) has finally returned to practice and seems likely to make his season debut against the Dolphins. As a rookie, Herndon last year averaged 4.8 targets per game in the second half of the season and saw a snap rate of no less than 60% in any week. The Dolphins are No. 30 with a 29.2% pass defense DVOA against tight ends. UPDATE (Nov. 2): LT Kelvin Beachum (ankle) and TE Chris Herndon IV (hamstring) are questionable but still seem unlikely to play. Dolphins CBs Xavien Howard (knee, IR) and Ken Webster (ankle) are out while S Reshad Jones (chest) is doubtful.
Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans ($3,800 DK, $5,500 FD): Smith got the job done in Week 8, and he’s an option once again with starter Delanie Walker (ankle) expected to be out. In extended action over his past two games, Smith has put up a 9-142-1 receiving line on 10 targets. Over the past month (three games), George Kittle, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard and James O’Shaughnessy have combined for a 13-225-1 receiving line on 19 targets against the Panthers. UPDATE (Nov. 2): TE Delanie Walker (ankle) is out.
Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles ($3,100 DK, $5,000 FD): A top-tier prospect who probably should have been a first-round pick, Goedert is starting to come into his own in his second season. Despite playing behind Zach Ertz, Goedert has five targets for 3.3 receptions, 37.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game over the past month. He’s a future superstar. UPDATE (Nov. 2): WR DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is questionable but seems likely to play. RBs Darren Sproles (quad) and Miles Sanders (shoulder) are in.
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos ($3,000 DK, $4,600 FD): To quote Vice Admiral Holdo quoting General Organa, “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it …” Fant has a 60% snap rate in every game this year, he’s No. 6 among all tight ends with 207 routes run. Last week, in his first game without wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (traded), Fant had a team-high nine targets. Safety Damarious Randall (hamstring) missed last week is yet to practice this week. At some point, the night will end with the sun rising. UPDATE (Nov. 2): QB Joe Flacco (neck, IR) is out. QB Brandon Allen will start. TE Jeff Heuerman (knee) is out. Browns S Damarious Randall (hamstring) is out.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
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