The Tight End Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s main NFL slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit the NFL homepage.
Week 10 is a lot like Week 9 — except much more naked at the tight end position. The Eagles, Chiefs, Raiders, and Ravens are on bye. The Seahawks and Cardinals (Thursday night) and Dolphins and Panthers (Monday night) are also absent from the main slate, as are the Patriots and Broncos (Sunday night) on DraftKings. As the saying goes, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is explicitly for the 10-game DraftKings and 11-game FanDuel main slates.
To Gronk or not to Gronk? — Sort Of
Whenever Rob Gronkowski ($7,000 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel) is in a slate one of the first questions daily fantasy players must ask themselves is whether they wish to Gronk. That question is even more complicated this week since Gronk, playing in the Sunday Night Football game, is available on the FanDuel (but not the DraftKings) main slate. When healthy, Gronk’s the Shaquille O’Neal of tight ends. Even though Gronk has missed 25 games in his career, he leads the league with 73 touchdowns receiving since 2010. Even with a subpar Week 1 and partial Week 4, Gronk is a top-two fantasy tight end, averaging 16.84 DraftKings and 13.99 FanDuel points per game (PPG) with +0.86 and +0.69 Plus/Minus values. First on the Patriots with 56 targets, Gronk is a market share magnet.
The Patriots are implied for 26.5 points as -7.5 favorites, so Gronk is in a good Vegas spot, but the Pats are on the road at Mile High against a Denver defense ranked sixth in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). The Broncos, though, have not been as defensively stout as their DVOA suggests: They are last with a -4.53 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus and have allowed a league-high six opponents to hit their implied team totals. Gronk actually has a great matchup. The Broncos last year were fifth against tight ends in pass DVOA. This year, however, with the departure of strong safety T.J. Ward via free agency, the Broncos are 25th, as strong safety Darian Stewart and safety/linebacker Will Parks have allowed 70.5 percent of the 44 passes thrown into their coverage to be completed (Pro Football Focus). In total, opposing tight ends have scored the third-most fantasy points against the Broncos with 17.8 DraftKings and 14.5 FanDuel PPG. Gronk has the position’s highest median and ceiling projections in our Models and is a desirable (albeit expensive) tournament play. Use our Lineup Builder to stack him with quarterback Tom Brady.
Gronk is tied for the position high with eight Pro Trends on FanDuel, where he’s the highest-rated tight end in the SportsGeek Model: #GronkSmash.
The Dumpoff Pass
Evan Engram ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel): Wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (ankle) suffered season-ending ankle injuries in Week 5, and since then Engram has functioned as New York’s No. 1 receiver, turning 29 targets into a 15/212/3 receiving line over three games. Even before the injuries to OBJ and Marshall, Engram was still getting heavy usage. He has at least five targets for four receptions and 40 yards receiving in seven of eight games played. He’s in a great spot this week: Although the Giants opened as +1.0 road dogs against the winless (0-9) 49ers, they are now -2.5 favorites. Although the 49ers defense is a disaster, ranking 27th in pass DVOA, it’s actually been strong against tight ends this year, ranking first in pass DVOA against the position. That ranking, however, is largely irrelevant now, as starting strong safety Jaquiski Tartt (arm) and starting free safety Jimmie Ward (arm) have both suffered season-ending injuries. The players now primarily responsible for defending tight ends are strong safety Dexter McCoil and safety/linebacker Eric Reid, both of whom have PFF grades below 50.0. Engram leads the Giants with 56 targets, 34 receptions, 412 receiving yards, 527 air yards, 196 yards after the catch, and four receiving touchdowns. As mentioned on the Week 10 Daily Fantasy Flex, Engram is a high-priced tight end worth his salary.
Charles Clay ($4,200 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel): Clay (knee) has dealt with injury issues since early October, but he is expected to play this week. For the first month of the season Clay was the No. 1 receiver in Buffalo, leading the Bills with 25 targets, 227 yards receiving, and two touchdowns receiving. The Bills are +3.0 home dogs against the Saints, who are fourth in pass DVOA but vulnerable against tight ends, as strong safety Vonn Bell, slot corner/strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, and outside linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o all have below-average PFF grades.
Austin Hooper ($3,000 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel): The Falcons are implied for 25.75 points as -3.0 home favorites against the Cowboys, who are 26th in pass DVOA. The weakest member of the Cowboys nickel package is strong safety Jeff Heath (53.9 PFF), the primary pass defender against tight ends. Since the beginning of October, Hooper has 5.8 targets per game.
Jack Doyle ($5,200 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel): Since his Week 6 return from a concussion, Doyle has dominated the Colts passing game, turning 41 targets into a 33/278/2 receiving line in his last four games. The Colts are -10.0 dogs at home, so Doyle is likely to benefit from a pass-skewed game script in the climate-controlled FieldTurf-ed Lucas Oil Stadium. As a pass catcher he is less of a tight end and more of a wide receiver, running 72.4 percent of his routes when lined up in the slot or out wide, and his low average depth of target of 5.5 yards has helped him serve as a security blanket for Jacoby Brissett and convert 78.1 percent of his 64 targets. There’s just one problem: He’s facing the Steelers, who are second in pass DVOA against the position. He has the position’s highest floor projections in our Model, but he also has limited upside against PFF’s No. 5 linebacker in Ryan Shazier.
David Njoku ($2,600 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel): The 21-year-old first-rounder is third on the Browns with 32 targets, 18 receptions, and 195 receiving yards, but he’s first with three receiving touchdowns and six red zone targets (four of which have come in the last three games). He’s playing only 43.1 percent of Cleveland’s offensive snaps, but against the Lions he could smash: The Browns are implied for just 16.25 points as +11.0 road dogs, but the Lions have a tight end-flowing aerial funnel on defense, ranking 12th in pass DVOA overall but 31st against tight ends. Njoku owns 42.9 percent of his team’s receiving touchdowns, he was a stud in college, and he is highly comparable as a first-year asset to several All-Pro and Hall-of-Fame tight ends. It might not happen this week, but the eruption is coming.
Hunter Henry ($3,900 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel): The Chargers are coming off a bye. During the week off, they might’ve realized that it’s better to throw at safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson than cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye — not much better, but still better. The Chargers are +3.5 road dogs against the Jaguars, who are first in overall and pass DVOA but ‘merely’ 10th in pass DVOA against tight ends.
Delanie Walker ($4,900 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel): Walker has underwhelmed this season, but much of his fantasy underperformance is tied to his failure to reach the end zone. As the primary receiver for the Titans in 2014-16, Walker had 7.6 targets per game and 8.15 yards per target; this year those numbers are 6.8 and 7.3. That dip in volume and efficiency isn’t insignificant, but the real shortfall has to do with his 0.0 percent touchdown rate as a receiver. As long as Walker continues to get his targets, he’s likely to progress toward his 2014-16 rate of 4.99 percent. The Titans are -4.5 home favorites against the Bengals, who are 27th in pass DVOA against tight ends. Walker has a position-high 99 percent FanDuel Bargain Rating, and he’s still a top-two receiver on the team with 54 targets, 37 receptions, and 395 yards.
Vernon Davis ($4,700 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel): Jordan Reed (hamstring) has been limited in practice and is uncertain for this week, and Davis has stark Reed splits with Washington: 3.4 targets for 2.5/38.1/0.06 in 17 games with Reed; 5.3 targets for 4.2/52.8/0.33 in six games without him. Be sure to monitor Reed’s situation as Sunday approaches.
Tyler Kroft ($3,600 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel): There are two kinds of people in life: Those who run away from dumpster fires, and those who run toward them. And those who write about them. And those who start them. There are four kinds of people in life.
Jason Witten ($4,400 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel): #DadRunner is second on the Cowboys with nine red zone targets, and wide receiver Dez Bryant (knee, ankle) is dealing with injuries and yet to practice this week. If Dez is inactive, a share of his red zone usage (14 targets this year) could go to Witten.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel): If there’s anything that 16th- and 17th-century British literature teaches, it’s that vengeance is just as good of a motivation as anything else — and ASJ has some retribution to dispense this week. The Jets are -2.5 road favorites against the Bucs, the team that cut him last year. Since returning from suspension, ASJ is first on the team with 33 receptions and second with 41 targets and three touchdowns. If you’re looking for retribution compounded, I don’t mind stacking ASJ with quarterback Josh McCown, who also finds himself in a head-to-head #RevengeGame with former Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Tyler Higbee ($2,800 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel) and Gerald Everett ($2,500 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel): The Rams lead the slate with an implied total of 28.25 points as -11.0 home favorites against the Texans, who have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends with 15.3 DraftKings and 12.3 FanDuel PPG. I wouldn’t roster them, but that doesn’t mean one of them won’t randomly score a touchdown.
The Model Tight Ends
Besides Gronk, there are five tight ends atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek):
- Kyle Rudolph ($4,600 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel)
- Cameron Brate ($4,100 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel)
- Eric Ebron ($3,100 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel)
- Coby Fleener ($2,600 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel)
- Garrett Celek ($2,500 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel)
The investment case for Rudolph is simple: He has eight red zone targets this year (in addition to his 28 from last year), and the Vikings are -1.5 favorites against the Redskins, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends with 17.0 DraftKings and 13.7 FanDuel PPG. In fact, the Redskins have a tight end-flowing aerial funnel on defense, ranking top-six in pass DVOA against primary, secondary, and supplementary wide receivers but 29th in pass DVOA against tight ends. Rudolph is the highest-rated FanDuel tight end in the Levitan Model.
Brate has a tough matchup against the Jets, who are fifth in pass DVOA against tight ends thanks to strong safety Jamal Adams (76.5 PFF) and linebacker Demario Davis (80.4 PFF), but Brate could see extra targets, as wide receiver Mike Evans (suspension) is out. With the soft-tossing Fitzpatrick in at quarterback for Jameis Winston (shoulder) it’s possible more targets could be funneled closer to the line of scrimmage instead of downfield to the speedster and fill-in No. 1 receiver DeSean Jackson. Given that Brate has run 171 of his 220 routes either from the slot or out wide, it’s possible that he could function even more as a de facto wideout in Evans’ absence. O.J. Howard ($2,500 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel) is of some interest — he has a position-high 99 percent DraftKings Bargain Rating — but Brate is the real asset among the Bucs tight ends: He leads the position in Pro Trends with six on DraftKings and eight on FanDuel, where he pulls off “The Double Donk” as the highest-rated tight end in the Bales and CSURAM88 Models.
It’s hard to trust Ebron, especially since Darren Fells ($2,500 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel) has out-snapped him (323 to 310), but Ebron at least has 4.5 targets per game with six red zone targets on the season. The Lions are implied for 27.25 points as -11.0 home favorites against the Browns, who have a funnel defense ranked first against the rush and 28th against the pass in DVOA. The Browns are especially vulnerable to tight ends and have allowed top-two fantasy marks of 18.8 DraftKings and 14.8 FanDuel PPG to the position. That they’ve allowed 29 touchdowns to tight ends over their last 40 games is almost unfathomable. The Lions have the slate’s highest point expectation via the passing game, which makes Ebron (and maybe even Fells) highly attractive. If there were ever a game to be on Ebron, it’s this one. Ebron will have low ownership and serve as fantastic leverage on wide receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. Ebron is the highest-rated DraftKings tight end in the Levitan and SportsGeek Models.
A few times per year, like an incurable herpes, Fleener pops up in our Pro Models. He’s the virus in the system. Just wait a week and he’ll go away. The Saints are implied for 24.75 points as -3.0 favorites, and Fleener plays with a historically tight end-friendly quarterback in Drew Brees, but the Saints are averaging only 34.4 passes per game, Fleener has been awful away from the Coors Field of fantasy football (18.2 percent Consistency Ratings), and the Bills have two top-12 PFF safeties to defend Fleener in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. Fleener’s the highest-rated DraftKings tight end in the CSURAM88 Model primarily because he’s cheap — but don’t even think about playing him in cash games.
Oh, mama. Celek is stone minimum on both sites, and he’s now the No. 1 tight end with George Kittle (ankle) out for Week 10. Kittle was injured in the first quarter of San Francisco’s Week 9 loss to the Cardinals, and Celek stepped in to set personal season-high marks with 73.3 percent of the snaps played, 25 routes run (10 of which were in the slot), and four targets (one of which was inside the 10-yard line). With wide receivers Pierre Garcon (neck, Injured Reserve) and Trent Taylor (rib) also out, Celek has a massive opportunity to approach double-digit targets as a middle-of-the-field option for rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard. The 49ers are implied for only 19.5 points as +2.5 dogs, but they’re at home and facing the Giants, who have allowed a top-two mark of 18.0 DraftKings and 15.1 FanDuel PPG to opposing tight ends. Celek is the free square: The Giants have a league-high eight touchdowns allowed to the position in eight games, the 49ers lead the league with a 66.7 percent pass rate, and we’re projecting Celek for almost nonexistent ownership (but I expect his ownership projection will increase once more people appreciate Celek’s spot this week). One word: Delicious.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the tight ends for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 10 positional breakdowns:
• Running Backs
• Wide Receivers
Good luck this week!
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