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 11: It’s here and about as uninspiring as Weeks 8-10 were. The Panthers, Jets, 49ers, and Colts are on bye. The Titans and Steelers (Thursday night) and Falcons and Seahawks (Monday night) are also absent from the main slate, as are the Cowboys and Eagles (Sunday night) on DraftKings. In the words of Fletcher Reede, “I’ve had better.” At least this is the last of the bye weeks, thank the fantasy gawds.
Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is explicitly for the 11-game DraftKings and 12-game FanDuel main slates.
The Big Two (or Three)
In ordinary slates one player dominates the top of the tight end salary scale, but this isn’t an ordinary slate.
- Rob Gronkowski ($7,200 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel)
- Travis Kelce ($7,300 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel)
- Zach Ertz ($6,800 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel)
Once more unto the breach, dear friends.
To Gronk or not to Gronk?
Whenever Gronk is in a slate one of the first questions daily fantasy players must ask themselves is whether they wish to Gronk. 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. First on the Patriots with 7.9 targets per game, Gronk is an atypical tight end in that, despite his size and prowess as a blocker, he has the position’s highest average depth of target (aDOT) at 12.6 yards. As a point of comparison: Wide receiver Chris Hogan has an aDOT of 12.5. Of all the receivers quarterback Tom Brady has targeted in the post-Deflategate suspension era, Gronk has gifted Brady with the highest adjusted yards per attempt at 13.0. Gronk often isn’t the best DFS play, but he’s still the best tight end in the league.
Playing at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, the Patriots lead the slate with an implied total of 31.0 points as -7.0 favorites. Mexico City is 7,382 feet above sea level, and the Pats stayed in Colorado after their Week 10 game in Denver so they could acclimate to the thin air, which could give them a big conditioning edge, especially in the second half. The game has a slate-high total of 55.0 points, so Gronk could find himself in a shootout getting extra opportunities against a Raiders team that is 30th in pass defense against tight ends in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA): Gronk has a great matchup, and because of Kelce’s circumstances (more on that later) Gronk could be a pivot play. Gronk leads all tight ends with a 99 percent Bargain Rating on FanDuel, where he has a position-high median projection and is the highest-rated tight end in the SportsGeek Model.
Mount Olympus, Kansas City
As mentioned on the Week 11 Daily Fantasy Flex, Kelce is a potential chalk lock. Zeus leads the Chiefs with 68 targets, 51 receptions, 629 receiving yards, and five touchdowns receiving; he’s second to wide receiver Tyreek Hill with 607 air yards and third to running back Kareem Hunt and Hill with 234 yards after the catch. At worst, Kelce is the 1B to Hill’s 1A. He’s a market share monster. Kelce has run 306 routes this year: 71 were as an inline tight end, but 157 were from the slot, 76 were out wide, and two were from the backfield. Kelce is PFF’s No. 1 tight end with an overall grade of 89.8, but when the Chiefs intend to use him as a pass catcher he’s less of a tight end and more of a big-bodied wide receiver. The Chiefs line him up wherever they want or need to in order to get him the ball.
Kelce will absolutely lead all tight ends in ownership: He has one of the best matchups on the slate. The Chiefs are implied for 28.5 points as -10.5 road favorites against the Giants, who have allowed top-three marks of 17.8 DraftKings and 15.1 FanDuel points per game (PPG) as well as a league-high nine touchdowns to tight ends. The Giants have also allowed opponents to hit their implied totals in a league-high seven games. In any given game, Kelce has the capability to go Zeus Mode on a defense: No pass catcher has more games with at least 100 yards and a touchdown receiving than Kelce has with three. The Chiefs have the slate’s highest passing points expectation, so this game will likely be a popular one to stack. Use our Lineup Builder to stack Kelce with quarterback Alex Smith and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Kelce leads the position with seven DraftKings and 10 FanDuel Pro Trends.
“Everybody Ertz Sometimes”
Available on the FanDuel main slate only, Ertz (hamstring) missed Week 9 with an injury and then had a bye in Week 10, but he has practiced fully this week and is expected to play. The Eagles are -3.5 road favorites and can seize total control of the NFC East with a win over the Cowboys. The Eagles lead the league with 15 passing touchdowns in the red zone and 30 offensive touchdowns overall. They’ve also hit their implied Vegas total in an NFL-best eight of nine games. The Cowboys will likely be without linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring), and in three games without him they’ve allowed 32.3 PPG. The Cowboys are 28th in pass DVOA against tight ends: Like Gronk and Kelce, Ertz is in a great spot.
Over his last 16 outings, Ertz has turned 142 targets into a wide receiver-like stat line of 98/1,097/10. In his 10 games since last year without Jordan Matthews, Ertz has functioned as the team’s slot man, turning 95 targets into a 65/746/9 line. Along with Gronk and Kelce, Ertz is a top-three fantasy tight end. As bad as the Chip Kelly era was in Philadelphia, he at least did something right in drafting Ertz, who leads the position with his ceiling projections and is the highest-rated FanDuel tight end in the Levitan Model.
The Dumpoff Pass
Evan Engram ($6,000 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 38 targets into a 21/243/4 receiving line over four games. Even before the injuries to OBJ and Marshall, Engram was still getting heavy usage. He has at least five targets for four receptions in eight of nine games played. The Giants are +10.5 home dogs and will likely have a pass-heavy game script against the Chiefs, who haven’t been great against tight ends since All-Pro safety Eric Berry (Achilles’) suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1. The defender Engram is likely to see most is safety/linebacker Daniel Sorensen, who has a 36.8 Pro Football Focus grade. Even though he’s a rookie, Engram can win that matchup.
Kyle Rudolph ($4,400 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel): Rudolph has at least seven targets and five receptions in each of the last five games, and he has a massive 37 targets inside the red zone since last year. He’s an established part of the Vikings offense — but he could struggle this week. Rams linebacker/safety Mark Barron and strong safety Lamarcus Joyner both have PFF grades above 80.0. Under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the Rams are fourth against the position in pass DVOA.
Julius Thomas ($2,800 DraftKings, $5,000 FanDuel): This split might be meaningless, but since the Dolphins traded away running back Jay Ajayi they’ve relied more on their tight end, giving him 13 targets (three in the red zone) for an 8/92/2 line. At minimal ownership, that production isn’t bad.
Cameron Brate ($4,200 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel): After a six-game stretch (Weeks 3-8) in which he turned 6.8 targets per game into 15.18 DraftKings and 12.77 FanDuel PPG with 100 percent Consistency Ratings, Brate has punished investors for the past two weeks with a total of seven targets for two receptions and 19 yards. Brate has functioned primarily as an oversized receiver in the Buccaneers offense this year, running 186 of his 239 routes either out of the slot or out wide, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting at quarterback in place of the injured Jameis Winston (shoulder) Brate ran a season-low 19 routes last week. With wide receiver Mike Evans returning from suspension, Brate doesn’t seem likely to earn a big increase in target share this week.
Adam Shaheen ($2,500 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel): Starting in place of Dion Sims (illness), the second-round rookie last week played a career-high 51.7 percent of Chicago’s offensive snaps and ran a personal high of 13 routes, catching both of his targets for 39 yards. Sims is yet to practice this week, and the Bears are at home against the Lions, who are 29th in pass DVOA against tight ends. Shaheen’s ownership will be almost nonexistent.
Jared Cook ($4,800 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel): Cook is first on the Raiders with 39 receptions and 499 yards and second with 55 targets. Running 212 of his 270 routes from the slot or out wide, Cook is basically a wide receiver. The Raiders are +7.0 dogs in Mexico City against the Patriots, whose tight end defenders in slot corner/safety Patrick Chung and strong safety Devin McCourty are exploitable. The Patriots-Raiders game opened with an over/under of 50.0 points and has moved to a slate-high 55.0. Cook could benefit from a pass-heavy game script in a shootout.
Marcedes Lewis ($2,700 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel): The Jaguars are -7.5 road favorites against the Browns, who have a funnel defense ranked second against the run and 27th against the pass in DVOA. The Browns are especially vulnerable to tight ends and have allowed top-three fantasy marks of 18.0 DraftKings and 14.4 FanDuel PPG to the position. That they’ve allowed 30 touchdowns to tight ends over their last 41 games is almost unfathomable. Lewis leads the Jags with four of their 11 receiving touchdowns, and he could see extra targets: Browns cornerback Jason McCourty (PFF’s No. 2 cover corner) could shadow Jags wide receiver Marqise Lee, which would encourage quarterback Blake Bortles to target other pass catchers — perhaps those closer to the line of scrimmage, given that the Jags-Browns game has a forecast of 19-mph winds.
The Model Tight Ends
Besides Gronk and Ertz, there are four tight ends atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek).
- Vernon Davis ($4,600 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel)
- Tyler Kroft ($2,900 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel)
- Ben Watson ($2,800 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel)
- Coby Fleener ($2,500 DraftKings, $4,700 FanDuel)
Jordan Reed (hamstring) hasn’t practiced all week and seems extremely unlikely to play, so Davis will function as the primary receiving tight end for the Redskins for the fourth straight game. Davis has stark Reed splits with Washington: 3.4 targets for 2.5/38.1/0.06 in 17 games with Reed; 6.1 targets for 4.6/56.1/0.29 in six games without him. The Redskins are +7.5 road dogs against the Saints, who are fourth in pass DVOA but weaker against tight ends, as strong safety Vonn Bell, slot corner/strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, and outside linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o collectively have an average Pro Football Focus grade of 55.2. The Redskins-Saints game has the second-highest total on the slate at 51.0 points. Davis is pulling the Double Donk as the highest-rated FanDuel tight end in the Bales and CSURAM88 Models.
In place of the injured Tyler Eifert (back), Kroft has played on 94.3 percent of Cincinnati’s offensive snaps over the last seven games, turning 34 targets (four in the red zone) into a 25/286/3 line. Most of that production came against the hapless Browns, but that’s fine because Kroft has another Cleveland-caliber matchup this week in Denver. 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 24th, as strong safety Darian Stewart and safety/linebacker Will Parks have allowed 72.5 percent of the 51 passes thrown into their coverage to be completed (PFF). In total, opposing tight ends have scored the most fantasy points against the Broncos with 18.7 DraftKings and 15.3 FanDuel PPG. Kroft is tied for first at the position with a 97 percent Bargain Rating on DraftKings, where he’s the highest-rated tight end in the Bales Model.
Against all odds, Watson is the highest-rated DraftKings tight end in the CSURAM88 and Levitan Models. A first-round draft pick in 2003, Watson wears jock straps older than Jason Witten, but he’s second on the Ravens with 49 targets and 38 receptions, and he leads the team with six targets inside the 10-yard line. Watson’s in an intriguing spot. The Ravens are -2.0 road favorites against the Packers, who have held tight ends to the fewest fantasy points with 7.6 DraftKings and 5.5 FanDuel PPG. The Packers are the only team in the league yet to allow a touchdown to the position — but they are likely to be without all-around playmaking slot corner/strong safety Morgan Burnett (groin). In his absence, safety Marwin Evans and safety/linebacker Josh Jones — both of whom have poor PFF grades lower than 52.0 — will cover Watson, and those are matchups the #DadRunner can win.
Once again, Fleener is popping in our DraftKings Models because he’s cheap. Don’t think about playing him in cash games, but he’s worth considering in tournaments. The Saints are implied for 29.25 points as -7.5 favorites at the Coors Field of fantasy football, where Fleener can benefit from his severe home/road splits (9.55 DraftKings and 7.76 FanDuel PPG at home; 5.77 DraftKings and 4.64 FanDuel PPG on the road). The Redskins have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends with 16.8 DraftKings and 13.6 FanDuel PPG. Fleener is the highest-rated DraftKings tight end in the SportsGeek Model. If he ever were to play more than 35.0 percent of the snaps — he hasn’t crossed that threshold since the team’s Week 5 bye — he’d be more desirable.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the tight ends for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 11 positional breakdowns.
Good luck this week!
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