The Tight End Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s main NFL slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit our NFL Content Dashboard.
Week 1 witnessed a smorgasbord of suckiness: 18 teams failed to surpass the 21-point threshold, and the five most-expensive tight ends all failed to reach their salary-based expectations, averaging 6.18 DraftKings and 4.48 FanDuel points per game (PPG) with -7.48 and -5.61 Plus/Minus values (per our Trends tool).
Maybe the best that can be said for Week 1 is that Hunter Henry proved himself to be a reliable fantasy asset on prime time television. For analysis of the Thursday and Monday night games, see Joe Holka’s Thursday Night NFL Breakdown and Prime Time NFL Breakdown.
To Gronk or not to Gronk?
Whenever Rob Gronkowski ($6,900 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. When Gronk is healthy, he’s a top-five difference-making talent. As I said in the Patriots preseason preview, Gronk is the Shaquille O’Neal of tight ends. He might not be the best of all time — at least not yet — but he’s probably the most dominant. Even though Gronk has missed 24 games in his seven-year career, he still leads the league over that time with 68 touchdowns receiving and 69 total touchdowns. Think about that: Out of all the running backs and wide receivers to touch the ball literally hundreds of times over many seasons, not one of them has scored more touchdowns since 2010 — and Gronk has missed 21.4 percent of his games to injury and been hobbled in many of the games he’s played.
Last year Gronk led the position with 14.2 yards per target, and he was second with 2.55 fantasy points per target (PlayerProfiler) before his season ended early due to a back injury. Gronk practiced throughout the preseason and even saw some action in a preseason game for the first time since 2012. He reportedly cut out alcohol and coffee during the offseason in an attempt to improve and sustain his health. While Gronk didn’t impress with his performance in Week 1, finishing with a 2/33/0 receiving line, his six targets and 78 snaps played (96.3 percent) are encouraging for his first game back from the injury.
This week Gronk is in a good spot (per our NFL Matchups Dashboard). The Patriots are implied for a slate-high 31.0 points at the Superdome (the Coors Field of fantasy football), where the Pats-Saints game could shoot out with a slate-high 55.5-point total (per our Vegas Dashboard). Last year the Saints were 22nd against tight ends in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), and last week they allowed Kyle Rudolph to get into the end zone. Unsurprisingly, Gronk has the highest ceiling projections in our Models. That said, we’re expecting him to have relatively reduced ownership because of his high salary and the presence in the slate of other tight ends who offer value.
As a result, it’s possible that DFS players who are high on the Patriots could be contrarian by paying up for Gronk, which would create leverage against many of the other New England skill position players. Pro subscribers can review ownership trends across guaranteed prize pools of various buy-in levels with our DFS Ownership Dashboard after lineups lock. Use our Lineup Builder to stack Gronk in GPPs with quarterback Tom Brady, whose production since at least 2014 has been most closely tied to that of his TE1 with a correlation coefficient of 0.57 (per our Correlations Matrix). Based on a review of expensive stacks in the Week 1 DraftKings Millionaire Maker (per our DFS Contests Dashboard), it should be possible to stack Gronk with Brady while also creating unique and viable lineups.
The Dumpoff Pass
Don’t be a #DadRunner.
Zach Ertz ($5,300 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel): Ertz is $1,800 more expensive on DraftKings this week than he was last week. On FanDuel, though, he’s only $200 more expensive. After his 8/93/0 performance on eight targets, Ertz is likely to be a popular play across sites. The Eagles are 5.5-point road underdogs against the Chiefs and might slant toward the pass. Against a defense that now lacks cover safety Eric Berry, Ertz could be popular. He leads the position with a 99 percent Bargain Rating on FanDuel.
Travis Kelce ($5,100 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel): As mentioned in this week’s Rotoworld pivot piece, Kelce is a strong pivot play. After a mediocre outing last week (5/40/0), he has a tough matchup against an Eagles defense that last year was first against tight ends in pass DVOA. Nevertheless, Kelce has top-three ceiling projections and was a top-two fantasy tight end last year with 15.06 DraftKings and 11.28 FanDuel PPG. Last year in his All-Pro campaign, Kelce led all tight ends in ownership with rates of 10.4 and 12.3 percent on DraftKings and FanDuel. With possible single-digit ownership in Week 2, Kelce is investable at a discount.
Greg Olsen ($5,500 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Sandwiched between Gronk and Ertz on DraftKings, #überWitten has an almost nonexistent ownership projection. He was targeted just four times last week; in 2016, he was targeted an average of 8.1 times per game. Progression will come at some point.
Jimmy Graham ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel): The Seahawks are 14.0-point home favorites implied for 28.0 points against the 49ers, who last year were 27th in pass DVOA against tight ends. While his 3/8/0 line from Week 1 is disappointing, he did lead the team with seven targets. In his 14 games as a home favorite with the Seahawks, Graham has averaged 14.38 DraftKings and 11.45 FanDuel PPG with +3.95 and +3.49 Plus/Minus values.
Jordan Reed ($5,200 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel): The Redskins are 3.0-point road underdogs against the Rams. In his nine games as a road dog with Kirk Cousins as the starting quarterback, Reed has averaged 18.42 DraftKings and 14.27 FanDuel PPG with +7.10 and +5.76 Plus/Minus values. We’re projecting him for single-digit ownership. Reed could be a sneaky GPP play.
Delanie Walker ($4,700 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel): Of the Ertz-Kelce-Olsen-Graham-Reed-Walker tier, Walker has the lowest median projection and is playing in the game with the lowest over/under (42.0 points).
Charles Clay ($3,000 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel): Clay had a 4/53/1 performance in Week 1 and easily led the Bills with nine targets. This week the Bills are 7.5-point road underdogs to the Panthers. The Bills will probably need throw more than they did last week, and the Panthers last year allowed the second-most touchdowns to tight ends with 12.
Jared Cook ($3,300 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel): In Week 1 Cook was third on the team behind wide receivers Amari Cooper in market share of air yards (20.0 percent) and targets (15.6 percent) as he finished with a 5/56/0 stat line on five targets. This week the Raiders are 13.0-point home favorites implied for 28.25 points against the Jets, who last year allowed the third-most touchdowns to tight ends with 10.
Austin Hooper ($3,500 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel): Hooper flashed big-play ability last season in catching passes from quarterback Matt Ryan (12.3 adjusted yards per attempt), and then in Week 1 he turned two targets into a 2/128/1 stat line and one career-altering stiff arm. The Falcons are 3.0-point home favorites implied for 28.5 points against the Packers. Hooper warrants some GPP exposure.
Ben Watson ($2,600 DraftKings, $4,800 FanDuel): The Ravens are 8.0-point home favorites against the Browns, who last year were 32nd against tight ends in pass DVOA, allowing the most PPG (18.1 DraftKings, 14.5 FanDuel) to the position. Over the last 33 games the Browns have allowed 25 touchdowns to tight ends.
The Model Tight Ends
Besides Gronk, there are currently four tight ends atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek):
- Kyle Rudolph ($4,200 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel)
- Coby Fleener ($3,100 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel)
- Antonio Gates ($3,000 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel)
- Cameron Brate ($3,000 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel)
Rudolph last year led the Vikings with 132 targets and seven touchdowns, and he was second in the NFL in both raw and market share red-zone usage, finishing with 24 targets and 32.4 percent of Minnesota’s targets inside the 20-yard line. The Vikings are 5.5-point road underdogs to the Steelers and will likely find themselves in a pass-happy game script. Rudolph leads the slate with nine Pro Trends on FanDuel, where he’s the top tight end in the Bales, CSURAM88, and Levitan Models.
Fleener is the chalk on DraftKings, where he is tied for first with seven Pro Trends and projected to have an ownership rate as high as 20 percent. Although he disappointed in his first season in New Orleans, finishing 28th with 1.67 fantasy points per target, Fleener was much more productive at the Superdome (11.85 DraftKings PPG) than on the road (5.69), and in his three games with a touchdown he averaged 21.07 DraftKings PPG. Additionally, the sample is small, but in Fleener’s two games without Willie Snead (suspended) he’s averaged 8.5 targets per game for a 6/81.5/1 stat line. With the Saints at home as 6.5-point underdogs against the Patriots in what’s likely to be a high-scoring pass-heavy game, Fleener has appeal individually and as a member of Saints and game stacks. Fleener is the top DraftKings tight end in the Levitan Model.
Gates is old — but last week he looked like the primary tight end for the Chargers and Hunter Henry ($3,600 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel) looked like Ladarius Green (per the Week 2 Market Share Report):
- Snaps: 39 vs. 23
- Target Share (percent): 9.1 vs. 0.0
#NarrativeStreet TRIGGER WARNING: The Chargers are playing in their first regular season home game in Los Angeles since 1960, and Gates is one touchdown away from No. 112, which would break his tie with Tony Gonzalez and give him the most touchdowns receiving all time for a tight end. The Chargers want Gates to score in this game. It helps that the Chargers are playing the Dolphins, who last year allowed the third-most touchdowns to tight ends with 10. Gates is the top DraftKings tight end in the Bales and SportsGeek Models.
Brate is exactly the same price as Gates on both sites but projected for lower ownership. He and the rookie O.J. Howard ($2,900 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel) are in a nice spot: The Buccaneers are 7.0-point home favorites implied for 25.0 points against the Bears, who last year were 28th in pass DVOA against tight ends. The median projections aren’t strong for Brate and Howard, but they’re both cheap, especially on DraftKings, where they have Bargain Ratings of 95 and 97 percent. Brate is the top DraftKings tight end in the CSURAM88 Model.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to read the other Week 2 positional breakdowns:
• Running Backs
• Wide Receivers
Also, visit our suite of Tools to research all of the slate’s tight ends for yourself.
Good luck this week!
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