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.
The NFL season rolls on. Teams have significantly underperformed their implied Vegas totals to open the year, but Week 6 looks like a beauty. Even with many desirable tight ends unavailable because they are on bye or in games not on the main slate — Zach Ertz, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Charles Clay, Delanie Walker, Jack Doyle, and others — Week 6 shines with fantasy splendor.
For analysis of the Sunday and Monday night games, see Justin Bailey’s prime time breakdown (out later this week). Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is explicitly for the 11-game DraftKings and 12-game FanDuel main slates.
To Gronk or not to Gronk?
Whenever Rob Gronkowski ($6,800 DraftKings, $8,000 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 the Shaquille O’Neal of tight ends. He might not be the best of all time, but he’s probably the most dominant. Even though Gronk has missed 25 games in his career, no one else in the league has more than his 70 touchdowns receiving since 2010.
After missing part of Week 4 and all of Week 5, Gronk (thigh) is expected to play this week, although he’s yet to have a full practice so he probably won’t be 100 percent healthy. Even with a subpar Week 1 and partial Week 4, Gronk is the No. 1 fantasy tight end this year, averaging 16.7 DraftKings and 13.45 FanDuel points per game (PPG). Gronk is a market share magnet, and he led the Patriots in target share before missing Week 5. Despite having the league’s highest average implied total at 28.9 PPG, the Patriots are top-10 with their +0.70 Vegas Plus/Minus. They’re rolling.
The Patriots are third in the slate with an implied total of 28.5 points and are -9.5 road favorites against the Jets, who last year allowed 10 touchdowns to tight ends but this year are second against the position in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). The difference between last year and this year is rookie strong safety Jamal Adams, who was drafted with the No. 6 overall pick and looks like a superstar in the making. Gronk is likely to run most of his routes against Adams, who has allowed only seven receptions through five games (Pro Football Focus). If Gronk get his targets he should be able to ether a rookie; given his health and the situation, Gronk might not get his targets. Gronk has the highest median and ceiling projections in our Models and is tied for the position lead with six Pro Trends on DraftKings. He’s the highest-rated FanDuel tight end in the Levitan Model — and Levitan’s not even a big fan of Gronk. Tournament exposure to Gronk is always warranted, but this isn’t a great spot for cash games.
The Dumpoff Pass
Travis Kelce ($6,100 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): Zeus leads the Chiefs with 37 targets and 29 receptions, functioning as the team’s 1B receiver to the 1A Tyreek Hill. Kelce has run 169 routes this season, and 121 of them were in the slot or out wide: The Chiefs line him up wherever they want or need to in order to get him the ball. That said, Kelce’s not in a great spot. The -4.0 home favorite Chiefs might not need to use Kelce much to win, and the Steelers are third in pass DVOA against the position. Kelce has the position’s highest floor projections, but he still doesn’t seem like an appetizing option for cash games.
Coby Fleener ($3,200 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel): The Saints are implied for 27.25 points as -4.5 home favorites in a game with a slate-high 50.0-point over/under. Fleener has had big home/road splits with the Saints, averaging +4.05 DraftKings and +2.89 FanDuel Plus/Minus values at the Superdome. The Lions are 28th in pass DVOA against tight ends.
Austin Hooper ($3,500 DraftKings, $4,800 FanDuel): With slot receiver Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) out for Week 6, Hooper will likely seem more targets against the Dolphins, who have allowed top-six fantasy marks of 15.7 DraftKings and 12.2 FanDuel PPG to tight ends. Hooper had seven targets last week and four red zone targets in his three most recent games. The Falcons lead the slate with an implied total of 29.5 points and are -13.0 home favorites.
Martellus Bennett ($3,600 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel): Bennett is tied for second on the Packers with 31 targets, and he’s played on 84.0 percent of the offensive snaps. The Vikings are tough on wide receivers, holding them to the third-fewest fantasy points on the season, but they’re 25th in pass DVOA against tight ends.
Kyle Rudolph ($3,800 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel): Quarterback Sam Bradford (knee) is out, which isn’t great for Rudolph, but he has four red zone targets this year (in addition to his 28 from last year), and he has PFF’s most tight end-friendly matchup of the week against Packers rookie strong safety Josh Jones (42.6 PFF), although it’s possible he might see some of secondary ace Morgan Burnett, who has played most of his coverage snaps this year at linebacker (65) and slot corner (57) instead of safety (20). Still, with Stefon Diggs (groin) out, Rudolph will likely see extra targets.
Evan Engram ($3,800 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel): Available in the FanDuel (but not DraftKings) main slate, Engram was serving as the Giants’ de facto No. 2 receiving option entering Week 5 — and then wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard all suffered ankle injuries that took them out of the game. OBJ and Marshall are out for the season and Shepard is out for Week 6. Engram could be New York’s primary receiver against Denver. The Giants are +11.5 road dogs and should have a pass-skewed game script for most of the contest. While the circumstances are awful, the matchup is good. Last year the Broncos were fifth in pass DVOA against tight end. This year, however, with the departure of strong safety T.J. Ward via free agency, the Broncos are 26th.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($4,300 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel): Since returning from suspension in Week 3, ASJ leads the Jets with 18 targets and 15 receptions, and now he’s facing a Patriots defense that this year has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends with 17.1 DraftKings and 14.3 FanDuel PPG. The Jets are +9.5 home dogs and will likely have a pass-heavy game script.
George Kittle ($3,400 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel): Kittle is third on the 49ers with 23 targets and 17 receptions. An 88th percentile SPARQ-x athlete (PlayerProfiler), Kittle has adapted quickly to the NFL and been used all over the field, running more collective routes in the slot (56), out wide (17), and from the backfield (7) than as a traditional inline tight end (79). The 49ers are +11.0 road dogs and will likely need to throw to keep pace with the Redskins, who are 31st in pass DVOA against tight ends.
David Njoku ($3,000 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel): The 21-year-old first-rounder is being brought along slowly, playing only 45.4 percent of Cleveland’s offensive snaps through the first five weeks, but Njoku has been a stud when targeted, catching 80 percent of his 15 targets for 118 yards and a team-leading three touchdowns. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is getting the start this week, and Njoku has been especially studly with him, turning his four targets from Hogan into a 4/71/2 receiving line. (I know the sample is small, but it’s bound to be small with a rookie.) No tight end in NFL history has scored more than his three touchdowns through the first five games of his career. Njoku was a stud in college and is highly comparable as a first-year asset to several All-Pro and Hall-of-Fame tight ends. Njoku has a ridiculous 50 percent of his team’s receiving touchdowns. It might not happen this week — the Browns are +10.0 road dogs to the Texans — but the eruption is coming.
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):
- Jordan Reed ($5,000 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel)
- Zach Miller ($2,900 DraftKings, $5,000 FanDuel)
- Ryan Griffin ($4,000 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel)
- Eric Ebron ($3,000 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel)
Reed has been a Gronkian producer since 2015 with 15.29 DraftKings and 12.20 FanDuel PPG — but like Gronk he seems to suffer more than his fair share of injuries. Reed exited Week 2 early with a chest injury, missed Week 3, played just 28.0 percent of the snaps in Week 4, and coming out of a Week 5 bye now seems ready-ish to go for Week 6 — but he’s still not 100 percent. The Redskins are second on the slate with an implied total of 28.75 points, so Reed and his teammates have a lot of upside, but they’re also -11.0 home favorites: The Redskins aren’t likely to need to rely on Reed in order to win. On top of that, the 49ers present a tough matchup. Although they’re 26th in pass DVOA in general, they’re first in pass DVOA against tight ends thanks to the play of Jaquiski Tartt, who has a near-elite 88.9 PFF grade after shifting from free safety to strong safety in the offseason. Like Gronk, Reed is tied for the position lead with six Pro Trends on DraftKings, and he’s the highest-rated tight end in the Bales Model for DraftKings and FanDuel — but we’re projecting Reed to be the slate’s highest-owned player at his position. He’s fine for GPPs, but he carries a lot of risk.
Miller leads the Bears with a 16.8 percent target share over the last four games, and last week in quarterback Mitch Trubisky‘s first start he led the team in targets and caught Trubisky’s lone touchdown pass. The Bears are +6.5 home dogs and could have a pass-leaning game script for much of the contest against the Ravens, who are dead last in pass DVOA against tight ends. Sporting a Monday Night Football discount, Miller is tied for the position lead with six Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the highest-rated tight end in the CSURAM88 and Levitan Models.
With C.J. Fiedorowicz (concussion) on the Injured Reserve, Griffin has been Houston’s primary tight end since Week 3, playing on 88.6 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Although Griffin has had only intermittent NFL success throughout his five-year career, he did have a career-best 50/442/2 receiving line last year on 74 targets, and as a senior at Connecticut in 2012 he had a Gronk-esque 60 percent of his team’s receiving touchdowns. He has latent upside — especially this week against the Browns, who have allowed the most fantasy points to tight ends this year with 19.9 DraftKings and 16.0 FanDuel PPG. That they’ve allowed 28 touchdowns to the position over their last 37 games is almost unfathomable. The Texans are third in the slate with an implied total of 28.5 points, and they’re -10.0 favorites at home. On the Week 6 NFL Daily Fantasy Flex, Griffin was identified as one of the high-upside low-cost options for the slate, and it helps that he’s playing with quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is perhaps the greatest first-month NFL rookie in the history of the universe. Griffin leads the position with a 99 percent Bargain Rating on FanDuel, where he’s the highest-rated tight end in the CSURAM88 and SportsGeek Models. Use our Lineup Builder to stack Griffin with Watson and basically anyone else in a Texans uniform.
Ebron is the highest-rated DraftKings tight end in the SportsGeek Model. The case for him can be made in two words: Coors Field. The case against him can also be made in two words: Darren Fells.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the tight ends for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 6 positional breakdowns:
Good luck this week!
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