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.
Although teams have significantly underperformed their implied Vegas totals to open the year, Week 6 was fantastic as several teams outperformed expectations by double-digit point totals. With seven home underdogs, Week 7 is intriguing despite the absence of several desirable tight ends, such as Zach Ertz, Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce, et al. For analysis of the Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night games, see Joe Holka’s Thursday night breakdown and Justin Bailey’s prime time breakdown (out later this week). Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is explicitly for the 12-game DraftKings and 13-game FanDuel main slates.
To Gronk or not to Gronk? — Sort Of
Whenever Rob Gronkowski ($7,300 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel) is in a slate one of the first questions daily fantasy players must ask themselves is whether they wish to Gronk. Of course, 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 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 72 touchdowns receiving since 2010.
After missing part of Week 4 and all of Week 5, Gronk is off of the injury report and seemingly as healthy as anyone could expect him to be seven weeks into the season. Even with a subpar Week 1 and partial Week 4, Gronk is the No. 1 fantasy tight end this year, averaging 18.62 DraftKings and 15.42 FanDuel points per game (PPG) with +2.92 and +2.29 Plus/Minus values. Gronk is a market share magnet and only two targets off the team lead even though he’s missed time.
The Patriots are first in the slate with an implied total of 30.0 points and are -3.5 home favorites in their Super Bowl rematch, which easily leads the slate with an over/under of 56.5 points. The Falcons are yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end, so Gronkowski doesn’t have a great matchup: Strong safety Keanu Neal is one of the better pass defenders at his position with a 79.2 Pro Football Focus coverage grade. Still, Gronk has the highest median, ceiling, and floor projections in our Models. He’s likely too expensive for most people to roster comfortably in cash games, but he’s always in play for guaranteed prize pools. Use our Lineup Builder to stack him with quarterback Tom Brady.
The Dumpoff Pass
Evan Engram ($4,400 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel): Wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard all suffered ankle injuries in Week 5. OBJ and Marshall are out for the season. Shepard missed last week but is possible for this week. Engram has at least five targets for four receptions and 40 yards receiving in five of his six games played, and last week he functioned as New York’s primary receiver, turning seven targets into a 5/82/1 stat line. The rookie might struggle versus Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor — Seattle is eighth against tight ends in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) — but Engram’s role in his offense is hard to overlook: He’s yet to play less than 70.0 percent of the snaps in any game. We’re projecting him to be popular.
George Kittle ($3,600 DraftKings, $4,800 FanDuel): Kittle is third on the 49ers with 31 targets and 21 receptions, and over the last two weeks alone he has 17 targets overall, seven of which were in the red zone. 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 (76), out wide (19), and from the backfield (10) than as a traditional inline tight end (93) — and now he has his college quarterback C.J. Beathard throwing him the ball. At +6.0, the 49ers are the biggest dogs in the slate, and Kittle could benefit from a pass-leaning game script against the Cowboys, who are 29th in pass DVOA against tight ends. Kittle is tied for the position lead with six Pro Trends on DraftKings.
Delanie Walker ($5,800 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel): The Titans are implied for 25.5 points as -5.5 road favorites against the Browns, who have allowed the most fantasy points to tight ends this year with 18.9 DraftKings and 15.2 FanDuel PPG. That they’ve allowed 28 touchdowns to the position over their last 38 games is almost unfathomable.
Tyler Kroft ($3,000 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel): In place of the injured Tyler Eifert (back), Kroft has played on 91.6 percent of Cincinnati’s offensive snaps over the last three games, turning 16 targets (three in the red zone) into a 13/134/2 line. Granted, most of that production came against the hapless Browns, but Kroft is a former third-rounder who’s exhibited some talent. He leads the position with a 99 percent Bargain Rating on DraftKings.
Jimmy Graham ($4,900 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): In the aggregate, Graham’s seasonal numbers don’t look great — a 21/179/1 line on 35 targets — but at least he’s getting volume: He’s second on the Seahawks with a 19.6 percent target share. Plus, his performance has improved over his last three games: 17/170/1 on 25 targets. The Seahawks should be rested and prepared coming off a bye and are -4.5 favorites on the road against the Giants, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to the position with 18.2 DraftKings and 15.1 FanDuel PPG. Graham leads the position with 10 Pro Trends on FanDuel. It always feels risky to go with Graham in cash games, but this is a #SmashSpot.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($5,500 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel): Since returning from suspension in Week 3, ASJ leads the Jets with 29 targets, 23 receptions, and
three two touchdowns receiving. He’s one of the league leaders with four targets inside the 10-yard line over the last month. New York is a +3.0 road dog, so ASJets might benefit from a pass-leaning game script against the Dolphins, who have allowed an NFL-high seven receptions per game to tight ends.
The Model Tight Ends
There are currently seven — SEVEN! — tight ends atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek):
- Jason Witten ($4,500 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel)
- Hunter Henry ($4,200 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel)
- Austin Hooper ($4,100 DraftKings, $5,000 FanDuel)
- Kyle Rudolph ($3,800 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel)
- Zach Miller ($3,200 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel)
- Coby Fleener ($3,000 DraftKings, $5,000 FanDuel)
- Julius Thomas ($2,600 DraftKings, $4,600 FanDuel)
Witten has had an up-and-down season — 22 targets in Weeks 1-2, six in Weeks 3-4, and 10 in Week 5 — but on the whole Witten leads the Cowboys with 27 receptions and is second with 38 targets, 229 yards receiving, and two touchdowns receiving. He’s pacing for his best season since 2014, his last Pro-Bowl campaign. On the positive side, the Cowboys are implied for 26.25 points as slate-high -6.0 favorites, and they’re coming off a bye: Witten’s #DadRunner bod could be especially spry this week. On the negative side, the Cowboys are on the road and playing against the 49ers, who are 26th in pass DVOA in general but first in pass DVOA against tight ends. Still, it’s impossible to find too much fault in a tight end who plays almost every snap and has six red zone targets in five games. Witten leads the position with a 99 percent Bargain Rating on FanDuel, where he’s the highest-rated tight end in the CSURAM88 Model.
After 15 targets overall, three targets inside the 10-yard line, and 79.0 percent of the snaps played in the last two weeks, Henry has finally overtaken Antonio Gates ($2,800 DraftKings, $4,600 FanDuel) as the primary pass-catching tight end for the Chargers, who are at ‘home’ (somewhere in California). Last year the Broncos were fifth in pass DVOA against tight ends. This year, however, with the departure of strong safety T.J. Ward via free agency, the Broncos are 30th. Henry’s the highest-rated FanDuel tight end in the Bales Model.
Available in the FanDuel (but not the DraftKings) main slate, Hooper is an upside player in the midst of an emergence. After totaling just six targets in Weeks 1-3, Hooper has 16 targets (two in the red zone) in his last two games. Playing in a #RevengeGame Super Bowl rematch, Hooper faces the same Patriots team against which he had a respectable 3/32/1 receiving line on six targets in February. The Patriots have allowed the third-most fantasy points to the position this year with 17.2 DraftKings and 14.04 FanDuel PPG. Strong safety Patrick Chung ‘leads’ the league with 36 targets, 22 receptions, 289 receiving yards, 159 yards after the catch, 1.37 yards per cover snap, and one reception for every 9.6 cover snaps (PFF). With a great matchup, Hooper is the highest-rated FanDuel tight end in the SportsGeek Model.
The investment case for Rudolph is simple: He has six red zone targets this year (in addition to his 28 from last year), and the Vikings are -5.5 home favorites against the Ravens, who have allowed a league-high six touchdowns to tight ends and are dead last in pass DVOA against the position. Additionally, wide receiver Stefon Diggs (groin) is uncertain to play, and since last season Rudolph has averaged 9.5 targets in his four Diggs-less contests. Rudolph is the highest-rated DraftKings tight end in the Bales Model and FanDuel tight end in the Levitan Model.
Miller is second on the Bears with 30 targets and 207 yards, and he has a touchdown in each of the last two games. The Bears are +3.0 home underdogs and have seen some positive reverse line movement: There’s some sharp money backing Chicago. The Panthers have been exploitable against tight ends since last year, allowing 16 touchdowns to the position in their last 22 games. Miller is tied for the position lead with six Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the highest-rated tight end in the Levitan Model.
Fleener’s the highest-rated tight end in the CSURAM88 Model because he’s cheap and the Saints are implied for 25.75 points as -4.0 favorites — but don’t even think about playing Fleener in cash games. He saw only one target last week and played on only 25.4 percent of the offensive snaps. Additionally, the Packers have been tough against tight ends this year, allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to the position with 7.6 DraftKings and 5.3 FanDuel PPG. Since joining the Saints, Fleener has averaged just 6.5 DraftKings and 5.25 FanDuel PPG away from the Coors Field of fantasy football. Fleener is palatable as part of Saints stacks in GPPs, but that’s all.
Like Fleener, Thomas is cheap. That’s basically what he has going for him. Thomas has never been a yardage accumulator, so his value lies primarily in targets and touchdowns. He’s gotten a steady 4-5 targets in each game over the last month, but he’s yet to score a touchdown on the season. Eventually he should experience some progression toward his post-Denver (2015-16) touchdown rate of 6.87 percent, and the Jets have allowed 14 touchdowns to tight ends in their last 22 games. Thomas is the highest-rated DraftKings tight end in the SportsGeek Model.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the tight ends for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 7 positional breakdowns:
Good luck this week!
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