This piece will be focused on the four-game full weekend slate but contains actionable information for any of the Showdown slates as well.
As news breaks throughout the week and we adjust our projections, player ratings in our Player Models will change. For updates, visit the models directly.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
- Quarterbacks on Tuesday
- Wide Receivers on Wednesday
- Running Backs on Friday/Saturday
For more in-depth NFL analysis, check out The Action Network.
High-End Tight Ends
Travis Kelce ($6,500 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5) vs. Buffalo Bills (54.5 total)
Kelce is going to be hard to avoid on DraftKings this week. The Chiefs standout has a 96% Bargain Rating there – an anomaly for high-priced tight ends. Generally (thanks to a lower salary minimum), the DraftKings values are at the bottom of the price range – but not this time.
DraftKings has been fairly aggressive in pricing down all of the Chiefs offense this week, with both Kelce and Tyreek Hill cheaper than they’ve been all season. That’s clearly a reaction to the perceived difficulty of the matchup against the Bills – the league’s top defense by overall DVOA and against the pass.
Vegas doesn’t think that matters much, though, giving the Chiefs the highest team total on the slate. That leaves weighing the predictive value between DraftKings’ pricing algorithms and the highly-efficient NFL markets. That’s an easy decision to make.
Kelce is a fine play on FanDuel as well – he leads both sites in Pts/Sal. However, given the borderline-egregious pricing this week, I’d keep my exposure to him on FanDuel. As always, he leads the slate in median and ceiling projections while not being expensive enough so as to be difficult to fit into lineups.
Rob Gronkowski ($5,800 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel): Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) vs. Los Angeles Rams (48.5 total)
Gronkowski is the next best option on both sites from a median and ceiling projection standpoint. Gronk wasn’t heavily featured by the Bucs in the postseason last year – until his two-touchdown performance in the Super Bowl.
However, that usage was on a team that had both Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown healthy, which this team does not. That pair accounted for over 44% of Tampa Bay’s targets last season (including only games they were active), leaving a massive void for Gronk to potentially fill.
That’s been a mixed bag so far with Gronk and the Bucs. Over the past four games (without Godwin), he has target counts of 2, 6, 10, and 10. Still, with a close spread against a tough opponent, expect Brady to Gronk’s way frequently here.
Additionally, the struggles of Tampa’s offensive line could push more targets to Gronkowski. While they have one of (and arguably) the best units on the season, they’ll be down two starters against Los Angeles. The Rams have a tremendous pass rush, further enhanced (relative to their full-season numbers) by the addition of Von Miller.
With Brady likely to be under duress, shorter routes like those run by Gronkowski (average depth of target (aDOT) of 9.9) will be in higher demand than the deeper ones run by Mike Evans (13.13 aDOT).
Gronk is tied with Kelce for the best Pts/Sal on FanDuel while ranking just behind him on DraftKings.
George Kittle ($5,300 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel): San Francisco 49ers (+6) at Green Bay Packers (47 total)
Kittle is another high variance play, with occasional massive usage mixed in with a relatively low baseline. It’s hard to say definitively which version of Kittle we’ll see on a given week, but his massive upside keeps him in play for tournaments.
There’s a better-than-usual opportunity for Kittle this week, though. The 49ers are the biggest underdogs on the slate at six points, so expect them to be forced to throw more than their usual level. Kittle ranks third among tight ends in target share on the season – but only seventh in total targets.
That paints a good picture for Kittle if San Francisco does have to throw the ball more this week. The spread is less of a reliable indicator than you may think, but it’s still a suggestion of higher usage for Kittle.
Additionally, the matchup is a strong one. At +2.5 points (DraftKings), Green Bay is the best tight end matchup in terms of Opponent Plus/Minus Allowed on the slate. The combination of volume and efficiency could land just right for Kittle this week. He’s a better play on FanDuel — where he holds a 77% Bargain Rating – best on the slate.
Mid-Range Tight Ends
Dawson Knox ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Buffalo Bills (+1.5) at Kansas City Chiefs (54.5 total)
Knox snuck into the top 10 in tight end PPR scoring this season, thanks to a league-leading nine touchdowns. (Tied with Kelce and Mark Andrews.) Some of that is due to remarkable efficiency. Knox scored a touchdown on 42.1% of his red-zone targets this season.
That makes Knox tricky to project, as we always expect efficiency to regress towards the mean. Volume is far “stickier” than efficiency – and yet Knox’s scoring has stuck. Ranking first in the league in touchdowns at the position – but only third on the slate in red zone opportunities is a massive outlier.
We probably need to accept that there’s something to his scoring role then and plan accordingly. He’s an especially attractive option when the Bills have a high implied total.
That’s the case this week – and most weeks – with the Bills trailing only Kansas City in implied team total. Knox and Kelce tied for the market share of the team’s touchdowns on the year, but Knox is much cheaper. Clearly, Kelce brings more to the table in terms of yardage and catches, but touchdowns win slates.
Knox also has a much better matchup (by Opponent Plus/Minus Allowed) than Kelce or Gronk. That shouldn’t be a major criterion in your decision-making but coupled with the salary savings, it starts to make sense.
With his reliance on touchdowns (only one 100-yard game on the season, only one game with more than six catches), Knox is a boom-or-bust option. He’s in play as a pivot on DraftKings, though, and likely to garner way lower ownership than Kelce and Gronk.
Tyler Higbee ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel): Los Angeles Rams (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (48.5 total)
Higbee has been perpetually on the verge of a breakout game this season, with it never really happening. He’s topped 15 DraftKings points only once this year (23.5), aided by two touchdowns in that game.
Outside of that, he’s been consistently mediocre – but at a price point where we can stomach it. There’s simply too much target competition in Los Angeles to support a ton of tight end volume. Additionally, Matthew Stafford has a reputation (at least in Detroit) of being a guy that doesn’t look to his tight ends frequently.
That’s supported by Stafford’s gunslinger play style as well. He ranks sixth in the league in air yards per pass attempt, which isn’t ideal for tight end production. (This also explains why the Rams got so much production from their tight ends with Jared Goff under center.) Higbee has an extremely low 5.23 aDOT on the season.
Still, this slate is challenging from a salary standpoint. Higbee is the cheapest tight end I’d be comfortable going to. With only four games on the slate, it’s not a reach to imagine the top tight ends all failing to live up to expectations. Eight or nine points from the much cheaper Higbee would be more than enough in those scenarios.
With Tampa Bay facing the highest opponent pass play rate in the league, volume could be boosted slightly for Higbee as well. He is currently questionable, though, so be sure to monitor his status leading up to lock.