The Week 10 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Nov. 15, at 1 p.m. ET.
In this piece, I highlight tight ends who stand out in our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically our FantasyLabs Models. While the Models are built for daily contests, this is an all-purpose fantasy article with actionable information for all formats.
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Top Tight Ends in the FantasyLabs Models
There are 10 tight ends — 10! — atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek), Ryan Hodge and I have constructed.
Usually, I write extensive breakdowns on each Model tight end, but there’s no way I’m doing that this week, for a few reasons.
- That’s a lot of work.
- Really, that’s a lot of work.
- Ten. TEN!
But the real reason I’m not giving these guys the full Freedman treatment is that they don’t deserve it.
So many tight ends are popping in our Models this week because at this point in the season and with this slate in particular the position has been hollowed out. Normally, there are 4-6 tight ends who clearly stand out and then another 4-6 guys who have underappreciated potential.
But this week the main slate is a tight end hellscape.
- Travis Kelce and Hayden Hurst are on bye.
- George Kittle and Zach Ertz are injured.
- Jonnu Smith and Trey Burton play on Thursday Night Football.
- Mark Andrews plays on Sunday Night Football.
- Irv Smith Jr. and Jimmy Graham play on Monday Night Football.
That I’m even mentioning Smith and Graham shows just how thin the tight end position is right now overall.
This week, there’s just one elite tight end on the main slate: Darren Waller, who is easily No. 1 in our Week 10 fantasy football rankings.
That’s the guy I will write about extensively.
The other guys I will highlight as needed in the section on players with week-winning upside.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
Check in throughout the week as I publish the rest of the positional breakdowns.
Darren Waller: Las Vegas Raiders (-4) vs. Denver Broncos (50.5 Over/Under)
There’s a lot to like about Waller. He’s No. 1 at the position with 15.2 expected fantasy points per game and a 29% target share (per RotoViz NFL Player Statistical Summary).
At the position, he trails only Kelce and Kittle with his 79.3 air yards and yards after the catch (AirYAC) per game.
AirYAC is a leading indicator of fantasy output. You can find it in the weekly stats tool at RotoViz.
With the exception of his Weeks 3 & 8 letdowns against the tight end-stingy Patriots and weather-aided Browns, Waller has looked in 2020 every bit like the guy who led the Raiders last year with 90-1,145-3 receiving on 117 targets.
- Week 1 (at CAR): 10.5 PPR, 4.5 STD | 6-45-0, eight targets
- Week 2 (vs. NO): 28.5 PPR, 16.5 STD | 12-105-1, 16 targets
- Week 3 (at NE): 2.9 PPR, 0.9 STD | 2-9-0, four targets
- Week 4 (vs. BUF): 15.8 PPR, 6.8 STD | 9-88-0, 11 targets
- Week 5 (at KC): 15.8 PPR, 10.8 STD | 5-48-1, seven targets
- Week 7 (at TB): 17.0 PPR, 11.0 STD | 6-50-1, nine targets
- Week 8 (at CLE): 7.7 PPR, 2.7 STD | 6-27-0, five targets
- Week 9 (at LAC): 13.2 PPR, 8.2 STD | 5-22-1, 10 targets
Waller has been a fantasy TE1 in 67% of his games, and in only one contest has he not been at least a TE2.
What Waller has done since last year is remarkable.
In Week 7, they held Travis Kelce to just 3-31-0 receiving on three targets. In Week 8, Hunter Henry: 4-33-0 on four targets.
The Broncos are clearly not bad in tight end defense. At worst, they are average: They rank No. 15 against the position with a -0.6% pass-defense DVOA (per Football Outsiders).
But tight end opportunity and production can be variable, so I think it’s better to look at Kelce and Henry against the Broncos with a more optimistic perspective: They caught every single one of their targets.
In every game but one this year Waller has had five-plus targets. That’s a reasonable floor for the opportunities he should get in this game. And the tight ends to hit that five-target threshold against the Broncos have done well.
- Jonnu Smith (Week 1): 13.6 PPR, 9.6 STD | 4-36-1, seven targets
- Eric Ebron (Week 2): 7.3 PPR, 4.3 STD | 3-43-0, five targets
- Rob Gronkowski (Week 3): 10.8 PPR, 4.8 STD | 6-48-0, seven targets
- Hayden Hurst (Week 9): 13.2 PPR, 6.2 STD | 7-62-0, eight targets
If Wallers gets his targets, he should be able to produce against the Broncos — and he should get his targets.
He did well last year in his two games against head coach Vic Fangio’s defense.
- Week 1, 2019 (vs. DEN): 14.0 PPR, 7.0 STD | 7-70-0, eight targets
- Week 17, 2019 (at DEN): 16.7 PPR, 10.7 STD | 6-107-0, 10 targets
So today I woke up, had a cup of decaf, did some jumping jacks and pushups, wrote most of this blurb on Waller, and then walked to the master bathroom and looked in the mirror and said, “Not worried about Waller.” And then I walked back to my office, sat down at my desk, put my hands on the keyboard and typed out this sentence.
Waller leads all tight ends in our Models with his median, ceiling and floor projections. He’s the one angel in the hellscape.
He is John Milton’s Abdiel.
The consensus No. 1 tight end in our rankings, Waller is a locked-in must-start high-end TE1 in season-long leagues and the top option in the Raybon Model for DraftKings, where he has a position-high +1.90 Projected Plus/Minus.
Waller is also the No. 1 tight end in the Freedman Model for FanDuel.
Tight Ends With Week-Winning Upside
In this section, I highlight some tight ends I think will outperform expectations and whom I especially like as upside season-long and DFS tournament plays.
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (+4.5) vs. Washington Football Team (Off the Board): No. 1 wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) is yet to return to practice so he looks unlikely to play, and in his absence Hockenson could see more volume. He has been no worse than a fantasy TE2 in every game this year.
Hockenson is No. 2 behind only Darren Waller in Hayden Winks’ Week 10 Usage Model. The Footballers are No. 32 with a 48.6% pass-defense DVOA against tight ends. Be sure to monitor the health status of quarterback Matthew Stafford (concussion).
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos (+4) at Las Vegas Raiders (50.5 O/U): Upside No. 2 tight Albert Okwuegbunam (knee, IR) is out for the year, so Fant should have all the tight end targets to himself. Fant (ankle) is dealing with an injury, but he practiced fully on Thursday so should play without limitation on Sunday. Fant is No. 4 at the position with 77.4 AirYAC per game and the No. 1 tight end in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Week 10 Air Yards Buy-Low Model.
Evan Engram, New York Giants (+3) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (44.5 O/U): Opposing tight end units are No. 5 against the Eagles with 10.3 fantasy points per game on 49-476-6 receiving, and Engram leads the Giants with a 22% target share. Only Travis Kelce has more than Engram’s three games with 10-plus targets. Against the Eagles in Week 7, Engram was an acceptable 6-46-0 receiving on nine targets.
Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers (-7) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (45.5 O/U): Overlooking his Week 1 letdown, Ebron has a workable average of 5.9 targets per game over his past seven contests with fewer than five targets in just one game. Opposing tight end units are No. 2 against the Bengals with 11.8 fantasy points per game on 46-545-6 receiving.
Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (-3) at New York Giants (44.5 O/U): Coming off the bye, Goedert should be recovered from the ankle injury that sidelined him for multiple games. Ignore what Goedert did in his injury-shortened Week 3 and ease-back-into-it Week 8. If we look at the 16 games from Week 4 last year to Week 2 this year (including playoffs), we’ll see a guy with 75-795-6 receiving on 108 targets. No. 1 tight end Zach Ertz (ankle, IR) is expected to miss Week 10.
Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers (+1.5) at Miami Dolphins (48.5 O/U): After starting the season hot with 11-156-0 receiving on 16 targets in Weeks 1-2, Henry is yet to top 50 yards in any game. But he’s No. 5 at the position with 68.8 AirYAC and No. 10 with 10.2 expected fantasy points per game. Henry’s luck eventually has to change.
Robert Tonyan Jr., Green Bay Packers (-13) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (49.5 O/U): The Packers have a slate-high 31.75-point implied Vegas total, and opposing tight end units are No. 3 against the Jags with 11.4 fantasy points per game on 34-488-7 receiving. I’m betting on the Packers: At home, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is an A-graded 55-31-3 against the spread (ATS), good for a 24.4% return on investment (ROI, per our Bet Labs database).
You can bet on this game at DraftKings. Tonyan (ankle) is dealing with an injury, so monitor his status into the weekend.
Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team (-4.5) at Detroit Lions (Off the Board): The drop-off from backup-turned-starter Kyle Allen (ankle, IR) to veteran third-stringer Alex Smith will likely be small to nonexistent. Thomas has 7.4 yards per target on throws from Allen and Smith vs. 3.6 on throws from benched Dwayne Haskins. With a minimum of four targets in every game and an average of 5.8 targets for the season, Thomas has an elevated floor.
The Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, Freedman is commonly called the Oracle & the Labyrinthian.
Pictured above: Darren Waller
Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images