The Week 14 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Dec. 9, 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.
As news breaks throughout the week and we adjust our projections, where players rate in our Models will change. For updates, visit the Models directly.
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Top Tight Ends in the FantasyLabs Models
There are seven tight ends atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek), Ryan Hodge and I have constructed.
Here’s where they place within our Week 14 fantasy football rankings (as of Thursday afternoon).
- Travis Kelce: No. 1 (PPR) | No. 1 (Half PPR) | No. 1 (STD)
- Darren Waller: No. 2 (PPR) | No. 2 (Half PPR) | No. 2 (STD)
- T.J. Hockenson: No. 4 (PPR) | No. 4 (Half PPR) | No. 4 (STD)
- Noah Fant: No. 9 (PPR) | No. 10 (Half PPR) | No. 9 (STD)
- Dalton Schultz: No. 13 (PPR) | No. 14 (Half PPR) | No. 16 (STD)
- Hayden Hurst: No. 14 (PPR) | No. 13 (Half PPR) | No. 13 (STD)
- Mo Alie-Cox: No. 25 (PPR) | No. 24 (Half PPR) | No. 22 (STD)
Of these seven tight ends, the two who stand out most to me are Kelce and Waller. The other guys I will highlight as needed in the section on players with week-winning upside.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
For more in-depth NFL analysis, check out The Action Network.
Travis Kelce: Kansas City Chiefs (-7) at Miami Dolphins (49.5 Over/Under)
Last week, Kelce crossed the 1,000-yard threshold for the fifth time in his career, setting a new mark for NFL tight ends.
With just four games to play, Kelce trails wide receiver D.K. Metcalf by only five yards for the league lead in receiving.
No tight end has finished the season as the league’s leading receiver since at least the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, which is as far back as I am willing to research. I’m doubtful it has ever happened.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has indicated that he wants Kelce to win Offensive Player of the Year …
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) December 7, 2020
… and I bet that Mahomes will do everything in his power to get Kelce the targets he needs to win the receiving title.
And I mean that literally.
I have bet on it, and I just tracked it in The Action Network App.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 10, 2020
I’m betting on Kelce to make history.
Even though he’s now 31 years old, Kelce has been as dominant as ever this year.
- Week 1 (vs. HOU): 17.0 PPR, 11.0 STD | 6-50-1, six targets
- Week 2 (at LAC): 24.0 PPR, 15.0 STD | 9-90-1, 14 targets
- Week 3 (at BAL): 14.7 PPR, 8.7 STD | 6-87-0, seven targets
- Week 4 (vs. NE): 10.0 PPR, 7.0 STD | 3-70-0, seven targets
- Week 5 (vs. LV): 23.8 PPR, 16.8 STD | 8-108-1, 12 targets
- Week 6 (at BUF): 21.5 PPR, 16.5 STD | 5-65-2, seven targets
- Week 7 (at DEN): 6.1 PPR, 3.1 STD | 3-31-0, three targets
- Week 8 (vs. NYJ): 24.9 PPR, 16.9 STD | 8-109-1, 12 targets
- Week 9 (vs. CAR): 25.9 PPR, 15.9 STD | 10-159-0, 12 targets
- Week 11 (at LV): 26.9 PPR, 18.9 STD | 8-127-1, 10 targets
- Week 12 (at TB): 16.2 PPR, 8.2 STD | 8-82-0, eight targets
- Week 13 (vs. DEN): 27.6 PPR, 19.6 STD | 8-136-1, 12 targets
Kelce is tied for No. 1 with Darren Waller among all tight ends with 15.1 expected fantasy points per game (per RotoViz NFL Player Statistical Summary).
Since quarterback Patrick Mahomes became the full-time starter in 2018, Kelce has been a fantasy TE1 in 86% of his regular-season games (per RotoViz NFL Stat Explorer).
In each season with Mahomes, Kelce has been the top tight end in scoring as well as air yards and yards after catch (AirYAC) per game.
- 2020 (12 games): 20.1 PPR (1st), 13.3 STD (1st) | 117.9 AirYAC (1st)
- 2019 (16 games): 16.0 PPR (1st), 10.0 STD (1st) | 102.1 AirYAC (1st)
- 2018 (16 games): 18.5 PPR (1st), 12.1 STD (1st) | 121.4 AirYAC (1st)
AirYAC is a leading indicator of fantasy output. You can find it in the RotoViz NFL Player Statistical Summary.
And Kelce isn’t just the leader in AirYAC at tight end. He’s one of the leaders for the entire league, and it’s hard for a tight end to approach the AirYAC numbers we see from wide receivers.
AirYAC (air yards + yards after catch) per game entering Week 14:
1. Tyreek: 149.1
2. Davante: 146
3. Metcalf: 144.5
4. Ridley: 142.5
5. McLaurin: 127.5
6. C. Hansen: 124 👀
7. Diggs: 121.4
8. Mims: 118.3
9/10. Robby & DJM: 118
11. Kelce: 117.9 💪
12. Keenan: 117.2
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 10, 2020
I’m running out of ways to tell you what you already know: Kelce is good.
The Dolphins are a middle-of-the-road No. 13 with a -4.5% pass-defense DVOA against tight ends — but, really, what does that matter?
With Kelce, matchups are irrelevant.
From a macro perspective, there’s a lot to like about Kelce’s situation. Since head coach Andy Reid joined the franchise in 2013, the Chiefs have been the league’s most profitable road team, going 39-21-1 against the spread (ATS), good for a 27.9% return on investment (ROI, per our Bet Labs database).
On top of that, Mahomes is 29-17-2 ATS (24.1% ROI) for his career, including postseason. The Chiefs should put up points.
Kelce is a weekly must-start top-two TE1 in season-long leagues and a strong pay-up option for cash games. He leads all tight ends in our Models with his median, ceiling and floor projections.
Kelce is also a candidate in guaranteed prize pools. Over the past five-plus years, Kelce has had a 0.76 correlation with his quarterback (per our FantasyLabs Correlations Tool). If Kelce has a big game, Mahomes probably will too. For tournaments, use our Lineup Builder to stack Kelce with his passer.
Kelce is the No. 1 tight end in the Bales, SportsGeek and Hodge Models for FanDuel, where he has a position-high 10 Pro Trends.
Darren Waller: Las Vegas Raiders (+3) vs. Indianapolis Colts (51.5 O/U)
Let’s start with the matchup: It’s bad. The Colts have held opposing tight end units to a league-low 4.5 fantasy points per game on 49-424-1 receiving.
But they also haven’t faced many strong tight ends this year, and Waller is one of the strongest in the league, ranking No. 1 at the position with a 28% target share and 0.58 WOPR.
Among tight ends, Waller trails only Travis Kelce with 93.3 AirYAC.
Waller hasn’t been as dynamic in 2020 as he was in 2019:
- 2019 (16 games): 9.8 yards per target | 12.2 AirYAC per target
- 2020 (12 games): 6.9 yards per target | 10.4 AirYAC per target
But with George Kittle (foot, IR) on the sidelines, Waller is the clear No. 2 tight end behind Kelce each week.
Waller has been at least a fantasy TE2 in all but one game since last season, and more often than not he has been a TE1.
Coming off his massive 13-200-2 receiving performance on 17 targets, Waller is in peak form.
Waller is a locked-in top-two TE1 in season-long leagues and the No. 1 option in the Koerner and Freedman Models for FanDuel, where he has a position-high +2.83 Projected Plus/Minus as well as a 99% Bargain Rating.
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 (+7.5) vs. Green Bay Packers (55 O/U): No. 1 wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) looks unlikely to play, and pass-catching back D’Andre Swift (illness/concussion) is still uncertain, so Hockenson could could see more than his usual allotment of targets. No. 4 at the position with 11.6 expected fantasy points per game, Hockenson has been a fantasy TE in 55% of games this year.
Over the past three weeks, Hockenson is 16-241-0 receiving on 24 targets without Golladay and Swift.
Evan Engram, New York Giants (+1.5) at Arizona Cardinals (45 O/U): Even with the Week 7 return of No. 1 receiver Sterling Shepard, Engram is No. 2 among all tight ends with a 26% target share and No. 4 with 12.9 expected fantasy points per game over the past six games. Engram is the top tight end in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Week 14 Air Yards Buy-Low Model.
Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers (-7.5) at Detroit Lions (55 O/U): A surprise breakout, Tonyan is No. 2 at the position with 0.28 PPR and 0.20 STD points per snap. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are 45-26 ATS (24.1% ROI) against the NFC North. You know I’m betting on the Packers this weekend.
You can bet on this game at DraftKings.
Tonyan has notably negative splits with No. 1 receiver Davante Adams …
… but he still seems to be a favorite of Rodgers, given his 17-183-3 receiving performance over the past month. The Packers have a slate-high 31.5-point implied Vegas total.
Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals (42.5 O/U): As far as I can see, Schultz has two factors in his favor.
- He forms a natural stacking partner with his quarterback: Andy Dalton Schultz.
- Opposing tight end units are No. 3 against the Bengals with 10.5 fantasy points allowed per game on 67-822-7 receiving.
Dalton has a position-high +2.80 Projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings.
Jordan Reed, San Francisco 49ers (-3) vs. Washington Football Team (43.5 O/U): In the absence of No. 1 tight end George Kittle (foot, IR), Reed has filled in capably with 17-162-3 receiving on 24 targets in his four games with a snap rate of at least 40%. The Footballers rank No. 26 with a 16.2% pass-defense DVOA against tight ends.
Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team (+3) at San Francisco 49ers (43.5 O/U): Opposing tight end units are No. 31 against the 49ers with 38-356-3 receiving, so the matchup is bad, but Thomas is coming off career-best 9-98-1 receiving performance against the Steelers No. 1 tight end defense. With a minimum of four targets in every game and an average of 5.8 targets for the season, Thomas has an elevated floor. In the post-Dwayne Haskins era, Thomas has averaged a respectable 7.9 yards per target.
Jordan Akins, Houston Texans (-1.5) at Chicago Bears (45.5 O/U): Even though the Texans were without wide receivers Will Fuller (suspension), Kenny Stills (released) and Randall Cobb (toe, IR), Akins was just 2-10-0 receiving on three targets last week. Even so, he ran a season-high 31 routes from the slot and split out wide. With that kind of usage, he could get more targets.
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears (+1.5) vs. Houston Texans (45.5 O/U): Since the Week 11 bye, Kmet has replaced veteran Jimmy Graham as the No. 1 tight end on the team.
- Cole Kmet (two games): 79% snap rate | 6-45-1, 10 targets
- Jimmy Graham (two games): 42% snap rate | 3-32-0, five targets
The Texans are No. 29 with a 26.7% pass-defense DVOA against tight ends.
Mo-Alie Cox, Indianapolis Colts (-3) at Las Vegas Raiders (51.5 O/U): This isn’t saying much, but Alie-Cox is the Arbitrage Trey Burton. In their eight games together …
- Trey Burton (eight games): 20-166-2, 36 targets
- Mo-Alie Cox (eight games): 17-170-1, 23 targets
… Alie-Cox has held his own as a receiver on far less volume. Last week he had more snaps (44 vs. 25) and targets (5 vs. 3) than the heralded Burton.
The Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, Freedman is commonly called the Oracle & the Labyrinthian.
Pictured above: Travis Kelce
Photo credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images