The Week 2 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. In this piece, I highlight the tight ends who stand out in our large suite of analytical DFS Tools, most specifically our FantasyLabs Models, and include plenty of actionable analysis relevant to season-long fantasy as well. New NFL DFS Trial Offer: Try our new football subscription for $4.95 and get access to our industry-leading tools and projections.
Top Tight Ends in the FantasyLabs Models
There are seven — yes, SEVEN! — tight ends atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
- Zach Ertz: $5,600 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel
- Dallas Goedert: $5,000 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel
- Tyler Higbee: $4,700 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel
- Mike Gesicki: $4,000 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel
- Jimmy Graham: $3,800 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel
- Dalton Schultz: $3,700 DraftKings, $4,000 FanDuel
- Jordan Reed: $2,600 DraftKings, $4,800 FanDuel
Zach Ertz: Philadelphia Eagles (-1) vs. Los Angeles Rams, 45.5 Over/Under
Week 1 didn’t go as planned for Ertz.
With No. 1 wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (foot) unable to play, the longtime franchise tight end was widely expected to soak up extra targets as the primary passing-game option for BFF quarterback Carson Wentz.
That’s what we saw in 2018, when Ertz had career-best numbers with 156 targets, 116 receptions and 1,163 yards, thanks primarily to injuries at the wide receiver position. That’s what we saw in similar circumstances last year, when Ertz had the second-best marks of his career with 135 targets, 88 receptions and 916 yards. And it’s almost what happened in Week 1.
An Eagles tight end certainly went off — but it wasn’t Ertz, who had just 18 yards on three receptions. If not for a touchdown, his fantasy performance would have been disastrous. I don’t want to put too much weight on Week 1, because it’s just one game and Ertz’s usage was fine. He was tied for No. 5 among all tight ends with seven targets and tied for No. 10 with 61 combined air yards and yards after the catch (AirYAC, per RotoViz Statistical Summary).
Those aren’t great numbers, but they indicate that he was involved in the offense, and just last year was No. 1 at the position with 9.0 targets and No. 2 with 94.8 AirYAC per game (per AirYards.com). I wouldn’t go selling my Ertz shares just yet.
However, I’m also taking a cautious stance: This year might not be a repeat of last year and the year before. Sure, Ertz went in Rounds 3-4 of season-long drafts this year, and he entered the season in the NFL’s Top 100 …
… but that stuff simply doesn’t matter. Even though Jeffery is yet to return to practice and likely to miss Week 2, the Eagles are not without players who can catch the ball. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is healthy, and the team added rookie Jalen Reagor in Round 1 of the draft.
And, of course, there’s third-year tight end Dallas Goedert, who is developing into a superstar. There’s a reason you don’t see many bands in rock-and-roll history with two concurrent lead guitarists: There just aren’t enough solos to go around. Sure, sometimes you get songs like “Hotel California.”
Most of the time you don’t. In Ertz and Goedert, the Eagles have the tight end versions of Don Felder and Joe Walsh — and I think we all know how that story ended. (Tight ended. Nailed it.) Hell did not in fact stay frozen over.
Unless the Eagles fully commit to their two-tight end set and treat — and eventually pay — both Ertz and Goedert as co-alphas, a day will come sooner rather than later when one of them will leave the team … and it won’t be Goedert, who is already a force and still has the supermajority of his NFL career ahead of him.
Over the past year, we have all seen George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and even Austin Hooper get multi-year big-money contracts or extensions, but the Eagles have been unable or unwilling to get a deal done with Ertz.
Sources: Negotiations between the #Eagles and TE Zach Ertz came to an abrupt halt when PHI made an offer that had less guaranteed money than their offer in November. The backloaded offer also had less cash over the next 4 seasons annually than Austin Hooper’s #Browns contract.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 3, 2020
My fear for Ertz is that the off-field issue of money will eventually impact the on-field matter of fantasy points. As the team looks to the future and anticipates a time when it will be without Ertz, it will draw that time closer and closer into the present moment by taking more and more of the tight end workload away from Ertz and bestowing it upon his more-than-worthy long-term replacement.
I believe that’s what we saw in Week 1, when Goedert — not Ertz — led all NFL tight ends in targets, receptions and yards receiving. Maybe, though, Week 2 will be better for Ertz. He has a nondescript matchup against the Rams, but history suggests he could be in line for more usage.
Since 2017, Ertz in the regular season has seen 10.4 targets in games without Jeffery vs. 8.4 in games with him (per RotoViz Games Splits App). On top of that, Ertz as a home favorite is on the money-making side of the notable splits he’s had ever since becoming a key contributor in 2014 (per our FantasyLabs Trends Tool).
- Home (50 games): 12.2 FanDuel points | 66.0% Consistency Rating
- Away (46 games): 8.49 FanDuel points | 54.3% Consistency Rating
- Favorite (60 games): 11.3 FanDuel points | 63.3% Consistency Rating
- Underdog (38 games): 9.2 FanDuel points | 52.6% Consistency Rating
In 39 games as a home favorite, Ertz has been the league’s most productive tight end with 12.7 FanDuel points, and he has also provided the most value relative to salary-based expectations with his +4.64 Plus/Minus.
A top-six option in season-long leagues, Ertz probably won’t be a cash-game candidate for me — at the position, I prefer to pay up or punt — but he certainly warrants consideration in guaranteed prize pools.
A Three Donkeys throwback, Ertz is the No. 1 tight end in the Bales, CSURAM88 and Levitan Models for FanDuel.
Dallas Goedert: Philadelphia Eagles (-1) vs. Los Angeles Rams, 45.5 O/U
I was on Goedert last week, and I like him again this week. Let’s be honest: Walsh was better than Felder. Even though Goedert played behind Ertz last year, the should-be Dallas Cowboy had a strong 58-607-5 receiving campaign on 87 targets, and then in Week 1 he owned the slate with a dominant 8-101-1 performance on nine targets.
He might be the ostensible No. 2 tight end in Philadelphia. Last week, Ertz played more snaps (58 vs. 54) and ran more routes (38 vs. 31, per Pro Football Focus). But Goedert is better than all but a few No. 1 tight ends. Starting in Week 4 last year, Goedert played at least 55% of the snaps in each game: He actually saw more than two-thirds of the snaps in all but two of the final 14 games (including playoffs). With that playing time, he produced. Not surprisingly, his per-game production, target volume and playing time increased as the season progressed.
- Weeks 4-18 (14 games): 8.9 FanDuel points | 6.5 targets | 77.9% snap rate
- Weeks 10-18, after bye (eight games): 9.7 FanDuel points | 7.9 targets | 83.1% snap rate
- Weeks 15-18, final month (four games): 11.7 FanDuel points | 9 targets | 92.8% snap rate
If last year and Week 1 are any indication, Goedert is an every-down player. And with Ertz likely to draw strong safety John Johnson III, Goedert could benefit from the relatively soft coverage of off-ball linebackers Kenny Young and Micah Kiser.
In 2018-19, Young had PFF coverage grades of 48.2 and 42.9 with the Ravens, and Kiser has played only 73 defensive snaps in the NFL. A low-end TE1 with upside in season-long leagues, Goedert is an option in all formats for DFS — and he makes for an intriguing stacking partner with Ertz.
With Jeffery out, it’s possible that we get a “Hotel California” scenario in which both Ertz and Goedert get enough opportunities to go off at the same time, and same-team TE/TE lineups are incredibly rare. In the Week 1 Millionaire Maker, Ertz and Goedert had a 0.10% shared roster rate: They were together in only 27 of 28,055 lineups (per our FantasyLabs Contests Dashboard).
If you’re intrigued by this approach, use our Lineup Builder to stack Ertz and Goedert. For the second week in a row, Goedert is the No. 1 option in the Freedman Model for FanDuel, where he has position-high marks with eight Pro Trends and a 99% Bargain Rating.
Tyler Higbee: Los Angeles Rams (+1) at Philadelphia Eagles, 45.5 O/U
How many fantasy-viable tight ends can we have in one game?
Although I prefer Ertz and Goedert, it’s very possible that Higbee could have an artificially low exposure rate in tournaments because he’s playing against the Eagles tight ends, and that on its own makes him intriguing for GPPs.
For cash games, though, I’m wary. He played an 89% snap rate in Week 1, and No. 2 tight end Gerald Everett (back) is dealing with an injury, so he’s likely to be an every-down player, but his Week 1 usage was discouraging: He had just four targets — not one of which was in the red or end zones — and was outside the top 12 at the position with his 58 AirYAC.
His 3-40-0 receiving performance in Week 1 was less than inspiring. Higbee’s upside is apparent. It’s the only reason I’m writing a blurb on him, frankly. In the final five games of the 2019 season, when he saw a dramatic increase in playing time, Higbee was easily the No. 1 fantasy tight end.
- Fantasy production: 23.8 DraftKings points | +15.5 Plus/Minus
- Football production: 43-522-2 receiving on 56 targets
In every game he was a high-end fantasy TE1 with 20-plus DraftKings points. He tore up the turf. But it’s impossible to ignore that in the first 58 games of his career — right before he became the league’s most dominant tight end out of nowhere — Higbee averaged just 3.5 DraftKings points and was a touchdown-dependent fantasy TE1 in just 7% of his games (per RotoViz NFL Stat Explorer). Higbee’s floor is as low as his ceiling is high, and gravity is a force undefeated in the history of the universe.
But he might rebound in Week 2 with his matchup. I wouldn’t say that the Eagles are bad against the position — but they did just yield in Week 1 a Top-10 fantasy performance on 4-37-1 receiving and eight targets to quarterback-turned-tight end Logan Thomas.
At strong safety, the Eagles are starting failed cornerback Jalen Mills, who had a 49.8 PFF coverage grade last year. Given how accomplished he was at surrendering yards to wide receivers, he should have no problem at all getting beat by tight ends.
For Higbee, the question isn’t talent or matchup. It’s simply volume. A season-long low-end TE1, Higbee is the top option in the Raybon Model for DraftKings.
Mike Gesicki: Miami Dolphins (+5.5) vs. Buffalo Bills, 41 O/U
Although Gesicki is popping at the top of the Bales and Levitan Models for DraftKings, he won’t be anywhere near my lineups. Better their Models than mine.
Everything was saw out of Gesicki in Week 1 was middling. His 3-30-0 receiving line on five targets was the stuff of mediocrity. He had a snap rate of just 73%, which isn’t low in a vacuum but feels low given the circumstances: Gesicki is a freakishly athletic third-year second-round inline-adverse receiving tight end on a team with no established slot receiver.
He should be on the field for 90% of the offensive snaps as a mismatch chess piece. Instead, he’s just another player on a team that scored 11 points last week.
Wide receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) left Week 1 early and is uncertain for Week 2, so maybe Gesicki will get extra targets. On top of that, Bills linebacker Matt Milano (hamstring) missed Wednesday and Thursday practices and is looking unlikely to play.
With an 81.9 PFF coverage last year, Milano is the best pass-defense linebacker on the Bills. His absence would be a boon for Gesicki. But let’s not get carried away: With Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, the Bills have one of the league’s best safety duos, and they will be the primary Gesicki defenders in Week 2.
This is a highly disadvantageous matchup. Last year, opposing tight end units were No. 31 against the Bills with 9.2 DraftKings points per game. In his two 2019 divisional matchups with them, Gesicki totaled just 59 scoreless yards and averaged a meager 6.95 DraftKings points per game.
Whence comes this Gesicki enthusiasm? It’s not as if the guy is untalented. He made some plays last year.
After the Week 5 bye, he had 6.5 targets per game, and in the final eight games of the season that number jumped up to 7.3 targets.
He has theoretical upside. And he will be incredibly unpopular in GPPs because of his Week 1 production and Week 2 matchup. With his relative high ceiling and low ownership projections, Gesicki actually has a position-high 99% Leverage — and that helps explain why he’s popping in some of our Models.
But he’s still nothing more than a contrarian play in GPPs and a frustrating TE2 in season-long leagues. And I’m betting on the Bills-Dolphins under. With quarterback Josh Allen, the Bills has an under record of 20-9, good for a 34% return on investment (ROI, per Bet Labs).
And on the road that record has improved to an astounding 12-2 (67.1% ROI).
Steer clear, Big Tuna. Head for open waters.
Jimmy Graham: Chicago Bears (-5.5) vs. New York Giants, 42 O/U
With Graham, we’ve officially reached the punt portion of the article. Aren’t you glad you kept reading?
In his early years with the Saints, Graham helped revolutionize the tight end position. For the 2011-14 seasons, he averaged 88.8 receptions, 1,099 yards and 11.5 touchdowns per year. Incredible.
But that was six years and three teams ago. Graham’s three Seahawks seasons were bearable, but his 2018-19 campaigns with the Packers were unwatchable — and now he’s with the Bears. Ugh.
But in Week 1, Graham was somehow not awful. Don’t get me wrong: He was bad. He’s a slow-motion runner with mummified agility. But he was also functional, scoring 11.5 DraftKings points with 3-25-1 receiving on seven targets and an 80% snap rate.
If Graham hadn’t scored the touchdown, his performance would have been meaningless, but the Bears really seem to want to use Graham in the red zone, where he led the team — and also all tight ends — with four targets, one of which was a classic post-up end-zone back-shoulder jump ball that he converted for the score.
He barely missed out on a second touchdown when he was tackled at the one-yard line. As long as the Bears are willing to gift the aging veteran with multiple high-leverage targets per game, Graham will have value as a desperation TE2 in season-long leagues and a low-owned GPP punt in DFS.
Graham is the No. 1 tight end in the CSURAM88 and Freedman Models for DraftKings.
Dalton Schultz: Dallas Cowboys (-5) vs. Atlanta Falcons, 53.5 O/U
Schultz is popping in a few of our Models because Week 2 salaries were set before Sunday Night Football, when starting tight end Blake Jarwin (knee) suffered a season-ending injury.
Elevated from backup to starter, Schultz is now in line for a lot of opportunity that wasn’t accounted for in his pricing, especially on FanDuel, where Schultz is the stone minimum.
As Jarwin’s in-game injury fill-in, Schultz had a nice 69% snap rate in Week 1 and actually saw four targets, two of which came in the red zone. He was just 1-11-0 receiving — absolutely not great — but at least he should approach starter-level usage.
On top of that, the Cowboys have a slate-high 29.25-point implied total, yards and touchdowns should be aplenty in Dallas: Simply by virtue of being on the field, Schultz might luck his way into capturing a chunk of that production. I’m backing Dallas against Atlanta.
For his career, head coach Mike McCarthy is 123-92-7 against the spread (ATS, 12.3% ROI). As a home favorite, he’s an A-graded 53-34-4 ATS (18.6% ROI).
And the matchup is good. The Falcons entered the season with PFF’s No. 30 secondary, and last week Seahawks tight ends were 7-41-1 receiving on seven targets against them.
In only the deepest season-long leagues should you even think about rostering Schultz, let alone starting him, but if you hate yourself and are looking for a dirt-cheap punt play in DFS … ugh, Schultz might be the guy.
He’s the No. 1 tight end in the Koerner, Raybon and SportsGeek Models for FanDuel, where he has a position-high 99% Bargain Rating.
Jordan Reed: San Francisco 49ers (-7) at New York Jets, 41.5 O/U
What Dalton Schultz is to FanDuel, Reed is to DraftKings.
Even though starting tight end George Kittle (knee) suffered an injury in Week 1 and seems unlikely to play in Week 2, Reed is only $100 more than the minimum salary. If you want to go obscenely cheap at the position, Reed is a divinely risk-seeking option.
Last week, he saw just 10 snaps and ran only five routes. He’s not a lock for even a 50% snap rate this week — and that’s terrifying. But he seems likely to play as the team’s No. 1 tight end, and he still has talent.
A one-time, Top-3 fantasy tight end, Reed was No. 11 at the position with 1.63 yards per route when we last saw him in 2018. And in Week 1 he was No. 6 with 2.40 yards per route thanks to securing both of his targets for 12 yards.
The sample is small, but it at least suggests that Reed can still play. Reed knows HC Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system thanks to the time they spent together in Washington, where Shanahan was Reed’s coordinator, and Reed by all reports looked good in training camp. Reed’s history of concussions is a long-term concern: I am skeptical that he will escape this season without an injury.
But from a game-to-game perspective, Reed is investable. As long as he’s healthy entering a game, he’s likely to be relatively healthy at the end of it. And he’s healthy right now — at the exact moment when the 49ers are desperate for pass-catching talent because of injuries to Kittle and wide receivers Deebo Samuel (foot, IR) and Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring).
After missing Week 1, Aiyuk practiced in full on Thursday and should play on Sunday, but he’ll be making his NFL debut on the heels of a limited training camp. Reed is probably the best healthy pass-catching veteran on the 49ers right now, and that includes wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, whom the team signed earlier this week.
The Jets had a league-worst 41.0 PFF coverage grade in Week 1, and they look especially susceptible to tight ends without strong safety Jamal Adams (trade) and linebackers C.J. Mosley (Covid opt-out) and Blake Cashman (groin, IR).
A subtle TE2 with top-eight upside, Reed is a speculative punt play who could go off with almost no ownership. Reed has a position-best 97% Bargain Rating on DraftKings, where he’s the No. 1 tight end in the Koerner and SportsGeek Models.
Upside Tight Ends for Guaranteed Prize Pools
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs ($7,000 DK, $7,800 FD): No tight end in NFL history has more 1,000-yard seasons than Kelce, who merely had a run-of-the-mill top-five 6-50-1 receiving line on six targets in Week 1.
Facing a Chargers defense without All-Pro strong safety Derwin James (knee, IR), Kelce has position-high median and ceiling projections in our Models and is the No. 1 tight end in our Week 2 fantasy rankings.
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens ($6,300 DK, $7,500 FD): If you don’t have Andrews ranked as a top-two dynasty tight end, you ain’t L-I-V-I-N’. Last week, Andrews was an efficiently wonderful 5-58-2 receiving on six targets, making one of the best catches of the young season …
… and this week, he’s primed to explode again with a position-high seven Pro Trends on DraftKings.
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions ($5,200 DK, $5,600 FD): No. 1 wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring) seems unlikely to play given that he missed Week 1 and is yet to return to practice. In his absence, Hock last week had a top-five 5-56-1 receiving line on five targets and could be in line for more opportunities.
Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers ($5,100 DK, $6,100 FD): Quarterback Tyrod Taylor underwhelmed last week, but at least he funneled eight targets to Henry, who turned them into a team-best 5-73-0 receiving. In his two divisional matchups against the Chiefs last year, Henry averaged 15.1 DraftKings and 12.2 FanDuel points with 5.5-55.5-0.5 receiving on 7.5 targets per game.
Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons ($4,600 DK, $5,700 FD): Although he was just 3-38-0 receiving in Week 1, some of the underlying metrics were positive for Hurst, who hit career-high marks with 62 snaps played and 48 routes run. The Cowboys allowed a league-high 146 targets and 104 receptions to opposing tight ends last year.
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos ($4,400 DK, $5,300 FD): Last year, Fant was a dead-on statistical ringer for rookie-season George Kittle with his 8.5 yards per target …
… and in Week 1 he impersonated his former Iowa teammate to perfection, ranking No. 1 among all tight ends with 114 AirYAC and No. 3 in fantasy with 5-81-1 receiving on six targets. Wide receiver Courtland Sutton (shoulder) missed Week 1, and if he’s out or limited in Week 2 then Fant will likely continue to function as the team’s top pass-catching option.
Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans ($4,200 DK, $4,900 FD): For the 2018-19 seasons, Smith had an elite 9.4 yards per target as the designated Delanie Walker injury fill-in, and last week — in his first game as the team’s locked-in full-time starting tight end — Smith had a top-10 fantasy performance with 4-36-1 receiving on seven targets. The Jaguars last year were No. 30 with a 23.0% pass-defense DVOA against tight ends (per Football Outsiders).
O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($3,900 DK, $4,800 FD): For his career, Howard has an atmospheric 10.2 yards per target, and in Week 1 he was a top-10 fantasy finisher with 4-36-1 receiving on six targets. He ran almost as many routes as No. 1 tight end Rob Gronkowski (22 vs. 23), and the Bucs are No. 2 on the slate with a 28.75-point implied total as big home favorites against the defenseless Panthers.
Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team ($3,600 DK, $4,700 FD): The quarterback-turned-tight end translated potential into production in his first game as a full-time contributor with a top-eight 4-37-1 receiving performance on a team-high eight targets. I don’t want to get carried away, because Thomas’ touchdown came on a blown coverage …
… but last week he was No. 4 at the position with 86 AirYAC, and he’s primed for a #RevengeGame against a Cardinals team that last year allowed opposing tight end units a league-high 19.9 DraftKings and 16.1 FanDuel points per game.
Chris Herndon, New York Jets ($3,400 DK, $5,100 FD): Although his Week 1 was marred by a lost fumble, Herndon was No. 2 on the team with seven targets, and his 6-37-0 receiving line was livable. He has a tough matchup with 49ers strong safety Jaquiski Tartt, but he could see extra targets without wide receivers Jamison Crowder (hamstring) and Denzel Mims (hamstrings, plural; IR).
Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers ($3,200 DK, $5,000 FD): A 102.1 Speed Score and 66% snap rate last week make Thomas intriguing, but his career mark of 6.0 yards per target and Week 1 stat line of 2-16-0 on two targets must give one pause. As a big road underdog, Thomas might benefit from a pass-heavy game script against a Buccaneers defense that was No. 27 with a 10.7% pass-defense DVOA against tight ends last year.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Rosemount, Minnesota, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian. Pictured above: Davante Adams Photo credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images