In this piece, I highlight tight ends who stand out in our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically, our FantasyLabs Player Models. While the models are built for DFS 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, player ratings in our Player Models will change. For updates, visit the models directly.
Top Tight Ends in the FantasyLabs Models
There are three tight ends atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, and Ryan Hodge have constructed.
Here’s where they place within our Week 3 Fantasy Rankings (as of Wednesday evening):
- Travis Kelce (1st)
- Tyler Higbee (7th)
- Gerald Everett (15th)
We’ll discuss why these three are popping in our models and take a look at some other tight ends who represent good value.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
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Top Tight Ends in the FantasyLabs Models
Travis Kelce ($8,200 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel) Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (55.5 Total)
It’s a challenge to find anything new to say about Kelce on a weekly basis. Showing no signs of slowing down, he’s the TE1 every week. The Chiefs have the league’s best passing attack, and it’s concentrated on only two players. Kelce and Tyreek Hill account for over 50% of the team’s targets this season. That’s not just an early season anomaly either — last year, that number was 48.6 %.
This week is an especially good spot for Kelce, however. The 55.5 Vegas total is high, even for the Cheifs. According to Football Outsiders, the Chargers have struggled against the position, with the 28th ranked DVOA on passes to tight ends. (It’s a bit early in the year to be using DVOA against a position; the Chargers have only faced nine tight end targets on the year).
I can’t think of a single downside to Kelce outside of his price. This may be why we currently have him projected at only 6.5% projected ownership. That mark would be the lowest for Kelce in a game where he’s active since December of 2019.
This week, with a ton of high-priced options at wide receiver, could be the perfect time to fit some Zeus into your lineup. Kelce leads the slate in all of our raw projections.
Tyler Higbee ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel) Los Angeles Rams (+1) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (56 total)
Rostering Higbee has already been a roller coaster ride. In Week 1, he posted a solid 5/68 stat line on only 26 Stafford throws. Last week, Higbee continued his great usage — in that he was on the field for every offensive snap. Despite that, he only saw one target, which to his credit, he caught for eight yards.
Higbee was the chalk value tight end on DraftKings last week, so some players could be hesitant to look his way again. That said, our projected ownership as of Thursday morning does not reflect that. It’s hard to say why he was such an afterthought against the Colts, but his snap rate remained encouraging.
This week also sets up to be a much better game environment. As I’ve mentioned in both the quarterback and wide receiver breakdowns, running the ball against the Bucs is a fool’s errand. It’s important to be wary of the “assumption of rational coaching” fallacy:
Assumption of rational coaching is the most dangerous fantasy assumption. Has resulted in bad outcomes for years
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) December 2, 2018
But it appears teams have figured it out against the Bucs, who face a league-high 74% opponent pass play rate. (They also led the league in 2020). While we’ve gotten a bit distracted here, this all adds up to more passing in general and more to Higbee specifically.
Higbee leads some of our Pro’s Models on both sites, where he leads the slate in Projected Plus/Minus. I prefer him on DraftKings, where he holds a 69% Bargain Rating, but he’s a great value on FanDuel as well.
Gerald Everett ($3,000 DraftKings, $5,000 FanDuel) Seattle Seahawks (-2) at Minnesota Vikings (56 total)
Continuing with the theme of “tight ends in high-total games,” our last model leader is Gerald Everett. After splitting time with/backing up Tyler Higbee for the Rams, Everett is seeing more work in Seattle. He’s been on the field for 76% of the snaps over the first two weeks. Still, there are usage concerns as he’s only seen two targets in each game so far, with Will Dissly siphoning another three.
Still, those low target counts are partially explained by the lack of cooking from Russ. The Seahawks have only thrown the ball 54 times this season, and they might approach that this week. Everett has shown that he can be a value even with a limited role, scoring 10 fantasy points on only two targets in Week 1.
The thesis on playing Everett is pretty much “hope he finds a touchdown in a game that should have a lot of them.” It’s a pretty thin play for cash games and smaller field tournaments, but his savings could also be important. He’s a DraftKings specific play this week, where he leads two of our Pro’s Models.
Other Tight Ends in Consideration
Darren Waller ($7,400 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel) Las Vegas Raiders (-4) vs Miami Dolphins (45.5 total)
After seeing an absurd 19 targets in Week 1, Waller was thrown a pedestrian (by his standards) seven passes last week. For most tight ends, a target floor of around seven would be huge, but Waller is priced at a point where that’s not enough. His targets are going to vary considerably, but nobody has a ceiling like Waller.
Travis Kelce never topped 30.6 points in the regular season last year; Waller had games of 48, 33, and 31.3 DraftKings points. To put that another way, Kelce’s best game last year wouldn’t rank in Waller’s top three. There’s nothing especially appealing about this week’s matchup, but Waller needs to be in tournament consideration every week.
TJ Hockenson ($5,200 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel) Detroit Lions (+7.5) vs Baltimore Ravens
Hockenson is far and away the most talented receiving option in Detroit. He leads every tight end other than Waller in targets on the year, with 19, and has scored in both of the Lions games so far. As big home underdogs, it’s likely the Lions will have to throw the ball frequently against the Ravens this week.
While the Lions may legitimately not score a touchdown, Hockenson gives them their best shot. (If you can’t tell, I’m a lifelong self-hating Lions fan).
TJ is quickly becoming one of the top fantasy tight ends. His Median Projection trails only Kelce and Waller, at a significantly lower salary. The Ravens also have the worst Opponent Plus/Minus allowed to tight ends on the slate, at +3.4 points.
Noah Fant ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel) Denver Broncos (-10.5) vs New York Jets (41.5 total)
Jerry Jeudy was the only Bronco to draw more targets than Fant last year, so Fant’s role should increase with Jeudy missing. Fant already leads the Broncos in targets and receiving yards.
There’s nothing in particular about this week’s matchup that stands out. As huge favorites, the Broncos may run the ball a ton this week. Even so, Fant is worth considering at his current price as long as Jeudy is out. Like college teammate Hockenson, his price is too low for the No. 1 receiving option on his team.
Kyle Pitts ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel) Atlanta Falcons (+3) at New York Giants (47.5 total)
Pitts’s DraftKings pricing is a bit of a mystery to me. After a 7.1-point performance in Week 1, they raised his salary by $800. Last week he scored 12.3 … and now he’s $300 cheaper. I think by the end of the year, we’ll see Pitts consistently in the $6,000 range, so it’s still “buy low” time.
He’s yet to score a touchdown, which won’t be the case forever. He should continue to improve as his rookie season progresses. The biggest concern I have is his quarterback as Matt Ryan is 29th in the league in yards per attempt at 5.7. As long as Ryan has anything left, Pitts’s day(s) will come, and it would be wise to beat your competition to them.
Hayden Hurst ($2,800 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel) Atlanta Falcons (+3) at New York Giants (47.5 total)
Hurst is playing just over 50% of his team’s snaps and has drawn five targets through two games. Neither of which are great, but if you take away the presence of Pitts, he’d be $500 or so more expensive on DraftKings. The Falcons are comfortable playing them together, with their combined snap counts exceeding 120% in both games this year.
It’s concerning that Hurst took such a step back in usage in Week 2, but it’s not clear if that was the beginning of a trend or a specific weekly decision.
The Falcons’ best lineup has both Hurst and Pitts playing together, so both guys should remain in consideration, but Hurst is more a large-field GPP dart throw.
Rob Gronkowski ($5,500 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1) at Los Angeles Rams (56 total)
I really wanted to avoid talking about Gronk this week, but it has to be done. He’s the No. 2 tight end in PPR scoring right now and playing in a game with the slate’s highest total. While there’s no way he continues to score a touchdown on every third catch (right?!) He seems to be a major part of an explosive Bucs offense.
With Antonio Brown likely to miss, this probably isn’t the week that Gronk takes a back seat. We have his Projected Plus/Minus in the negatives on both sites this week, meaning his projection is less than the average scoring of players at his price.
However, his Leverage Score (a measure of a player’s ceiling relative to their ownership projection) is a positional-best 13 on DraftKings. This week, I won’t have any of him, which probably means he scores four touchdowns on five targets.