The Curious Case of the Fantasy Tight End

Tight end, what a wonderful position in fantasy football. You can’t tell by reading, but that was sarcasm. The tight end group is fickle.

In week one, we saw a stud in Travis Kelce have one reception for six yards. More than likely that won’t be the case in upcoming contests as he was playing against the Chargers in the first week. The Chargers held Kelce to one reception for one yard in their first meet up in 2017, so this is not the first time that has happened. The game following that, against Washington, Kelce ended up with seven receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown. He has shown he can bounce back from a poor game, and hopefully Patrick Mahomes will use him in the next game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Guys like Kyle Rudolph and Zach Ertz had mediocre days for what was expected of them. Evan Engram didn’t get anything going. Rob Gronkowski was the only tight end who really did what he was supposed to do.

Another devastating storyline from week one was injuries taking out two of the top tight ends. Delanie Walker suffered a season-ending injury when he broke his ankle along with having ligament damage. He was placed on injured reserve on Monday. Even though he got injured in the game, he still managed to score nine fantasy points due to four receptions for 52 yards. Greg Olsen also re-injured the same foot he had surgery on last season, and he looks to be month to month. He did achieve five fantasy points on two receptions and 33 yards.

The good news for fantasy players is that there are plenty of options at the tight end position available on waivers. There are players worth streaming, worth stashing, or worth having as an every game starter. I will go into depth about the different options available to you, and hopefully, you’ll be able to roster someone who will put up good numbers for your team.

The Real Deals

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
ESPN Ownership: 68.1%
Yahoo Ownership: 88%

How is this guy available on any waivers? If you’re one of the lucky leagues that still have George Kittle out there as a free agent, go pick him up now. In week one of the season, Kittle scored 14 fantasy points, making him the sixth overall tight end. He had five receptions on nine targets for 90 yards and was used a lot in the game against a stout Minnesota defense. In week two, Kittle is up against a Detroit Lions team that was tenth in points given up to tight ends in 2017. He is worth picking up and holding all year as your starting tight end. I would pick him up over any of the other tight end choices accessible to you.

Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders
ESPN Ownership: 65.5%
Yahoo Ownership: 80%

Another player who is not available in all leagues, but is available in more leagues than he should be is Jared Cook. Cook is one of those tight ends that puts up a really nice game and will follow it with a poor outing, but he’s still more reliable than many tight ends that have a higher ownership number. Cook’s performance in week one led to him becoming the number one tight end for the first week of the season. He had 27 points on a remarkable nine receptions for a total of 180 yards. He was actually targeted a whopping 12 times, and this production can spill over into week two. In the second week, Cook meets up with a Denver Broncos’ defense that was third in fantasy points allowed to tight ends last season. Denver made Will Dissly look excellent in week one, so Cook is bound to look amazing. Feel free to start him this week with confidence. You should be able to use him throughout the season as schedule sees fit.

Next Man Ups

Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans
ESPN Ownership: 2.7%
Yahoo Ownership: 13%

Week one was not kind to the Tennessee Titans star tight end Delanie Walker. Sadly for Walker, his injury was season-ending. Never fear though, the Titans have a backup plan. Jonnu Smith ended the 2017 season with 18 receptions for 157 yards. He also had two touchdowns in that time span. This was also his rookie season. Now he has had a chance to learn more from Walker, and he should be a viable fill in. Smith only had one reception for 12 yards in that first game, but Walker did have seven targets prior to injuring himself. Smith had three targets the whole game, but his targets should benefit greatly from the absence of Walker. He’s a big guy who is athletic as well, and he runs similar to a wide receiver. That quickness, as well as his strength, will help him to become a tight end worth rostering. He isn’t proven yet, but he is worth adding if the two tight ends listed above are not available.

Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers
ESPN Ownership: 2.6%
Yahoo Ownership: 5%

Greg Olsen re-injured his surgically repaired foot in the first contest of 2018. Before leaving the game, Olsen had two receptions on two targets, and the tight end who took over for him had two receptions and targets as well. Ian Thomas is a fourth-round rookie whom the Panthers seem to like. He is a smooth route runner who can catch the ball well. Since the 2013 season, Carolina has been in the top six of teams targeting tight ends. Last season when Olsen got hurt, Ed Dickson filled in acceptably. Thomas should be able to do the same thing if history repeats itself. He has good upside, even if first-year tight ends don’t produce much. Thomas is yet another tight end who looks more like a receiver than a tight end. He’s got the size as well as long arms and big hands. The Panthers were eyeing to draft him, and they got their man. See if you can get him as well, especially if you’re still crying from losing Olsen.

Scenery Changers

Benjamin Watson, New Orleans Saints
ESPN Ownership: 34.6%
Yahoo Ownership: 47%

The 37-year-old tight end has been around for a while, but after his stint with the Baltimore Ravens, he is back with the New Orleans Saints. Benjamin Watson played in New Orleans from 2013-2015, so he already has that connection with quarterback Drew Brees. In his last season with the Saints, Watson had six touchdowns, 74 receptions for 825 yards, and 110 targets. He has the talent to do something similar to this in 2018. Brees loves throwing to his tight ends (see Jimmy Graham), so this should make you happy to roster Watson. He did have a limited week one, but there are plenty of opportunities for him to have bigger games in the future. Watson was targeted four times on Sunday, and he managed to catch all four passes. His pass-catching skills are incredible, and Brees will throw to him knowing that he’s a security blanket. There should be an abundance of red zone looks going his way, so Watson should on your radar.

Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts
ESPN Ownership: 27.5%
Yahoo Ownership: 49%

The currently ranked fourth tight end after week one went for 54 receiving yards and a 26-yard touchdown in his debut with Indianapolis. Eric Ebron caught four passes on five targets in that outing. Jack Doyle is the tight end one in that offense, but Andrew Luck made sure to get both tight ends involved. Doyle did have more targets and snaps, but the offense is a high volume pass offense, so there is plenty to go around. Ebron won’t score a touchdown in every game, but he will have his games where he obtains high fantasy numbers. In the second week of the season, Ebron takes on the Washington Redskins who were ranked seventh against tight ends last season. This is a favorable match-up. He is a good plug in and could get you decent fantasy numbers. He put up 15 points in the first week, so look for that trend to continue in week two.

Proceed with Caution

Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks
ESPN Ownership: 14%
Yahoo Ownership: 23%

Who is Will Dissly? No really, who is he? Do we know? Probably not after that week one performance. He definitely wasn’t talked about or slated to be the number three tight end in fantasy over the first week. Dissly went for 105 yards and lead the team in receiving yards. Jimmy Graham is no longer a Seahawk, and Ed Dickson is going to miss at least six games due to being on the non-football injury list. That looks good on paper, but we don’t really know how Seattle is going to use Dissly. Nick Vannett was listed as the starting tight end in week one. After his performance in week one, Dissly is now ahead of Vannett. That is intriguing, and Dissly is good for roster consideration in deep leagues. In a normal 12-team league, I am not so sure I would be looking in Dissly’s direction. He could be a nice stash, so if you have the room on your bench, you may want to pick him up for the time being. In the second week, Dissly goes up against a Chicago Bears defense that looked very good against Green Bay. Proceed with a lot of caution if you decided to give him a go this week, but there are probably better options to start. P.S. - I overpaid for him in the Scott Fish Bowl, but it happens in a league like that.

Jesse James, Pittsburgh Steelers
ESPN Ownership: 2.5%
Yahoo Ownership: 7%

Jesse James is the tenth ranked tight end after the conclusion of week one games. He had three receptions totaling 60 yards but failed to find success in the end zone. He did end the week with nine fantasy points, so if you had the gall to start him, you were rewarded. James just doesn’t do it for me though. He was the only tight end on the Steelers roster who was out there to be a pass catcher, so he had more opportunity to get you points. When Vance McDonald returns, I see James’ fantasy relevance flying right out the window. He might be a nice plug and play guy or daily fantasy target, but he isn’t a player I see as startable unless you’re really desperate. He could get you a big game here and there, but being able to predict which game is a challenge. If I was going to bet on a game that he’d do well in, it would be his week two matchup with Kansas City. The secondary is questionable, and the defense as a whole just didn’t look that great in the first week.

The Initials Guys

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jacksonville Jaguars
ESPN Ownership: 26.1%
Yahoo Ownership: 33%

Oh ASJ, you’re ending up on this list because the potential to be a great fantasy asset is there. In week one, Seferian-Jenkins had a touchdown called back because of a penalty, a trend we saw a lot last season. The Jaguars get the Patriots in week two, and the Patriots haven’t been that great at defending tight ends. Seferian-Jenkins is one of those touchdown dependent tight ends, so if you fire him up as your starter make sure you take into consideration that if he doesn’t get you a touchdown, you may not see many points from him. If Leonard Fournette ends up being out for the game against New England, Seferian-Jenkins’ target share could increase. There are a lot of things that have to happen to make him a dependable tight end one, but he does have the ability to be one.

Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals
ESPN Ownership: 8%
Yahoo Ownership: 28%

In week two, the Cardinals play the Los Angeles Rams. That looks scary when you read it, but go back and see what Jared Cook did against the Rams in week one. The Rams defense was busy containing the other Raiders’ offensive weapons, so targets went Cook’s way. This could happen yet again with Ricky Seals-Jones taking over the Cook role. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That Cook game was a bit of an anomaly. Seal-Jones could have a reasonable fantasy day, but make sure you don’t have your expectations set too high. He does have a bit of a challenging schedule ahead of him, but there are games sprinkled in where he could boom. He’s worth at least a look in your deeper leagues.

There are a lot of tight ends out there to stream, and that’s a strategy I am going to be playing in a lot of my leagues where I lost Olsen and Walker. You may be able to find a reliable option at tight end if you play your cards right.

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