Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): Alright guys, this week we’re taking the plunge: tight ends. Outside the big three of Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz, the position has been a tough nut to crack this year. So let’s try to make sense of this. The last two drafts have yielded a decent crop of tight ends and some of them are already blossoming into fantasy assets. Hunter Henry’s usage has gone up in recent weeks while Evan Engram may very well emerge as the Giants’ go-to receiver in the absence of Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall. Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Jack Doyle have both been target hogs for their respective teams while George Kittle and Ed Dickson have also had their moments.
So, which tight ends are you guys most bullish on? Are you more apt to roll the dice on a young whipper-snapper like Engram or play it safe with a more proven commodity like Doyle or Zach Miller?
Rich Hribar (@LordReebs): Eric Ebron!!!! Just seeing if anyone is paying attention. Of the players just named, Hunter Henry seems to be in the best spot when considering quarterback play and the consistency of his surrounding offense. We already know from last year that Henry carries touchdown upside as he was just the fourth rookie tight end in league history to score at least eight touchdowns and the first to do it since Rob Gronkowski in 2010. And after hitting their head against the wall for the first handful of games, the Chargers seem to have finally realized they should be playing him. After running just 62 routes through four weeks, he's run 57 the past two games with a 19-percent target share. Henry also has upcoming matchups against a slew of teams that have trouble defending tight ends. Of the guys considered tight end streamers, I think Henry has the highest weekly ceiling.
Engram and ASJ have also become weekly PPR options and you probably don’t have to stream anymore if you have those guys. ASJ is pretty much tight end Jarvis Landry. He leads the position in receptions since returning from suspension, but still hasn't cleared 50 yards receiving in a game and is averaging just 6.6 yards per catch. In terms of creating mismatches, Engram is really all the Giants have left and he's built for a big workload. Even when Sterling Shepard returns, Engram will remain a big part of the Giants’ offense going forward.
Connor Allen (@ConnorAllenNFL): Outside of the top three tight ends that Jesse mentioned, the position has been a complete dud this year. Zach Miller is currently the TE11 in PPR, but has scored over 35% of his fantasy points on two plays. One was a trick-play pass from Tarik Cohen and the other was a tipped pass that miraculously wound up in Miller’s arms. Beyond those two plays, Miller is tied for 14th in targets among tight ends with 30. This makes it tough for me to start him outside of leagues that are either very deep or feature TE premium scoring.
One tight end I’m bullish on in PPR leagues is Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Since returning from his two-game suspension to start the year, ASJ has averaged 12 points per game which is tied for fifth among tight ends. As Rich mentioned, his yardage output has been pretty poor, but he’s tied for first on the Jets in target share at 23 percent. Josh McCown’s affinity for tight ends seems to have carried over to the Jets, making ASJ a usable TE1 ROS.
Pantuosco: What do we think of Austin Hooper as a streamer? I know Atlanta’s offense isn’t clicking the way it did last year (hence his one touchdown), but I think Hooper’s volume is finally where we want it. After seeing a combined six targets in his first three games (he caught five of them, for what it’s worth), Hooper has drawn 16 looks over his last two contests including nine in Week 6. I’m not naïve enough to think that’s going to be an every-week occurrence—Mohamed Sanu was out of the lineup in Week 6 while Julio Jones was sidelined for much of Week 4 when Hooper was targeted seven times versus Buffalo. But I definitely think the arrow is pointing up on Hooper, who, through five games, is only 29 yards shy of matching his receiving total from all of last year. Lord knows Julio isn’t getting any red-zone targets, so why not give them all to Hooper?
I thought I was home-free drafting Jordan Reed in so many of my leagues this summer but so far that tree has bared little fruit. I don’t know if it’s his broken toe, Kirk Cousins not looking in his direction enough or some combination of the two, but 142 yards and no touchdowns through four games certainly isn’t what I had in mind. That’s the last time I let my Connecticut bias (I see you there, New London) cloud my judgment in a fantasy draft.
Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin): The problem with Hooper this week is Mohamed Sanu is likely to return and the spike in targets you noted was directly related to Sanu leaving early against Buffalo. Perhaps the Falcons will keep him involved in a great matchup against the Patriots this week, but I do not think that volume is bankable moving forward.
A guy I’m interested in is George Kittle, who I’ve finally begun to take seriously after another high-volume game in Week 6. While his history with new starter C.J. Beathard—his college quarterback—is one of the more compelling narrative street storylines I can remember, Kittle's 17 targets the last two weeks including seven inside the red zone are the real reasons to get excited. Moreover, four of those targets have come inside the 10-yard line, which ties Kittle for 11th-most in the league this season. This offense is not great and probably not going to get much better with a rookie quarterback under center, but Kittle is worth a look in all leagues this week against the Cowboys.
Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat): All aboard the Kittle express, as the rookie is No. 2 in tight end targets over the past two weeks (17). He's about to be playing pitch and catch with C.J. Beathard, just like the good ol' days when they were beating Nebraska 9-6. Seriously, there's no real reason to expect his volume to decrease this week, and that's more than half the battle in fantasy. I’m still all aboard the ASJ express, too. He’s No. 1 in tight end receptions since Week 3 and the Jets have to keep feeding him.
Ray hit the Hooper nail on the head. He goes from borderline TE1 to volatile TE2 if Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) returns, which appears likely.
We've already touched on just about all the notable guys, but Vernon Davis should maintain TE2 appeal in the Redskins' spread-the-wealth offense. In Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor has maybe the fewest weapons of any quarterback I've ever seen in the NFL. I hope you like all those targets, Nick O’Leary. He's a great dart throw if your cupboard is absolutely barren. Tyler Higbee had also been coming along before a dud against the Jaguars last week.