Words and Rankings by Daniel House
1. Antonio Gates vs. OAK
“Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” I was like the woman in the Life Alert commercial when I realized Antonio Gates was playing Oakland this week. Why you ask? No team has allowed more tight end touchdowns (6) than the Raiders defense. Furthermore, they’ve surrendered the fifth-most yards and seventh-most receptions to tight ends. Antonio Gates’ numbers have been absolutely off the charts.
He’s accumulated a whopping 27 targets in his first two games back, along with a pair of 90+ yard performances and two touchdowns. That’s damn impressive. Seven of his total targets have come inside the red zone and he’s been an integral part of their plans inside the 20-yard line. Finally, Gates is averaging over 10 yards per reception and Rivers has been consistently stretching the field with him.
2. Rob Gronkowski vs. NYJ
Dammit, Brady, Gronk was wide-open on the goal line and you decided to throw a contested pass to Scott Chandler? You screwed over many fantasy lineups, Tom. After having two consecutive weeks of 100+ receiving yards, Gronk has plateaued, notching 50 and 67 yard performances over the last two contests. That’s not the massive production we are accustomed to seeing from him, but it’s still damn good enough for me. Gronk leads all tight ends with 425 yards and he’s hauled in scores over three of his first five matchups.
His targets are down over the last two weeks, but they’re sure to rise again as the Patriots involve him more in their game plan. The Jets haven’t allowed more than 40 yards to any opposing tight ends However, they surrendered their first tight end score just two weeks ago. What’s more, opposing teams have targeted the tight end against New York a whopping 15 times over the last two weeks of play. Gronk is still Gronk and it is time to stop hollering about his production.
3. Greg Olsen vs. PHI
Greg Olsen wanted nothing to do with Seattle’s fire drill tactic in the team hotel. Olsen essentially pulled the fire alarm at CenturyLink Field as he posted the walk-off winner. Olsen notched his second 130+ yard performance in three weeks. Not to mention, he has added three touchdowns, while being targeted a gargantuan 32 times over that stretch.
The Eagles have allowed just one touchdown to opposing tight ends, but have faced just one upper echelon tight end this season. Finally, Olsen has been targeted during almost 40% of Carolina’s red zone targets. Despite Philadelphia’s success against the tight end, it’s hard not to love the third-most targeted tight end in the league.
4. Travis Kelce vs. PIT
Last week, the Chiefs offense looked about as bad as I anticipated as they adjusted to life without Jamaal Charles. However, limited weapons are good news for Travis Kelce’s production moving forward. He’s been targeted 6+ times over his last four contests and exceeded 80 yards receiving for the first time since week three. Kelce is the fourth-most targeted tight end and only Rob Gronkowski has notched more yards this season.
What’s more, only the Oakland Raiders have allowed as many touchdowns to opposing tight ends than the Pittsburgh Steelers (6). They’ve surrendered two scores over their last two contests, along with a 10 targets per game average. Finally, no team has a higher red zone touchdown allowance percentage than the Steelers.
5. Jimmy Graham @ SF
Wait, Jimmy Graham is on the Seahawks? I think the search party recovered Graham from the long-lost island he was spending time at. Last week, he tallied his first 100+ yard performance since week two of the 2014 season. Furthermore, Graham was targeted in double digits for the first time since joining Seattle.
San Francisco has allowed the fourth-most receptions (34) to opposing tight ends. Not to mention, they’ve surrendered touchdowns in three of their last five contests. Graham’s red zone targets have been up over the last two weeks and that’s good news as San Francisco has allowed a 33% touchdown scoring percentage inside the 20-yard line over the last three contests.
6. Julius Thomas vs. BUF
It’s been a long road back for Julius Thomas, but imagine how much longer that road must feel as he joins the Jaguars offensive system. It’s not ideal, however, he managed to haul in his first touchdown as a member of Blake Bortles nation. He was targeted a whopping 13 times and actually started to play a role in the game plan. The Bills have allowed just one touchdown to opposing tight ends over their last four contests, but Rob Gronkowski has been their only challenge. Jacksonville will start adjusting their game plan to include more throws to Julius Thomas as his comfort level increases each week.
7. Gary Barnidge @ STL
Gary Barnidge was my boy four weeks ago and as I said when I last wrote about the tight ends, the coaches love him in their offense. He’s like the Easy Mac & Cheese – underrated and productive. Barnidge has scored touchdowns in each of his last four contests, including a pair of them last week.
Within that stretch, he’s been targeted nine or more times in every game but one. Not to mention, he’s been averaging upwards of 15 yards per reception and has really been stretching the field for the Browns offense. The Rams have been respectable against the tight end, surrendering just one score this season. However, they’ve allowed three 40+ yard performances and a six targets per game average this season.
8. Delanie Walker vs. ATL
Delanie Walker has been continually disappointing this year, but it seems as if he’s snapping out of it. He’s been targeted in double digits in two of his last three contests and nearly eclipsed 100 yards last week. The Falcons have allowed the third-most touchdowns (4) and the fifth-most receptions (34) to opposing tight ends. They’ve surrendered tight end scores in each of their last three games and made AARP member Ben Watson look like a star again. Walker finally has a matchup where he can make up for some of his early season struggles.
9. Jason Witten @ NYG
This Giants team has to be the most bi-polar squad in the history of the game. Whether it’s choking away games or laying eggs, the G-Men have mastered it all. Jason Witten is the next tight end that can take advantage of a porous Giants linebacker group. No team has allowed more receptions (41) to tight ends than the Giants. Not to mention, they’ve surrendered the third-most yards (453) and touchdowns (4).
Since Tony Romo was injured, Jason Witten’s’ production has fallen off the map as they’ve struggled to be effective in the red zone. Matt Cassel is taking over at quarterback this week and that might make a minuscule difference. Witten has been targeted over five times in every game, but hasn’t scored a touchdown since week one. Nonetheless, the Cowboys will be exploiting the Giants’ inability to stop the tight end.
10. Charles Clay @ JAC
Over the last three weeks, Charles Clay has been a focal point of the Bills offense. He’s been targeted 13 times twice in a three-week span. What’s more, the Jags have allowed 100+ yards to tight ends in two their last three games. They’ve surrendered just two tight end score all season, but those touchdowns have been over the last three weeks of play. Buffalo is scoring touchdowns in the red zone at a 60% clip over their last three games and that’s where Charles Clay has notoriously been golden.
11. Jordan Cameron vs. HOU
Early in his tenure in Miami, Jordan Cameron was a little too enamored with the sights of Disney World to score a touchdown. Last week, he finally got tired of rides at the amusement park and thought it might be worthwhile to get into the end zone. Cameron has been targeted 8+ times in each of his last three games, but not many of them have led to receptions or touchdowns.
Nonetheless, Houston has allowed the fourth-most touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season. Jacksonville targeted their tight ends 15 times against them last week and exploited a soft spot in their defense. Cameron has just two games with over 50 yards receiving, but they’ve come at the hands of two teams that have been extremely poor against tight ends.
12. Kyle Rudolph @ DET
Kyle Rudolph finally caught a touchdown in a Vikings offense that has done minimal work through the air thus far. He’s notched a combined 17 yards in two games, but he did reach the end zone in that span. The Vikings are going to need to start passing the ball more if they want to win football games. The Lions have allowed the fourth-most total tight end scores and Martellus Bennett was targeted a whopping 11 times against them last week. Rudolph has been the primary focus of the Vikings’ offense in the red zone and that’s good news as they will need to score points to win on the road.
13. Benjamin Watson @ IND
Benjamin Watson’s big night last week was completely uncharacteristic and shouldn’t be expected to be a trend moving forward. Put it this way, it was just the second career 100+ yard performance for the 35-year old. He is normally good for about four catches and 40 yards every week. However, I’m feeling a bit confident in him again this week. The Colts have allowed 80+ yards per game to opposing tight ends in every contest but two. Not to mention, they surrendered their first touchdown last week. Watson seemed to really be on the same page with Drew Brees and if you are in a bye week situation, it might be worth taking a risk on the old man.
14. Jacob Tamme @ TEN
Jacob Tamme is well-known for his sly-ass scores in Denver, but he was just as sneaky as he made his way to the Falcons. He’s been targeted heavily in the Falcons offense over the last two weeks and nearly eclipsed 100 receiving yards in week five.
However, he has yet to reach the end zone as a Dirty Bird. That’s going to change this week. Tennessee has allowed tight end scores in each of their last two games and Atlanta has a 72% touchdown scoring percentage in the red zone.
15. Crockett Gillmore @ ARI
After a surging start to the season, injuries and limited usage have put Crockett Gillmore’s stats down the tank. He has exceeded five targets just twice this season, but added a pair of touchdowns two weeks ago. He has been primarily used in the red zone and Baltimore has been scoring touchdowns inside the 20-yard line on 70% of their tries over the last three weeks. The Cardinals have yet to allow a tight end touchdown, but their defense has surrendered opponent red zone scores at a 60% rate over the last three weeks.
Eric Ebron vs. MIN
Just 23% of fantasy owners have Eric Ebron on their roster right now. After a surge in the middle of the first four weeks, he’s fallen off the map because of a knee injury. It sounds like he has a great chance to return this week. If he does, he has an excellent matchup with a Minnesota defense that is vulnerable against tight ends. The Vikings defense has surrendered 80+ yards and two scores in two of the last three weeks against tight ends.