Written and Ranked by Daniel House
1. Rob Gronkowski @ NYG
Gronk is pretty freaking awesome, but he can’t be perfect every week. After accumulating touchdowns in each of his last three games, Gronk couldn’t reach the end zone against Washington. It was the first time we hadn’t saw a Gronk Spike in over four weeks. Not to mention, it was the only contest this season where he didn’t surpass 50 yards of receiving. It felt like getting soap in your eyes. He’ll bounce back as he squares off with a Giants defense that has surrendered the fifth-most scores to opposing tight ends. What’s more, they’ve allowed four 100+ yard performances in their first nine contests.
2. Tyler Eifert vs. HOU
Last week, Tyler Eifert was handing out touchdowns like Oprah Winfrey’s Christmas show. Everyone who owned Eifert was getting a damn present. He notched a trifecta and passed Gronk as the top scoring tight end in the game (9). He’s averaging over seven targets per contest in each of his last three matchups, along with a whopping four scores. Houston has allowed 50+ yards and a touchdown in two of their last three games. What’s more, the Texans defense has the second highest opponent red zone touchdown allowance percentage (65%). That’s good news as Eifert is the main weapon for the Bengals inside the 20-yard line.
3. Greg Olsen @ TEN
No tight end has accumulated more targets (59) than Greg Olsen. He’s notched the fourth-most tight end scores (5) and has found the end zone in three of his last four contests. Olsen is averaging over nine targets per game in his last four contests and is one of the only reliable weapons in Cam Newton’s arsenal. More importantly, Tennessee has surrendered the fourth-most touchdowns (6) to opposing tight ends. Finally, the Titans defense is a sieve in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on a whopping 65% of opposing visits. Tennessee surrendered a pair of tight end scores last week and teams are targeting opposing pass catchers over five times in every contest.
4. Gary Barnidge @ PIT
Gary Barnidge is a mini-Gronk deported to an island with limited resources. It’s hard to perform consistently well when you’re stuck in a coconut tree. Each week he has dealt with a quarterback change, he’s failed to crack 50+ yards. Nonetheless, all of his performances over that threshold have come at the hands of Josh McCown. Mike Pettine says he’ll be back this week and that’s good news for Barnidge. What’s more, the Steelers have allowed the third-most touchdowns (7) to opposing tight ends. Not to mention, only five teams have surrendered more yards (553) than Pittsburgh. Finally, Barnidge has scored a touchdown in six of his last eight contests.
5. Jordan Reed vs. NO
After missing weeks 5-6, Jordan Reed has found some rhythm. He’s been targeted a gargantuan 20 times over his last two games. Reed has added three touchdowns over that same period as he’s become Kirk “The Paper Airplane” Cousins’ favorite target. Reed has the sixth-most total targets (54) despite playing in three less games than any players above him. More importantly, no team has allowed more yardage to opposing tight ends (725) than the New Orleans Saints defense. Last week, they surrendered a whopping three touchdowns to tight ends and only four more teams have tallied more touchdowns (7) than New Orleans.
6. Martellus Bennett @ STL
Jay Cutler has been laying off the in-game cigs and has looked somewhat serviceable in Adam Gase’s offensive system. Much of this magical pixie dust has been rubbed upon Martellus Bennett. Bennett is leading all tight ends in receptions (45) and just others have been targeted more than him. He’s cracked 50+ yards of receiving in two of his last three contests. Not to mention, he’s averaging double digit targets over that same stretch. The Rams haven’t surrendered a tight end touchdown since week one, but have surrendered respectable yardage to tight ends such as Gary Barnidge and Jimmy Graham.
7. Delanie Walker vs. CAR
“Look what I found,” exclaimed Delanie Walker as he hauled in the most ridiculous touchdown possible. He not only found the ball, but the end zone for the first time since week one. He accumulated a pair of scores and is averaging upwards of nine targets over his last three contests. He may have awoken from his long slumber and has another respectable matchup this week. Carolina has allowed three tight end touchdowns over their last two contests. What’s more, teams have targeted the tight end against the Panthers a whopping 23 times over the last two games.
8. Travis Kelce @ DEN
After a seven-week hiatus, Travis Kelce found his long lost friend: the end zone. He nearly eclipsed 50+ yards receiving for the third straight week and is consistently averaging almost seven targets per contest. Over the last three games, Denver has posted the third-worst opposing red zone scoring percentage (75%). Last week, Kelce notched four receptions inside the red zone and had his best results of the season inside the 20-yard line. Finally, Denver has surrendered three touchdowns to opposing tight ends over the last three weeks of play.
9. Jimmy Graham vs. ARZ
I’m starting to get frustrated with Jimmy “James Bond” Graham. He’s been a secret service agent who is in-and-out of cameo. Last week, he was targeted in double digits for just the second time this year. Furthermore, he has surpassed 50 yards receiving just four times in 2015. Nonetheless, over the last two contests, Arizona has allowed over 50 yards twice, along with one touchdown. Furthermore, they’ve surrendered just one score to a tight end all season, but the most notable matchup threats they’ve faced are Martellus Bennett and Gary Barnidge. Finally, Graham’s targets are up and that leaves enough optimism to believe he might become more involved.
10. Benjamin Watson @ WSH
Ben Watson wasn’t a mirage and actually has been consistently contributing to the Saints offensive flow. He’s notched touchdowns in three of his last five contests and surpassed 50 yards receiving in each of those contests. Over that same period, he’s tallied 125 yards twice. The Redskins have allowed just one tight end touchdown all season, but have surrendered over 50 receiving yards in two of the last three contests. More importantly, Watson is averaging over 15 yards per reception and Drew Brees has found him five times in three of the last four matchups.
11. Jason Witten @ TB
Jason Witten’s lower production output is directly tied to the fact he has been handcuffed by the Cowboys’ quarterback kerfuffle. Catching passes is hard when every Matt Cassel throw goes off the hands of a defensive lineman. However, he is still averaging almost seven targets per game this season. The Bucs have allowed the fifth-most total touchdowns (4) to tight ends. Not to mention, their defense has surrendered 100-yard performances in two of their last three games. Finally, Witten looked more involved in the game plan last week and tied his season-high for targets.
12. Eric Ebron @ GB
Eric Ebron survived the mass exodus of Lions employees, which must make him feel damn good about himself. Over the last three weeks, the Packers defense has allowed roughly one million yards of total offense. Not to mention, they’ve allowed tight end touchdowns in two of the last three games. Eric Ebron has notched scores and 50+ yards receiving in three of his six games this season. He’s averaging over 10 yards per reception and Matt Stafford has really utilized his frame in the red zone. The Packers have allowed scores inside the 20-yard line at a 50% rate, which is even more reason to love Ebron’s prospects.
13. Julius Thomas @ BAL
Julius Thomas has put together two meager performances in consecutive matchups and many have lost faith in the prized free agent acquisition. However, remember he’s battling back from injury and is playing in a Jags offense that has limited fire power. The Ravens defense has allowed 50+ yards receiving to opposing tight ends in each of the last two contests. Not to mention, the opponent target percentage against Baltimore has slowly increased recently. Thomas is still averaging seven targets per game and he’ll eventually see a breakthrough performance.
14. Heath Miller vs. CLE
Heath Miller has notched a whopping 19 targets, 13 receptions, and 137 yards over the last two weeks. Ben Roethlisberger is out again, but Landry Jones is a very formidable option for this squad. What’s more, just one team has allowed more tight end scores (8) than the Cleveland Browns. In addition, tight ends have tallied a whopping five scores over the last two weeks against Cleveland. The Browns have the fifth-worst opponent red zone allowance percentage (63%) and Miller has been surging in Pittsburgh’s offensive system.
15. Charles Clay @ NYJ
Rex Ryan likes Clemson and I’m still confused why. I think he should worry a little more about getting his tight end involved in his system. Charles Clay hasn’t been able to string together two consecutive solid performances. Every week he puts up good numbers, he’ll drop a five-yard performance on the fantasy football community. Over the last two games, he’s failed to crack 30 yards receiving and has a combined four receptions. The Jets have allowed just two tight end scores and have the second-best opponent red zone allowance percentage (40%) in all of football. However, the total targets by opposing teams crept to nine, which is the second-most they’ve surrendered all season.
Kyle Rudolph @ OAK
Kyle Rudolph is owned in less than 50% of fantasy leagues across the globe. If he’s available and you need help, I’d get after him. Even if Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t play, the Raiders defense has still allowed bottom three passing yards to opposing teams this season. Not to mention, no team has surrendered more tight end touchdowns (9) than the Raiders. Many weapons in Minnesota haven’t done jack squat in the Vikings’ lackluster passing game, but Rudolph has managed to tally scores in two of his last four contests.