Written/Ranked by Harley Schultz
1. Tyler Eifert vs. STL
The St. Louis Rams have allowed three different teams to top 100 tight end receiving yards over the last five weeks. During that stretch they are allowing an average of 7-88 to those teams. On the season, Tyler Eifert leads all tight ends in touchdowns with eleven. This includes five over the last three weeks. Personally, I’d like to see him get over his recent case of the yips. Andy Dalton will need to be able to rely on him here because tight end is really the only position that St. Louis struggles with.
2. Rob Gronkowski @ DEN
This is the matchup we’ve all been waiting for. Will Denver put Aqib Talib on Rob Gronkowski, and will he be able to stop him? You obviously aren’t benching Gronk, but he’s probably fade-worthy in DFS due to the potential of Gary Kubiak to attempt to shut him down. When you measure Gronk’s value, any measureable amount of yardage or receptions is just frosting on the cake. We know that he is on your roster for his red zone presence. Denver has allowed six red zone scores over the last four weeks. That may seem few, but with Gronk all he needs is one to make your investment worthwhile.
3. Delanie Walker vs. OAK
Sure Eric Ebron completely took a dump on lineups last week with his zero catch performance against these Raiders. What should be noted, however, is that he dropped a pass that was square in the numbers in the end zone that would have been the 11th tight end touchdown allowed by Oakland. As it is, Oakland now has held two teams’ tight ends out of the end zone. So perhaps we should not crack open the bubbly just yet. Delanie Walker had a huge game on Thursday against the Jaguars booking an 8-109 line. Since Week 6, Walker has six or more catches in every game except one and he has topped 50 yards in each of those games.
4. Jordan Reed vs. NYG
The Giants took the week off. It didn’t matter. They still are considerably above the rest of the league in terms of yards and receptions allowed to the tight end position. Meanwhile, Jordan Reed has five touchdowns over his last four games as he has been targeted 32 times. Unfortunately for Reed, since DeSean Jackson has returned he has seen his yardage dip. It isn’t due to fewer targets. It is due to more failures to catch the ball. He also sustained an injury last week that he played through so watch his practice status this week. A healthy and motivated Reed could absolutely rake this week. In Week 3, Reed pounded New York for 6-96 and that was back when their secondary was actually healthy.
5. Greg Olsen @ DAL
Despite the fact that the Cowboys have only allowed three tight end touchdowns this season you still have to start Greg Olsen this week. Olsen has a touchdown and/or 65 receiving yards in eight of ten contests. Thanks in part to a lack of other weapons in the Panthers’ passing game Olsen leads all tight ends in targets. He also ranks top-five in yards and touchdowns and top-ten in receptions by the position.
6. Gary Barnidge vs. BAL
Ever since busting onto the scene back in Week 3, Gary Barnidge is second in tight end touchdowns and tight end receptions and third in tight end receiving yardage. Meanwhile, Baltimore just got done allowing 6-74-1 to St. Louis’s pair of tight ends. That was only the first touchdown they had allowed to the position since Week 5. That week, Barnidge destroyed them for 8-139-1.
7. Antonio Gates @ JAX
Antonio Gates was active against the Chiefs, but you may not have realized it if you watched the game. He was apparently targeted three times, and the official line says he caught a pass, but I’m scratching my head as to when that actually occurred. I hope that Gates will ditch the camouflage and return to his powder blues this game so that Philip Rivers can find him. Five different times this season Jacksonville has given up more than 80 yards in a game to the position. This includes the last two weeks during which they allowed 23-256-2 to Baltimore and Tennessee.
8. Travis Kelce vs. BUF
Travis Kelce has to be one of the most disappointing fantasy tight ends this season. He is averaging an acceptable 5-62 but everyone would like to see more touchdowns from a guy who is often compared to Rob Gronkowski. Only two tight ends have had any success when they faced Buffalo this season are Gronkowski and Tyler Eifert. They both are forged of the same cloth as Kelce, but they also have both been far more touchdown-friendly from a fantasy standpoint. Versus San Diego, Kelce was jobbed out of a touchdown following a replay. Perhaps this is finally the week Kelce gets off the schneid.
9. Julius Thomas vs. SD
Only twice all year has San Diego held an opponent’s tight ends under 45 yards. This includes allowing a total of 17-152-2 over the last two weeks. They also have allowed at least one tight end touchdown in six of ten contests. Julius Thomas appears to finally be fully healthy and acclimated into the Blake Bortles’ offense. He has been targeted 21 times over the last three weeks and last week he hauled in five passes including a short touchdown. With all of the injuries in the San Diego secondary, it will be impossible for them to cover both Allens and Thomas. This will be a big week for all three of them, and as an extension, Bortles as well.
10. Jimmy Graham vs. PIT
How Jimmy Graham has fallen. The only reason he is even making my top 15 is because Pittsburgh has been brutal against opposing tight ends. The Steelers have allowed 60 or more yards in four of their last six and they have allowed tight end touchdowns in each of their last two. That still doesn’t make Graham a sure thing this week. He has been deservingly benchable in six of his ten starts this season and even when he has posted semi-respectable numbers you find yourself pondering what could have been. At this point, we can only hope he is dealt this offseason to a team willing to utilize his talent.
11. Martellus Bennett @ GB
Green Bay has allowed the fourth-most receptions to opposing tight ends. They also have allowed the fifth most total yards to the position. Green Bay has also allowed tight end touchdowns in three straight and four of five. Over those five games, they are allowing an average of 7.4 receptions and 93 yards to opposing tight ends. Martellus Bennett has watched Zach Miller steal some of his thunder of late but he remains the Bears’ leader in every receiving category except yardage. Bennett did sustain a rib injury in last Sunday’s game so check his status before plugging him in here. That said he played the entire game last week despite the pain.
12. Ben Watson @ HOU
Tyler Eifert is the only quality tight end that has not been successful against Houston this year. Four other quality tight ends (Julius Thomas, Delanie Walker, Greg Olsen, and Travis Kelce) have thrashed them to the combined tune of 28-342-3. Their other four games were against “afterthought tight ends” and the Texans won those battles. Skill wise, Ben Watson is much closer to the group of talented guys than he is to the job squad that Houston faced in those other four contests. That said Watson does have roughly half of his counting stats in just two games. At least he is being targeted regularly. Over the last six games he is averaging 5.7 receptions on seven targets per game.
13. Crockett Gilmore @ CLE
After allowing five tight end touchdowns over their last three starts, I’m guessing that Cleveland was happy to have a week off. This week they’ll return to work and be forced to cover Crockett Gilmore. Unfortunately for Gilmore, the undead corpse of Matt Schaub will be throwing balls into the ground somewhere in a five-yard vicinity of his feet with a consistency that even Donovan McNabb would be proud of. If Gillmore can channel his inner Stretch Armstrong doll, he could actually post some solid numbers this week. It will definitely take work reaching those wobbling ducks but at least he won’t have to worry about the defense trying to stop him.
14. Jason Witten vs. CAR
I figured that Tony Romo would return and instantly look towards his safety blanket Jason Witten. Instead, Witten was targeted only three times and he caught only two passes. That was hardly the welcome back present that I expected them to share. Despite failing to top 60 yards in every game but one with the backup gunslingers throwing him the rock, Witten was at least being targeted frequently. Perhaps Romo will be tired Thursday with the short week after throwing 28 passes. If he is maybe he’ll dump it off more frequently. That strategy might actually work against Carolina. They are giving up just under 7-70 to the position over the last six weeks.
15. Richard Rodgers vs. CHI
Richard Rodgers struggled to get open this past week against Minnesota, but prior to that he caught five passes in back-to-back games while scoring three touchdowns. Chicago has been reasonably tough against tight ends all year. Only two teams have managed to score against them. That said working in Rodgers’ favor is the fact that Chicago has begun to allow some receptions and yards to the position. Over the last three weeks, the Bears are allowing an average of 7-85 to opposing tight ends. Aaron Rodgers seemed to wake from his recent malaise versus Minnesota. If he can continue to resurrect his season it can only mean good things forthcoming for his namesake.
Zach Miller @ GB
Green Bay has been atrocious against opposing tight ends. Over the last five games they have allowed more yardage than any other team to this position. In fact, the 470 yards they have allowed over this span is more than 11 teams have allowed to opposing tight ends all season. Both Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller have been very active lately. Over their last three games, Bennett has been targeted five more times than Miller but he has fewer yards and fewer touchdowns. With a short week, no healthy wide receivers, and a shootout with the Packers looming, they both are in play.