Written/Ranked by Daniel House
1. Greg Olsen @ NO
No tight end has been targeted more (92) than Greg Olsen this season. He’s added scores in three of the last five contests and has amassed 50+ yards receiving in every game but two. Olsen is one of the main weapons Cam Newton relies upon in the passing game. New Orleans has allowed the second-most yards (860) and scores (10) to opposing tight ends. More importantly, they’ve surrendered six touchdowns over the last three weeks of play to nondescript weapons. In a week three matchup against Olsen, the Saints allowed eight receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Their defense has been a sieve against tight ends and hasn’t consistently handled matchup threats like Olsen.
2. Travis Kelce @ OAK
You ain’t Cam Newton babyyyy! Travis Kelce dap danced and wasn’t even in the league. I’m sure a Kansas City mom was offended though. Nonetheless, Kelce has registered the third-most targets, but he is finally reaching the end zone more. He’s tallied scores in two of his last four contests, adding at least five receptions in five of the last six games. What’s more, no team has surrendered more touchdowns (11) than the Oakland Raiders defense. More importantly, teams are averaging almost one tight end score per game against the Raiders. They’ve allowed just two of them over the last three weeks, but opposing pass catchers have amassed double-digit targets in three of their last four games.
3. Gary Barnidge vs. CIN
Just when you thought the Browns had figured out enough ways to choke, they re-wrote the script. Mike Pettine didn’t even have an expression afterwards. He looked like an experienced single man who deals with heartbreak. Moving forward, t’s presumably the Austin Davis show in Cleveland. He looked competent and Barnidge managed to match his season-high (11) target mark. He’s hauled in scores over two of his last four matchups and has exceeded 50 yards of receiving in three of those contests. The Bengals have allowed the fewest scores (1) to opposing tight ends, but they’ve surrendered 50+ receiving yards in each of their last four matchups. What’s more, opposing tight ends have been targeted an average of eight times per game over the last four contests.
4. Tyler Eifert @ CLE
Tyler Eifert is questionable (neck), but if he plays, he’s a must-start. He leads all NFL players (including wide receivers) in total touchdown receptions. The Browns have allowed the fourth-most tight end touchdowns (8), which includes five scores over the last three contests. In his last matchup with the Browns, Eifert tallied three touchdowns. The vast majority of scores allowed by Cleveland’s defense have come inside the red zone. That’s good news as Eifert currently holds the highest red zone target to touchdown percentage in the league. Check his status on gameday and have a backup plan in place.
5. Julius Thomas @ TEN
With Allen Hurns’ injury, I like Julius Thomas’ value moving forward. He’s strung together consecutive touchdown performances and surpassed 100 yards of receiving for the first time this season. He’s averaging nine targets per game over his last three matchups. The Titans have surrendered the fourth-most tight end scores (8) and four of those touchdowns came over the last three weeks of play. Finally, Thomas registered a touchdown in his previous matchup against the Titans and Tennessee is allowing red zone scores on 58% of opposing red zone trips.
6. Antonio Gates vs. DEN
Antonio Gates likes things in pairs – I’ll leave that one right there. After being blanked in each of his last four games, Gates registered a pair of scores last week. His four total touchdowns have both come in twos. More importantly, Gates has another favorable matchup this week. Denver’s defense allowed a pair of tight end scores last week and has surrendered 50+ yards to opposing tight ends in two of the last three games. What’s more, they’ve allowed double-digit targets in four consecutive contests. Finally, Gates has tallied three touchdown grabs over his last two matchups with Denver.
7. Jordan Reed vs. DAL
Jerry Jones still talking playoffs has me shaking my head. Playoffs?! You might not win another game! The NFC East door is open, but not that much. Jordan Reed has quietly accumulated the fifth-most tight end targets (75). He nearly surpassed 100 yards last week and has five scores over the last five weeks of play. Not to mention, Reed has at least five receptions in his last two games and has been a top-target for Kirk Cousins. The Dallas defense has surrendered just two tight ends scores over the last five weeks, but opposing pass catchers have tallied double-digit targets in two of their last three matchups with the Cowboys. What’s more, Dallas is allowing red zone scores on 75% of opposing trips inside the 20-yard line.
8. Delanie Walker vs. JAC
Once again, Delanie Walker has emerged as the top reception tight end in the league. He’s registered over 90 yards of receiving in three of his last four contests. Not to mention, he’s been one of the leading targets among the Titans offense. The Jaguars defense has surrendered the third-most total yards (784) to opposing tight ends. They have allowed four total scores over the last three weeks of play, including a pair last week. Finally, in an earlier matchup, with Jacksonville, Walker accumulated 109 yards on eight catches.
9. Scott Chandler vs. PHI
I was in fetal position as Gronk lay motionless on the turf. He slammed his fist on the ground and then the cart came out. At that point, my night was over. Charch was tweeting Gronkmas carols like an hour before it happened. He got me in the spirit and moments later I was crushed. However, waking up to a knee bruise was about the best way I could start my day. He might be out for a few weeks, so adding Scott Chandler might be in your best interest. Even with Gronk playing, Chandler has tallied scores in two of his last three games. Not to mention, he matched his career-high for targets (11) last week. The Eagles have allowed just two tight end touchdowns, but one of those came two weeks ago. Philadelphia’s defense is a massive garbage fire and Tom Brady already says he is pissed -- that’s not good. They might score one million aggression points against this putrid defense.
10. Benjamin Watson vs. CAR
Ben Watson has accumulated the fifth-most receptions (50) and has surpassed 50 yards of receiving in three of his last four games. Over the last four contests, he’s reached the end zone just once, but his total targets still remain high. New Orleans is scoring red zone touchdowns at a 60% clip and Watson is bound to reap the benefits soon. The Panthers have allowed 50+ yards of receiving to opposing tight ends in five of their last six matchups. What’s more, tight ends have scored touchdowns in two of the last three contests against the Carolina defense.
11. Zach Miller vs. SF
Martellus Bennett doesn’t like being friend-zoned, but that’s the way she goes. Zach Miller is taking away scores from Martellus Bennett and it’s time to start getting serious about him. Miller has four scores over his last four contests and he has nearly reached 100 yards in two of those contests. Bennett hasn’t cracked 30 yards of receiving in consecutive games. The 49ers haven’t allowed a tight end touchdown since week five. However, they’ve surrendered 50+ yards of receiving in three of the last four games. In addition, those touchdowns have primarily come in the red zone – Miller’s specialty area.
12. Kyle Rudolph vs. SEA
Kyle Rudolph is alive! Just when you thought he melted away like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph returned in a big way. Last week, he corralled seven receptions for just the second time in his career. Not to mention, the week before, he hauled in 100 yards for the first time. With the Vikings receivers unable to gain separation, Rudolph has been one of lone targets for Teddy Bridgewater. He’s been making more plays after the catch and has another favorable matchup this week. Seattle has allowed the fourth-most tight end touchdowns (7) to opposing offenses. What’s more, only three teams have surrendered more total yardage. In addition, tight ends have scored touchdowns against Seattle in two of their last three contests.
13. Eric Ebron vs. GB
The Lions passing game is catching steam and its led to three straight wins for Detroit. Eric Ebron has just three total touchdowns, but the Packers provide an extremely favorable matchup. Green Bay has problems covering tight ends up the seam. They’ve allowed tight end scores in four consecutive matchups, including one 100-yard performance. What’s more, Ebron was targeted eight times in his previous contest versus Green Bay. The Lions definitely will be exploiting this weakness as they game plan to defeat the Packers.
14. Zach Ertz @ NE
Zach Ertz has yet to find the end zone and has been consistently trolled by Brent Celek inside the 20-yard line. Nonetheless, he is still averaging almost seven targets per game and has registered 60+ receiving yards in two of the last four contests. The Patriots have allowed just three tight ends scores to opposing tight ends. Nonetheless, Mark Sanchez heavily uses the tight end when he is at the helm. When there is nothing open down the field, he consistently relies on his tight end. What’s more, the Patriots are awarding red zone touchdowns on 45% of opposing trips inside the 20-yard line. Ertz is bound to quit getting cheesed by Celek eventually.
15. Cameron Brate vs. ATL
Arr. Arr, matey, thar be ye booty Cameron Brate! With Austin Seferian-Jenkins yet to be cleared for contact, Cameron Brate is taking the bulk of snaps. He’s added scores in two consecutive matchups and is averaging five targets per game over that same stretch. What’s more, just two teams have surrendered more receptions (64) than the Falcons defense. Not to mention, they’ve allowed the fourth-most scores (7), including two over the last three weeks of play. Kyle Rudolph nearly had one last week, but he hauled in the second-highest total receptions the Falcons defense has awarded in 2015.