Written/Ranked by Jonnie Carlyle
1a. (Rob Gronkowski at Houston if he plays)
1b. Greg Olsen vs. Atlanta
I am going to go ahead and let Olsen’s numbers do the talking for me here. He’s the only tight end with more than 100 targets, leads the position in red zone targets with 18 and hasn’t had a week with less than 70 yards and/or a touchdown since Week 4. Atlanta, meanwhile, has only had one week this season where they haven’t allowed at least 45 receiving yards and/or a touchdown to the position and have historically struggled against the Panther tight end. The Falcons have faced Olsen nine times and have surrendered a touchdown in six of those games.
2a. (Tyler Eifert vs. Pittsburgh if he plays)
2b. Delanie Walker at New York Jets
Being I was once a teacher in the not-so-distant past, I thought I’d throw together a little multiple-choice test for y’all:
1) Since Week 9, which tight end has the most catches?
a) Jason Witten
b) Gary Barnidge
c) Tyler Eifert and Rob Gronkowski
d) Delanie Walker
2) Since Week 9, which tight end has the most targets?
a) Jordan Reed
b) Antonio Gates
c) Julius Thomas
d) Delanie Walker
3) Since Week 9, which tight end has the most receiving yards?
a) Greg Olsen
b) Ben Watson
c) Owen Daniels
d) Delanie Walker
The answer to all of them, of course, is Delanie Walker. He’s easily been the hottest tight end in the last five weeks and Walker’s also been a really productive football player, too. He’s had just two weeks with less than 50 receiving yards and both came in the first five weeks of the season. Sure the matchup isn’t ideal, but the Jets have surrendered two of their three biggest games in the last four weeks and could be without both Revis and starting safety Calvin Pryor on Sunday.
3. Gary Barnidge vs. San Francisco
It’s not tremendously surprising Johnny Manziel is back leading the Cleveland offense after whatever you’d call Austin Davis’ showing last week, but you likely won’t hear a peep out of Barnidge owners this week. In his last two games with Manziel, Barnidge averaged over seven targets and posted 6-65-1 in their most recent game together, including three targets in the red zone after just one in their first two games. Barnidge has eight straight games of at least seven targets, the longest streak at the position, and has just two games since Week 3 with fewer than five catches. Only the Browns have seen fewer tight end targets than the 49er defense, but the five that have received at least six targets have averaged 5-45 and accounted for two of the three touchdowns San Francisco has surrendered to the position.
4. Scott Chandler at Houston
Completely contingent on Gronkowski sitting, but if Chandler fills the lead tight end role for a second straight week there is plenty to like about his potential. Chandler is one of three Patriot pass-catchers to register double-digit red zone targets this season and it’s likely he’s the only one that’ll be active on Sunday night. Half of Chandler’s 10 looks inside the red zone have resulted in touchdowns, which trails only Tyler Eifert in terms of efficiency for tight ends with at least 10 targets. Chandler’s averaged 5-59-1 in his last two games and faces a Houston defense that has looked vulnerable down the seam on more than occasion in 2015, including letting Charles Clay run completely uncovered on game winning 40-yard touchdown last week. Six different tight ends have posted at least 53 yards receiving against the Texans and three of those six have also reached the end zone.
5. Jordan Reed at Chicago
There are three tight ends that have averaged more than eight targets per game; Greg Olsen, Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed. And of those three, only one has had just one game with less than six targets. Jordan Reed (obvy). And no big deal, in that one game with fewer than six targets, Reed reached the end zone twice. Kirk Cousins loooooves him some Jordan Reed, clearly, and a surprisingly still healthy Reed has produced at a high level because of it. In the last three weeks Reed has the 3rd most targets, 4th most yards and 2nd most catches. The Bears will likely be without starting safety Antrel Rolle for the fourth consecutive week, which should provide Reed an opportunity to find success against a Chicago secondary that’s allowed the 4th most catches to the position and the 7th most yards since Rolle went down.
6. Antonio Gates at Kansas City
I suppose if Sly Stallone can still make Rocky movies there’s no reason why Gates can’t keep wheeling himself out there every Sunday. I mean, it’s not like there’s anyone else left in the Chargers receiving corps after replacement for a replacement Dontrelle Inman had to be carted off the field last Sunday and Stevie Johnson was also forced out of the game with a groin injury. Gates has seen his targets and catches increase in three straight and that was before the most recent bout of injuries to receiving options. He was pitiful three weeks ago against the Chiefs, but that was his first game back after his own knee injury. Since that no show in Week 11, Gates has averaged 5-52-1 and will be the number one option on an offense that has the second most pass attempts this season in a game the Chargers will likely be forced to throw a ton.
7. Travis Kelce vs. San Diego
So probably safe to say this is where we’re at with Travis Kelce for the foreseeable future. Talent is undeniable, and when he’s been given the chance Kelce has delivered in spades. However, it’s nearly impossible to predict when those opportunities are going to come. He has fewer red zone targets than guys like Heath Miller, Jordan Matthews and Jordan Cameron but has just one fewer touchdown than those three combined. Just 15% of Kelce’s targets have come inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, which would rank him 11th out of a possible 15 amongst tight ends that have received at least 10 red zone targets. The Chargers look like a good matchup on paper as they’ve allowed the 4th most touchdowns to the position (8), including five inside the red zone, but good luck figuring out if this is the week Alex Smith trusts his uber-talented tight end.
8. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins vs. New Orleans
What was ailing Sefarian-Jenkins that strange 10-week stretch? Who knows, but what I do know is the perfect medicine is a game against the Saints. In 7 of the 12 New Orleans games at least one tight end had a touchdown and/or 100 yards. And in three of them, a tight end had two touchdowns and/or 100 yards. Of course the Olsens and Reeds of the world went off against the Saints, but so did Daniel Fells, Brent Celek, Anthony Fasano and Ryan Griffin. Those four averaged 4-58-1 and only Fells would’ve been considered “the starter”. Jameis Winston seems to have an eye for his tight ends too, as nobody-Cameron Brate (am I saying that correctly?) has reached the end zone three times in 2015. ASJ played limited snaps in his first game back last week, just 21 of 71, but he still managed to be the second-most targeted Buc with six.
9. Julius Thomas vs. Indianapolis
Who would’ve thought Thomas would be leaving the friendly confines of Peyton Manning-led offense and find the pastures were not only much greener elsewhere, but in Jacksonville of all places? No one, that’s who. In less than a full season of work, Thomas already has four games with as many or more targets than he had in any game in 2014, he’s had at least one red zone target in seven straight games and has cashed in three of those targets for touchdowns in three straight. He’s caught four touchdown passes in two regular season contests against Indianapolis and there’s reason to believe he could add to that total on Sunday. In the Colts last seven games, they’ve allowed five touchdowns to the position and only Jacob Tamme and Jesse James have fewer than 50 receiving yards during that same stretch.
10. Benjamin Watson at Tampa Bay
The general rule of thumb with Saints suggests you start them if they’re playing in New Orleans and look for other options if they’re not. But, if you’re out a Tyler Eifert or a Rob Gronkowski, Ben Watson in Tampa on Sunday could very well be one of those desperate times/desperate measures situations. And let’s be honest, you certainly could do worse. In his six road games Watson has averaged 4-38 and only has one game in his last five away from the Superdome where he didn’t have at least 42 yards and/or a touchdown. Watson’s also averaged just under nine targets per game in the last two—the fourth most per game during that stretch—and has collected five red zone targets too. Tampa likely won’t do Watson owners any favors on Sunday, but the Bucs have allowed the fifth most catches since Week 11 and Vegas expects there to be plenty of opportunity with the NFL’s highest over/under set for this game.
11. Richard Rodgers vs. Dallas
I know last week was fun, sans those wearing silver and blue, but before we get too hyped about Dick Rod moving forward it’s probably worth remembering prior to that 61-yard touchdown he was averaging just 27 yards per game. Last Thursday was more receiving yards than Rodgers had in his previous six games combined. He’s averaging 9.1 yards per catch, which puts him behind 24 other tight ends, 7 running backs and 1 fullback. Yeah, you read that right. One fullback. The Cowboys have been vulnerable against Gronkowski, Olsen and Graham, but in the nine other games the position has averaged 36 yards and only one has reached the end zone in the last five games.
12. Charles Clay at Philadelphia
There seems to be some sort of strange phenomenon going on in Buffalo, but when their best players get targeted they seem to be producing at pretty significant rate. We all have witnessed the Bills inability to consistently get Sammy Watkins the ball, but Charles Clay has suffered a similar fate, albeit without all the fanfare. In the eight games where Clay has received at least five targets, he’s averaged 5-56 and reached the end zone twice. In every other game, Clay’s averaging 2-18. Shocker, right? A guy gets looks and he produces, yada yada yada. And yet, Clay has three games since Week 5 with one catch on a total of seven targets. The good news, Clay’s received 15 targets in the last two weeks and gets a Philadelphia defense that’s surrendered a touchdown in two of the last three weeks against competition everyone would suggest is vastly inferior.
13. Owen Daniels vs. Oakland
Frankly this has almost nothing to do with Daniels and everything to do with the matchup. It helps that Vernon Davis could miss Sunday’s game and that Daniels has averaged almost four catches on five targets since Osweiler took over, but the Raiders are why you’re slotting this guy into your lineup. No team has allowed more touchdowns to the position and they’ve managed to spread them out over eight games. It’s been so bad even the Jets, who have just seven tight end RECEPTIONS in 2015, have managed to get their tight end into the end zone against the Raiders. Kellen Davis, Jesse James, Rhett Ellison and Craig Stevens have combined for 28 catches in 2015 and four of those were touchdowns against Oakland. Who the hell are those guys? I don’t know, but I am told they all play tight end in some capacity and proved any warm body at that position is worth a look against the Raiders.
14. Will Tye at Miami
Chances are you read ‘Will Tye’ and you’re already considering moving on, but I would take a moment to ponder this rookie out of Stony Brook (side note: Stony Brook has a football team? Who knew?). Averaging 67 receiving yards in three straight is pretty impressive, right? Not bad, but did you also know Tye only trails Odell Beckham in targets in his last three games? Or that from Week 8 to Week 10, Tye had just one fewer red zone target than Beckham and one more than Reuben Randle? Miami hasn’t been as good as the last three games would suggest, either. They faced Romo in his first game back in a torrential downpour, the Jets and their seven tight end receptions and Matt Sch…ooops, looks like he just threw another pick six..aub. Prior to the last three, the Dolphins allowed at least 97 yards and/or a touchdown in five different games.
15. Jason Witten at Green Bay
Witten is as athletic as he is inspiring in your lineup and his best attribute seems to be his ability to make every defender that covers him sloth around at the tight end’s speed, but man is he ever consistent(ly boring). Witten’s only had one game with less than 27 receiving yards but only one game with more than 65. In 75% of his starts he’s had 4-6 catches, but never fewer than two or more than eight. Witten is predictable, which is certainly valuable for an unpredictable game, but that ceiling is mighty low. And whatever potential there was in a matchup with a Green Bay defense that has surrendered a touchdown in five straight and the 8th most yards can be written off given his 4-57 performance against the Saints in Week 4.
Streamer Special: Ryan Griffin vs. New England
Charch wants a streamer special, well I am not sure it gets much streamier than Houston’s Ryan Griffin. Owned in a microscopic 1% of leagues, Griffin has a touchdown in two straight games and at least five targets and three catches in three of his last four. The Patriots, meanwhile, have allowed a touchdown and/or at least 48 receiving yards to the position in four of their last five games and faced the 8th most pass attempts in 2015 so there’s likely to be some targets to be had for Griffin.