Written/Ranked by Harley Schultz
1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots vs. TEN
So it is official, even “Decoy” Rob Gronkowski is better than every other tight end on this planet. One more week removed from his injury, Santa Gronk should be ready to #GronkSmash some more presents under his owners’ Christmas trees. In six of the last eight games he has played, he has scored. Meanwhile, the Titans have allowed the fourth-most tight end touchdowns this year. This includes five over their last six games.
2. Greg Olsen, Panthers @ NYG
Greg Olsen’s early prognosis is good for this week despite sustaining a knee injury this past Sunday. This is great news for his fantasy owners as Olsen gets the cake matchup of the week for the tight end position going up against the Giants. Eight times this year they have allowed more than 65 yards to the position. This includes allowing elite tight ends like Jordan Reed and Rob Gronkowski to both absolutely eviscerate them over the last four weeks.
3. Julius Thomas, Jaguars vs. ATL
Julius Thomas has been white-hot of late. Over the last four weeks, he leads all tight ends in touchdowns while ranking fourth in receptions and sixth in yardage. The Falcons just got done getting torn up by Greg Olsen before he injured his knee. Even the Panthers’ backup tight end Ed Dickson got in on the fun catching a short touchdown pass. This was the sixth game this season that Atlanta has allowed an opposing tight end to score.
4. Jordan Reed vs. BUF
Imagine how good Jordan Reed would be if he could stay healthy for a full season. He currently ranks second in receptions, fourth in touchdowns and seventh in receiving yards. This all comes despite missing two-plus games earlier this year due to injury. Buffalo has allowed tight end touchdowns in two of their last three and last week Zach Ertz literally plowed them over for 98 yards.
5. Gary Barnidge, Browns @ SEA
I’m still waiting on my cut of Gary Barnidge’s new contract. I’d even be happy if they just direct deposited it into my DraftKings account. Prior to my recommendation to start him as a super-sleeper way back in Week 3, he had 48 career receptions over a career spanning more than six calendar years. Since my recommendation, he has more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than he had total over the rest of his career. Seattle’s one weakness is against opposing tight ends. They have allowed 50 receiving yards and/or a touchdown in eight of thirteen games. This includes their only two matchups against elite tight ends (Tyler Eifert and Greg Olsen). In those two games, they allowed 18-245-3 to the position.
6. Richard Rodgers, Packers @ OAK
After starting the season by allowing tight end touchdowns in eight of nine games, Oakland has actually held opposing tight ends out of the end zone in three of their last four. Unfortunately for them, they still cannot stop the tight ends as they have allowed 300 receiving yards over that four game span. Richard Rodgers has five touchdowns in his last six games and his seven touchdowns on the season ranks fourth amongst all tight ends.
7. Tyler Eifert, Bengals @ SF
The (in)jury is still out on Tyler Eifert for Week 15. He suffered a concussion Sunday against the Steelers and we won’t know till later in the week whether he’ll be able to suit up against the 49ers. Of course even if he plays, he still will have the downgrade at the quarterback position with Andy Dalton likely out for the season with a broken thumb. That said, perhaps A.J. McCarron would target Eifert more frequently. Typically younger, less-experienced quarterbacks do then to lean on their tight ends more. The matchup is also decent as San Francisco has allowed four of their last six opponents to top 60 yards with the tight end position.
8. Antonio Gates, Chargers vs. MIA
The Miami Dolphins have an atrocious defense. That said they have been both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde against opposing tight ends, with most of those awful performances coming on the road. In their eight good games against tight ends this year (five at home/three on road), they allowed an average of 1.8-13 to the position. In their five bad games against tight ends (four of which were on the road), they allowed an average of 8.4-115 to the position. Meanwhile, Antonio Gates is one of the last men standing (and then only with the help of some thumb tacks, bubble gum, and a paperclip) in San Diego’s passing offense. He has topped 50 yards in every game he has played this season except one. I just wish he would score more often.
9. Ben Watson, Saints vs. DET
The Detroit Lions have allowed the second-most tight end touchdowns this year. This includes their allowing six scores to the position over their last seven games. In total, there have been only four games all year that they did not allow a tight end to score. Ben Watson has 28 targets over the last three weeks but he has caught only 15 of those passes. That is a bad trend since before that span he had caught a much more reliable 46/58 passes over his first ten games of the year. As long as he keeps getting targeted the likelihood of a score seems imminent, but if he can’t hold onto the rock Drew Brees may start looking elsewhere.
10. Zach Miller, Bears @ MIN
No more Martellus Bennett meant a healthy dose of targets for Zach Miller last week. He put those targets to good use netting 5-85 and scoring a touchdown for the fourth time in his last six games. Over that span (dating back to Week 9), Miller ranked seventh amongst tight ends in yardage and second amongst tight ends in touchdowns. The Vikings remain in the middle of the pack when it comes to covering opposing tight ends. They are allowing an average of 5-54 to the position, but only four teams have scored a tight end touchdown against them.
11. Delanie Walker, Titans @ NE
Delanie Walker leads all tight ends in receptions and he ranks fourth in total yardage. Since Week 3, he has exactly two games with fewer than six catches. Over that same span, he topped 50 yards in every game except one. Marcus Mariota will have to throw the ball to keep up with the Patriots’ offense. I fully expect a lot of those pass attempts to veer in the direction of Walker. What concerns me here is that the Patriots have dominated against opposing tight ends. Only three times all year has New England allowed an opposing tight end grouping to top 50 yards. On the year they rank fourth-best in terms of receptions allowed to the position and no team has allowed fewer yards to the position.
12. Vernon Davis, Broncos @ PIT
Pittsburgh has been quite hospitable to opposing tight ends. They rank third-worst in terms of receptions allowed to the position. They also rank fifth-worst in terms of yardage and touchdowns allowed to the position. This includes allowing at least 60 yards and/or a score to the position in every game except one since Week 7. Since Week 11, Vernon Davis has been very active in the Broncos’ passing game. He has been targeted 20 times, hauling in 17 of those passes for 177 yards.
13. Travis Kelce, Chiefs @ BAL
Travis Kelce has appeared to be a disappointment this season. He has scored in only three contests and he has topped 50 yards only six times. That said he has remained consistently decent. He is averaging 4.5-58 this year which still ranks him amongst the top five in yards per game. Meanwhile, Baltimore has been very good at covering opposing tight ends. Only Gary Barnidge and Antonio Gates have done any legitimate damage to their defense, from this position. Kelce is a big-bodied, physical tight end like those two, so perhaps he has a big game in his back pocket against them as well.
14. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Buccaneers @ STL
The St. Louis Rams have struggled against mid to upper-echelon tight ends this year. Gary Barnidge, Jimmy Graham, Jordan Reed, the two-headed Chicago tight end combo, Crockett Gilmore, and Tyler Eifert all were successful against them. Even third-tier tight ends like Kyle Rudolph and Richard Rodgers produced decent yardage against them. Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ talent level is closer to that third-tier, making him an average play this week. He has received six targets in both of his starts since returning from injury but he has only netted 3-31 in each of those starts.
15. Eric Ebron, Lions @ NO
The New Orleans Saints are the worst team in the league when it comes to defending opposing tight ends. They have allowed the most receptions and yardage to the position and they are tied for second-worst in terms of touchdowns allowed to the position. Their opponent this week, Eric Ebron has scored only once since Week 7 and he hasn’t topped 30 yards since that week as well. That said things look brighter for Ebron now as Brandon Pettigrew has been placed on IR. In four earlier games without Pettigrew active, Ebron averaged 54 yards per game.
Ryan Griffin, Texans @ IND
Indianapolis has allowed a tight end touchdown in six of their last eight games. Meanwhile, Ryan Griffin has been targeted a ton since his return from IR. Over the last five games, he has been targeted 28 times. Unfortunately he has only been able to hold onto half of those passes. What is promising is that he scored touchdowns in back-to-back games in Weeks 13 and 14. He was also targeted over the seam on a couple passes last week that could’ve easily ended up as scores. If he can start hauling in a few more of these targets he will instantly jump towards the top of the class.