Words by Jonnie Carlyle
Rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Rob Gronkowski vs. Buffalo
-Insert fluff here- Dude’s an absolute monster. At least eight targets in 15 of his last 16 games and at least one receiving touchdown in seven straight, Rob Gronkowski is as obvious as slam dunk, er, football spike as there is in fantasy football. Buffalo fan checking in, with a little inside knowledge as to the game plan on Sunday. Billionaire owner Tim Pegula was able to find King Kong in a remote jungle and transport him to Buffalo. Kong’ll be in uniform in Week 2 and has instructions to shadow Gronkowski all game. Don’t matter.
2. Travis Kelce vs. Denver
They don’t call him baby Gronk for nothing. Sure Travis Kelce was left uncovered on his 42-yard touchdown catch in Week 1, but even taking that away Kelce would have still led the Chiefs in receiving yards and gets a Denver defense that was one of the worst against tight ends in 2014. The Broncos gave up the 2nd most catches, 7th most yards and 10th most touchdowns to the position. Week 1 doesn’t count for those asking, as Baltimore has (Todd) heaps of issues all over their receiving corps and especially at tight end.
3. Jimmy Graham vs. Green Bay
Week 2’s matchup figures to be a high scoring affair with Vegas setting the over/under at 49 and that should mean Jimmy Graham will spend less time attempting to block and more time catching footballs. 25% of Graham’s targets came in the red zone, which is probably his floor and gets a Packer defense that’s surrendered at least 50 yards and/or a touchdown in 7 of 10 games where the tight end was targeted at least five times. Graham’s only had less than five targets five times in the last two years combined.
4. Martellus Bennett vs. Arizona
The Cardinals gave up the 4th most catches and the most receiving yards to tight ends in 2014 and suddenly that’s all going to change because old man Ben Watson didn’t light them up in Week 1? False. Martellus Bennett has always produced when given the opportunity, an average line of 6.2/71/.43 with five or more targets since 2014, and is now de-facto number two option in Chicago.
5. Tyler Eifert vs. San Diego
Finally healthy, Tyler Eifert was basically the Bengal passing offense in Week 1 as he amassed 12 targets in a game where no other receiver received more than 8. Furthermore, Eifert was still gobbling up passes despite a wayward game script with Cincinnati up double-digits and facing a David Carr-less Raider team. It’s likely the Charger offense keeps the game closer, meaning Eifert’s inclusion should persist through the entire game against a defense that struggled to cover Eric Ebron.
6. Jason Witten vs. Philadelphia
Dez Bryant averaged nearly nine targets a game in 2014 and will no longer be garnering those looks while watches aggressively from the sideline. Jason Witten averaged just a hair under six targets during that same stretch. Now I am not suggesting Witten will see all of those, but when Witten has received at least eight he’s had at least 75 yards and/or a touchdown seven times since 2013.
7. Greg Olsen vs. Houston
Greg Olsen is the only relevant and capable receiving option in the Carolina offense and after his no-show in Week 1, the coaching staff made it a point to mention his increased involvement in Week 2. Olsen led the team in receiving eight times in 2014 and faces a Texan defense that thought it prudent to not cover, like at all, Travis Kelce last week.
8. Jordan Cameron vs. Jacksonville
Essentially forgotten for nearly a half, Jordan Cameron was arguably the driving force behind Miami’s sleeping offense finally waking up in Washington. Trailing only target hog Jarvis Landry in catches, Cameron was the Dolphins leading receiver and was the only true option down the field as he accounted to two plays over 20 yards. Not forgotten in the red zone either, Cameron just missed reaching the end zone on his lone target inside the Washington 20-yard line.
9. Jordan Reed vs. St. Louis
Keep an eye on Jordan Reed’s injury status heading into Week 2 as he popped up on the injury report on Thursday. If Reed plays, he’s likely to produce as his competition for targets are dropping like flies AND he already was Kirk Cousin’s favorite target when the receiving group was at full strength. Reed was top-10 in targets for all pass catchers, not just tight ends, in Week 1 and will likely be a favorite again if he gets on the field.
10. Zach Ertz vs. Dallas
Maybe a bit surprising, but Zach Ertz returned to the field in Week 1 after missing all of the preseason and despite the missed time proved to be one of Sam Bradford’s favorite targets as Ertz was one of two non-running backs to receive at least seven targets. Dallas surrendered the most catches to tight ends in 2014 and one could easily argue the pass defense is in a worse spot without top corner Orlando Scandrick.
11. Ladarius Green vs. Cincinnati
A couple years later than expected, but Ladarius Green finally got the tight end position all to his lonesome in Week 1 and he did not disappoint. Green led the Chargers in red zone targets and showed an explosiveness missing from the position that San Diego hasn’t seen in years with two catches of 20+ yards. Cincinnati has been tough on the position, but it’s likely game script should force a pass-first mindset for both teams.
12. Heath Miller vs. San Francisco
It’s been a day or two since Pittsburgh had a defense this bad, but you won’t hear much complaining from Heath Miller. Miller led the Steelers in targets in Week 1 including two red zone looks. This isn’t a new development, either, as Miller has had at least five targets and 68 yards and/or a touchdown in six of his last seven. San Francisco has 295 yards and 3 touchdowns to in their last five games to the position as well.
13. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins vs. New Orleans
Mr. Garbage Time in Week 1, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins picked up half his targets and 75% of his yardage in the 4th quarter which has to lead to some trepidation starting Sefarian-Jenkins in Week 2. However, there’s a good chance game script follows a similar route and even if it doesn’t, the Saints should scare no one. New Orleans were ripped apart by a Cardinals tight end that has six career catches prior to Week 1. Six.
14. Delanie Walker vs. Cleveland
Delanie Walker had his lowest grip of targets since Week 13 of 2014, but it’s easy to see how it happened as the Titans led 35-7 at halftime. The aforementioned Week 13 notwithstanding, Walker has been a target hog since 2014 as he’s accumulated at least five targets in 80% of played games. Cleveland may have pitched a shut out in Week 1, but I am not sure the Jets even have a tight end on their roster.
15. Dwayne Allen vs. New York Jets
There’s a good chance if Dwayne Allen is on the field, he’s going to find the end zone. Through the first nine weeks of the season in 2014, Allen caught a touchdown pass in eight of them meaning the Week 2 matchup with the Jets should be a match made in touchdown heaven. No team surrendered more touchdowns to the position in 2014 and Allen could see increased usage with a hobbled TY Hilton likely a game-time decision.