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The tight end position has always been a wildcard in fantasy football. Who to start, has had as much to do with talent and matchup, as it does with sheer opportunity to see the ball. A tight end’s utilization in the pass game varies from team to team in the NFL. Due to the position’s somewhat unpredictability, it is that much more important to make sure you have the right one starting in your lineup this week. Like my last start’em, sit’em article, I will be focusing on players who may keep you up at night before game day. With that said, here are the 5 tight ends you should start, and 5 tight ends you should keep on your bench.
Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs
The new starting tight end for the Raiders will be a mainstay in Oakland’s offense this season. Derek Carr has always looked to throw to his tight ends, as Jared Cook had a career year a season prior. The Raiders ranked 5th best in receptions at the position with 91 last season. The trend has continued with Waller, who posted 7 receptions on 8 targets, accounting for 70 yards last week. Darren Waller will receive TE1 level volume, and has flashed the ability to be that caliber of player as well. Additionally, the Chiefs allowed an average of 5.4 receptions to tight ends last season, which was 5th worst in the league. I like the matchup, the player, and the opportunity in the TE friendly Raider offense.
Opponent: Philadelphia Eagles
The Falcon receiver is a great option for this week’s matchup against the Eagles. Matt Ryan and Hooper have chemistry, which may be the most important factor to look at when deciding who to start at this position. Hooper has 34 receptions since week 11 of last season, ranking 5th best amongst all tight ends. On the other hand, Philadelphia has allowed 42 receptions to tight ends in that same timespan, ranking 7th worst in the league. It is undeniable that Matt Ryan likes throwing Hooper’s way, the young Atlanta tight end saw 9 targets last week. Hooper made the most of those targets too, collecting all 9 passes for 77 yards. Austin Hooper is a start this week, and should become an elite TE1 by year’s end.
Opponent: Los Angeles Rams
Drew Brees’ newest weapon has a great matchup against the Rams in week 2. Cook failed to do much last week, only seeing 3 targets for 2 receptions and 37 yards. I expect him to come alive against the Rams, who gave up 62 yards and a touchdown to Benjamin Watson in last season’s matchup. It is only a matter of time until he gets on the same page with Brees. A shootout with the Rams, will be the perfect time for the two to connect. Start Cook, and don’t look back.
Opponent: Arizona Cardinals
In what may be the most no-brainer pick on the list, Andrews is simply the guy for Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore offense. The Ravens’ stud caught all 8 of his targets for 108 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers are staggering, and I wouldn’t expect much of a drop off in week 2. Baltimore faces the Cardinals, who just let rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson loose for 131 yards and a touchdown. Jackson will find his tight end, and Andrews will find the end zone once again. He is a comfortable TE1 in this week’s matchup.
Opponent: Seattle Seahawks
Don’t overreact to how McDonald played, or for that matter, how anyone on the Steelers played against the Patriots. Giving New England’s wizard of a coach Bill Belichick a full offseason to prepare for you, will never be a pretty sight. With Jesse James’ departure to Detroit, McDonald should seize TE1 level targets. McDonald has shown the ability to make good on his opportunity in the past as well. The Pittsburgh tight end gained 152 yards after the catch since week 11 of last season, which ranks him 6th best among all tight ends. Act like last week didn’t happen, and start Vance McDonald in week 2.
Opponent: San Francisco 49ers
The injury riddled receiving option for Cincinnati should not be trusted in week 2. Eifert had a modest 5 receptions for 27 yards last week. Unlike other players, I do not see that as a fluke, nor do I think that statline will be drastically better anytime soon. If anything, 6 targets may be on the high end for Tyler Eifert. Dalton had to throw the ball 51 times against Seattle, which ranked him second in attempts in week 1. Eifert is also sharing targets with fellow tight end C.J. Uzomah. Until Eifert can definitively claim the No.1 TE position on the Bengals, I would stay away.
Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
The veteran tight end had a promising start to his 2019 campaign. In an ugly game with Chicago, he scored the lone touchdown on the night. He isn’t a starting caliber fantasy option as of now, because Graham is just too touchdown dependent. He only totaled 30 yards against the Bears in week 1. A touchdown dependent player, who only scored 2 touchdowns last season is not a recipe for fantasy football success. The Vikings have only given up 3.4 points (full point PPR format) to opposing tight ends since week 11 of last season, which ranks 3rd best over that time period. Additionally, he is fighting for targets with the likes of Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Geronimo Allison. Graham is worthy of a roster spot, but he should be kept off starting lineups for the time being.
Opponent: San Diego Chargers
The Colts tight end is coming off a career year in 2018. The only problem is, that came with Andrew Luck under center. Jacoby Brissett should be a serviceable quarterback this year, but he won’t duplicate what Luck did a season ago. Last week, Ebron saw just 3 targets and only reeled in one of those for 8 yards. To make matters worse, Jack Doyle is back in the fold at the tight end position. Part of Ebron’s success last year, came at the expense of Doyle’s missed time. We will all have to wait and see how the chemistry between Brissett and Ebron develops. Until we know that answer, keep Ebron on the bench.
Opponent: Green Bay Packers
Minnesota’s offensive strategy is way too run-oriented to start any passing threat other than Adam Thielen and Stephon Diggs. Kirk Cousins only attempted 10 passes in the Vikings’ week 1 win. Do I think that will happen again? Absolutely not. However, that does not mean I think Rudolph will be a featured entity in the offense. In week 1, the Packers’ defense looked much improved than what we have seen from them in years prior. There are also way too many other fantasy options at the tight end position to go with Rudolph in week 2. Personally, I’d pick up the Rams’ tight end Tyler Higbee off waivers before I start Kyle Rudolph. Root for Rudolph, but leave him on your bench.
Opponent: Washington Redskins
The Cowboys’ veteran played majority of the team’s snaps in week 1. He was able to find the end zone on a nicely designed play too. Similar to Graham, Witten will be too touchdown dependent to have any confidence in his future production. Looking past the touchdown, he only managed to reel in 3 receptions for 15 yards. The Cowboys should also continue to utilize promising tight end Blake Jarwin more and more as the season progresses. Jarwin was also able to snag a touchdown pass in week 1. Dallas has deadly weapons littered across their offense, which makes there to be no reason to believe 37-year old Jason Witten will be a dependable fantasy option. There are a lot better and more intriguing options at the TE position than Witten. I wouldn’t start him, and I’m not too sure if I’d want him on my bench either.
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