We’re two weeks into the NFL season now, and the tight end landscape could not be more exciting. Of course, you have your stalwarts at the position – with George Kittle out, Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews are at or near the top two every week. You also have Darren Waller who seems to have taken a massive leap forward after his remarkable 12-105-1 performance on Monday Night Football against the Saints. Jonnu Smith and Noah Fant, two of my favorite preseason breakout picks at tight end, are ranked #3 and #4 in PPR scoring so far. Other late-round options in Mike Gesecki, T.J. Hockenson, Hunter Henry, and Hayden Hurst have been top-12 options so far as well. There have even been a couple of undrafted tight ends – Dallas Goedert and Jordan Reed – who have produced incredible value for fantasy so far. The tight end position is one of the most interesting to project week-to-week, and with all of the injuries around the NFL, it’s important to consider any potential target boost for these guys. Let’s dive in.
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|Player||Week 3 Opponent||Week 3 Projection|
|Irv Smith Jr.||TEN||9.2|
Week 3 Studs
Travis Kelce takes on the Ravens’ defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year, but he’s far too talented and far too involved in the offense to ever consider benching him. Kelce may not be the best target for DFS lineups this week, but the Ravens have faced the Browns and Texans to this point, neither of whom have a tight end who’s even in the same realm as Kelce. On the other side of the ball, I’m expecting a very strong bounce-back week for Mark Andrews who was held to just one catch for 29 yards against Houston. Jackson only completed 18 passes for 204 yards, so there wasn’t quite enough volume to go around. However, the Ravens and Chiefs game is slated to have one of the highest over/under totals on the week, so Jackson should have to throw the ball a good deal more. Kelce and Andrews are elite talents, and in what should be a fast-paced, back-and-forth game, they should both be elite options for fantasy.
Darren Waller is coming off a monstrous performance, perhaps the best by any tight end this season, and was the best player on the field for either the Raiders or Saints in that Monday Night game. Waller faces the Patriots this week, a formidable secondary overall, but I’m still confident in his ability to produce. The Raiders invested draft capital in new wide receivers, but until they prove ready for a larger role, Waller is locked into one of the most consistent target shares in the league. He’s still a strong TE1 even in a tough matchup. I also believe you can count on the target share for Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert despite them facing a Bengals’ defense that is surprisingly formidable against tight ends. With Alshon Jeffery and Jalen Reagor out for the foreseeable future, Ertz and Goedert are Carson Wentz’s most reliable options and should be low-end TE1s every week.
There are a handful of breakout players at the tight end position this season, most notably Jonnu Smith, Noah Fant, and Mike Gesecki who find themselves inside the top six in PPR scoring for tight ends. Smith takes on a depleted Vikings’ defense this week and the Titans could be without A.J. Brown again, so Smith should turn in another top-five effort. Fant plays the Buccaneers, a solid pass defense, but Jeff Driskel’s average depth of target is among the leaders in the NFL and Fant should have a sizable target share for the rest of the season with Courtland Sutton out. Gesecki plays a Jaguars’ defense that has looked solid in some respects but allowed Smith to finish with 4 catches for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns last week. All of these young studs are great options for the rest of the season.
Week 3 Duds
Tyler Higbee had an exceptional 5-54-3 game against the Eagles, but I’m not confident he’ll repeat that production. The Rams take on the Bills’ defense this week, who just got gashed by Mike Gesecki, but the Dolphins’ tight end played a ton of his snaps from the slot in that game, exploiting the Bills’ biggest weakness. Higbee isn’t the same type of player and rarely plays out of the slot, and I’m expecting the Bills to be able to handle him in coverage, especially given their immense safety talent between Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. The Bills are also a great red-zone defense and I believe we just saw Higbee’s season-high for touchdowns. Higbee is still a fine TE1, but I’m fading him a good deal.
I am also fading Jared Cook a bit this week after he came in as a top-five tight end in my projections last week. The loss of Michael Thomas from the Saints’ offense clearly has hurt their overall productivity and Drew Brees doesn’t look like himself right now. The Packers’ pass defense has done well against tight ends, albeit through just two games, and I’m worried about the lack of red-zone looks for a player in Cook who heavily depends on touchdowns for fantasy productivity.
Evan Engram is another guy I’m looking to avoid as San Francisco has allowed just one catch for five yards to tight ends all season. It’s worth noting that this was against the Cardinals and Jets, two teams who aren’t known for their tight end usage, but the Niners defense is still very strong overall. Even without Nick Bosa, I’m expecting San Francisco’s pass rush to give Daniel Jones and this overmatched offensive line fits all game. Engram hasn’t produced to start this season – he’s the TE21 in PPR scoring through two games – and I don’t see this as the matchup where he bounces back.
Week 3 Streamers and Deep League Options
Jordan Reed is the first player to keep an eye on if you’re scouring the waiver wire for a tight end play this week. His injury history, particularly with concussions, is concerning, but Reed had 7 catches for 50 yards and 2 scores last week with George Kittle out. There’s hope for Kittle to return this week against the Giants, and if he does you obviously have to downgrade Reed. If he can’t play, though, I expect Reed to have another strong game for an offense with limited pass-catching options due to injuries. The Niners also play the Giants this week, a very exploitable passing defense, and they should lean on Reed again, particularly in the red-zone.
Mo Alie-Cox is also another interesting option after his five catches for 111 yards in Week 2. It’s largely dependent on whether or not Jack Doyle returns to play this week, and he did practice on Thursday so it’s worth monitoring, but if Doyle is unable to go then I see Alie-Cox as a potential top-15 option. Philip Rivers loves utilizing his tight ends in the passing game and Alie-Cox would be in for another strong target share against a week Jets’ defense if Doyle sits. Reed exploited the Jets’ tight end defense last week.
Tyler Eifert is going to be a great sleeper this week with D.J. Chark reportedly out for the Thursday Night Football game. The Dolphins’ defense is weak overall, and while they haven’t given up much to the tight end position, they haven’t played a team that heavily utilizes their tight ends. Eifert saw 6 targets last week and could see a similar workload this week with the team’s top receiving weapon out. Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, and Dede Westbrook will pick up a lot of the extra targets, but the opportunity and matchup make Eifert a decent top-20 play this week.
Other deep-league tight ends to keep an eye on: Logan Thomas (Washington), Dalton Schultz (Cowboys), Chris Herndon (Jets), Greg Olsen (Seahawks)
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