Believe it or not folks but it’s already Week 10 in the NFL. And, as you will notice with the rankings update this week, it’s time to start taking things seriously. We usually have a long list of players we are stashing speculatively but the time for speculation is over. So the list is limited to absolutely the only guys that are worth rostering. And, as we always do when we get close to playoffs, the list will eventually be based almost entirely on matchups down the stretch. For now we still have some bye weeks remaining and there are questions to answer so there are about ~20 tight ends that we can consider rostering in normal leagues. So let’s take a look.
As a reminder, these rankings below are specific to a strategy called Yin & Yang Tight End. The full write up from this year is here but the short and sweet of the strategy is this - we wait on tight end and then draft two. Your Yin tight end is the safest possible player, even if they have capped upside, that we start over the short term. The Yang tight end is a bench stash with the highest risk, highest reward that we hope breaks out. We continue to cycle players through that bench spot until we find a guy we can start for the playoffs. With Standalone players, we only roster one and just worry about their bye week. And, because of that, the strategy doesn’t stop with the draft - we keep it rolling each week. So, without further ado, here are the updated rankings.
Sam LaPorta - Here’s a fun one for us LaPorta fans - with Travis Kelce on bye this week and Mark Andrews playing the #1 defense vs the TE, Sam LaPorta is our top ranked tight end for this week. He’s still behind Andrews rest of season but he’s already had his bye so you can pretty comfortably start LaPorta rest of the way.
Evan Engram - Evan Engram has been a model of consistency. He’s top five in target share, route participation, pass block percentage, routes from a WR position, you name it. His aDot is a little low but that’s because he leads all tight ends in screen passes. The one spot he’s been lacking a bit is end zone targets but that’s largely because Travis Etienne has been so good in that area. Engram is as safe as they get.
T.J. Hockenson - We were pretty scared there for a minute. But the deployment for T.J. Hockenson didn’t change at all last week which has been tremendous. And it’s looking like Joshua Dobbs is going to be just fine with his new team. In his last game in Arizona he targetted Trey McBride 14 times so I have no doubts that he will be able to locate the big man in Minnesota. And reports have been coming in that Justin Jefferson won’t be ready to go even when eligible off IR. That and the KJ Osborn injury mean there are targets to be had.
Safe Plays (YIN)
George Kittle - Some folks with shallow benches might be willing to simple roll with George Kittle for the rest of the season. And I think that’s probably fine. But just remember that, in the games when everyone has been healthy, Kittle has yet to catch more than three passes in a game. Deebo Samuel will be back at some point so, if you can afford to stash another option with upside, that might be wise. That’s why he is here.
Dallas Goedert - Broken arm on a fluke tackle, what are you going to do? Knowing Goedert, he’s probably going to try to fight not to go on IR like he did last time when he said that he’s like Deadpool and “can get stabbed and it heals right back up”. But expect him to miss some games here. And probably go on IR.
David Njoku - David Njoku has been more involved as of late and they traded Donovan Peoples-Jones which consolidates things a bit. A big reason for his new involvement has been screens; over the last two weeks he has six receptions on screens where no other tight end has more than three. He did hang in to block on more pass plays than usual this week but it was also a blowout. Deshaun Watson does prefer to look downfield at times though which is why Njoku isn’t a top tier guy.
Cole Kmet - If Tyson Bagent were the quarterback rest of season, we’d feel really good about Cole Kmet. Because Bagent clearly loves looking his way. But Justin Fields with his mobility often looks deeper down field or takes it himself which isn’t ideal for Kmet. He’s still a pretty decent start week to week but we have to see what Fields looks like coming back off this thumb issue.
Jake Ferguson - We didn’t like Ferg early on because he was splitting snaps and only running a 50% route participation. That actually changed in the game when he only had one reception and we opted to move him up. He isn’t particularly special in most categories but he is pretty good in man to man where he’s one of the only tight ends with double digit receptions and that helps him in the red area.
Cade Otton - Honestly, there hasn’t bee much difference in what Cade Otton offers than what you usually get from someone like Dallas Goedert. He plays a ton of snaps, runs a ton of routes, and he’s fairly involved. Over the last two weeks the Bucs have dropped back 90 times and he’s run 84 routes. He’s also one injury to a WR away from difference-making upside. He’s a bye week fill in at the very least.
Gerald Everett - Going back to last year, no matter how many wide receivers get hurt, he’s still a part time player that rarely playes more than 70% of the snaps. Over the last two seasons he’s played 23 games and he’s only cracked 70% of the snaps in three of them. But when guys are hurt he does get more targets and multiple guys are hurt so there ya go.
Upside Stashes (Yang)
Dalton Kincaid - Coming into this week, Dalton Kincaid was leading all tight ends with a 90.5% catch rate. That means that, had he caught 9 of 10 passes this week, his catch rate would have gone down. So instead he caught 10 of 11. The looming return of Dawson Knox is the only thing stopping him from moving to the standalone tier just yet but I’m starting to feel like he can’t go back in the bottle. So there are certainly leagues where he is my only tight end.
Taysom Hill - Taysom Hill was once a coin flip at best to have a rushing TD and nothing else. But this year he’s involved on another level. He’s always a rushing or passing TD threat but this year he’s getting legitimate targets even if his routes run aren’t as amazing as they were when Juwan Johnson was out. I still don’t trust him enough to just “set and forget” but he’s a valuable asset that should not be on the wire.
Trey McBride - We still love Trey McBride. One game with the third string QB vs. the best TE defense won’t change that. Kyler will be back soon but Zach Ertz will also be back at some point. That is what scares us.
Dalton Schultz - Schultz is still exactly Dalton Schultz. He’s not super athletic but he gets the job done. If I were to rank Texans pass catchers, I’d still probably have him behind Nico Collins and Tank Dell which is why he’s ranked here. But C.J. Stroud has been great and Robert Woods is still out so he’s not a bad play from week to week.
Kyle Pitts - The farther we get into this season without him playing a full snap share, the farther he moves down the rankings. It seems pretty clear that his knee is not 100%. And Arthur Smith loves his boy Jonnu Smith. What can ya do?
Luke Musgrave - Musgrave was a lot more fun when Christian Watson was out. And he got roughed up a bit this week so he could be out again. But the reality is that Jordan Love isn’t playing at a high enough level to support Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Aaron Jones, and Luke Musgrave all through the air.