It is crunch time in fantasy football land friendos. More than ever, we need to focus on the present. If you are facing elimination, you need to focus on Week 11 and the immediate games since playoff schedule doesn’t matter. The rest of us will be taking a little glance ahead and, as we progress, from here on out, that will be our main focus. More players will be added to the Standalone tier as we finish the remaining bye weeks and we’ll be holding fewer speculative guys. The “sleepers” have another week or two to wake up before they sleep forever. So let’s take a look at the rankings and, most importantly write up our thoughts on exactly why who is ranked where they are.
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.
|George Kittle||Dalton Kincaid|
|Dallas Goedert||Trey McBride|
|David Njoku||Dalton Schultz|
|Jake Ferguson||Taysom Hill|
|Cole Kmet||Kyle Pitts|
|Pat Freiermuth||Darren Waller|
|Cade Otton||Logan Thomas|
Pat Freiermuth - Word is that Pat Freiermuth could return this week. He wasn’t that great even with Diontae Johnson was out. And he’s returning to the single worst matchup for a tight end so you can’t start him this week. But he probably deserves a roster spot at least in most leagues. Luke Musgrave
Travis Kelce - His bye week is over. He is locked into your lineup. You made this decision when you drafted him.
Mark Andrews - Mark Andrews has not had his bye week but he’s essentially been the second best end in every underlying metric we care about. Route participation, target share, alignment - you name it. The team he played this past week, the Cleveland Browns, is the top tight end defense in the country. And both games against them are over. Where I have Andrews I’m looking for someone to start for Week 13 for his bye then I’m starting him the rest of the way.
T.J. Hockenson - We were a little worried about the switch to Joshua Dobbs at QB. And we were a little worried this past week about his rib injury. Those worries are now over. The last remaining hurdle is the return of Justin Jefferson but, based on what we saw from Joshua Dobbs in Arizona (where they have collectively targeted the TE at the second highest rate of any team behind only Atlanta) as well as what we saw this week in Hock’s heroic performance, we have no doubt that Hock will remain a top two target on the team. And he deserves this spot.
Sam LaPorta - It hasn’t been perfect for Sam LaPorta. He doesn’t line up at wide receiver for as many snaps as we would like and we wish he would pass block slightly less. But that’s nitpicking on what has been one of the better tight end seasons we’ve seen in awhile. He only has one game all year with fewer than five targets and that consistency goes a long why for us. Plus his bye week is done.
Evan Engram - Another player where it hasn’t been perfect. He’s certainly been a better option in PPR formats as he hasn’t scored a touchdown all year. But all of my leagues are at least some form of PPR. And, even in his “bad games”, he’s caught a minimum of four passes. He had a tough matchup this past week vs. San Francisco and he has two more against Tennesee and Cleveland but, thankfully, neither of which fall during fantasy playoffs. Zay Jones has not only been injured but he also just got arrested on domestic battery charges so we might not see him at all this season.
Safe Plays (YIN)
George Kittle - George Kittle is arguably the toughest player to place on these rankings because he’s a unicorn to some degree in the same vein that Rob Gronkowski once was. They both are true “two way” tight ends so they stay inline and block a lot. But that actually helps them deceive the defense at times and break off big chunk plays that make up the difference. If possible, I would trade George Kittle in any sort of PPR format as, when everyone is healthy, he’s yet to catch more than three passes in a game. And that can be scary come playoff time. But you can’t drop him because he’s George Kittle. He can’t go on the Yang side because his upside is capped with all the other weapons. So he goes here.
Dallas Goedert - Dallas Goedert has a broken arm. They had the bye this week so didn’t need to put him on IR. If he doesn’t go on IR, he stays here. If they put him on IR and he misses the next four games minimum, what you do with him largely depends on whether you have an IR spot or not. If you have shallow benches and no IR spot available, might have to cut ties.
David Njoku - We originally had hopes that David Njoku could have been an upside play long term but he’s settled in as the quintessential “Yin”. He’s technically the third target on the team behind Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore which caps his upside to some degree. But the separation from him to the next pass-catchers is good enough to trust him. Jerome Ford is fourth with 29 targets and the guy who is fifth, Donovan Peoples-Jones, was traded to the Lions. So Njoku is safe but I’d pair him with some upside.
Jake Ferguson - We were hesitant with Fergalicious because he was playing a partial snap share early on. For the first seven or eight weeks he was barely in the top 32 tight ends for route participation. But Peyton Hendershot hit the IR and his role slowly grew to the point were we can trust him. He’s got the second most receptions vs. man to man behind only T.J. Hockenson which translates well to the red area where he has success. But he’s still kind of boring so I’m not willing to just say “okay I have Jake Ferguson, I don’t need to think about tight end anymore”. Especially with Brandin Cooks stepping up as of late.
Cole Kmet - This player scares me. And it’s not just that the quarterback will be changing soon. It’s the pass blocking. Against the Raiders they asked him to pass block on eight pass plays to help with Maxx Crosby and, in the process of doing that, he didn’t even get targeted. Then for a couple weeks we looked good and boom - eight pass block snaps again this week. When they throw as much as they did here it’s not so bad but that can completely rug-pull you when you least expect it. And we need to string three games together in fantasy playoffs without getting rug-pulled.
Pat Freiermuth - Word is that Pat Freiermuth could return this week. He wasn’t that great even with Diontae Johnson was out. And he’s returning to the single worst matchup for a tight end so you can’t start him this week. But he probably deserves a roster spot at least in most leagues.
Cade Otton - Cade Otton had a bad matchup last week. He has a bad matchup this week. He has a bad matchup Week 16. But in between those games he has good matchups and, in good matchups, we’ve seen this guy produce. He always plays a big snap share so you can at least count on him being out there. But you have to mix and match with him. Which is the case for virtually all these guys.
Luke Musgrave - We like Luke Musgrave as a player. He’s got a great career ahead of him. But the rules are the rules. Even with Christian Watson floundering to some degree, Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed are getting more targets than Musgrave. And with Aaron Jones back and the potential that Watson turns it on, things are just a little too thin as of late for Musgrave to have difference-making upside rest of way without some injury help.
Chigoziem Okonkwo - There will be many leagues that aren’t deep enough to roster this guy. But, in those deep leagues, just know he’s gotten four or more targets in seven of eigh games, including the last five. He’s also come very close to hitting on some big plays. Treylon Burks is seemingly out for awhile so let’s see if Will Levis and Chig can get on the same page.
Upside Stashes (Yang)
Dalton Kincaid - Dalton Kincaid is awesome. You know it, I know it. He was our top pick in the original Yin & Yang tight end article. Go back through every one of these weekly articles and you won’t find a single one where I said I was dropping Dalton Kincaid. But here’s the deal. The Bills still have a bye week. And Dawson Knox will be back. I think Kincaid has done enough to hold onto the role and his targets. But teams don’t always operate like that. This one just fired their offensive coordinator. So I’m sure people in the Reddit comments will be saying “The Dalton Kincaid disrespect!”. But you probably should still have another tight end just in case. You will need him in two weeks for the bye week anyone.
Trey McBride - Again, we love this fella. We loved him with Joshua Dobbs and, after what we saw this week, he might be even BETTER with Kyler Murray. We would not drop him for any reason at this point. But you can pretty much copy and paste what we just wrote about Dalton Kincaid.
Dalton Schultz - Again, another player from our initial Yin & Yang write-up. And things have gone pretty well so far. But here’s the rub - the playoff schedule for Schultz is brutal. The Titans are letting up the second fewest PPR points to tight ends. The Browns are letting up the fewest. In the first week of fantasy playoffs he plays the Titans. Then he plays the Browns. Then he plays the Titans again. The Titans did trade Kevin Byard but they haven’t been much worse against the TE since then. Maybe if Evan Engram can get it done this week against them we will feel a little better but I’d roster two to be safe. Don’t leave anything to chance.
Taysom Hill - I don’t have Taysom Hill on any rosters personally. I don’t play standard leagues and I try not to leave much to chance. He really needs them to find the redzone for him to hit and, if Jameis Winston is QB, that could be tougher than ever not only because they won’t be moving the ball as well but because Winston likes to take deep shots to Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed and that is the opposite of what we want for Taysom. We want the Derek Carr dink and dunk offense that only have two TEs longer than 20 yards.
Kyle Pitts - We are simply running out of time here. We thought maybe once the knee was better he would play more snaps. We though maybe with Taylor Heinicke he would look better. That hasn’t happened. So he doesn’t need to be held.
Logan Thomas - Thomas is an interesting one because he feels like a top two target on the team. He’s missed a game and a half and over the last four weeks he’s gotten at least five targets in every game. But Jahan Dotson has picked things up a bit as of late so Logan might not have the upside we once thought. Hard to trust rest of season for sure.