Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of the nightmare situation of Mark Andrews going down right before fantasy playoffs. That’s going to find at least one owner in your league desperate for a tight end on the wire. But he shouldn’t be the only one. There are no bye weeks this week but, over the following two weeks, we see T.J. Hockenson, Dalton Kincaid, Trey McBride, Cole Kmet, Isaiah Likely, and Logan Thomas all go on bye. And some guys, like Dalton Schultz for instance, have tough playoff schedules. So you really shouldn’t get complacent with the tight end position and definitely don’t wait to find your TE2.
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.
Travis Kelce - Kelce is the king whether Taylor Swift is at the game or not. Lock him in rest of season.
T.J. Hockenson - At this stage it doesn’t matter if/when Justin Jefferson comes back. T.J. Hockenson isn’t going to go from leading all tight ends in the league in targets to an afterthought. Over the last five weeks he has had almost a 30% target share which not even the great Travis Kelce comes close to.
Sam LaPorta - LaPorta set the bar for himself so high that a couple five target games here has us a little disappointed. But in this landscape you could do a lot worse htan five targets. After the past few weeks he’s still had an 82.5% route participation and a 17.2% target share. We also expressed in past write ups that we were worried about him playing too many inline snaps and blocking on pass plays - in recent games he’s improved in both categories. LaPorta is going to be just fine.
Evan Engram - If it’s a standard league or half PPR you might be concerned for Evan Engram. But in full PPR you are going to be hard-pressed to find someone more reliable. The Tennessee Titans have been the second best defense vs. the tight end all year and Engram still managed to catch four of six targets. He hasn’t been wracking up the yards and he’s yet to score but he leads all tight ends catching 15 of 15 screen passes which offers a nice floor in this tight end economy.
George Kittle - Kittle has had the opposite problem to Engram to some degree. He’s been explosive and productive with his targets but there have been times where he’s not heavily targeted. In fact, this past week was the first time he’s had more than three receptions when everyone has been healthy. But he’s been on a role lately and Baltimore is really the only tough matchup he has rest of season so you are probably just rolling him out there.
Safe Plays (YIN)
Dallas Goedert - Dallas Goedert has a broken arm and we don’t know when he will be back so you obviously need to roster two. It certainly helps having an IR spot as well. The Eagles didn’t place him on the IR meaning they expect him back sometime over the next couple weeks though so you’ve got to hold onto him if you can.
David Njoku - We were pretty concerned here for David Njoku with the QB change. But then he saw a team high 15 targets. In fact, 15 targets matches T.J. Hockenson for the most a tight end has seen in a game all year. It might not be pretty but the Browns believe in Dorian Thompson-Robinson and DTR believes in Njoku so I’m willing to lean into that.
Jake Ferguson - Early on in the season we hated his usage - he was barely in the top 32 TEs in terms of route participation for the first few weeks. Then Peyton Hendershot got hurt and Ferg slowly built on his usage to the point that we could really trust him. Hendershot could be back this week and Schoonmaker did steal the touchdown last week but Ferg has been a reliable pass catcher in man to man (where he has the second most receptions to only T.J. Hockenson) and that helps him win in the red zone. The struggles for Michael Gallup have also gone a long way to help him.
Cade Otton - Honestly, there’s not really much that you would get from Dallas Goedert that you aren’t getting from Cade Otton. Goedert plays in a batter offense but they are similarly position as the third fiddle who runs a ton of routes and is involved to some degree each week. In fact, Cade Otton is third in route participation over the last five weeks. He just had two rough matchups vs. the Titans and 49ers but the schedule clears up and we are liking him.
Cole Kmet - We said this last week - Cole Kmet is a scary player. Twice within the last five weeks he has been asked to stay in and block on eight pass plays. In one of those games he didn’t catch a pass. This past week he only ran 20 of a possible 33 routes. In fantasy playoffs we need three straight games with no duds and, even though he’s capable of big games, Cole Kmet is also a threat for a dud at any moment.
Pat Freiermuth - In his first game back he only ran 13 of 34 routes. So, first and foremost, we need to see this guy play and whole game before we attempt to trust him. His QB is playing terrible and the offensive coordinator was just fired so I really need to see him play a whole game AND play well to trust him.
Luke Musgrave - Since the return of Christian Watson, the targets have been spread pretty thin. So that’s one concern. The other concern is that Luke Musgrave is in the hospital and they play in two days. So you need to make other plans.
Upside Stashes (Yang)
Dalton Kincaid - We talked about this last week and it has not changed. From a weekly standpoint, we will continue to rank Dalton Kincaid very high. But you should be rostering two tight ends right now for two reasons. A. They still have a bye week. And B. Dawson Knox will be back. I don’t personally believe that Dalton Kincaid goes back in the bottle at this stage - if anything we will see two tight end sets when Knox gets back. But we have to leave room for the possibility that we are wrong and the Bills go back to a rotation.
Trey McBride - You can virtually copy and paste what was said about Dalton Kincaid here then just swap out Dawson Knox of Zach Ertz. McBride has bye week 14. Over the last five weeks Trey McBride and Dalton Kincaid have both been top five tight ends in target share. I’m banking on them. But I’m still preparing for the worst.
Dalton Schultz - The most important matchup for Dalton Schultz this past week was not his own. It was Evan Engram vs. the Titans. And the results were mixed. Engram caught four passes but only for 29 yards. The Titans did trade away Kevin Byard but that hasn’t stopped them from being a top two defense in the league vs. the tight end. The top team? The Cleveland Browns. Schultz’s schedule for fantasy playoffs going Titans, Browns, Titans. Nightmare. Plan ahead.
Isaiah Likely - I am IN on Isaiah Likely. I don’t care that the box score showed he had zero catches on two targets. I broke it down on Reddit with video evidence here as to why I think his game was better than it looked. When Mark Andrews got hurt, Likely took over his job and played virtually every snap - just like he did last year where he was peppered with targets. The floor might not be great but you aren’t going to find this kind of ceiling on the wire. He still has a bye week which means you need another tight end anyway. But get him.
Taysom Hill - You know the deal with Hill. Red zone monster which is out of his hands to some degree but the upside is nice. If you are a Taysom fan, you are rooting for Derek Carr to come back. Carr only has two TD passes longer than 20 yards which is great for Hill - dink and dunk to the redzone. Jameis Winston is the opposite of that. It is bad for business.
Logan Thomas - Washington throws so much that Logan Thomas actually has run the second most routes of any tight end which is crazy considering he missed a game and a half after a cheap shot from Kareem Jackson (who just got suspended again). But even then, Thomas has been kind of “empty targets” where he’s not doing too much with the looks. He’s a pretty safe option for some weeks but you need to roster two here because he has a bye week coming up and he plays the 49ers for fantasy championship week. Not great.
Kyle Pitts- Kyle Pitts is quietly somehow tied for the 9th most targets of any tight end. But he clearly has not been healthy coming off knee surgery, looking slow and playing partial snaps. Maybe the bye week helped but it’s hard to trust this guy.