After a happy Week Five Yin & Yang update which saw Sam LaPorta and Evan Engram upgraded to the Standalone tier, we had a scary week at the tight end position that serves as a bit of a set back. Folks we though we could trust in great matchups like George Kittle and Darren Waller fell completely flat. Now with injuries piling up and bye weeks looming, it seems like more and more teams should consider rostering two tight ends to give themselves the best shot at competing. Don’t fall into the trap that many fantasy gamers do where they refuse to seek upgrades at the tight end, quarterback, defense, or kicker positions. It’s okay to use a bench spot on the positions where you are week - that’s what your bench is for!
As you might have already surmised, these rankings 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.
2023 Fantasy Football Week 5 Tight End Yin Yang Rankings
Something extraordinary would need to happen for him to leave this spot.
This was a “bad matchup” for Mark Andrews but it didn’t matter much because he’s a focal point of an NFL offense - something that is clearly fairly rare in the modern era. Statistically when you look at his target share, route participation, pass block rate, aDot, WR snaps, YAC/rec, YPRR there are almost no holes in his game. The only problem Mark Andrews faces from time to time is impatient fantasy gamers.
T.J. Hockenson had a down game and that’s okay - guys are going to have down games. This was a weird game script that saw only 48 offensive snaps for the Vikings (league average is around ~65) and only 25 dropbacks. All the underlying statistics are there and Hock is an every week guy.
Sam LaPorta and Evan Engram are incredibly close here. LaPorta has higher upside but Engram is “safer” if you ask me. And the nod typically goes to upside. The usage for LaPorta has been tremendous and he has the most receptions of any rookie through for games. The one remaining concern for Sam LaPorta has a name and that name is Jameson Williams. We’ve been told they will ease Jamo in but it’s “fantasy wishing” by LaPorta owners to suggest there isn’t a risk that this guy could impact the target distribution down the road. He’s a first-round pick that the Lions traded up to acquire and he’s a long way removed from the ACL injury so we really don’t know what he is fully capable of. Even then, LaPorta should be all right since the other weapons aren’t huge threats outside of ARSB and the RBs but something to monitor.
Our top player from the Yin list predraft moved up to the top tier based on how reliable he’s been and that is not likely to change, even if he has a couple of down weeks. We know that Zay Jones will return to join Engram, Calvin Ridley, and Christian Kirk which could thin the targets out some. But Engram is pretty entrenched in this offense regardless. His 20% target share, 84% route participation, 75% routes run from a WR spot, and 1.3% pass block rate are all elite. His aDot is a little low but that’s because he leads all tight ends in screen passes with six and his YAC on those makes up some of the difference there. No other tight end has more than three.
Safe Plays (Yin)
You know what you are getting with Kittle. He breaks a lot of our rules which is why we were fading him at ADP in most formats. In standard and best ball he was interesting because he can break off chunk plays or score TDs at any given time. But this team is so good they aren’t getting into shootouts. And, now that Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk have come into their own and Christian McCaffrey is there, they simply don’t need to lean on Kittle as heavily as they did in the past. Good for the 49ers, bad for us.
The story has not changed on Dallas Goedert since we put him in our Tight End Fades article. He’s a handcuff plus, just like Kittle. You can’t drop him because he has a super high ceiling if EITHER of DeVonta Smith or A.J. Brown gets hurt. But for now, his standalone value is capped. So I’d stash some upside on the bench if you can.
Henry is technically the second target on his team which is why he was briefly on the Yin side but this offense unfortunately does not seem like it’s going to support multiple fantasy-relevant options any time soon. On paper, his route participation, WR snaps, aDot, and pass block rate are all good and his target share is fine but he’s the red zone target for a team that is having a really hard time ever finding the red zone. His two TDs on end zone targets are tied for the league lead but those are his only two red zone targets.
Kmet is a tough one because he’s really at the mercy of what version of Justin Fields is going to show up. He quietly has a 19.5% target share which is higher than guys like T.J. Hockenson, George Kittle, Darren Waller, Dallas Goedert, etc. but the issue is his QB doesn’t throw it all that much, even then they call pass plays. Fields has dropped back 154 times but only actually thrown the ball 123 times which is less than 80% of the time. A guy like Jared Goff has dropped back only 138 times but has thrown 131 passes. It’s fine if the Bears call 50 pass plays and he does that but it’s scary when they call 30.
Jake Ferguson has been a big-time anomaly in terms of usage but we can’t really debate the results. His route participation is terrible - even with Peyton Hendershot out this week, it was only 65% and Luke Schoonmaker took routes from him in 11 personnel. His pass block rate is in the double digits, his aDot is low, he only lines up at WR for 32% of his snaps, his YAC isn’t great. Yet every week Dak Prescott insists on throwing him the ball. Who are we to argue with that?
You know what Tyler Higbee is. Not particularly athletic but he plays a lot of snaps and usually sees a couple of targets. At times he’s asked to spend the whole game blocking. And when Cooper Kupp is back you certainly can’t trust him. Until then, he’s out there doing what he does.
Freiermuth was already looking pretty dropable. Now he has an injury this week that will keep him out and then the bye week following that. With Diontae Johnson coming back after the bye most likely, he doesn’t need to be held.
Upside Stashes (Yang)
You guys saw the game on Monday Night. Darren Waller could have been bailed out when he was wide open in the endzone. Instead, Daniel Jones threw a hundred-yard pick-six the other way. We know how athletic he is. He played 92% of the snaps. All his usage numbers are solid. But if the QB can’t get him the ball, it’s hard to trust him. I’m holding on but, if I have better options, I’ll start them.
Similar story to Waller except more dramatic in both cases. His usage metrics are pristine - he plays WR, runs the highest aDot routes of any tight end, target share is good, pass block numbers are minimal. But the QB is terrible. And now we have heard from Arthur Smith that Kyle Pitts isn’t 100% coming off the knee injury but is “getting close”. I’m holding onto him to see what that looks like when he’s healthy and/or Taylor Heinicke is playing but you don’t have to hold him if you don’t want to.
Ertz was always highly target-dependent as he was never much of a YAC guy or a big red zone target. He only has a single 1,000-yard season on his resume and needed 150+ targets to get there. But he now has multiple double-digit target games this season so he’s a viable option at any given time. That target share means he has to be on the Yang side but could end up on the Yin side at the end of the day.
For the first time this year, Dalton Kincaid played more snaps than Dawson Knox. And he tied Gabe Davis for the second most routes run behind only Stefon Diggs. It still wasn’t enough though. I have yet to drop Dalton Kincaid in any of my leagues - I’m holding on to see if they fully unleash him and he catches on. We have to remember, a rookie like Amon-Ra St. Brown did next to nothing until his role changed in Week 11 and then he won leagues. I still believe but you might not have the bench space.
Luke Musgrave suffered a concussion last week but, because they played on Thursday, he has had extra time to recover. He was at practice today which is good news for his matchup with Las Vegas but, if he doesn’t get cleared, we won’t have him this week or next week for his bye. There’s also the matter of the return of Christian Watson to muddy up that target pecking order.
Ron Rivera and Eric Bienemy like lining a tight end up in the slot and getting him looks. Thomas obviously isn’t Travis Kelce but he’s utilized that way at times making him an interesting option. He’s especially interesting this week vs. the Bears with a banged-up Eddie Jackson.