It’s only Week Seven but we’re already in the deep dark woods of the NFL season. Injuries have ravaged the landscape, especially recently at the quarterback position with guys like Anthony Richardson, Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill, Justin Fields, Daniel Jones, and Baker Mayfield all banged up to some degree. And, on top of that, there are six teams on bye week this week. Over Weeks 9, 10, and 11 Sam LaPorta, Evan Engram, George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Dallas Goedert, Tyler Higbee, Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, and Greg Dulcich all go on bye week to it’s more important than ever to plan ahead. And a lot of folks might be looking at rostering two tight ends for a bit. Which is exactly what this strategy helps with.
These rankings are specific to a strategy call 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 7 Tight End Yin Yang Rankings
Travis Kelce - Kelce is the king and clearly the ankle isn’t bothering him that much coming off 124 yards.
Mark Andrews - Mark Andrews isn’t just TE2 in PPR points per game - he’s a top tight end in virtually every metric we look at. Target share, route participation, pass block percentage, aDot, WR snap rate, yards per route run, receptions vs. man to man - you name it. I understand folks like to argue for their TE and it might be close but I assure you this guy deserves this spot.
T.J. Hockenson - Sam LaPorta is incredibly similar to T.J. Hockenson in usage and I honestly consider those two pretty interchangeable here. They both play a lot of inline tight end compared to some of our other pass catchers but the key difference is the Lions ask LaPorta to hang in and block on pass plays more often than Hock (5.6% to 10.3%). That and Justin Jefferson missing an unknown amount of time have Hock slightly ahead for us.
Sam LaPorta - LaPorta has been tremendous and you have to be happy to have him. Hopefully the “rookie tight ends can’t be good” narrative has been put to bed. Because it never should have been a thing.
Evan Engram - Doesn’t get more rock solid than what you’ve been getting from Evan Engram. We’ve mentioned before is the one knock on him has been his low aDot of 4.1 but that’s largely because he leads all tight ends in screens. And is YAC covers that ground. Hopefully Trevor Lawrence is good to go because he has a tough matchup this week.
Darren Waller - Waller was pass interfered with in the end zone on back to back plays to end the game vs. the Bills this week where he should have likely added a touchdown. But even with Tyrod Taylor he came out and have seven targets so we’re willing to ride it out with Waller moving forward.
Safe Plays (YIN)
Dallas Goedert - Goedert leapfrogs Kittle here and a big part of that is that Sirrianni has gone back to calling screens for Goedert it seems. In fact, he called four for him this week alone. In any sort of PPR, we’ll take that. He’s still essentially a “handcuff plus” that would really benefit from an injury to one of the wide receivers but you can throw him in lineups.
George Kittle - We warned this could happen with Kittle. Incredibly talented player but they really don’t need to feed him the ball the way they used to. Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey are both a little banged up here though so we could get some decent games like we did when Brandon Aiyuk was out.
Cole Kmet - Alright folks, fingers crossed. In Week One of this season, Cole Kmet played 72 of 74 snaps which is 97%. Since then he was really playing a partial snap share and running partial routes. This week though he played a 95% snaps share. He still pass blocked on five snaps so he only ran 25 of 33 routes but still, he was hard to trust in the part time role. He may have disappointed in the box score this week but it gives us some hope. The QB injury hurts, of course.
David Njoku - David Njoku has been exactly fine. He’s the third target behind Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore. But his route participation is almost 80%, even with burns on his hand or face. And he’s had no less than 4.4 PPR points but also no more than 10.6. It could be worse but he doesn’t really have upside without a WR injury.
Jake Ferguson - Anyone that has read these articles or watched my show on Mondays knows that Jake Ferguson was a scary player because he’s not top 10-15 in any stat we care about. All the stats listed above for Mark Andrews, he’s outside the top 10-15, sometimes by a lot. He was TE30 in route participation coming into this week. Which makes this week so weird. Because he had a terrible game with only one catch but actually had his best route participation yet at 82%. Now, that’s still not ideal but it’s actually a huge improvement for this player. So, despite the bad game, it actually has me moving Fergalicious UP slightly. Seems crazy, but the underlying numbers are often more important than the box score.
Michael Mayer - Michael Mayer has fully surpassed Austin Hooper. Which is the first hurdle. The next hurdle to being viable is playing more. He only ran two third of the routes this week which is not enough. But we have hope. For him to move to the standalone tier, he needs to be a top two target on the team which would likely require an injury to Davante Adams or Jakobi Meyers. But he could be viable at least soon.
Zach Ertz - Ertz is still being utilized and he does line up at WR for almost 70% of his snaps. But things are trending in the wrong direction for him as they seem to want to mix in the young Trey McBride more and more. Ertz is hard to trust so he has to rank behind a guy like Mayer who is trending up.
Upside Stashes (Yang)
Kyle Pitts - We know he crushes a lot of behind the scenes metrics. The plan here is simple. We either hope that Desmond Ridder has turned over a new leaf (or that they bring in Heinicke). And we are hoping the knee gets healthy for Kyle Pitts. Each week we move farther from the MCL surgery.
Logan Thomas - I can’t imagine this would effect the decision making of an NFL offensive coordinator. But Eric Bieniemy did seem a little defensive when a reporter implied that it was not good for the offense for Logan Thomas to be the target share leader. Then this Sunday Thomas got one target. I’m brushing the game off as a one off for now as Terry McLaurin won’t get 12 targets every week. But I found that particularly strange. Here is the clip.
Dalton Schultz - This is another one of those guys that you can’t trust as sometimes he simply isn’t super involved. Even this week he ran 23 of 33 routes. But, as long as Tank Dell is out, he’s collecting targets in that part of the field. There’s still some hope he can pull a Dalton Schultz of old and get consistent looks week to week. So he goes here.
Luke Musgrave - From here we only care about upside. The floor for Luke Musgrave is low if he loses his spot in the pecking order with Christian Watson, Aaron Jones, Romeo Doubs, and Jayden Reed all healthy. But there is still uncertainty there where he could battle for solid weekly targets. So we hold on.
Dalton Kincaid - This is still ugly, espeically with him missing time, but the premise has not changed. Rookies of all kind can take time to grow into their role. Or sometimes, as we saw with rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown starting in Week 11, sometimes other catalysts allow guys to get a bigger role. There is still a chance that, down the stretch, Dalton Kincaid becomes the second target on this team behind Stefon Diggs. So I’m holding. You don’t have to hold though if you don’t believe. I get that.
Jonnu Smith - We can’t really argue with his usage or his target share here. It’s not as good as Kyle Pitts but he’s basically the third WR on this team behind Drake London and Kyle Pitts. I say “WR” because, contrary to popular belief, he’s not the inline tight end - he lines up at WR for 70% of his routes. Mycole Pruitt plays the most inline tight end.
Greg Dulcich/Jelani Woods - Both have been hurt for most of the year if not all so they are both mystery boxes. Which is better than some of the known bad commodities. The trade rumors in Denver have Dulcich ahead.
Taysom Hill - Hill has quietly been actually playing real tight end snaps and this week he got real tight end targets. That along with the possible rushing touchdowns have him someone we actually are going to rank with the real tight ends for the first time ever. Tough it probably stops when Juwan Johnson returns.