We’ve made it to the oasis that is Week Eight where there are zero teams on bye week. After six teams last week. Great job, NFL schedule makers! And I know some folks might think they are safe at tight end, but just know there is a brutal stretch coming up for some high end tight ends in terms of bye weeks. So it might be smart to get out in front of that right now by adding some of the hot names like Dalton Kincaid (with Dawson Knox out) and Trey McBride (with Zach Ertz out). These guys are all currently in the TE1 range in PPR and they are all on bye Week 9, 10, or 11.
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 continues to prove time and time again why he’s the best. I’ll spare you the hacky Taylor Swift joke here - I’m sure you are sick of it.
Mark Andrews - It was such a good week at tight end this week that Mark Andrews could go out and score 2 TDs and still not finish as the TE1 in PPR. In fact, he wasn’t even TE2. But he IS the TE2 in virtually all of the important metrics for the position and has been for the majority of the season. He’s also one of the few TEs that has a backup worthy of potentially adding and starting if he gets hurt in Isaiah Likely which bolsters his argument for this spot.
T.J. Hockenson - If and when Justin Jefferson returns, we might mix up the order order. But for the team being T.J. Hockenson is just so incredibly safe. I mean, let’s put all the fancy metrics aside (of which he is also good). This guy have 8+ targets in six of seven games this year. There is no substitute for that. On Monday night this week vs. one of the best defenses vs. the tight end he walked away catching 11 of his 12 targets. Stud
Sam LaPorta - Sam LaPorta has been awesome. And it’s easy to get excited. But he’s not exactly perfect either. He actually, quietly, has a lower route participation than Kyle Pitts. Part of that has been a calf issue but the other part has been that LaPorta is asked to blocked on 9.5% of his pass plays (vs. 0.9% for Pitts or 1.5% for Evan Engram). That adds up over the course of a season. We’re splitting hairs though here because the production is there.
Darren Waller - There are arguments to be made that Darren Waller should be higher. He’s TE3 in target share and leads his team in targets. He runs a ton of routes (especially from a WR spot where he runs 71.4% of his routes). And he’s clearly the focal point in the red area - in Week 6 he was pass interfered with twice in the end zone to end the game and last week he did score. But the QB uncertainty along with his own injury history is enough for him to be ranked at 5. Unlike Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce, he doesn’t really have a backup we would spot start in case of injury.
Evan Engram - Engram might not be the sexiest play. And we moved Waller ahead as the return of Zay Jones approaches. But he’s so consistent in a sea of inconsistency. He’s a top five tight end in route participation, WR route rate, target share, pass block percentage etc. And he leads all tight ends in screen passes with 11 (of which he has caught all 11) which is nice for PPR.
Dallas Goedert - Dallas Goedert would likely shoot up this list if AJ Brown or DeVonta Smtih got hurt. But he’s also bounced back nicely and proven that he can be fairly reliable on a weekly basis. A big reason for that is the Eagles have gotten back to the tight end screen game which was super effective last year (where Goedert led the league). Over the first five week, Goedert was only targeted on four screens or less than one a game. Over the last two games? Six, which is three a game. We’ll take it, especially in PPR.
Safe Plays (YIN)
George Kittle - Pretty obvious situation here. Kittle has three good games. One was the weird game vs. the Cowboys where he caught three passes all for touchdowns. The next was Week 3 when Brandon Aiyuk was out. And the other was Week 7 when Deebo Samuel was out. In the other four games he’s had six of fewer PPR points. Kittle is a guy you start where you have him but I’m using a bench spot on upside looking for some consistency. And I’d consider trading him before Deebo gets back.
David Njoku- Njoku has blocked on a lot of pass plays early on but, ever since he burned his hands and face, he’s actually be running a lot more routes. This week he played 72 of 75 snaps and ran 38 of 40 routes. There is consistency in his usage but, unfortunately, there has not been consistency in the quarterback play. Quite the opposite.
Jonnu Smith - I get it. He’s been getting some targets, scoring some points. But we also have to be realistic about the situation. Kyle Pitts has been working his way back from an MCL issue where Arthur Smith says he’s still not 100%. And the Falcons have had some uncharacteristic shootouts over the last couple weeks. Unless Pitts suffers some kind of big setback, I just don’t see a world where Jonnu Smith all of a sudden breaks out into some new player he’s never been. He’s a part-time player but he is involved enough to throw in lineups if you are desparate.
Jake Ferguson - Jake Ferguson was on bye this past week so we are just going to re-hash what we wrot elast week which still stands with Peyton Hendershot out. “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.”
Cole Kmet - We were hoping that maybe the young Tyson Bagent would prefer dumping it down to the young tight end over the mobile Justin Fields. Quite the opposite. Kmet played 63 of 71 snaps but they asked him to stay in and help with Maxx Crosby so he blocked on eight pass plays. That’s not good. He’s obviously not going to catch zero passes every week but his trust level took a big hit here.
Michael Mayer - Now that all the excitement has died down we need to consider what the ceiling is here. Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers are the top dogs. So top two target is unlikely without a trade or injury. Mayer plays more than Austin Hooper now but he still doesn’t play a full snaps hare or run all the routes - he ran 26 of 50 routes this week. The highly consolidated offense helps him as they use a fullback and second TE often but he’s a fairly boring play.
Pat Freiermuth - He went back on IR as quickly as he came off. Only hold at this stage if you have an IR spot.
Upside Stashes (Yang)
Kyle Pitts - I’ve gotten a lot of questions so far about dropping Kyle Pitts for guys like Dalton Kincaid and Trey McBride. But with those guys we are HOPING they can become a top two target on the team. Kyle Pitts already is. Pitts also has an 18% target share (Dallas Goedert is at 16.8) and a near 80% route participation. The dream is that Pitts gets in better and better shape the farther he gets from the MCL surgery and we get a stud down the stretch.
Dalton Kincaid - We specifically mentioned Amon-Ra St. Brown’s rookie year in the write up for Kincaid last week. That ARSB wasn’t doing much until injuries and a role change happened around the 10 Week mark. Well, Dawson Knox is having wrist surgery so we are hopefully going to see an expanded role for Kincaid. Per PFF, Dawson Knox has caught 15 of 27 targets while Kincaid has caught 25 of 26 so we’re hoping he takes the job here and runs with it. And maybe even ends up as the second target behind Stefon Diggs.
Trey McBride - These are the kinds of big moves we need to make. Marquise Brown has 60 targets. Zach Ertz has 43. No one else has more than 28. Now Zach Ertz will miss a minimum of four games with a quad injury. And Kyler Murray could be coming back soon. Trey McBride was already starting to overtake Ertz but the decision becomes pretty easy for the coaching staff - McBride is looking at a huge opportunity here.
Logan Thomas - Our confidence in Logan Thomas has waned slightly in recent weeks as he’s not playing the massive snap share or running as many routes as he did early on. He’s also technically slid to fourth on the team in targets per game (though, if you count the half game he missed after a concussion, he would be second behind Terry McLaurin). Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson have come alive a bit so the idea of Terry and Logan getting all of the targets isn’t as realistic as we once hoped. They are spreading it around a little more.
Dalton Schultz - Schultz has always been exactly Dalton Schultz, no matter which team in Texas he plays on. He’s not top 10 in any major stat - target share, route participation, WR snap share, pass block percentage, yards per route run, YAC per reception. But there’s still hope that maybe C.J. Stroud decides to lean on him. With Tank Dell returning, he’s just not super exciting though. He’ll probably find his way to the Yin side of these rankings.
Luke Musgrave - He suffered a concussion earlier this year. This week he got popped by Kareem Jackson who was ejected. And he also suffered an ankle injury. We need to monitor his health but, perhaps even more scary, we need to monitor the situation around him. Jordan Love has been looking pretty rough as of late. And, with Christian Watson back, those rough targets are spread a little thin.
Taysom Hill - We added Taysom Hill last week as he was getting actual targets but Juwan Johnson should be back this week. If he is still playing actual tight end, we might move him up. But we aren’t starting him if he goes back to being a TD coin flip.