What a week for tight ends. With no bye weeks as well as injuries to Dawson Knox, Zach Ertz, and Deebo Samuel, we got a BIG weekend for the position. We had FOURTEEN tight ends put up double-digit points in PPR. And we saw some breakout games for some guys we’ve been waiting on like Dalton Kincaid and Trey McBride. But that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and rainbows rest of season. We lost some tight ends and quarterbacks to injury here like Darren Waller and Kirk Cousins. And keep in mind that, over the next three weeks, all these tight ends go on a bye week.
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.
2023 Fantasy Football Yin Yang Tight End Rankings Week 9
One flukey flu game doesn’t change anything for the king.
We’ve pointed out for weeks now that Mark Andrews is second in behind Travis Kelce in virtually every important underlying stat. Well, he’s also second in fantasy points per game. So I understand the arguments for other players but Andrews belongs here.
LaPorta had another big game this week but it could have been even BIGGER as there were some missed opportunities there. He also played 81 of 86 snaps this week and only blocked on two pass plays so his usage was the best it’s been all year (would still like to see him line up at WR more often and pass block less but we are splitting hairs). The trade for Donovan Peoples-Jones doesn’t move the needle much so LaPorta is squarely a high-end asset.
Yes, Engram did go out and catch 10 of 10 targets this week. In fact, his catch rate of 86.4% is second among qualified tight ends behind only Dalton Kincaid. Which is weird because I was told he couldn’t catch. But the reality for Engram is that he might not have moved up in the standings this week if not for the injuries to Darren Waller and Kirk Cousins. Engram is a very “safe” player because he gets a lot of screens (leads all TEs) and is involved every week but he hasn’t been utilized much in the red area or downfield so his upside isn’t super high. Still, you start him every week and have to be happy to have him.
In this section of the rankings, we are splitting hairs to some degree. But we have to do it. T.J. Hockenson the player is great. And his usage is good. But his quarterback just tore his Achilles tendon. Now, they did trade for Joshua Dobbs and Dobbs has been feeding the tight ends with Arizona. But we don’t want change. We don’t want uncertainty. That uncertainty moves Hock down a tad here.
We’ve written extensively about Dallas Goedert week after week and the short and sweet is this. He’s a decently reliable option that could have a difference-making upside if either DeVonta Smith or A.J. Brown get hurt. In this tight end landscape, you are starting him every week to he belongs here.
We were afraid of this. Darren Waller has been among the top of the league in most aspects when healthy - target share, route participation, routes run from WR spot, pass block, you name it. But the key caveat is *when healthy*. Now his OTHER hamstring is acting up. And the first and second string QBs are dealing with injuries. I can deal with Tyrod Taylor but I do not trust Tommy DeVito. If Daniel Jones is really good to go and Waller looks healthy, he might move up. But he’s also a risk of needing to be moved down.
Safe Plays (YIN)
Typically we would say that George Kittle is a good “sell high” candidate. In the five games where everyone was healthy, he had four games with under six PPR points and the Cowboys game where he caught three TDs on three catches. But in the other three games when Deebo Samuel and/or Brandon Aiyuk have been hurt, he’s been good. Coming off two weeks without Deebo we would say to sell but the question is who you would sell for? If you can get Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews or Sam LaPorta I would do that. Or a “lateral” move to someone maybe a little safer like Evan Engram. Otherwise, you are riding with Kittle. Just know what, when Deebo gets back, it might not be all sunshine and rainbows.
The Donovan Peoples-Jones trade doesn’t mean all that much as DPJ wasn’t doing all that much but I guess it’s one less player to worry about. Njoku has been solid but he’s not quite a top-two target as we hoped as Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore are more involved than he is. Still, Njoku is fairly safe to use week to week, especially since he’s had his bye, but I wouldn’t stop looking for upside on the wire. If you were starting Njoku and stashing Dalton Kincaid or Trey McBride, you probably feel pretty good right about now.
Cole Kmet has been a bit of a rollercoaster here as they have asked him to stay in and block at times (like they did vs. Maxx Crosby) and he can have rough games at times in those cases. That can lead to some boom/bust weeks. But his snap share is up, they are likely to get Braxton Jones back soon, and will eventually have Justin Fields so he’s not a bad option among the “meh” tier of guys.
We talked about this last week - despite the bad game before the bye, we actually moved him up slightly because he was playing more snaps than he was early on. And that paid off this week. He still is competing with Ceedee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, and Tony Pollard and Peyton Hendershot will be back at some point to mix in but he’s typically good for a couple catches and a shot at a TD and that’s fine. Just don’t sit there and say “I have Jake Ferguson so I’m all set rest of the way”.
This week was a pretty good illustration of what we don’t like about Jonnu Smith. Since he’s not a full time player and not a particularly explosive athlete, you are taking on too much risk without enough upside. We can handle full-time players that don’t have a ton of upside or explosive players in a part-time role but part-time players that don’t move the needle much are kind of the worst of both worlds. If Drake London misses time, that would help at least.
Talked about this last week but just being the starter isn’t enough. Running 22 of 29 routes isn’t enough. Especially in this offense.
Stash if you have an IR spot, otherwise you don’t have to. Connor Heyward has actually been running a decent route share and getting some looks so it’s not crazy to consider him in deeper leagues or in DFS. He’s not Muth though.
Upside Stashes (Yang)
Some folks were asking whether Kincaid would be going into the Standalone Tier. And, in my heart, he is. But we have to be realistic about the situation. Dawson Knox isn’t out for the season, he’s on IR. We’d like to think that Dalton Kincaid “can’t be put back in the bottle” especially after the last two weeks. But, as we’ve seen so far, despite him having the best catch rate of any TE with at least 25 targets, any split can lead to inconsistency week to week. So for now we will have Kincaid high in the weekly rankings and he won’t be on waivers anywhere but we still have to be cautiously optimistic to some degree.
You can honestly copy and paste a lot of what was just said about Dalton Kincaid to this section. Zach Ertz isn’t out for the year so he could come back to cause some trouble. The difference between these two really boils down to Kincaid being part of the better offense with the better QB. We hope that Kyler Murray comes back and looks like Kyler Murray but Joshua Dobbs, who had been feeding the tight ends, just got traded to the Minnesota Vikings.
The narrative has not changed. But every week where the usage doesn’t get better for Pitts, concern grows. We will find out tomorrow if we get a QB change we’ve been hoping for. But there is worry the knee simply isn’t right for Pitts in which case it could just be a lost season. But we can all picture the upside as well. Drake London got banged up, Pitts could get healthy, and Heinicke could be a fresh change of pace. Still stashing.
This is one player who has trended in the wrong direction behind the scenes despite the production over the last two weeks. Not only is he not playing a full snap share/running as many routes as we would like but now Jahan Dotson is getting targets. We have to keep in mind that the Commanders have dropped back to pass FIFTY more times than any other team which is hard to sustain. Logan Thomas could end on the Yin side of the equation as our hope was that he could be a top two target on the team but that could be in doubt. Curtis Samuel did leave with a foot injury but Jamison Crowder stepped right in and got those looks.
Schultz is another one that is fairly boring but we are holding out some hope. As we get closer down the stretch here and bye weeks are behind us, there will be fewer players in the Yin & Yang categories and a lot more moving down the The Rest. Schultz is certainly a candidate.
Sometimes we win the battles, sometimes we don’t. In this case our concerns about the return of Christian Watson were warranted. With Watson, Doubs, Reed, and Musgrave, you really need a quarterback firing on all cylinders to stay afloat. That has not been Jordan Love.
Same game we have been playing here. Sometimes the unknown upside is better than the known mediocrity. So throw them in an IR spot if you can.
It’s a long shot but maybe Will Levis can provide a spark here. He did find Chig on a wide open ball that would have potentially gone for 50+ yards - if Chig didn’t drop it.
In Week Seven, Taysom not only got some carries but he ran 44 routes to Foster Moreau’s 15 (they dropped back a crazy 62 times). In Week Eight though, Juwan Johnson returned and ran 17 routes to 15 for Hill (out of only 31). So he’s back to being a bit of a rushing TD coin flip. Oh well.