We recognize that the playoffs don’t start in the same week for every league. There are versions of playoffs that start now and go through Week 18 and there are others that might last only two weeks. Regardless, one thing is certain - it’s crunch time. There’s really no time left for stashing hypothetical upside. And the individual weekly matchups at the tight end position are critical. So now more than ever we are going to lean into the individual schedules for these players. Unless it’s Travis Kelce, of course.
We are of course still going to post weekly specific rankings on Thursday on Twitter. These will factor in the overall schedule and we’ll give you thoughts on that. What we’ll do to try to help is discuss the matchups for the player then, for tiers three and on, include some possible pairings that fit the schedule issues.
*Orange players have potential injury issues
Tier 1: A Tier Of His Own
Tier 2: Set It And Forget It
- Mark Andrews - The production for Mark Andrews has been sub par but he still blows most other options out of the water in underlying metrics. He leads the league in route participation. He leads the league in slot snaps. He leads the league in target share. He hasn’t been asked to pass block one time. And the downgrade from Lamar Jackson to Tyler Huntley isn’t necessarily as bad as some may think as they’ve shown plenty of rapport in the past. You still start him every week.
- T.J. Hockenson - The yardage totals haven’t been overwhelming but the snaps and targets have been consistent since arriving in Minnesota and that’s what matters most to us. He also has rock solid matchups the next few weeks with the Lions, Colts, and Giants before doing battle with Green Bay and De'Vondre Campbell championship week. One of the few set it and forget it options.
- Pat Freiermuth - We’ve talked about his situations for weeks now. Virtually everything is there for him in terms of his own talent, the scheme, and the opportunity. What we need is his quarterback to step up a little bit. Kenny Pickett is playing fine real life football but for fantasy we need more touchdown passes than two over the last five games. That being said, he doesn’t have too many killers left on the schedule (especially if you can earn a bye week and avoid the Week 15 matchup with Carolina who isn’t bad). So you plug him in there every week.
- Dalton Schultz - Look, Schultz doesn’t meet all of our criteria. Namely, he’s not quite locked in as a top target on the team and he’s not the most athletic. But we live in a world with no Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Kyle Pitts, Darren Waller etc. So you aren’t going to get much safer or more consistent options than Schultz. If you are loaded at the position, you might consider someone else vs. Philly in Week 16 but otherwise you are probably just riding this one out.
Tier 3: Cautiously Optimistic
- David Njoku - Most guys in this section are going to have a couple issues. So we are likely stashing a secondary option just in case. But they also have upside. And we know the upside with Njoku. He was great earlier in the season and could be even BETTER with Deshaun Watson. Here are the issues. First, he could be worse with Watson. Second, he’s been hurt. And third, his schedule is not great. In Weeks 16 and 17 he gets New Orleans and Washington who are two of the toughest matchups out there. Possible pairings for Weeks 16/17: Evan Engram (NYJ, HOU), Daniel Bellinger (MIN, IND)
- George Kittle - We know this guy is talented and he has great deployment. But this boils down to a quarterback question. No Trey Lance, no Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s all up to Brock Purdy now. Don’t like the sound of that. This upcoming week will be huge to see what this offense looks like when it’s designed for Mr. Irrelevant himself. Kittle could move down if it’s ugly but he does have plus matchups vs. the Seahawks and Raiders in playoff time but he gets Washington Week 16. Possible pairing for Week 16: Daniel Bellinger (MIN), Cade Otton (ARI)
- Cole Kmet - The usage for Cole Kmet at this point of the season has been excellent. In fact, he’s quite literally played every snap the last three weeks. And, with Justin Fields back and Darnell Mooney out, things are looking up. So why is he in this section where we are rostering another tight end as well? For starters, he’s not playing this week (the Bears are on bye). He aso has two serious road bumps to start the playoffs with the Eagles and Bills. If you can survive that though, you are rewarded with what could be a shootout vs. the Lions. Possible pairing for Weeks 15/16: Greg Dulcich (ARI, LAR), Tyler Conklin (DET, JAX)
- Gerald Everett - Gerald Everett continues to sneak bye despite some red flags. But as long as it’s working, we can’t argue. This guy has only played more than 70% of the snaps one time. And the wheels could potentially fall off when Mike Williams comes back (since Austin Ekeler leads the team in targets and Keenan Allen is still there). But his schedule is exactly average in the playoffs so you can just plug him in for virtually any week and feel okay. Just make sure you have other options in case he falls hard in the pecking order when Mike Williams gets back.
- Greg Dulcich - This entire Broncos offense has brought us great pain and, in recent weeks Greg Dulcich had been no different. But we kept rolling him out which paid off this week. He’s a converted WR that runs high aDot routes and now both Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton are dealing with injuries. He has a pretty nice playoff schedule with the Cardinals, Rams, and Chiefs so he’s a priority add if he’s on waivers.
- Dallas Goedert - In a vacuum, Dallas Goedert is great. He was highly dependable early on. But the issues now are two fold. One is that he’s coming back from injury and we don’t know how effective he will be. The other is that his schedule is brutal. The Bears, Cowboys, and Saints are all top 5-6 defenses vs. the tight end. If you have Goedert you obviously already have another tight end so you have to just stash him and see what happens.
Tier 4: Playing The Matchups
- Darren Waller - If you have an IR spot and Waller is available, just put him there. We know what he’s capable of. His matchups aren’t great and he might not even be fully healthy but you never know when injuries could strike and you might be very happy to have him at some point.
- Evan Engram - Evan Engram has been a roller coaster ride but we had him fairly high in our weekly rankings for the shootout potential and good TE matchup with the Lions. That worked out. But, despite his high route participation, he’s a risk to fall behind Christian Kirk and Zay Jones in any given week so we are trying to play the matchups if possible. The Titans aren’t a bad matchup this week but Dallas in Week 15 is. Then he could be a viable option after that vs. the Jets and Texans. Possible pairing for Week 15: Greg Dulcich (ARI), Dawson Knox (DET), Logan Thomas (NYG), Hunter Henry (LV)
- Daniel Bellinger - Bellinger’s return from a serious eye injury was incredibly positive. He played 64 of 66 snaps (though he blocked on six pass plays so only ran 34 routes on 41 drop backs). He also caught five of five targets. The idea here is simple - the Giants are struggling to find viable pass catchers so opportunity is there. Rough matchup with the Eagles this week and Washington next week though so might want to find a pairing. Possible pairing for Weeks 14/15: Greg Dulcich (KC, ARI), Hunter Henry (ARI, LV), Dawson Knox (NYJ, DET)
- Hunter Henry - We have not been high on Henry as of late but a few factors are going to boost him up down the stretch. First, he’s played good snaps and gotten five targets in each of the last two games even in bad matchups. His next four matchups are honestly all pretty good with the Cardinals, Raiders, Bengals, and Dolphins. All of those teams are essentially the bottom half vs. the tight end. You could do worse.
- Dawson Knox - The Patriots might seem like a good matchup on paper but they really aren’t - most of the touchdowns scored against them came when Kyle Dugger was hurt (and one by TJ Hockenson when he tripped). So Knox getting blanked this past week wasn’t unexpected. He’s kind of a touchdown-dependent play and you can use him this week vs. the Jets and next week vs. Dolphins but you don’t want to use him vs. the Bears in Week 16. Possible pairing for Week 16: Daniel Bellinger (MIN), Cade Otton (ARI)
- Tyler Conklin - Tyler Conklin is kind of the opposite of Dallas Goedert here. Don’t love him in a vacuum. He only have four broken tackles in 75 games. He can block too much at times and stay too close to the line of scrimmage. This past week he caught only two of his seven targets for nine yards. But seven targets is seven targets and his schedule in the playoffs might be the best of any player. Lions, Jags, Seahawks. Woof. If he can get on the same page as Mike White, he pairs well with just about anyone. Just wish he was a little better.
- Hayden Hurst - He wasn’t that good when Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon were out. Now Ja’Marr Chase is back and Joe Mixon will be. Just too many pass catchers here for you to count on this guy to string together three straight games so you can win the championship. He has one good matchup vs. Tampa Bay in Week 15 then terrible matchups vs. New England and Buffalo.
Tier 5: Taysom Hill
- Taysom Hill - Sometimes when you don’t have many other options, you just have to be running up that hill.
Tier 6: Serious Problems
- Logan Thomas - His schedule goes BYE, good matchup, bad matchup, bad matchup. Target competition.
- Juwan Johnson - He’s banged up and his schedule goes BYE, good matchup, bad matchup, bad matchup.
- Noah Fant - He has one big problem: Will Dissly.
- Chigoziem Okonkwo - He plays a 50-60% snap share on a team that hardly throws. More of a DFS dart.
- Tyler Higbee - His quarterback might be Baker Mayfield.
- Robert Tonyan - Doesn’t even play a 50% snap share
- Mike Gesicki - He basically splits slot snaps with Trent Sherfield. And Sherfield is better.
- Cade Otton - Viable whenever Cameron Brate is out (which seems to be often)
Tier 7: How Are You In The Playoffs?
Follow Andrew Cooper on Twitter @CoopAFiasco to see the weekly rankings once they are available later this week!
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