We could focus on the negative here, discuss another week of subpar performances from Tony Pollard and Davante Adams, or curse the bad weeks from Travis Kelce, Ja’Marr Chase, Kenneth Walker III, Bijan Robinson, Adam Thielen… need I go on ? It was a tough time for some of us, but not for those of us desperate enough to train a second TE or two!
Most of the league seemed to take National Tight Ends Day (October 22) to the next level, suddenly realizing that these big, strong, often open football players could actually be used in a real NFL game. Even near or in the end zone! What a revelation.
Tight ends who I once had the highest fantasy hopes for – but who I’ve long since given up on – did what they were obviously supposed to do: intercept TD passes. In Week 9, 18 running backs and 19 wide receivers scored double-digit half-PPR fantasy points, while 15 tight ends reached that mark (prior to Monday Night Football). We typically see 5-10 TEs with 10+ fantasy points each week, although we also had 12 players hit that mark in Week 8. What really made Week 9 unique was that Kelce wasn’t one of the fantasy leaders at his position.
After so many exciting TE performances, we need to keep a cool head because it’s so easy to fall back into believing in a particular player. For me it’s Irv Smith Jr.
I drafted him with all his rookie hype in a TE premium expert dynasty league and I still want to believe I was right. In dynasty leagues, you really have to watch out for management and investment biases that serve to protect your ego when evaluating your suboptimal decisions.
The tight end is notoriously fickle in fantasy, and much of what we saw and celebrated in Week 9 won’t happen again this season. Our goal is to select those TEs with the most staying power and leave the RNGs on the waiver wire. Since Mark Andrews and TJ Hockenson are weekly starters and have scored 10+ fantasy points, we don’t need to go into detail about them (but be sure to read more about Hockenson’s rib injury). Let’s get to the rest.
The Bills version of Travis Kelce is here to stay. If he wasn’t already, Kincaid needs to be a starter every week going forward (72% represented in Week 9 Yahoo leagues). Buffalo is loyal to a fault (see Cole Beasley), but the injury to Dawson Knox has opened up opportunities for Kincaid that this team desperately needed. Over the last three weeks, Kincaid has 23 catches on 26 targets, one of which was a touchdown, showing he’s exactly who they picked him to be.
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
Notably, Kmet is only in 78% of Yahoo leagues despite being the TE5 of fantasy leagues this season. He has the second-highest catch rate (82%) and the second-most touchdowns (five) among top 10 TEs. Both Justin Fields and Tyson Bagent have included him, as he joined Fields in scoring three goals against Denver and Washington. Bagent targeted him 18 times in the last two games, resulting in 16 catches and two hits. Four of Kmet’s touchdowns came from the red zone. While there’s nothing wrong with a big breakaway scoring play, having your QB looking for you in the end zone is a more reliable indicator of future performance. However, keep an eye out for training reports as he missed Monday’s free game with a knee injury.
That’s a fair transition to Ferguson, who leads the league in TE targets inside the 10-yard line (eight, of which he caught three for two touchdowns) and the red zone (14 targets, eight catches, three scores). He wasn’t as efficient as Kmet, but his effort in goal situations is excellent. Dallas has had ups and downs offensively as a team, but the passing game is hot right now, which puts Ferguson in that position on a regular basis. If he increased his catch rate even a little, his fantasy value would go through the roof. Since he plays in 78% of leagues, he would be a good replacement for Kelce or Dallas Goedert in Week 10.
Former Cowboy Schultz took part in the record-setting day that CJ Stroud and Houston had in Week 9. At 10-130-1, he led all TEs in Week 9 and was the sixth-best flex player in half-PPR rating. Even a lost fumble couldn’t ruin his managers’ good time Sunday. The Texans average more points per game than KC (23.4 to 23.1 PPG) and Stroud continually sets them up for victory. The Texans haven’t suffered a major loss since Week 1 in Baltimore. This is a winning formula for TE and a big reason why Schultz will start in well over 37% of leagues in Week 10.
Note: Cincinnati (Houston’s Week 10 opponent) is the most generous team in fantasy points allowed to tight ends.
In the same game, Otton posted his best numbers of the season, catching six of nine targets for 70 yards and two touchdowns. That was more than twice as many as any previous outing this season, and against a Houston defense that has been stingy to opposing wide receivers (third-fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs), it feels more capricious. I fully expect Mike Evans and, to a lesser extent, Chris Godwin to be the focal point of the passing offense when the Bucs host Tennessee, a much better fantasy matchup for them. Rachaad White is also proving to be a real double threat, scoring between 4 and 7 goals per game in the last three weeks. Let someone else track Otton’s Week 9 stat line.
On the subject of investment bias, I have to admit that I’m so glad I was never in a position to add Kyle Pitts to the roster. His dynasty managers and even season or DFS believers kept getting hurt. There is only one game this season in which Pitts outscored Smith by five or more fantasy points (Week 5). Either they are both poor to mediocre or Smith was the better Falcons tight end. Smith’s 5-100-1 line in Week 9 was exceptional among the Falcons’ talented players, but much of it came from a 60-yard catch-and-run touchdown game. I can’t recommend Smith based on this performance, but I also can’t recommend starting Pitts. If you were forced to choose one, it would be Smith, and I think Taylor Heinicke, while not perfect, is a more stable leader for the fantasy receivers on this team (especially against Arizona in Week 10).
Musgrave has been the victim of missed big plays or touchdowns several times this season. The Packers may be a difficult team to evaluate, but they have at least shown a desire to include Musgrave. He leads all tight ends in target separation (distance from nearest defender at pass arrival, 2.83 yards) and has just one drop this season. His actual catch rate (total receptions divided by total catchable targets) is 93.2%, giving Jordan Love most of the blame for his lack of productivity. Whether you can continue to start Musgrave depends on the strength of the rest of your squad. I do think he will play some big games in the second half of the season. Pittsburgh is a fantasy-friendly pass defense and brings Musgrave in for Week 10.
Henry had three good games for the Patriots this season (Weeks 1, 2 and 9) as he scored a touchdown in each. However, he doesn’t even have the best TE line among the Patriots’ tight ends (Pharaoh Brown) and hasn’t had more than six catches or 56 yards all season. Only in the deepest leagues would someone use Henry against the Colts’ average pass defense in Week 10.
Njoku is creeping into double figures at 4-26-1, an unimpressive record. The Browns were all about Amari Cooper in Week 9. While it’s nice to see Njoku have good games in consecutive weeks, he generally won’t push your fantasy roster into the W column. If you’re desperate, he’s a guy, but I’d look somewhere other than Njoku in Baltimore for Week 10.
As sad as it makes me, Irv Smith Jr., Drew Sample and Juwan Johnson rounding out the top 14 are the most obvious flashes in the pan. We know Johnson will have some big games every season; his five catches in Week 9 were a season high. Popular starter Trey McBride underperformed with Clayton Tune leading the way for the Cardinals. Depending on the individual roster, he’s still a fringe starter, but expect McBride to bounce back with Kyler Murray set to start in Week 10. Isaiah likely hit all four of his goals in the Ravens’ big win, reminding us to prioritize getting him if anything were to happen to Andrews.