Thanks to Week 15 eruptions by Rob Gronkowski, Evan Engram, and Greg Olsen, tight end pricing is (generally) back through the roof. We've benefited plenty this year from in-between TE pricing, but in Week 16, if we want to chase points from the elites it's going to cost us.
Let's say you're putting together two cash lineups and mass-entering a large-field GPP. What's your general plan at tight end? Are you concentrating ownership on a specific guy or guys? Do you see any attractive options that come dirt-cheap? Or any in-between value, i.e. guys who should be priced alongside Engram and Olsen but come a hair cheaper?
James Brimacombe: At this point in the season it almost feels like you have to pay up at the tight end position. Value here is almost non-existent right now, so looking to Gronkowski and Travis Kelce on the high end makes more sense as you can lock them in. Look at the wide receiver spot to find the one or two value plays that you will need to make it all fit.
Paying down this week, you might want to look at Cameron Brate, mainly because O.J. Howard is out for the game so there could be increased volume for him. Brate himself got banged up on Monday Night Football, so we will have to monitor his status heading into the weekend. Olsen is another name; he seems to be almost back to 100% health and had a great game with Cam Newton last week, catching 9 of 12 passes for 116 yards and 1 touchdown. Antonio Gates at minimum salary with no Hunter Henry could be a GPP play, but I would rather look elsewhere for savings and just pay up for Gronkowski and Kelce.
Dan Hindery: I will certainly have GPP exposure to Gronkowski, Kelce, and Olsen. Each of the three is in a plus matchup and has the ability to explode for a huge game.
In the middle tier, Delanie Walker stands out as the top option. The Tennessee Titans will be playing for their playoff lives and are going to have to score points to keep up with the high-powered Rams offense. Los Angeles has allowed four touchdowns to opposing tight ends over the last two weeks. Delanie Walker leads all NFL players with a 40% team target share inside the 10-yard line. Outside of the elite tight ends, Walker has the best shot at finding the end zone this week.
My favorite inexpensive tight end is Eric Ebron. He has 18 targets over the past 2 weeks and should again be a key part of the Detroit offense against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals strength is at cornerback with the emergence of William Jackson and solid play of Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard. Even when healthy, the Bengals linebackers have struggled mightily in coverage. The unit has been decimated by injuries and will be without at least two starters (the third starter, Vontaze Burfict, is questionable and hasn’t played since a concussion in Week 13) and is likely to continue the struggles of recent weeks.
Jason Wood: The main slate has very few reliable tight end options. In GPPs, I'll have some fliers on low-cost plays like Garrett Celek, Gates, and Josh Hill. But in cash games, my ownership will revolve around Kelce, Gronkowski, and Olsen. They're all critical components of their respective offenses, on teams favored to win big and score a bunch of points, with the impetus to play for playoff positioning. That's the kind of player I want to bank on this late in the season.
Justin Bonnema: I like paying up for a security blanket that not only protects the floor of your lineup, but also offers an attractive ceiling. For those reasons, both Gronkowski and Kelce are worth every penny, every week. But I'll also be taking some shots on cheaper guys like Rick Seals-Jones, who has a great matchup against the Broncos (it wouldn't be surprising to see Drew Stanton stare down the middle of the field). Gates is a great site-minimum option who isn't going to get a ton of yards, but multiple touchdowns are always on the table.
Justin Howe: Yes, on the value side, it’s all about Brate, who has a special rapport with Jameis Winston and just churns out production when he’s a focal point. Brate is a red zone specialist who often flirts with solid usage, and he’s a high-impact player – his 1.79 DraftKings points per target over the last 2 years is just a hair below the likes of Travis Kelce (1.91) and Zach Ertz (1.73). If we can project him to 6-7 targets, we can confidently expect GPP value – let alone cash – with the upside of another multi-touchdown game.
Garrett Celek makes some sense as a funnel option, with the Jaguars’ pass rush and throttling cornerbacks often pushing the ball short and inside. Celek has broken off catches of 22, 41, and 61 over the past 2 weeks, and he’s real salary relief, if only optimal for mass-entry stuff in which you really need diversification. All told, this is, as the guys have already driven home, a week to spend up, up, up.
John Mamula: For cash games, it is absolutely critical to pay up at the tight end position this week with either Gronkowski, Kelce, or Olsen. If you aren't investing in one of these three in your cash games, you can find yourself playing from behind very quickly.