DFS Roundtable: Tight End Landscape

The DFS team discusses the tight end landscape beyond Travis Kelce

With no Zach Ertz or Rob Gronkowki in the main slate for Week 9, there is a massive divide between Travis Kelce (at Cleveland) and the rest of the tight end field.

What is your take on stepping up for Kelce in a lineup build and which of the potential challengers would you take if heading another direction?

Any deeper dart throws you like for tournaments, like Ed Dickson, Vance McDonald, or others?

Dan Hindery: It will be tough to pass on Kelce, especially if Tyreek Hill is out. Hill’s absence would likely lead to even more targets than normal for Kelce. He is especially easy to fit onto rosters on FanDuel where the gap isn’t so extreme between him and the rest of the options at the position. It is more difficult on DraftKings, however. Kelce is priced a full $1,800 higher than any other tight end on a slate where there are some extremely attractive high-priced options at other positions. Kelce is still a strong play there but the negative impact at other positions makes rostering him a much tougher choice.

Greg Olsen stands out as the most intriguing of the secondary options. John Lee was dead on last week in pointing out how big a loss Kwon Alexander was for the Tampa Bay defense. The Buccaneers play a lot of zone coverage and the middle of the field was often wide open for the Bengals to take advantage last week. This is the area of the field where Olsen excels and where he should find success on Sunday. In a spot where Carolina should score 30 points, Olsen has a nice chance for a breakout performance.

My favorite deep dart throw is Jordan Thomas ($2,900 on DraftKings), especially if Keke Coutee remains out. There is a fear of chasing points after Thomas put up 4-29-2 in primetime last week. However, there are also some signs pointing to his potential for a repeat performance. The big reason for optimism would be the opportunity. Of the Texans top four receivers, two (Will Fuller V and Bruce Ellington) are on injured reserve and a third (Coutee) has been out with a hamstring injury. Top tight end Ryan Griffin has also been out with injury. This play is contingent upon late week injury news but there is some upside for Thomas if a bunch of the Texans top pass catchers remains out.

Phil Alexander: Kelce is certainly the best tight end play on the board in terms of raw projected points and he remains fairly priced (equivalent to WR 11 on DraftKings). The problem, as Dan stated, is playing him comes with a steep opportunity cost. If we're trying to jam in studs in great matchups like Adam Thielen and Kareem Hunt, while also gaining exposure to the 60-point total in the LA at New Orleans game, finding room for Kelce is tough.

The inexpensive alternative I'm looking at is Kyle Rudolph. Minnesota is a five-point home favorite, their implied total is nearly 28 points, and Detroit is an ideal opponent for tight end fantasy production. The Lions allow the fourth-highest target rate, highest pass success rate, and eighth-highest yards per pass attempt average to opposing tight ends. Look for Rudolph, who commanded seven targets last week against the Saints, to return to the end zone for the first time since Week 3.

James Brimacombe: I am probably not paying up for Kelce this week but most likely paying down for Austin Hooper who I like against Washington this week. Over seven games Hooper has 41 targets and more impressive has been his breakout over the past three games where he has 26 targets for 21 receptions, 196 yards and a touchdown. Washington is middle of the pack against tight ends allowing 5/42/0.4 over the first eight weeks of the season so taking a shot on Hooper makes some sense this week.

Justin Howe: Whenever there is a tight end head and shoulders above the field salary-wise, I’m usually a fan of rostering him in cash games. He’ll typically dominate the field’s exposure chart, allowing me to follow the herd and keep my losses in check if he posts a dud. I wish Kelce were a touchdown machine like Rob Gronkowski, which would boost both his floor and ceiling in the Chiefs’ diverse offense. But I’m confident Kelce will be the highest-exposure guy on the board, and a rising tide lifts all boats. So, from a game theory perspective, Kelce looks like the week’s best play.

Always, always Vance McDonald, who brings a unique skill set to Pittsburgh’s offense. McDonald is anything but consistent, but when he (or Jesse James) is worked into the gameplan, it’s generally heavy and consistent. Dating back to Week 14 of last season (a 13-game span), one of these guys has notched 47 yards or more 10 times.

Chad Parsons: I side with going the cheaper route for tight ends in general than when one or two options stand out in the top tier in terms of salary. Vance McDonald is my favorite option down the dial as Baltimore is stingy against wide receivers, but an above-average matchup for opposing tight ends. McDonald is in the mold of a dominant tight end (size, movement, after-the-catch ability) and is poised to be a feature element this week considering the matchup.

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