2023 Fantasy Football Tight End Yin Yang Rankings for NFL Week 3
Andrew Cooper breaks down his Yin & Yang Tight End fantasy football rankings ahead of NFL Week 3.
We have two weeks in the books now so we now have DOUBLE that data points. And, naturally, the first two weeks of the season will see the biggest changes in our fantasy football rankings. Luckily, Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews returned and their presence seemingly ignited the tight end position as we had 14 tight ends finish with double digit points this week including great repeat performances from guys like T.J. Hockenson and Hunter Henry. So all those folks complaining tight ends after Week One are just going to have to EAT IT.
These rankings are specific to a strategy call 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. 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.
Tier 1: The Travis Kelce Tier
Travis Kelce is back and all is right in the world.
Tier 2: The Mark Andrews Tier
There was some concern about Mark Andrews’s role within this new offense coming in but fantasy gamers can breath a sigh of relief. Andrews had an ~85% route participation, he lined up in a WR spot for 86.8% of his snaps, and he got ~24% of the targets which puts him towards the top of league in each category. We are back in business.
Tier 3: The Next Best Things
T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings
TJ Hockenson is about the safest thing there is at the tight end position. The only concern is Jordan Addison stepping up and claiming a bigger target share as we move along but that will likely hurt KJ Osborn more than it does Hock. Hock is locked and loaded.
You knew what you were getting into here with Darren Waller - high risk, high reward. Even with him slightly limited, He has an ~18% target share which is top six for the position, he’s playing a ton of WR snaps, his aDot is healthy, he’s not pass blocking. And we are getting glimpses of what his upside can be.
Tier 4: The Boring Elite Guys
George Kittle is a unicorn which at times allows him to be an exception to the rules. Namely, his speed allows him to break off big chunk plays that other tight ends can’t and his red zone prowess makes him a true endzone target. That’s what keeps him alive in any give week despite target competition from CMC, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel. But you’ll have to take some bad weeks with the good. Aiyuk got banged up which could help him out.
I made it clear in our TE Fades artice why were weren’t drafting Kittle or Goedert at ADP. They are essentially “handcuff plus” players that have some standalone value on their own but really need an injury to a WR to have difference-making upside. So, if you drafted Goedert, you still probably need to start him where you have him but an injury to DeVonta Smith or AJ Brown is really what you need for actual upside. If he doesn’t pick it up soon he might get moved to the Yin category as he really isn’t a red zone threat - over the last three years he had eight endzone targets. So far this year he has no endzone targets, one redzone target that he did not catch.
Safe Plays (YIN)
This year Evan Engram embodies everything we expect from a Yin tight end. The addition of Calvin Ridley along with the other weapons caps his ceiling a bit but we can start him confidently knowing he’s not going to get us a zero. And heck, maybe he ends up being a top two target on the team in general and he gets bumped up to Standalone Tier. He’s running his routes from a WR spot 76.4% of the time so maybe it’s not crazy that he can compete with Christian Kirk and Zay Jones.
We talked about how Dallas Goedert is a “handcuff plus” and it’s not much different for Muth. Right now with Diontae Johnson out we are actually in “plus” territory for a bit as that is a guy that gets 140+ targets a year. The concerns of course are with this offensivive coordinator and quarterback. That and Muth might still be dealing with a chest injury.
We had hope that Njoku could be a top two target on the team but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Now we are simply hoping that DeShaun Watson can figure things out and get this offense humming. In Week One he blocked on 17.2% of his pass plays but this week he ran 48 routes and only blocked twice so we aren’t going to penalize him too much.
Smythe is about as boring of an option as you can get but the Yin list is where we put the boring but safe options. The fact that he got three targets vs. Kyle Dugger and this New England defense is a miracle in itself and cause for celebration if you ask me. They are essentially using Smythe in the George Kittle role and he has played an insane snap share - he’s actually run 93.67% of the team’s routes which leads all tight ends. We know that Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are the top dogs but the use of Alec Ingold at fullback actually consolidates the targets enough for Smythe to be a spot start.
We love the idea of a converted WR playing tight end. But Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, and Rashid Shaheed all look great. With Alvin Kamara due back soon, it’s simply too thin over there. Plus you have Taysom Hill doing Taysom Hill things for one last layer of annoyance.
I’ve been asked about Ferguson in the comments every week now so wanted to address this situation. Ferguson is a fairly scary option because they rotate the tight ends - in Week One, Ferg only ran 50% of the routes. We though maybe it was because of the Giants game script but in Week Two he ran 21 of 43 which is obviously less than 50%. This is not Kellen Moore’s Cowboys so you really can’t have a part time tight end on a team with Ceedee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, and Tony Pollard and expect to thrive. And, as user /u/ICallAllCats_Cat_ pointed out in a well researched post, Dak Prescott does not actually target the tight end at an above average pace. I mean, Ceedee Lamb got 156 targets last year and Noah Brown/Michael Gallup combined for another 150. That’s with Zeke/Pollard also getting 85 targets. So, if he “loves the tight ends” he loves everyone.
Upside Stashes (Yang)
Here’s the reality - Mike Gesicki is not a tight end. Not on the Patriots. He has now run 96.6% of his snaps from a WR spot. Hunter Henry is the full time tight end. And this Bill O’Brien offense in 2011 had Rob Gronkowski finish as TE1 (and Aaron Hernandez as TE3). All while Wes Welker got 173 targets. Henry is playing a huge snap share, his route participation is 81%, his pass block rate is only 1.1%, his aDot is 10.2, he’s running 68% of his snaps from a WR spot. Life is good. The main concern right now is that the Patriots game script has called for a ton of drop backs which is due to regress. But the Patriots should have their back against the ropes in a lot of games. If Henry can put together a good game vs. a tough Jets defense, he might be in the Standalone Tier next week. Or if the ball starts getting spread around more he could end up back on the Yin side.
Ertz and Henry have a lot in common. Both aren’t particularly fast so they need a lot of targets to have upside. But they’re both currently getting a lot of targets - Ertz is far and away the top target on a bad Cardinals team right now. He could end up back on the Yin side but, as long as he is leading this team in targets, we need to acknowledge the upside that comes along with that.
The story with Kyle Pitts is always the same. The rate stats are always there. Routes, WR snaps, aDot, even target share. But this Falcons team just does not want to throw. If the Falcons some how find a way to play the Detroit Lions of all teams without escalating how often they throw the football, Kyle Pitts might actually be droppable.
Six targets is good but we took a little step back here in terms of usage. Last week he played a huge snap share including 47 snaps at WR - this week he played 24 snaps inline, 23 at WR, while only playing an overall 60% snap share. Not exactly what we like to see but the upside is still there while hes playing 50%+ of his snaps at WR in this offense.
LaPorta took a step in the right direction in two big categories to bridge the gap between he and Kincaid some. One of the big things holding us back from bumping LaPorta all the way up yet is the looming return of Jameson Williams. That will be the big test.
Bad game script held Musgrave back a bit this week as the Packers only ran 52 plays. But, for the second week in a row, Musgrave led this team in routes run. His 81% route participation is right in line with guys liek Hunter Henry, George Kittle, TJ Hockenson etc. so he’s out there running around. The return of Christian Watson of course is the big one here.
With Dalton Schultz and Hayden Hurst the narrative is simple - we are hoping they can emerge from ambiguous pass catcher situations to have a reliable target share. The Gesicki narrative is more fun. He was limited to start with a hurt shoulder but this week his snap share jumped up to 72%. On the season he has played ~97% of his snaps at WR. So basically you have a WR you can start at tight end. The Patriots don’t really have amazing WRs so there is a world where Henry/Gesicki are relevant the way Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz once were. As we mentioned, last time Bill O’Brien called plays for the Pats they had the TE1 and TE3 in fantasy. But they also had Tom Brady.