Folks - it’s time. We’ve used Yin & Yang Tight End to get us this far. But the time for stashing upside plays is over. There is one week before fantasy playoffs and, for a lot of folks, “win or go home” time has already begun. So we are changing up how we do things. No more Yin and Yang columns. The Standalone Tier will consist of players that we are putting in our lineup and not thinking twice about it rest of season. After that line, we are rostering two (or more) tight ends and playing matchups. That’s the deal 

Ranking defenses vs. tight ends is not an exact science. The issue is that it doesn’t always work like wide receiver where many times the top corners face the top wide receivers and that’s that. Or running back where teams are simply “good” vs. the run or not. The game plan and personnel can fluctuate making it hard to pinpoint. So our final decision-making isn’t going to only be made based on schedule. What I have done however is use things like points again, DVOA, player grades, available personnel, actual projected matchups with linebackers, safeties, nickel corners etc. to give a basic idea of what matchups are favorable or not to help you mix and match at the position where need be. So the color-coding here is not the end all be all but it should help.

 

2023 Fantasy Football Ying Yang Tight End Rankings

   PLAYOFFS
PLAYER14151617
Travis KelceBUFNELVCIN
T.J. HockensonLVCINDETGB
Sam LaPortaCHIDENMINDAL
Trey McBrideBYESFCHIPHI
Dalton KincaidKCDALLACNE
George KittleSEAARIBALWAS
Dallas GoedertDALSEANYGARI
Evan EngramCLEBALTBCAR
Jake FergusonPHIBUFMIADET
Isaiah LikelyLARJAXSFMIA
David NjokuJAXCHIHOUNYJ
Taysom Hill----
Cole KmetDETCLEARIATL
Pat FreiermuthNEINDCINSEA
Kyle PittsTBCARINDCHI
Cade OttonATLGBJAXNO
Gerald EverettDENLVBUFDEN
Chigoziem OkonkwoMIAHOUSEAHOU
Tucker KraftNYGTBCARMIN
Logan ThomasBYELARNYJSF
Darren WallerGBNOPHILAR
Dalton SchultzNYJTENCLETEN
Brevin JordanNYJTENCLETEN
Tanner HudsonINDMINPITKC
Zach Ertz----
Tyler ConklinHOUMIAWASCLE
Hunter HenryPITKCDENBUF
Juwan JohnsonCARNYGLARTB
Luke MusgraveNYGTBCARMIN
Michael MayerMINLACKCIND

Standalone Tier

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Travis Kelce is so good that folks are disappointed that he had 81 and 91 yards the last two weeks. If Travis Kelce is your tight end in this environment, you plug him in at TE and live your life. If you have another elite TE and want to punish Kelce for simply having the highest points per game of any tight end by a full point, move him to the flex.

T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings

If you also have Sam LaPorta or Trey McBride, maybe you can play the matchups. Otherwise, you are starting T.J. Hockenson. Regardless of the other wide receivers available or the starting quarterback, Hockenson has been a focal point of the offense and the playcalling. He’s among the top in the league in every stat we care about (if not the very top like in target share). His schedule is good as well. Hock is a lock. 

Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions

Arguments could be made that with the return of Justin Jefferson and the QB questions in Minnesota that Sam LaPorta could be second on this list. And those argument are valid and, if you want to rank it that way, be my guest. It’s splitting hairs to some degree and every Thursday I will post my weekly rankings on my Twitter so that you can make the call between the two. Both are elite.

Trey McBride, Arizona Cardinals

You need a bye week fill-in. But you already knew that. We don’t care about the tough matchup vs. San Francisco because he just had a tough matchup vs. Pittsburgh while dealing with a groin issue and still crushed. Since Zach Ertz got hurt, Trey McBride has had the second highest target share behind only TJ Hoekcnson. They’ve had virtually the same yards per route run at 2.28/2.29. Everything about Trey McBride has been great and the team even released Zach Ertz as the cherry on top. It’s wheels up.

Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills

Disclaimer - this ranking involves my opinion. I do my best to be as objective as possible in terms of metrics, matchups, tendencies, pace, personnel etc. but, with situations like this where there are actual unknowns involved, you have to weigh in. Everything for Dalton Kincaid has been fantastic as of late but Dawson Knox IS coming back. It is my opinion/prediction that Kincaid remains heavily featured and most of the snaps for Knox come at the expense of guys like Quintin Morris, Khalil Shakir, and Trent Sherfield. With that said, I could be wrong. Even if it doesn’t go back to the early split, any split could hurt the upside for Kincaid. If you picked up a TE you like during Kincaid’s bye, hold onto him just to see. No reason to go out and drop them. But this ranking lets you know that I believe in Kincaid and I personally have leagues where I am counting on him. That could change in next week’s article but, for now, we ride. 

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

I prefer to have two tight ends if I have George Kittle, especially in full PPR. But the reality is that very few tight ends offer the weekly upside he does. His floor has been a little scary, especially with all the pass catchers healthy, but this offense and his unique skillset in terms of speed and high aDot allows him to do more than less which is why he leads all tight ends with a 2.93 yards per route run. In this landscape, you are likely just riding out the storm with Kittle. 

 

Consider Rostering Two Tier

Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles

Broken bones are oddly much easier to deal with for fantasy football sake than soft tissue injuries. You miss a set amount of time but usually, once you are good to go, the odds of reinjury are low. So Dallas Goedert should be able to pick up right about where he left off. Which is a high route participation guy with a good floor who is capped to some degree by being the third fiddle on the team. An injury to AJ Brown or DeVonta Smith would give him true difference-making upside he should be fairly reliable. And his schedule isn't terrible.

Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars

Two days ago, Evan Engram would have been in the tier above. And he could end up there after this week. But Trevor Lawrence got hurt. We can make all the arguments we want about the tendencies of C.J. Beathard and how he went to college with George Kittle but the bottom line is this - he’s not Trevor Lawrence. The schedule for Engram is pretty rough on top of that so I’d maybe be extra cautious here. Let’s see how life with Beathard looks next week. The good news for Engram is he has led all tight ends in screen passes this season and anyone should be able to throw those. Anyone except Tyler Boyd, apparently. 

Jake Ferguson, Dallas Cowboys

Jake Ferguson has been an enigma. Early in the year he was running only 50% of the routes and was getting a lot of targets. Over the last seven weeks he’s been running 80% of the routes but his target share is 14.8% which is 14th among tight ends. Ferg will have a down week and the comments are quiet on him then next week he scores and everyone says he’s elite. As long as Peyton Hendershot is out (and Zach Ertz stays away, who the Cowboys were interested in at the deadline) you can do worse than Ferg for sure. But I’m still rostering two since tight end is likely one of your weaker positions. Schedule is pretty good at least. 

Isaiah Likely, Baltimore Ravens

I am IN on Isaiah Likely. If there wasn’t some risk involved, I would rank him ahead of Ferguson. In my own personal leagues, I value him ahead of Ferguson. But, objectively speaking, Ferguson is a safer option. I broke down with video why Likely’s game when Andrews got hurt wasn’t as bad as the box score showed. Last week Isaiah Likely played the Mark Andrews role in terms of snaps, alignment, and deployment. And Jon Harbaugh just said when asked about Zach Ertz that they “like their guys”. Likely was just on bye this past week so I’m holding onto the tight end I added but my plan is to play Isaiah Likely at tight end in fantasy.   

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

If Dorian Thompson-Robinson was the starting QB moving forward, Njoku might be in the standalone section. But Joe Flacco this week was not super interested in targeting Njoku. He was interested in pushing the ball down the field. If Amari Cooper misses time with the concussion that could force Flacco’s hand but Njoku just became a little harder to trust. Which is kind of rough because his route participation over the last few weeks has been nearly 80% and his target share of 22.9% last seven weeks is top five for tight ends. He needs them to dial up those screens that he has survived on all year.

The Taysom Hill Tier

Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints

Some of you are going to start Taysom Hill no matter what I say. And some of you are never going to start Taysom Hill no matter what I say. So I will say this. Taysom Hill has upside on a weekly basis, no question. He also has five games in PPR where he has ~4 or fewer points. Including a game with 0.4 points. Jameis Winston at QB with his big arm and poor decision making might not be the best thing for Taysom Hill. But Taysom Hill is often at the whim of whether they get to the goal line or not (and whether Alvin Kamara can score or not, as we saw this weekend). Relying on Taysom Hill to string three straight games together in fantasy playoffs is bold but sometimes you need to be bold if you are out of options. 

 

Consider Rostering Two Tier

Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

Scary player here. What scares us is not the player himself honestly. I think Kmet is incredibly talented. Or the quarterback even. Whether you believe he is a franchise QB or not, Fields can deliver the ball to Kmet. What scares us most is the deployment for Kmet. His route participation isn’t ideal and at time the culprit is pass blocking. Against the Raiders, he was asked to stay in and pass block on EIGHT pass plays. That is rough and partially to explain why he caught zero passes., He’s now been asked to stay in and pass block on 6-8 passes in a game four times, including twice over the last three games. His route participation over the last seven games is ~75% which is just outside the top 12 but in individual games it can dip under 60%. When it’s good with Kmet it is great and when it is bad it can be real bad. That is what scares us. 

Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers

What a rollercoaster. He comes back from injury and it looks bleak. Then they fire they OC and he goes OFF. Then the next week the quarterback gets hurt and back into purgatory we go. He has a tough matchup this week so I’d try to start someone else to see what it looks like with Trusbisky. The upside is in there somewhere because he’s a good football player. 

Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

We were ready to write this guy off. So of course he comes out in Week 13 and runs 90% of the routes with a nearly 30% target share. So now we are intrigued enough to hold off to see if maybe the knee is a little better and the coach has changed his tune. Eight targets this past week is promising and his schedule could be worse. 

 

Cade Otton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cade Otton had seemed fairly “safe” up until this point. Which is why the zero target rug pull this past weekend was so jarring. It’s the first time all year he didn’t catch a ball and it’s when maybe needed him most with all the byes and injuries. I’m still willing to roster him with his high end route participation and what is usually a decent a floor. He even has good matchups. But I do not feel comfortable with him as my only tight end. Not while Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are healthy.

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Chargers

Gerald Everett is a part time player. Since joining the Chargers, he has never once played more than 80% of the snaps. In 27 games now, he has played fewer than 70% in 24 of them. If you could combine all the Chargers tight ends into one player, that would be a player I would trust for fantasy. But you can’t. And since he split with Donald Parham and Stone Smartt, he will never have the upside we want him to have. Which is a shame because his schedule is pretty good. 

Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans

Like Gerald Everett, Chigoziem Okonkwo isn’t a full time player either. Which makes me sad. His route participation over the last seven weeks is around 65% which is around 20th in the league, that’s almost Tyler Conklin or Noah Fant territory. But they do seem to scheme him up at least a few plays every week and his athleticism, with speed in the George Kittle range, always leaves the possibility for big plays. He too has a good schedule.

Tucker Kraft, Green Bay Packers

We don’t mind rostering Tucker Kraft. The idea of course being that Luke Musgrave and possibly also Christian Watson remain out down the stretch. But he can’t be your only tight end because we don’t know that will be the case. It was hard to trust Luke Musgrave with everyone healthy so it would be even harder to trust Tucker Kraft. But you could do worse. 

Logan Thomas, Washington Commanders

He’s probably going to be dropped in a LOT of leagues after dropping a zero right before he goes on bye this week. And his schedule is rough down the stretch. You could spot start him against the Rams but, with the emergence of Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel, the ball is spread around pretty thin as of late. Terry McLaurin also took a zero. Don’t love that. 

Darren Waller, New York Giants

If you have an IR spot, do it. They just announced Tyrod Taylor could be back and three of Waller’s best four games came with Tyrod. Waller also reportedly returned to meeting rather than solely focusing on his rehab, indicating he wants to be back. The bad news is that he is eligible to have his practice window activated just like Tyrod and they didn’t do it. 

Dalton Schultz, Houston Texans

This player is currently hurt which is the first issue. The second issue is the Texans have the worst tight end schedule down the stretch I have ever seen. If his three playoff matchups were against the three teams allowing the fewest points to tight ends, that would somehow be better than his schedule. Because his schedule is this:

  • DEF #2 vs. TE
  • DEF #1 vs TE
  • DEF #2 again

Brevin Jordan, Houston Texans

Sure, Tank Dell is out. But it’s not like Nico Collins, Noah Brown, and Robert Woods haven’t been getting targetted. Brevin Jordan faces the same schedule issues as Dalton Schultz except he’s not as good as Dalton Schultz. If he has a bad game against the Jets, are you really going to start him for that stretch? I mean, if he has a bad game vs. the Titans you definitely aren’t going to start him vs. the Browns then the Titans again right? Get another tight end. 

Tanner Hudson, Cincinnati Bengals

I’d actually move Tanner Hudson up if he would just play even a little bit more than he does. In the last two games he’s run 13 routes and 10 routes. Makes him hard to trust but he’s out there for a desperation spot start. 

Other TE Notes

 
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