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Fantasy Football: Week 1 Tight End Matchup Report

Welcome to the first installment in our positional matchup series! Each week we here at Fantrax will highlight some favorable and unfavorable matchups at each position to help you with those tough lineup decisions. Today we will start with tight ends. You will most likely start Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce every week, even in poor matchups. However, if you waited on a tight end in your draft, you may have two similar options to choose from. Let’s dig into the matchups to see where the advantages lie.

Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans vs. Oakland Raiders – In case you were thinking about getting cute and benching Delanie Walker to start the season, don’t. The Raiders’ linebacking corps is a mess. Second-year player Cory James “won” the starting job after the release of Jelani Jenkins this week. Jenkins started the all-important third preseason game, which suggests the coaching staff doesn’t have a ton of faith in James. James had the 11th-worst linebacker grade, according to Pro Football Focus, and will be no match for Walker in what should be a shootout. This game has the highest Vegas points total, and I expect Walker to fully exploit his matchup and find pay dirt.

[the_ad id=”384″]Coby Fleener, New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings – With the recent addition of cornerback Tramaine Brock from Seattle, the Vikings now have three of the top 29 cornerbacks from last season, according to the Pro Football Focus grading system. I don’t expect Drew Brees to force the ball to his receivers against the Vikings talented cornerbacks. Meanwhile, Saints’ wide receiver Willie Snead has just been handed down a three-game suspension for an offseason DUI. This further limits the Saints’ options in the passing game and brings us to Coby Fleener. The Vikings were a middle-of-the-pack matchup for tight ends. I expect Brees to dink and dunk in this game, and Fleener will be the primary beneficiary.


Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions vs. Arizona CardinalsEric Ebron is back after missing most of the preseason due to a recurring hamstring issue. It’s good to see him back on the field, but I’m skeptical about his Week 1 prospects. First, there’s the question of health. It’s possible that he tweaks the injury again, or that his timing is off due to a lack of practice and game action. Furthermore, Arizona is a very bad matchup for tight ends. They gave up the fewest receiving yards (418) and receiving touchdowns (2) to opposing tight ends in 2016, and never gave up more than 53 yards to tight ends in a single game. It’s hard to trust Ebron in Week 1 with these factors going against him.

Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle SeahawksMartellus Bennett doesn’t care about your fantasy team. Off with his head, I say! Seriously, though. It’s good that he doesn’t care about your fantasy team, because he’s not going to help it very much this week. The Seahawks remain a perennially tough defense to go against. Bennett did light up the Seahawks for 102 yards last year, but I don’t see a repeat performance this week. When I’m trying to decide between middling tight ends, touchdown likelihood is probably the best tiebreaker. Seattle gave up just three touchdowns to tight ends last year, and I don’t see Bennett scoring this week. I’d bench him, if possible.

Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers at Denver BroncosHunter Henry is the poster child for tight ends being touchdown-dependent in fantasy football. Henry played in 15 games last season. He scored a touchdown in eight of them. In six of the remaining seven, he scored two or fewer fantasy points. Despite the eight touchdowns, he put up only double-digit fantasy points four times. His efforts against Denver last year were a mixed bag. He scored a season-high 14.3 fantasy points in Week 6, but tallied just 1.4 two weeks later. Such is Hunter Henry, folks. Justin Simmons, Denver’s new strong safety, was the only safety in the NFL to play at least 200 snaps without missing a tackle. Though I do expect Henry to provide more consistent yardage totals in 2017, I don’t think it’s enough to garner a starting spot in Week 1.

Zach Miller, Chicago Bears vs. Atlanta Falcons – The Chicago Bears are going to have to put up points to keep up with the vaunted Atlanta Falcons’ offense on Sunday. Unfortunately for Mike Glennon, Chicago does not have much to offer at the wide receiver position. Kevin White has yet to prove himself, while Kendall Wright has not been good for several years. Atlanta’s secondary also ranks as the fifth-best, according to Pro Football Focus. Enter Zach Miller. When Mike Glennon made 13 starts in 2013 for Tampa Bay, tight end Tim Wright (remember him?) had 53 receptions, 565 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 74 targets. Glennon is not afraid to target the tight end, and he will look for Miller early and often in this contest.

Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets – I expect the Bills to pound the rock with LeSean McCoy, but the Jets are at least theoretically good against the run. Charles Clay can be the “X factor” in the passing game in this matchup for the Bills. Buffalo has some question marks at wide receiver. Jordan Matthews is questionable with a chest injury, and Zay Jones will be seeing his first NFL action. Inside linebacker Darron Lee was the worst qualifying rookie linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus last season. Yes, even worse than Cory James. The Jets are also starting two rookies at safety. Though both Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye show tremendous promise, there will certainly be growing pains. I look for Clay to reach the end zone in this game and be a top-12 tight end in Week 1.

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