There weren’t a lot of memorable performances by tight ends in Week 9. Only five tight ends hit double-digit fantasy points in Week 9. Travis Kelce finished as the overall TE2 for the week with 73 yards and a touchdown in Kansas City’s loss to Dallas. Kelce is now the top fantasy tight end this season, though Rob Gronkowski and Zach Ertz will have plenty to say about that before all is said and done. Ertz appeared as though he was going to suit up on Sunday for a great matchup against the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately, he was a late scratch due to a hamstring. Trey Burton filled in and took full advantage of a great matchup, finishing as the overall TE5 for the week. Cameron Brate’s streak of games with at least 60 receiving yards came to a screeching halt, while Evan Engram continued his torrid rookie season with his third consecutive top-four finish. Engram is now the overall TE5 (just behind Brate) and has been the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Giants. The Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks capitalized on pristine matchups, as each team finished with multiple top-15 tight ends in Week 9.
Week 10 will present a difficult challenge for fantasy owners of several elite tight end options. The aforementioned Kelce and Ertz are each on a bye, as is red-hot Jared Cook. Cook has 290 receiving yards in the last three weeks, best among tight ends and fourth among all NFL players. Owners of these three tight ends will have to find other options in Week 10. Matchups may help dictate which tight ends find their way into lineups and which remain on the bench or on waiver wires. Here are some of the tight ends whose Week 10 prospects may be enhanced or hindered by their opponents.
Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New York Jets
In Tampa Bay’s Week 9 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Brate finished with just one catch for nine yards in a game where quarterback Jameis Winston left the game with a shoulder injury. Winston will be shut down for a couple of weeks and will obviously not play in Week 10. Brate struggled last week and is now catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick. However, neither of those points should scare anyone away from Brate in Week 10. Brate should be considered an every-week starter regardless of quarterback, particularly in soft matchups such as this. First, the Jets have struggled to defend tight ends, particularly in recent weeks. The Jets have allowed an average of 72.2 yards and one touchdown per game to tight ends since Week 5. They’ve also allowed tight ends to catch six passes in five straight games. Furthermore, the one-game suspension of target-monster Mike Evans will only open up more opportunities for Brate in the passing game. I expect Brate to bounce back in Week 10 and end his modest three-game scoreless streak.
Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans
Tyler Kroft has been a very consistent if not spectacular performer since taking over for the injured Tyler Eifert. Kroft has a top-24 fantasy tight end in all six of his starts this season, including three straight top-14 finishes. That type of consistency is quite valuable and should not be taken for granted. This week Kroft and the Cincinnati Bengals host the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee has been a middle-of-the-pack defense against the tight end and hasn’t been particularly stout as of late. The Titans have allowed 21 receptions to tight ends over their last three games. With Tennessee trying to focus on limiting A.J. Green in this game, Kroft should see plenty of opportunities against one-on-one coverage. Tyler Kroft may not have the highest ceiling among streaming candidates, but he makes for a solid Week 10 option.
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns
To say that Eric Ebron has not lived up to expectations this season would be a grave understatement. Ebron has averaged less than 25 yards per game and ranks as just the thirty-third best fantasy tight end through the season’s first half. However, he has shown a little bit of life recently. He’s hauled in five receptions for 93 yards over the last two weeks, ranking sixth among NFL tight ends in yardage over that span. Ebron faces the Cleveland Browns in Week 10. This is not a good matchup for the Browns. Cleveland’s strength on defense is against the run, which also happens to be Detroit’s weakness. Matthew Stafford will throw the ball a ton in this game, and Ebron should be heavily involved. Cleveland has given up an NFL-high 60 receptions to opposing tight ends this season. Their six touchdowns allowed to tight ends trail only the New York Giants, and they’ve given up 18 receptions to tight ends over the last two weeks. Eric Ebron is an ideal streaming target and can easily end up as a top-10 tight end this week.
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Jack Doyle is the overall TE8 on the year, and he’s been better over the last four weeks. Doyle has 33 receptions during that span, six more than any other player in the NFL, and eleven more than the next highest tight end. He has clearly established a good rapport with quarterback Jacoby Brissett, which is good news since Brissett will remain the Colts’ starting quarterback for the rest of the season following the placement of Andrew Luck on season-ending injured reserve. I don’t think Doyle can be benched this week, but his matchup is far from ideal. The Pittsburgh Steelers have surrendered the fifth-fewest fantasy points to enemy tight ends on the year, and have yet to allow a top-10 fantasy performance to any individual tight end in 2017. Jack Doyle may become the first such tight end to reach that plateau against Pittsburgh, but he’s far from the no-brainer start that many assume he is this week. Tread lightly with Jack Doyle in Week 10.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons
Jason Witten enters Week 10 as the ninth-best tight end in fantasy so far, one spot ahead of Tyler Kroft. However, Witten has been the anti-Kroft in 2017. Whereas Kroft has been the model of consistency, Witten has been anything but. He has three top-5 weekly finishes, but he also has had three weeks outside of the top-40. I expected him to benefit from Ezekiel Elliott’s supposed suspension last week, which of course was put on hold yet again. I will no longer pretend to know if Elliott will play this week or not, but I don’t like Witten’s matchup regardless. The Atlanta Falcons have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year. They’ve also allowed just one touchdown on the season to tight ends. Given Witten’s inconsistency this season, it’s difficult to trust him in a difficult matchup such as this one. I would prefer not to start Jason Witten in Week 10.
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills vs. New Orleans Saints
After going largely ignored in fantasy drafts, Charles Clay got off to a tremendous start in 2017. Clay posted three top-eight weekly finishes during the first four weeks of the season. However, he hurt his knee in Week 5 and has not played since. Despite the injury, Clay is still a top-20 tight end on the season. Clay is on track to rejoin Buffalo in Week 10, but he faces a difficult matchup against the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans is tied with Detroit, allowing an NFL-low 26 receptions to opposing tight ends. They’ve also permitted just 288 receiving yards, trailing only Green Bay in that statistics. The Saints’ defensive numbers against tight ends are even more impressive if you remove Rob Gronkowski’s Week 2 six catch, 116-yard effort in New Orleans. Given the matchup and the possibility that he is eased into action, it would be wise to let Charles Clay spend another week on the bench before inserting him back into fantasy lineups.
SLEEPER OF THE WEEK:
Garrett Celek, San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants
When I was outlining this article, I literally wrote “whoever is facing the New York Giants” in my notes. It may be simple and boring, but that doesn’t make the strategy any less effective. It also lends itself quite nicely to the nature of this article. As I mentioned earlier, there are three elite tight end options who will not play this week. If owners do not have backups available, they’re essentially looking for a one-week fix. A player they can pick up for a week and quickly discard afterward. Garrett Celek fits that bill to a tee. He is a backup tight end on a bad team and is likely available in all but the deepest of fantasy leagues. Celek is only thrust into action this week because of the injury to starter George Kittle. The injury is not considered long-term, and San Francisco has a Week 11 bye. The matchup doesn’t get any better for tight ends. The Giants were their usual terrible selves in Week 9, allowing 13 fantasy points to Los Angeles Rams’ tight ends, despite facing just five targets. They’ve now given up nine touchdown catches to tight ends in 2017, including at least one in every game. If you have Kelce, Ertz, or Cook on a bye this week, Garrett Celek makes for a perfect Week 10 stopgap.