With the absence of two of the top three fantasy tight ends and three of the top four in receiving yardage, it’s not a surprise that tight end fantasy production left a little to be desired in Week 10. Vernon Davis was the only tight end to hit 75 yards, and only four tight ends had double-digit fantasy points. One of those four was Austin Hooper, who posted his second top-five finish in three weeks. Don’t look now, but Hooper is the overall TE7 on the year and has made a significant leap in his second season. Garrett Celek was a popular Week 10 sleeper and didn’t disappoint, finishing as the overall TE2 for the week on the strength of his big game against the New York Giants. Celek became the 10th different tight end to catch a touchdown against New York this season. The Giants must next host Travis Kelce, who is the overall TE1 heading into Week 11. Giddy up.
As we look ahead to Week 11, we can take comfort in the fact that it will be the last week to include teams on a bye. Jack Doyle is the only TE1 who will be out of action in Week 11, though Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ed Dickson are also solid options who are off this week. Dickson’s day in the sun as a relevant fantasy tight end is probably over, as Greg Olsen is expected back following Carolina’s bye. Let’s check in on some of the Week 11 slate to see where we can take advantage of tight end matchups that may make a big difference as we head down the stretch of the fantasy regular season.
TYLER KROFT, CINCINNATI BENGALS AT DENVER BRONCOS
Tyler Kroft disappeared in Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans. Kroft caught just one of six targets for four yards in Cincinnati’s loss. This week Kroft has a chance for redemption against the Denver Broncos. Denver has been absolutely shredded by tight ends in recent weeks. They’ve allowed 501 receiving yards and four touchdowns to the position in their last five games. In fairness to the Broncos, however, it should be noted that they’ve faced a Murderer’s Row of tight ends during that span, including the top four scorers (Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, and Evan Engram) on the season. Needless to say, Kroft is not in that class. However, he should prove to be a worthy Week 11 option. Denver continues to play outstanding rush defense and is strong on the perimeter against the pass. Because of this, teams tend to attack Denver over the middle. I believe Andy Dalton and company will employ a similar game plan in this contest. Tyler Kroft should be able to find some openings in Denver’s defense and provide solid TE1 production in Week 11.
JASON WITTEN, DALLAS COWBOYS VS. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Jason Witten caught all seven of his targets in Week 10 and is now tied with Dez Bryant for the Cowboys’ team lead in receptions with 42. Dallas’ offense was out of sync last week, as they gave up eight sacks and racked up just 233 total yards. This week Dallas hosts the Philadelphia Eagles in a game of paramount importance to the Cowboys’ playoff chances. Philadelphia has the best rushing defense in the NFL, and Dallas is without Ezekiel Elliott, who is serving his suspension. Dak Prescott should be in line for a ton of passing attempts in this game. With Dallas having such problems along their offensive line, I expect them to use a dink-and-dunk approach in an effort to keep Prescott upright. Enter Jason Witten. Against a similarly stout run defense in Denver in Week 2, Witten saw a season-high in receptions (10), targets (13), and yards (97). I expect Witten to rival those numbers in Week 11, making him a high-floor, high-upside option. I view Witten as a potential top-five tight end in this matchup.
AUSTIN HOOPER, ATLANTA FALCONS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
As mentioned earlier, Austin Hooper has been a very effective tight end this season. The second-year player out of Stanford is second on the Falcons in receiving behind Julio Jones. Hooper has been targeted at least six times in five of Atlanta’s last six games. This week, Hooper and the Falcons will take on the Seattle Seahawks. In addition to his impressive production thus far in 2017, there are a couple of extra reasons to like Hooper this week. First, Falcons’ running back Devonta Freeman is out with a concussion. His absence will likely lead to a slight uptick in opportunity for the rest of Atlanta’s other skill players. Secondly, Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in last week’s victory. Without Sherman on the field, Seattle will likely try to control star wideout Julio Jones by rolling a safety towards his side of the field in coverage. This extra attention may lead to some more openings underneath and over the middle. I expect Hooper to take advantage of these circumstances and have another productive day. I have Austin Hooper as a top-10 tight end once again in Week 11.
JIMMY GRAHAM, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS VS. ATLANTA FALCONS
Jimmy Graham is the hottest tight end going in fantasy heading into Week 11. He leads all tight ends with 47.6 fantasy points and five touchdowns over his last four games. As such, owners would be hard-pressed to bench Graham in Week 11, and I’m honestly not suggesting they should. However, expectations do need to be managed a bit in this matchup. Graham’s year-to-date fantasy success has largely been the result of increased red-zone usage. His 11 targets inside the opponents’ 10-yard line are three more than any other player in the NFL. Owners surely won’t complain about the results, as Graham is 2017’s TE5. However, his 355 receiving yards rank him just thirteenth at the position. The Atlanta Falcons have only permitted one touchdown by a tight end this season and will certainly be focused on Graham in the red zone. Jimmy Graham should be treated as a low-end TE1 in this matchup, and not the top-five option we’ve gotten accustomed to over the past month.
CHARLES CLAY, BUFFALO BILLS AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Charles Clay returned in Week 10 from a four-week absence due to a knee injury but struggled in his return following the long layoff. Clay caught just two passes for 13 yards in Buffalo’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Saints. He also bobbled a third target, which ended up becoming an interception. Clay’s Week 10 struggles will probably be attributed to rust and a bad matchup, but his Week 11 matchup isn’t any better. The Los Angeles Chargers have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Rob Gronkowski is the only tight end to reach the end zone against Los Angeles this season, and Zach Ertz is the only other tight end to finish with a weekly top-12 finish versus the Chargers. Clay is still getting up to speed, and Buffalo is now trying to integrate wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin into their offense. Charles Clay will have usable weeks down the stretch, but he should not be started in fantasy this week.
ERIC EBRON, DETROIT LIONS AT CHICAGO BEARS
Eric Ebron parlayed a very favorable Week 10 matchup into his first top-five weekly finish of the season in Detroit’s victory against the winless Cleveland Browns. Ebron has averaged a respectable 44 yards per game over his last three outings. However, he must now face a Chicago Bears defense that has been very stingy against enemy tight ends this season. Since Week 1, Chicago has permitted a total of just 267 receiving yards and one touchdown to all tight ends, and they have not allowed a single tight end to eclipse the 50-yard mark in that timeframe. It’s no coincidence that both of Ebron’s touchdowns on the year have come against the two defenses (Cleveland and the New York Giants) that allow the most touchdowns to opposing tight ends. He has posted just one other weekly top-12 performance this season. Eric Ebron is just a matchup-dependent streamer and can safely be left on benches and waiver wires in Week 11.
SLEEPER OF THE WEEK:
MARCEDES LEWIS, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT CLEVELAND BROWNS
Outside of his fluky, three-touchdown performance in Jacksonville’s Week 3 trouncing of Baltimore in England, Marcedes Lewis has totaled just 18.2 fantasy points this season. Lewis’s Week 3 effort was the only time since 2014 he has had as much as 50 yards in a game. And yet there is reason to consider using Lewis as a streaming option at tight end this week. As I just alluded to, only the New York Giants have allowed more touchdowns to opposing tight ends than the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland has also permitted a league-high 62 receptions to the position this season. In addition, Lewis’ usually sparse usage has increased as of late. He has seen 14 targets over his last three games. Marcedes Lewis has a very low floor in terms of fantasy production, as he has finished outside of the top-20 in six of nine games this season. However, he makes for a very intriguing spot-play in Week 11, particularly if you are the owner of a tight end who is on a bye this week.