Several years back, a lot of fantasy leagues dumped the requirement of having a tight end because there weren’t enough good ones to designate a specific position to them.
However, as the NFL morphed into a pass-happy league, playmaking tight ends became a premium and just about every team has a field-stretching tight end. They’re mismatch weapons that have a lot of value to offenses.
But, five weeks into the season, where have the great tight ends gone? Even the greats are underwhelming so far this season and the problem is spread throughout the league. Don’t take my word for it. Let the numbers speak for themselves.
Travis Kelce – There’s no questioning that Kelce is the man in Kansas City and has 85 or more yards in four of his five games, but he was drafted to be a back-breaker who scores double-digit touchdowns. Through five games, he has just one TD, so his receptions and yardage have been his only source of fantasy scoring with the exception of his big game (7-107-1) against Oakland.
Zach Ertz – Like Kelce, Ertz has value in most league formats. He has caught 29 passes for 312 yards to lead the Eagles by a distance in both categories, but his touchdown Sunday against the Jets was his first of the season. Those who invested in him have been getting consistent production from him, but not the giant numbers they had hoped for and expected.
O.J. Howard – At a time when Jameis Winston is throwing the bad all over the field, Howard has just 11 catches for 141 yards and no TDs through five games, accounting for 33 or fewer yards in four of five games.
Hunter Henry – Big things were expected with Antonio Gates finally retired, but, for the second straight season, injuries have derailed his career. He suffered a leg fracture in Week 1 and hasn’t seen the field since.
David Njoku – Expected to be a major piece of Cleveland’s new-look offense, he broke his wrist in Week 2 and was placed on injured reserve.
Kyle Rudolph – A huge disappointment, in five games, he has been targeted just eight times and caught just six passes for 36 yards – rendering him almost useless to fantasy owners.
Jared Cook – Another tight end with a solid pedigree who went to New Orleans expecting huge numbers from Drew Brees & Co., in five games, Cook has caught just 12 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown. His high-water mark for yardage is just 41 and is averaging just 26 yards a game.
Vance McDonald – The hype machine loves McDonald, but the production just isn’t there. He had one big game (7-38-2 vs. Seattle), but in the other four games the Steelers have played, McDonald has accounted for six catches for 84 yards and no TDs.
Jimmy Graham – He has become the reincarnation of Bubba Franks in Green Bay. He has two touchdowns, but has only caught 12 passes and is averaging just two catches and 26 yards a game.
Cameron Brate – A touchdown machine over the last three seasons, through five games, he has just 10 catches for 72 yards and one TD – not the kind of numbers fantasy snipers were expecting from him.
Tyler Eifert – He has finally been healthy enough to string together games, but one of Andy Dalton’s favorite receivers has been an invisible man. In five games, he has caught just 13 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown and hasn’t had more than 27 yards in any game this season.
Trey Burton – A big-money free agent signing last year by Chicago, in the four games he has played, he hasn’t topped 20 yards in any of them – catching 11 passes for 57 yards and no touchdowns. He has become an afterthought in an offense that is designed to use the tight end downfield.
Greg Olsen – He had a couple of big games in the first three weeks, but has just 18 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns through five games – including just two catches for five yards in the last two.
Jason Witten – He is what he is – a guy who finds a soft spot in a zone and gets FAC (Fall After Catch) yardage. He caught TD passes in Weeks 1 and 2, but is averaging just 35 yards a game and can’t be counted on to be a fantasy producer.
Maybe as the season progresses, this situation will self-correct itself and the top tight ends will return to the fantasy greatness that has put them on fantasy rosters. But, almost a third of the way into the 2019 season, there is a problem with fantasy tight ends and it is a league-wide phenomenon
Here is the Week 6 Fantasy Market Report:
Derrick Henry – He’s a guy who hasn’t been given his proper due, he’s an old-school workhorse back who appears to be hitting his stride. He’s not a receiver, although he scored a 75-yard TD in Week 1, but has been a consistent runner. He’s averaging 20 carries a game and has five TDs in five games. He’s doing it the old-fashioned way – pounding the rock and compiling strong fantasy numbers.
Jameis Winston – Everyone knew 2019 was going to be a watershed season for Winston and, after getting off to a rough start, in his last three games, he has thrown for 969 yards with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions, including road games against the teams in last year’s NFC Championship Game – the Rams and Saints. He isn’t at the point that fantasy owners are labeling him as a “must-start” guy, but he’s putting up starter numbers.
Leonard Fournette – Another player who was looking down the barrel of a make-or-break season, Fournette has just one touchdown but has reasserted himself as the centerpiece of the Jacksonville offense. In his last two games, he has rushed 52 times for 333 yards and a touchdown and looking as dominant as he has since his rookie season. He is averaging 5.4 yards a carry and has 20 receptions on top of it to appease PPR owners, living up to the hype that followed him from LSU as a “can’t miss” prospect. He’s looking to get paid and he’s showing he deserves to.
Courtland Sutton – He was drafted to be the next Demaryius Thomas and is living up to the hype while flying under the radar in Denver. In his first three games of the seasons, he had games with 120 and 87 yards and, over the last two (against Jacksonville and the Chargers), he has caught 10 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Daily fantasy players are taking notice and owners in fantasy leagues that have him are finding him much more difficult to bench.
Matt Ryan – One of the by-products of a shaky offensive line and a brutal defense in Atlanta is that Ryan has been forced to throw early and often. He has attempted 43 or more passes in four of five games, has three touchdown passes in three of his last four games and has weekly yardage totals of 304, 320, 304, 397 and 330. As fantasy owners have learned over the years, some of the best fantasy quarterbacks come from teams with weak defenses and, as long as the Falcons have to keep getting into shootouts, the numbers will follow and Ryan is on pace to throw for 5,300 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Jordan Howard – The Eagles knew what they were doing when they traded for Howard in the offseason. Miles Sanders was getting all the fantasy attention in the preseason as the next big thing, but Howard has become the primary back in the offense. He has four touchdowns in the last three games and in the last two has more production in the run game (28 carries for 149 yards and three TDs) than Sanders (20-87-0). Sanders is the future, but much like LaGarrette Blount in his term with the Eagles, the power of Howard may well be the present.
Adrian Peterson – There is no question that Peterson is a Hall of Fame player. However, we may be seeing the end of the line. After being a healthy scratch in Week 1, when Derrius Guice went down (again), Peterson was once again handed the starting job in Washington. Last year, he took advantage of the opportunity and ran for more than 1,000 yards. This year, in four games, he rushed 40 times for just 108 yards, a long run of 10 yards and one touchdown, which came in Week 2. They talk about “The Wall” the running backs hit when they’re 30. It would appear Peterson has finally hit that wall.
Kyle Rudolph – As noted above, there’s something wrong with highly ranked tight ends in the league this year and Rudolph’s struggles are as epic as anyone’s. In five games, he has just six receptions for 36 yards. At a time when Stefon Diggs was the subject of trade rumors and Adam Thielen called out QB Kirk Cousins, Rudolph has remained silent – literally. His weekly yardage totals have been 0, 9, 11, 12 and 4 – not what you expect from a healthy two-time Pro Bowler.
Aaron Rodgers – There’s no questioning the Rodgers is a great QB and his team is 4-1, but, in the new-look offense in Green Bay, he’s been fantasy marginalized. The only huge game he has had this season was the one game the Packers lost against Philly. Through five games, he has just six touchdown passes and 238 or fewer passing yards in four of five games. He’s still the man, but his grip on that title is getting A-Rodg owners a little nervous as the fantasy losses are mounting.
James Conner – His saving grace has been that he has three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving), but Conner was drafted to be a starter and, through five games, has 58 carries for 194 yards. With the Steelers currently on their third quarterback of the season, it would be expected they would lean heavily on Conner, but when you’re averaging 12 carries for 39 yards, it’s becoming a harder sell to fantasy owners.
Josh Gordon – At a time when the Patriots are rolling and Tom Brady is defying Father Time once again, Gordon has been little more than a component piece in the process. He has caught 19 passes for 280 yards and one touchdown and hasn’t caught a TD since Week 1. His touchdown total since Week 2 is one less than Antonio Brown, who was cut after one game. As always with the Patriots, they spread the wealth around, but Gordon has been getting the short end of the stick.
Alvin Kamara – This may be more nit-picking than most, but Kamara owners will let you know about it. With the exception of a two-TD game against Seattle, in his other four games, Kamara has been held without a touchdown. He has less than 70 rushing yards in each of his last four games and 42 or fewer receiving yards in three of his last four. Owners who made Kamara the No. 1 or 2 draft pick or paid a premium price know that his numbers aren’t what was expected, especially with Mark Ingram out of the picture.