Week 1 is officially in the books! Just as everyone predicted, Austin Hooper and Jesse James are the top two fantasy tight ends. Business as usual. Seriously, though – aside from Hooper and James trading places with Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce atop the tight end leaderboard, there wasn’t a lot that took place in Week 1 that changed the tight end landscape. Just 10 tight ends reached double-digit point totals in Week 1. Gronkowski and Kelce had difficult matchups and they will obviously recover quickly. As we approach Week 2, let’s dive into the matchups to highlight tight ends who have favorable and unfavorable matchups.
Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons – Aaron Rodgers targeted tight ends 10 times in Week 1, completing five for 61 yards. Interestingly enough, Martellus Bennett only slightly outperformed Lance Kendricks, who was targeted four times. Kendricks had 50 receptions a year ago and may have more of a role in this offense than many of us originally anticipated. Having said that, I expect Bennett to have a big game on Sunday night. This game should be an absolute shootout, and the Packers will need to put up a lot of points. The Falcons struggled mightily against tight ends last season. In last year’s NFC Championship Game, Jared Cook had seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. I think Bennett will have a very similar line and will be a top-10 tight end with potential top-5 upside in this high-scoring affair.
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions at New York Giants – Eric Ebron predictably struggled in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals, compiling just two receptions for nine yards. He gets a much better matchup in Week 2 against the New York Giants. Last season, the Giants finished in the bottom five in both receptions and yards allowed to tight ends. Because the Giants’ cornerbacks are so strong on the outside, they tend to funnel a lot of passing attempts towards the middle of the field. In Week 1, Jason Witten had seven catches for 59 yards and a touchdown against the Giants. I think that Ebron will be a much bigger part of the gameplan in Week 2 than he was in Week 1. I see Ebron having at least five catches and fifty yards, with the possibility of a red zone look or two.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos – Witten shined in Week 1, and I see him riding that momentum into Week 2 against the Denver Broncos. As is the case with the New York Giants, Denver’s defense tends to funnel passing attempts towards the opposition’s tight ends. With Aqib Talib on the outside and Chris Harris, Jr. in the slot, the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley may struggle in their individual matchups. This leaves Witten room to operate in between the seams of the defense. I expect quarterback Dak Prescott to pepper Jason Witten with targets in Denver. Witten had nine targets in Week 1 against the Giants, and I believe he will see a similar workload and provide solid numbers again in Week 2.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans – If you have Tyler Eifert on your roster, it’s going to be hard to bench him. But you may be best served to do so this week depending on your alternatives. Eifert was targeted just once in Week 1, and the entire Bengals’ offense looked disjointed. Andy Dalton was atrocious, and the offensive line surrendered five sacks. The Houston Texans are also usually very tough against opposing tight ends. Last season they surrendered the third-fewest receiving yards and fantasy points to opposing tight ends. For what it’s worth, Eifert totaled just 26 scoreless yards in his last meeting against Houston in 2015. With Eifert and the Bengals facing a quick turnaround and playing on the road Thursday night, I’d prefer to take a wait-and-see approach in Week 2.
Coby Fleener, New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots – Coby Fleener paid dividends in Week 1 in large part due to a garbage-time touchdown. I’d temper expectations a bit in this matchup, however. The New England Patriots are usually a pretty tough matchup for tight ends, and just limited Travis Kelce to 40 receiving yards in Week 1. After seeing how vulnerable New England’s defense looked against Kareem Hunt and company, I expect Sean Peyton to utilize the trio of Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson, and Alvin Kamara with great frequency and efficiency. I envision Fleener’s Week 2 line ending up resembling Kelce’s Week 1 effort. Kelce was still a borderline TE1 in Week 1, finishing tied for twelfth in fantasy points. However, he would have finished 17th among tight ends if not for a four-yard rush. I’d look for other options if I were a Fleener owner this week.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers – The Minnesota Vikings had their way with the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. Their revamped offense ran circles around the Saints to the tune of 470 total yards. Sam Bradford looked great as he continued to hit Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs down the field, and Dalvin Cook looked every bit the part of an upper-echelon running back. However, Kyle Rudolph saw precipitously less action than we are accustomed to seeing. After seeing a whopping 132 targets in 2016, Rudolph saw just three in Week 1. Luckily, he converted one into a red-zone touchdown to salvage his night. I don’t want to put too much stock into one game, but it’s hard to argue with the results from the Vikings’ perspective. This may be a more vertical offense than we anticipated, which could negatively impact Rudolph. I’d prefer to see how his usage plays out in Week 2 rather than expecting a double-digit performance.
SLEEPER OF THE WEEK:
Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders vs. New York Jets – I think I’ll continue the trend of attacking my beloved New York Jets and take Jared Cook as my sleeper at tight end this week. As noted last week, the Jets are likely to struggle with tight ends due to their inexperience in the middle of their defense. The Jets surrendered 53 receiving yards and a touchdown to Buffalo Bills’ tight end Charles Clay in Week 1. Jared Cook caught all five of his targets in Week 1, totaling 56 yards in the process. He and Derek Carr look to have established a nice rapport early on, and I believe that continues in Week 2 against the New York Jets. Cook’s role seems secure in this offense. No other Raiders’ tight end caught a pass, and Cook looks like Carr’s go-to receiver at tight end. I think it’s very possible that Cook can match or even exceed Clay’s output from last week. I believe Cook has a big game in Week 2 and ends up as a top-10 tight end for the second consecutive week.