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Pivot Plays and Post-Waiver Pickups - Week 7

Things are starting to get difficult for fantasy football managers.

Indianapolis, Minnesota, Miami and Baltimore all have the week off, so fantasy managers are already playing shorthanded. Fielding a full lineup is going to be tough as it is if you have a few injuries. If one of your key guys is listed as questionable heading into their game, you better have a backup plan the A-Team would have been proud of back in the 80s.

Without further ado, here are my pivot plays and post-waiver pickups for Week 7 --- and the questionable superstars who you might need to replace:

 

Week 7 Pivot Plays and Post-Waiver Pickups

Darren Fells (HOU, TE) vs. GB

If Denver’s Noah Fant (ankle) cannot go again on Sunday, you could go with…

Before you go thinking Fells is a bottom-of-the-barrel choice at the tight end position, remember that he scored a career-high seven touchdowns last year. Deshaun Watson loved throwing to him inside the red zone, but then early in 2020 Fells lost his place as Houston’s top tight end to up-and-comer Jordan Akins. Fells subsequently only caught six passes over his first four games.

Akins is banged-up with multiple injuries, however, and Fells has reclaimed his role and has thrived just like he did last season. He recorded eight receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown during the last two weeks he has been Houston’s main man at tight end. Fells is a nice fallback option if you are a Fant fan who gets burned at the last minute as his home matchup against Green Bay should not scare any fantasy managers away.

 

Anthony Firkser (TEN, TE) vs. PIT

If Tennessee’s Jonnu Smith (ankle) cannot suit up on Sunday, you could go with…

Backup tight ends are about as valuable in fantasy football as punters and waterboys. Even if you were in an AFC South fantasy league you probably would have passed on Firkser. Smith started strong as Tennessee’s top tight end (19-234-5) and made Firkser a fantasy non-factor the first month-plus, but Smith is on a limpy leg due to an ankle injury suffered this past week.

All Firkser did once Smith got hurt last Sunday was step in and step up to the tune of eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. I know Firkser is facing an undefeated Pittsburgh team with a top-10 pass defense, but we have seen how well the Titans passing attack has gone with Ryan Tannehill as its leader. No matter who is plugged in as a pass catcher, that person produces when Tannehill is throwing to him. Firkser is the perfect insurance policy if you have Smith on your roster. 40 yards and a TD is not out of the question if he starts for Smith.

 

Nelson Agholor (LV, WR) vs. TB (MONDAY)

If New Orleans’ Michael Thomas (ankle) cannot find his way to the field on Sunday, you could go with…

Agholor is getting to be a modern-day Cris Carter --- all he does is catch touchdown passes. Despite only being targeted 11 times in five games, Agholor has reached the end zone a trio of times and is averaging an impressive 18.5 yards per catch after never averaging more than 12.5 yards a catch in any of his first four seasons.

Agholor is not Derek Carr’s top target or second-best target. Might not even be his third-best. The fact is that Agholor is making plays every time the ball is spiraled his way, however, and he could break a play or two versus Tampa Bay on Sunday night. When picking up a player for fantasy purposes when you have a lineup emergency, it is sometimes best to get a game breaker who can post a ton of fantasy points in one shot rather than go for a guy who needs a volume of targets to be worthwhile. Agholor has shown he can give fantasy managers a lot with just one or two catches in a game.

 

Frank Gore (NYJ, RB) vs. BUF

If Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon (foot) cannot overcome his injury on Sunday, you could go with…

I know Gore is 100 years old. I know being a favorite of Adam Gase is like being a favorite of Rich Kotite. And I know Gore has not amassed more than 70 combined yards in a game this season and is facing a desperate Buffalo defense that will be out for blood after losing two straight games and tail spinning out of control. I know all this.

I also know that there is not much on the waiver wire at running back at this point of the season, especially at the end of the week after the first round of waiver picks have happened. On top of that, Buffalo has the 25th-ranked run defense in the league and can be exploited if the Jets offensive line brings its best game of the season. The Jets have nowhere to go but up, and neither does Gore. If you need someone in a pinch if Mixon’s foot holds him back, you might as well plug in this veteran and pray for the best. One thing is for sure --- Gore will get touches because there is not much behind him on the depth chart in the Jets backfield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Tight End Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Week 7 is not going to be a lucky one for millions of fantasy football managers. The bye week is going to create some gaping holes at the tight end position for millions of fantasy squads. The biggest loss is Baltimore’s Mark Andrews, although Miami’s Mike Gesicki, Indianapolis’ Mo-Alie Cox, and Minnesota’s Irv Smith Jr. will be missed by many fantasy teams as well.

To win fantasy football leagues, you need to have depth at every position and need to weather roster-related storms by making smart pickups on the waiver wire. This week will test the waiver wire skills of many fantasy managers.

Here are the top tight end candidates to pick up in fantasy football leagues heading into Week 7!

 

Top Tight End Waiver Wire Options

Anthony Firkser, Tennessee Titans

0% rostered

Little did we know we may have a future Hall of Famer on our hands with Firkser! One minute he is Jonnu Smith's hardly-heralded backup. Next minute he is a fantasy darling or demigod because he caught eight passes for 113 and a touchdown. This is the crazy world of fantasy football, folks!

We are not sure of the extent of Smith’s ankle injury, so Firkser’s fantasy value is tied to that. The longer Smith is out, the longer Firsker has fantasy worth. It is that simple. All I know is Ryan Tannehill is throwing passes these days like he is the second coming of Joe Montana, so if Firkser is Tennessee’s top tight end the next couple weeks than he is somebody to consider picking up for short-term help if you are in need at that position.

Darren Fells, Houston Texans

5% rostered

There are not many tight ends who have been better the past two weeks than Fells, who racked up eight catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Fells has reminded fantasy managers that when given the opportunity to play he can find the end zone as quickly as Kim Kardashian can find a camera to pose in front of. As long as Jordan Akins misses time with his injuries, Fells will be a fantasy force since QB Deshaun Watson trusts him inside the red zone.

Fells will be facing a Green Bay defense that has allowed a tight end to break the 50-yard barrier three times over its past four games. The Packers-Texans game will be a shootout, so as long as Fells is starting he is an excellent play this week whether you pick him up in a regular league or stick him into your DFS contest lineup.

 

Other Tight End Options to Consider

Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings

9% rostered

Smith was a wall of glass the first month of the season. Now Kirk Cousins is finding him almost as often as he is finding opposing cornerbacks. Smith has recorded eight catches for 119 yards over the past two weeks and has found his groove in Minnesota’s inconsistent offense. More importantly, he is in the process of leapfrogging veteran Kyle Rudolph atop the Vikings depth chart at tight end, which makes him more attractive in dynasty leagues and standard leagues. Smith is on bye this week but should be a constant contributor from here on out.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

6% rostered

For the third week in a row, Brate is one of the top tight ends available in many fantasy leagues. This has more to do with the lack of available playmakers at the position on waiver wires than it does about how valuable he is, though. The re-emergence of Rob Gronkowski and the return of wideout Chris Godwin will stunt Brate’s fantasy worth, but Brate could do some damage running routes against Las Vegas’ beatable defensive backfield this weekend.

Trey Burton, Indianapolis Colts

20% rostered

For whatever reason, T.Y. Hilton is not receiving the volume of targets he has the past several seasons in Indy. Meanwhile, Indianapolis has a rotating “Tight End of the Week” thing going on. One week Mo-Alie Cox wins the award. Next week it is Jack Doyle. This past Sunday it was Mr. Burton, who scored one touchdown on a run and another on a catch after being M.I.A. since 2018. It is hard to bank on him consistently producing since Indy has three solid tight ends, but he is worth a watch. Just know you will not get anything out of him until Week 8 since he is off this upcoming week.

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams

3% rostered

Tyler Higbee entered the season as a top-10 fantasy tight end. Everett has more receptions, yards and targets over the Rams’ past two games, however. Everett has above-average speed and playmaking ability for a tight end and should continue to be featured almost as often as Higbee when both tight ends are healthy. Everett has a stiff test against Chicago’s defense next Monday night, so he may be someone to consider more this week if you are looking long-term fantasy-wise.

 

Don’t Forget About…

Logan Thomas, Washington Redskins

15% rostered

Thomas and his whopping 7.6 yards per catch have not been wowing many fantasy managers this year, but Washington’s No. 1 TE has had at least four targets in each of his outings this season. Thomas is also coming off his best game of the season (3-42-1) and has Dallas’ porous secondary lined up next. He is an intriguing one-week play thanks to his targets and his matchup.

Adam Shaheen, Miami Dolphins

0% rostered

Is Mike Gesicki in danger of losing his job as Miami’s top tight end? It is probably farfetched, but Shaheen has scored touchdowns in back-to-back weeks and is a former second-round pick who has been besieged with injuries over his career. Now that he is finally healthy he seems to be coming into his own. The only issues for Shaheen are that Gesicki is still around and will take his targets, and that Miami is on bye this week.

Dan Arnold, Arizona Cardinals

0% rostered

Kliff Kingsbury loves having Kyler Murray pass the ball early and often. He just does not love having Murray pass to his tight ends. This makes Arnold not very attractive in fantasy leagues because he is targeted less than Joe Biden is by MSNBC. But Arnold is facing Seattle’s 32nd-ranked pass defense, so Arnold could have his best game of the season this week.



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Pivot Plays and Post-Waiver Pickups - Week 6

The pivot plays and post-waiver pickups keep coming, RotoBallers!

There is no Thursday game this week to burn fantasy football players, but there are now two Monday night games and plenty of Sunday games that could catch fantasy managers off guard if they do not have backup plans in place for the “questionable” players on their rosters. You always need a Plan B in fantasy football, especially in 2020.

Without further ado, here are my pivot plays and post-waiver pickups for Week 6 -- and the questionable fantasy football starters who you might need to replace.

 

Keelan Cole (JAC, WR) vs. DET

If Atlanta’s Julio Jones (hamstring) cannot trot out there on Sunday afternoon...

While fantasy managers are falling over themselves to pick up Philadelphia's Travis Fulgham and Kansas City's Mecole Hardman, Cole is an intriguing late-week pick that will probably fall through the waiver wire cracks. Jacksonville's No. 2 WR has yet to have a 60-yard game on the season, but he has found his way to the end zone three times in the Jaguars' five contests. Cole has also received steady work as he has been targeted at least five times in each of his outings.

Detroit's pass defense is mediocre, and the Lions have allowed No. 2 and No. 3 receivers to burn them this season. New Orleans' Tre-Quan Smith caught two touchdown tosses from Drew Brees in Detroit's last game, and Arizona's Andy Isabella pulled the same two-TD trick on them in Week 3.  It would be no surprise to Cole have five catches for 50-60 yards and a score on Sunday.

 

Irv Smith Jr. (MIN, TE) vs. ATL

If Denver’s Noah Fant (ankle) or Houston’s Jordan Akins (concussion) cannot suit up...

Smith was selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft and was immediately made an important part of Minnesota’s offense as the Vikings ran much of their system out of two-tight-end formations. Smith did little to build off his promising rookie campaign this season, however. He had just two catches for 14 yards entering Week 5 and was probably dropped in most fantasy leagues. But Smith bounced back this past Sunday night by hauling in four passes for 64 yards against Seattle’s 32nd-ranked pass defense.

While Smith’s track record this year (other than his performance last week) has been far from Pro Bowl-worthy, Atlanta’s track record when it comes to pass defense is has been as horrendous as Seattle’s. Atlanta has the second-worst pass defense in the NFL and has had just as much trouble keeping its defensive backs healthy as it has covering receivers and tight ends. Now that Smith is getting more involved in Minnesota’s passing attack, this is the perfect time for him to have another good game against a terrible secondary.

 

J.D. McKissic (WAS, RB) at NYG

If Minnesota’s’s Dalvin Cook (groin) cannot limp onto the field on Sunday...

McKissic is not going to win a rushing title in his lifetime. We know this. He has rushed for 75 yards this season and 402 yards over the course of the four seasons coming into the present one. It is not his forte, despite being a running back. Washington opts to leave the running to Antonio Gibson and Peyton Barber.

What McKissic can do well is catch the ball out of the backfield, and that skill comes in handy for fantasy players in a pinch, especially if they participate in PPR leagues. McKissic has caught 16 passes (on 20 targets) for 123 yards over his last three games. With Washington facing the winless New York Giants this Sunday in a game with surprising division title implications, look for McKissic to keep being featured on swing and screen passes with Kyle Allen back under center helming the offense. There is nothing more welcomed in PPR leagues than points from short dump-offs that only gain a few yards.

 

Gabriel Davis (BUF, WR) vs. KC

If Buffalo’s John Brown (calf) cannot make it on Monday night...

Davis is likely available in most fantasy leagues since No. 4 wide receivers rarely make it on fantasy rosters unless those higher on the depth charts on their teams get injured. Davis is not your run-of-the-mill No. 4 WR, though. The fourth-round rookie has an abundance of talent and has the size and speed that could make him a premium playmaker, and so far he has made plenty of plays even though he usually is not a starter. Davis has either accounted for 50-plus yards or scored a touchdown in each of his past four games, and he was targeted nine times by Josh Allen and had a score called back due to a penalty this past Tuesday at Tennessee.

Kansas City may have the sixth-ranked pass defense in the league, but that is largely because of games against Baltimore and New England where the Chiefs held Lamar Jackson and Brian Hoyer each under 135 yards passing.  The Chiefs allowed an average of 300 passing yards in their other trio of contests. If Brown cannot go on Monday night, picking up and using Davis as a fill-in should work out all right. Davis has proven he can play and be a point producer when given ample opportunities.



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Tight End Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 6

Week 6 is not going to be kind to fantasy football managers at the tight end position.

Four teams are on bye, which means fantasy players will not have Las Vegas’ Darren Waller, New Orleans’ Jared Cook, Los Angeles’ Hunter Henry, and Seattle’s Greg Olsen at their disposal. On top of that, fantasy footballers might have to live another week without Denver’s Noah Fant and Philadelphia’s Dallas Goedert due to their injuries. And do I even have to mention how COVID and the NFL’s rescheduling of games has wreaked havoc on fantasy GMs across the country?

If you need a tight end for your fantasy squad this week, you are shopping at the right store! Here are the top tight end candidates to pick up in fantasy football leagues heading into Week 6!

 

Top Tight End Waiver Wire Options

Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears

40% rostered

Graham is getting to be the Cris Carter of 2020 --- all he does is catch touchdown passes. The veteran fantasy stud has four touchdowns in Chicago’s first five games and has been equally as comfortable whether Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky is his quarterback.

Graham is not racking up lots of yardage (34 yards per week) and is not busting many long gainers (9.9 YPC, no 30-yard receptions yet), but he is more dependable and reliable than most tight ends on fantasy waiver wires at this juncture. Graham has a rough matchup in Week 6 against an above-average Carolina Panthers pass defense that has not allowed a tight end TD over its first five games, but even if Graham does not help fantasy managers this week he certainly should during other weeks later this season.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2% rostered

Tampa Bay has as many injured pass catchers as Texas Roadhouse has steaks. That is why it was no surprise Brate started seeing many more Tom Brady passes head his direction, especially because O.J. Howard suffered his season-ending Achilles injury, elevating Brate as Tampa’s No. 2 TE behind Rob Gronkowski.

Brate caught five passes for 44 yards on six targets this past Thursday night and should continue to be given ample opportunities on passes over the middle of 10 yards or less, along with inside the red zone. Brate is facing a stiff challenge from a Green Bay defense that should be fresh coming off a bye and that has not allowed a tight end to score this year, but he hauled in two touchdowns in his only career game against the Packers so do not be shocked if he has a solid outing.

 

Other Tight End Options to Consider

Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts

36% rostered

Fantasy GMs should not kick Cox to the curb over one poor performance. He has been one of the pleasant surprises at the position this season and should not be punished for last game, where he went catchless against Cleveland. Cox recorded 174 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the three games prior and has a mouthwatering matchup versus the pitiful Cincinnati Bengals and their inexperienced secondary up next. Jack Doyle has done nothing to deter Philip Rivers from throwing to Cox since returning from injury.

Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings

6% rostered

Smith was an invisible man over the opening month of the season (two catches for 14 yards), but quarterback Kirk Cousins found the young upstart for a couple nice plays this past Sunday night. Smith racked up four receptions for 64 yards and should be included in the Vikings offensive game plans much more regularly after this prime-time effort. Smith should have no trouble having another plus game this Sunday against Atlanta, whose secondary is too banged-up and not talented enough to cover most NFL-caliber pass catchers.

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams

1% rostered

Before Tyler Higbee lost his mind and had his scintillating five-game stretch for the Rams at the tail end of the 2019 campaign, Everett had a four-game span where he caught 18 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns before being derailed by an injury. Everett is looking now like he did during that hot streak. The big man caught four passes for 90 yards against Washington in Week 5 and could push for a bigger role in the Rams passing attack if he keeps contributing like this. Everett is one to watch for in deep leagues, but it is too early to peg him as a savior in standard leagues.

 

Don’t Forget About…

Darren Fells, Houston Texans

2% rostered

Fells’ fantasy value has fallen off the charts this season as up-and-coming Jordan Akins has overshadowed and outplayed him. With Akins concussed and not in uniform this past weekend, however, Fells regained his 2019 form and gifted shrewd fantasy managers 57 yards and a touchdown for easily his best game of the young season. If Akins misses more time, Fells could be a low-cost spot starter for fantasy purposes.

Drew Sample, Cincinnati Bengals

4% rostered

Cincy’s second-round pick from 2019 has two 40-yard games over the past month, but he has yet to find the end zone or become a consistent fantasy threat. If you can be patient with Sample, though, he could develop his chemistry with QB Joe Burrow over the course of the season and become a decent piece of your roster in dynasty leagues for 2021.

Greg Olsen, Seattle Seahawks

29% rostered

Olsen’s numbers are not as flashy or as helpful as they were during his prime with the Carolina Panthers, but the longtime veteran is still serviceable for fantasy football. Olsen is on bye this week so he will be of no use to fantasy players in the short term, and it would be nice if he was the Seahawks tight end catching Russell Wilson TD tosses and not Will Dissly. If you could use a better backup on your fantasy roster, however, Olsen could help, especially Wilson starts trusting him more as the season wears on.

Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills

2% rostered

Knox is now caught in a timeshare situation with Tyler Kroft, which does not do any fantasy favors for either man. But while Kroft is the multimillionaire veteran, Knox is the future and needs to be kept an eye on over the next several weeks. If Knox shows any signs of life, scoop him up in dynasty leagues and stash him at the bottom of your roster. One of these days the light will go on and he will become a decent fantasy option.



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Pivot Plays and Post-Waiver Pickups - Week 5

Welcome to the newest weekly column here at RotoBaller! It is not easy these days being a fantasy football manager. Injuries are ravaging rosters throughout the NFL and fantasy worlds. Then fantasy managers must navigate last-minute COVID cancellations and the dreaded bye weeks. It is enough to make many think that coin collecting or bird watching would be better hobbies to invest time into than fantasy football.

The dreaded “questionable” tag that banged-up players are labeled with causes more ulcers for fantasy managers than fast food and annoying in-laws combined. You wait and wait until Saturday night or Sunday morning to find out if your “questionable” player is going to suit up, and sometimes he doesn’t. Then you are left scrambling like Lamar Jackson for a last-minute backup plan, but your league’s waiver wire is bare because that week’s free-agent picks have already been made and all the decent available players are gone. That’s where I and this column comes in.

Without further ado, here are my pivot plays and post-waiver pickups for Week 5 --- and the questionable superstars who you might need to replace:

 

Week 5 Pivot Plays and Post-Waiver Pickups

 If Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans (ankle) does not play Thursday night, you could go with…

 Cameron Brate (TB, TE) at CHI

If you are participating in a showdown DFS contest on Thursday night, Brate is the perfect bargain-basement option. He is already going to get more time and targets due to O.J. Howard’s season-ending injury and will get more attention from Tom Brady than Giselle gets if Evans misses the game (along with WR Chris Godwin).

Brate has been a fantasy zero this year due to other talented tight ends being ahead of him on the depth chart, but this is a guy who scored 20 touchdowns between 2016 and 2018. Brate will have to split targets at TE with Rob Gronkowski, but Gronk’s presence did not hurt Howard this season and should not affect Brate, either. Brate is a touchdown-dependent player, but he could certainly get a TD against a Chicago Bears Defense that has allowed three tight ends to find the end zone over their first four games.     

If New Orleans’ Michael Thomas (ankle) or Los Angeles’ Mike Williams (hamstring) does not play Monday night, you could go with…

Jalen Guyton (LAC, WR) at NOR

There is nothing worse than having a key cog in your fantasy squad listed as questionable heading into a Monday night game because there is no safety net. New Orleans wideouts Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith are probably rostered already in most leagues, so grabbing Guyton and praying rookie signal-caller Justin Herbert can put the ball into his hands seems like your best option.

Guyton is an undrafted rookie who is a distant third on L.A.’s WR totem pole behind Keenan Allen and Williams. The good news for Guyton, though, is that Williams is always injured, and that is the case again this week. Guyton only has seven targets in four games this year, yet he has two touchdowns including a 72-yarder last week. Allen eats up all the targets, so do not expect Guyton to have a seven-catch game on Monday night. But with New Orleans’ cornerbacks hurting, Guyton will have a chance to make a big play or two that could result in major fantasy points.

If San Francisco’s Raheem Mostert (knee) does not suit up on Sunday, you could go with…

Rex Burkhead (NE, RB) vs. DEN

Burkhead just had a three-TD performance two games ago, yet he is available in more than half of leagues because New England’s running-back-by-committee never allows him to have more than a dozen touches in a game, especially now that Damien Harris returned from injury and ran for 100 yards in his opening game of the season.

Burkhead is still the best all-around back in New England’s backfield. Harris a better pure runner, James White is a better pure receiver, but Burkhead can play on all downs and has the best nose for the end zone out of the trio. Denver has a middle-of-the-road run defense and has an offense that will gift the Patriots offense field position all game long. Burkhead is no long-term solution in fantasy football, but he is a solid stopgap option, especially this week.

If Atlanta’s Julio Jones (hamstring) cannot limp out onto the field on Sunday, you could go with…

Zach Pascal (IND, WR) at CLE

Pascal is no pipsqueak (6’2”, 214) and is also not a speedster (12.9 career YPC). He is also not Aaron Jones when it comes to getting his body into the end zone (eight touchdowns in 36 career contests). What Pascal is, however, thanks to untimely injuries to others, is the No. 2 WR in Indy --- if not the No. 1 WR.

Philip Rivers has had an interesting way of distributing the football this season. Most notably he has not been solely focused on longtime top target T.Y. Hilton and has aimed for Pascal the second-most of any of the Colts pass catchers. Pascal will run routes this week against a Cleveland pass defense that is ranked 30th in the NFL and just allowed Dallas gunslinger Dak Prescott to throw for about 1,000 yards last weekend. Pascal is not going to blow the fantasy doors off this week, but he could catch 6-to-8 passes for 75 yards and a score.



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Tight End Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 5

The 2020 NFL season has not been easy on fantasy football general managers.

If fantasy footballers did not already have enough to contend with between injuries (O.J. Howard, Noah Fant, Jordan Akins) and COVID preventing their players on Pittsburgh and Tennessee from taking the field, here comes the first round of byes! No game for the Green Bay Packers or the Detroit Lions this week, so no Robert Tonyan or T.J. Hockenson for fantasy players to use. There are some tight ends available on fantasy waiver wires and free agent lists heading into the upcoming week that should be able to help in a pinch, though.

Here are the top tight end candidates to pick up in fantasy football leagues heading into Week 5! Please note that Chicago Jimmy Graham, Cleveland’s Austin Hooper and Dallas’ Dalton Schultz are owned in about half of leagues, so while that is a little too much to make this column, one or more might be available in your league.

 

Top Tight End Waiver Wire Options for Week 5

Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts

33% rostered

One good week could be a fluke. Two good weeks could be the start of something. But three good weeks is a trend. Cox has done well for three straight weeks now, so it is time for the fantasy football world to take notice and take him seriously. He is using his basketball body and becoming a fantasy football force.

Cox has 174 receiving yards and two touchdowns over his past three games. There are warning signs with Cox, though. Veterans tight end teammates Jack Doyle and Trey Burton have both returned from their injuries. Cox only has five targets over Indianapolis’ last two contest, and his track record coming into 2020 was not exactly fantasy friendly. Cox is playing the best ball of his short career, however, and faces a Cleveland defense that just allowed Dallas’ Dak Prescott to throw for 500 yards this past weekend. Pick Cox up and ride his hot streak out --- if it ever ends.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

0% rostered

Remember this guy? For a three-year span between 2016 and 2018, Brate was finding the end zone as often as a nerdy guy finds the friend zone with pretty girls out of his league. Brate hauled in 20 touchdown passes over that time and was a fantasy force. Then O.J. Howard was drafted in the first round. Then Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement to join Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. Then Brate went from fantasy hero to fantasy zero.

A lot can change on a dime in fantasy football. Howard injured his Achilles, and Gronk is not looking like the Gronk that was the top tight end in fantasy football during his glory years in New England. The door is now open for Brate to become a decent points producer again. He has Brady throwing to him and has wonderful wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin opening up the middle for him. Brate is not going to rack up more than 20-30 yards per week, but he could start scoring a touchdown every other game like he did back a few years ago. Do not be worried about Brate facing Chicago on Thursday night as the Bears have allowed tight ends to catch TD tosses three times in four games.

 

Other Tight End Options to Consider

Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers

25% rostered

Don't look now, but Tonyan has become a top-5 fantasy tight end! While Green Bay's receiving corps has been decimated by injuries, Tonyan has gone from being a pedestrian backup to being a Pro Bowl-caliber player. He leads all tight ends with five touchdowns and has become Aaron Rodgers' top target while Davante Adams and Allen Lazard have been sidelined. Tonyan's 6-98-3 line this past Monday night certainly won fantasy games and contests for millions in the fantasy football community.

Tonyan might be on bye this week, but that does not mean you cannot pick him up immediately and use him in Week 6 or 7. Just proceed with caution, though. Adams will probably be back in Week 6 and taking some of Tonyan's targets. Also remember that Tonyan's big game on Monday came against an Atlanta secondary that was practically pulling high school players off the street to fill in for all of their injured safeties and corners. Tonyan is a fine addition for fantasy teams, but temper expectations if you think he is going to be Travis Kelce-like all season long.

Greg Olsen, Seattle Seahawks

22% rostered

Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf hog all the targets and touchdowns in Seattle’s passing attack, but Olsen has 10 receptions for 96 yards over the Seahawks past two victories and is appearing more comfortable with quarterback Russell Wilson. Olsen will run routes against a Minnesota defense that is near the bottom of the league in pass defense, so pick him up whether you need him for this week or the next few.

Drew Sample, Cincinnati Bengals

3% rostered

The jury is still on out on what Cincinnati’s promising tight end is going to give fantasy managers this year. He could be the carbon copy of C.J. Uzomah in terms of stats and fantasy value, or he could turn into an above-average tight end that could be a benefit in dynasty leagues for years to come. Sample has broken the 40-yard barrier in two of his past three games and could have a fine fantasy future with franchise cornerstone Joe Burrow if things break right for him.

 

Jordan Akins, Houston Texans

13% rostered

Akins was concussed in his last game so his availability for this week is up in the air. What’s not up in the air is if this guy can play. Akins has had 39 receiving or more in three of his four outings this year and has passed Darren Fells on the depth chart at tight end. If Akins can suit up Sunday he has a mouthwatering matchup against a Jacksonville defense that made Tennessee’s Jonnu Smith look like a Hall of Famer a couple weeks ago.

 

Don’t Forget About…

Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers

8% rostered

It’s not every day I tout a tight end who has five receptions for 30 yards and one touchdown…on the season. Thomas was banged-up entering the season and had to deal with a new quarterback, so patience was definitely needed. Thomas is a better pickup in a league where you can stash him for a few weeks before you press him into duty on your active roster. The kid has talent, but we need to know if he has his helmet on straight before we can count on him in fantasy leagues on a weekly basis.

Dan Arnold, Arizona Cardinals

0% rostered

I know what you are thinking. Craig has lost his damn mind. Couple things to consider, however. Arnold just had his best game of the short season (four receptions for 39 yards). More importantly, this week Arizona plays the worst team in the NFL, the New York Jets. Even Arnold could post some solid numbers against the Jets.

Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars

9% rostered

Eifert would be a more attractive get if teammate James O’ Shaughnessy was not virtually matching his numbers on the season. Countless injuries have really robbed him of some of his physical gifts. Yet Eifert is serviceable and could find the end zone this week against an 0-4 Houston team that makes mental mistakes in pass coverage.

Albert Okwuegbunam, Denver Broncos

0% rostered

Say his name three times fast and I swear you magically get a mustache like Gardner Minshew’s appear on your face. Give it a try. Albert O. might find the field now that Noah Fant will be sidelined due to an ankle injury. Vets Nick Vannett and Jake Butt are warm bodies who can block. Okwuegbunam has pass-catching skills that make him a fantasy option the minute he is given a true opportunity. His odds of the rookie getting that opportunity are a little bit better with Fant out.



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Fantasy Football Booms and Busts: Week 4

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick of all the injuries in the NFL.

Trying to field a lineup in fantasy football lineup in standard leagues, dynasty leagues or DFS contests is harder than finding a decent player on the New York Jets offense or New York Giants Defense. Injuries create openings for other players, though, and also create opportunities for fantasy booms from players you would never expect and fantasy busts from players you would expect a lot more from.

Without further ado, here are my under-the-radar booms and busts for Week 4!

 

Week 4 Lineup Booms

Melvin Gordon (DEN, RB) at NYJ (Thursday)

In a battle of 0-3 teams that will not set TV-ratings records, the injury-riddled Broncos face the injury-riddled and talentless Jets this Thursday night. Gordon has done no one any fantasy favors despite having all the touches to himself the past two weeks in the wake of Philip Lindsay’s toe injury. Gordon only mustered 38 yards on 12 touches versus Tampa Bay last week, and now he has a quick turnaround with a banged-up offensive line and a third-string quarterback who probably will not keep the Jets front seven honest. But the Jets are the Jets. They find ways to make opposing players extremely great fantasy-wise. The Jets are ranked 24th against the run and will probably hand Gordon scoring opportunities thanks to Sam Darnold turnovers. Look for Gordon to score a couple touchdowns and get 100 combined yards in a game that will make football fans beg for the XFL to come back.

David Johnson (HOU, RB) vs. MIN

I know Johnson has only rushed for 138 yards in three games and looks at his wrists more often than I do after I buy a new watch. If he cannot rack up some points for his fantasy managers this week, though, then he should be shipped to Siberia or the CFL. Minnesota is allowing 147 rushing yards per game and is softer up the middle than a Krispy Kreme donut. Johnson has received 24 of the past 25 rushing attempts afforded to Texans running backs since the depth behind him is razor thin since Duke Johnson is ailing. He should get just as many if not more touches in a must-win game against a Minnesota team whose practice schedule has been shortened due to Tennessee’s COVID-related issues. I think Johnson will have his most productive fantasy effort of the year so far this Sunday.

Jarvis Landry (CLE, WR) at DAL

Landry has been church-mouse quiet during the opening three weeks of the season, totaling just a dozen receptions for 143 yards and no touchdowns. Cleveland’s run-first offense has not helped, and neither has Odell Beckham’s re-emergence as a healthy top target for Baker Mayfield. But Dallas has the fifth-worst pass defense in the NFL and could not cover Seattle’s terrific tandem of Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf if they had 15 defensive backs on the field last week. I think Dallas will double Beckham and force Landry to beat them when Mayfield throws. That means Landry could have a boomtastic day, especially in PPR leagues.

Derek Carr (LV, QB) vs. BUF

Carr is rated towards the bottom of the quarterback pool in DFS leagues this week in terms of price tag, but why? He is home against an overrated Buffalo defense that allowed Miami’a Ryan Fitzpatrick and Los Angeles’ Jared Goff to throw for over 320 yards in back-to-back weeks. Meanwhile, Carr has not thrown an interception yet and has averaged 260 passing yards and two touchdown tosses per game over the first three games. If Carr and his improved receiving corps were able to throw successfully against New England’s stingy secondary on the road, there is no reason he cannot match those numbers at home against the slumping secondary Buffalo has. Carr’s price point is perfect in DFS, even if his numbers turn out to be solid but not spectacular.

 

Week 4 Lineup Busts

Rex Burkhead (NE, RB) at KC

I know Burkhead scored three touchdowns against Las Vegas in Week 3 and was a weapon in all sorts of ways. He is definitely the most complete back on New England’s roster. That said, Sony Michel is looking healthier and should get more carries after turning nine into 117 yards last week, James White will probably return after missing two games due to the death of his father, and Damien Harris was activated off injured reserve. It all adds up to Burkhead having fewer touches and scoring opportunities against a Kansas City defense that bottled up Baltimore’s high-powered rushing attack this past Monday.

Myles Gaskin (MIA, RB) vs. SEA

The former seventh-round pick has surprisingly leaped over veterans Jordan Howard and Matt Breida to become Miami’s top tailback. He carried the ball 22 times in Week 3 and looks like he will dominate the backfield touches again in Week 4. While Seattle’s pass defense has been shredded like mozzarella this year, the Seahawks are second against the run and normally get teams into shootouts where their opponents are forced to keep up via the air and not the ground. Gaskins has a better chance of getting 10 carries for 28 paltry yards than he has at getting 22 carries and five receptions again. Stay away.

D.J. Moore (CAR, WR) vs. ARI

Moore has not gotten off to a bad start (14-239-0), but newcomer Robby Anderson has been slightly better (20-278-1). Whether Arizona’s top cover corner Patrick Peterson covers Moore this week or not is irrelevant because the Cardinals secondary is solid all around and is a top-10 unit against the pass. Teddy Bridgewater does not elevate the fantasy values of his receivers, and the Cards will be focused more on Moore with Christian McCaffrey out for another week due to his ankle sprain. I would not trust Moore to have a 100-yard-game or score a TD this week compared to other weeks.

Indianapolis Colts Defense at CHI

You have to hand it to Indianapolis and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. The Colts have seemingly had an average or below-average defense for decades. Now they are No. 1 in total defense and scoring defense. But look who they played! Who cannot stop Kirk Cousins when he is having one of his brutal games? What flag football defense wouldn’t look like the 1985 Chicago Bears when the New York Jets are trotting Frank Gore and Chris Hogan out on offense? It is not that the Colts defense is not good. It’s just not this good. Chicago’s Nick Foles-led offense should be able to score 20-27 points and not allow many sacks or turnovers to make the Colts defense a worthwhile play this weekend.



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Tight End Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 4

The tight end pickings are starting to get slimmer on fantasy football waiver wires. While we are still a week away from being on bye, fantasy general managers are still probably going to be missing some of their tight ends heading into Week 4.

San Francisco’s George Kittle and Jordan Reed and Philadelphia’s Dallas Goedert are banged-up for starters. There are some one-week stopgap options available on fantasy free agent lists, but there are not a lot of tight ends out there that are going to provide fantasy players help over the entire season.

Here are the top tight end candidates to pick up in fantasy football leagues heading into Week 4.

 

Top Tight End Waiver Wire Options for Week 4

Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears

8% rostered

Old man Graham keeps plugging along, even after a decade in the league and numerous injuries to his lower limbs. He must have sipped from a Fountain of Youth before his third game of the season --- or he was just fortunate to be “covered” by a porous Atlanta secondary. Whatever the case, Graham caught sixth passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns during Chicago’s comeback win in Week 3.

Who knows who Chicago’s quarterback will be this week? Has Nick Foles wrested the starting signal caller job away with his amazing second-half comeback? Or will Mitchell Trubisky get a second chance after being unceremoniously pulled? Graham has had success with both quarterbacks so far, so it might not matter. Graham is not someone fantasy players can count on consistently because he is a shell of his former self, but the wily veteran continues to find the end zone enough to make himself a fantasy force when plugged into a lineup at the right time.

Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts

9% rostered

Cox can no longer be considered a one-game wonder. Now he has back-to-back great games to his credit. The former basketballer followed up his 111-yard breakout game from Week 2 by catching three passes for 50 yards and a TD in a laugher of a win versus the New York Jets. These are easily the two best games of Cox’s short career, which begs this question. Is Cox a two-week wonder?

Veteran PPR asset Jack Doyle is still going to take some targets and turn them into seven-yard gains. Here are three things going in Cox’s favor, however. He has a quarterback in Philip Rivers with a history of throwing successfully to tight ends, he has plenty of potential and physical ability, and this week he will be up against a Chicago Bears Defense that has allowed two tight ends to find the end zone in their first three games. Take a flyer and hope Cox’s fantasy value goes higher!

 

Other Tight End Options to Consider

Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys

31% rostered

13 receptions, 16 targets, 136 receiving yards and a touchdown in two weeks is nothing to ignore. I know Schultz should take a back seat in Dallas’ passing game behind the Cowboys’ talented trio of wideouts, but he is providing Dak Prescott the perfect safety valve and big-bodied target over the middle. Schultz is not going to rack up many 100-yard games over the course of the season, but he could supply fantasy managers with several games of 40-plus yards and sprinkle in some scores.

Chris Herndon, New York Jets

32% rostered

The Jets are hapless and hopeless, especially on offense. They are at the point where they are going to have to raid CFL rosters for receivers. With Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Le’Veon Bell all dealing with injuries, Herndon is the de facto top pass catcher on the roster. That can only mean good things for a player’s fantasy value, even if he is in a funk George Clinton could be proud of. While Herndon has done no fantasy favors for anybody this year (10-63-0), he might have no choice but to stumble into receptions and yards simply because Sam Darnold will have no one else to throw to.

Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers

0% rostered

Tonyan will be rostered in at least one percent of leagues after hauling in five Aaron Rodgers missiles for 50 yards and a TD this past Sunday evening. Those fantasy pundits who believed Jace Sternberger was going to be Green Bay’s top tight end might have to rethink their position. Tonyan could continue to be a red zone force next Monday night against an Atlanta defense that has made most pass catchers look like Jerry Rice this year.

Tyler Kroft, Buffalo Bills

0% rostered

Buffalo signed Kroft for multimillions to be its pass-catching tight end a couple years ago, but injuries and inconsistent play have been the norm for him since donning a Bills jersey. Kroft surprisingly snagged two Josh Allen touchdown tosses this past Sunday, though. Is this a sign of things to come or an aberration? Dawson Knox remains the tight end of the future, but Kroft might suddenly have become the tight end of the present in Buffalo, especially now that Knox has a concussion.

Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team

33% rostered

Thomas is averaging eight targets per game, which is better than Los Angeles’ Tyler Higbee, New York’s Evan Engram and Cleveland’s Austin Hooper. The problem is he not doing much with them. His weekly average of four catches and 30 yards per contest is not going to win fantasy players any leagues or DFS contests. Keep Thomas in mind since his target rate is so high, but do not expect him to become the next Shannon Sharpe anytime soon.

Greg Olsen, Seattle Seahawks

22% rostered

There is no quarterback throwing the ball better right now than Russell Wilson, so to be the top tight end in a Wilson-led offense makes Olsen an attractive get. Olsen is not the same player he was during his glory years with the Carolina Panthers and has not been aimed at much (11 times in three games), but playing a part in such a high-powered passing attack will pay off dividends for Olsen at certain points of the season.

 

Don’t Forget About…

Drew Sample, Cincinnati Bengals

9% rostered

While the sample size on Sample is small, the potential for great things is large for this young upstart. It would have been nice for Sample to see more than one target this past week when Joe Burrow put the ball in the air 44 times, though. Cincinnati’s second-round pick from 2019 will develop eventually and probably become a solid fantasy fixture, but he is more of a find in a dynasty league than a standard league.

Jordan Akins, Houston Texans

6% rostered

Akins is outplaying and outperforming Houston’s better fantasy tight end from 2019, Darren Fells. The big fellow with the above-average speed now has 11 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown, which puts him on pace to obliterate his previous personal bests. Akins has upside and is playing in a passing attack that is still trying to find a top target to replace DeAndre Hopkins. Stay tuned to see if Akins is the man to step up in the coming weeks.



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Fantasy Football Booms and Busts - Week 3

Fantasy football players have learned a lot through two weeks of the 2020 NFL season. The most important lesson is that you better be prepared if your fantasy squad suffers a string of torn ACLs, hamstring pulls and concussions.

New York’s Saquon Barkley is out for the season with a torn ACL, while Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey will miss multiple games due to a high-ankle sprain. These franchise running backs went one-two (more like two-one) in many fantasy drafts before the season started. Now the teams who rostered them need to find replacements faster than Kim Kardashian finds Instagram followers. Those were only two of the superstars who suffered injuries in Week 2. The laundry list is too long to mention. This should make for an interesting week to fill out your fantasy lineup whether you play in a standard league or in a DFS contest.

Without further ado, here are my under-the-radar booms and busts for Week 3!

 

Week 3 Lineup Booms

DeSean Jackson (PHI, WR) vs. CIN

The fleet-footed Jackson can still fly by defensive backs at his advanced football age but has not gotten many opportunities to do so thanks to a disjointed Eagles offense and an inconsistent Carson Wentz. Jackson is unquestionably the No. 1 WR on the team, however, until rookie Jalen Reagor is ready to take the title. Jackson has double the targets any other receiver on the roster has right now.

Cincinnati’s pass defense has looked a million times better than its run defense, but what pass defense wouldn’t look halfway decent against Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield? The Bengals’ young secondary is lacking a stopper in its cornerback crew, and a couple big plays and a huge day from Jackson are overdue. When Wentz is throwing to his two top tight ends this Sunday, he will be hitting Jackson deep downfield for considerable chunks of yards and a touchdown or two.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (MIA, QB) at JAC

Fitzpatrick has had one good game and one clunker through two weeks. Jacksonville just allowed Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill to throw four touchdown passes against them even though his top target (A.J. Brown) was not even on the field. The week before that the Jags let Indianapolis’ Philip Rivers pass for 363 yards even though he probably barely knows any of his new receivers’ names yet. The Jaguars Defense is a shell of the unit it was a few seasons back during the Jalen Ramsey years as the front office has decimated it. Fitzpatrick should be able to carve it up, especially if DeVante Parker is closer to 100 percent as his hamstring heals.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense at DEN

While Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady-led offense is getting all the publicity and highlight time, the Buccaneers defense has carved out a fantasy niche for itself. The Buccaneers defense has recorded six sacks and created four turnovers in its two games. Tampa Bay has a road game against a decimated Denver Broncos squad that will be trotting Jeff Driskel out at quarterback (for the injured Drew Lock) while also being without No. 1 WR Courtland Sutton and No. 2 RB Philip Lindsay. The Bucs and Brady could build a big lead and then allow their pass rush to feast on the scramble-happy Driskel. It is hard to fathom a scenario where the Broncos score more than 17 points unless Melvin Gordon runs for 200 yards or Noah Fant can consistently outwork the double teams that will be surrounded him all game long.

Austin Hooper (CLE, TE) vs. WAS

Yes, I’m saying it. This is the week Hooper shows why he was paid multimillions in the offseason. He has had 10 more days now to get comfortable with Cleveland’s playbook and quarterback Baker Mayfield. David Njoku is hurt and cannot take his targets. The Browns are facing a Washington team that allowed Philadelphia’s tight end tandem of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to make mincemeat of them in Week 1 (11-119-2). I think this is the game where the Browns get Hooper involved and allow wideouts Odell Backham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to open up the middle for him. Hooper has a low price tag in DFS contests and can probably be traded for at a bargain-basement price in standard leagues. This is the time to grab him and use him.

 

Week 3 Lineup Busts

Kerryon Johnson (DET, RB) at ARI

Three-headed running-back-by-committee backfields are about as fun for fantasy football players as going sailing is for someone who gets seasick. Johnson had more carries than rookie phenom D’Andre Swift and future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson in Week 2 and was able to find the end zone on one of his carries. That said, he has more of a chance of getting two carries than he has of getting 20 this week and could find himself benched for most of the game unless he runs like Jim Brown in the first series or two he is on the field. There is no rhyme or reason to Detroit’s rushing strategy. Arizona has not allowed a back to break the 60-yard barrier against its defense yet. Do not expect Johnson to be the first.

Dion Lewis (NYG, RB) vs. SF

The aforementioned Barkley and his damaged knee opened the fantasy door for the veteran Lewis, who has seemingly been around longer than Fred Flinstone but has stumbled into a starting spot in the Giants rushing attack. San Francisco’s defense might be vulnerable now that the front seven has been ravaged and reduced by the season-ending knee injuries suffered by Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas, but as banged up as the Niners were last week they still held Jets runner Frank Gore to three yards per carry. Lewis might be the top tailback, but he will have to fend of Wayne Gallman and the newly-signed Devonta Freeman for touches, so do not bank on him breaking the bank fantasy-wise for your squad this week even though he will be a waiver wire darling in most leagues.

Corey Davis (TEN, WR) at MIN

Davis has burned more fantasy players than cornerbacks during his short career. While he has gotten off to a solid start with 10 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown, there are snake oil salesmen I would trust more than Davis. I know Minnesota’s pass defense has struggled early on, but in a must-win game at home I can see the Vikings keeping the ball away from the Titans and being able to bottle Davis up when Ryan Tannehill aims his way. Wait on jumping on the Davis bandwagon until he gets a couple more good games under his belt, although by the time he does that top target A.J. Brown will be back from his bone bruise to ruin Davis’ fantasy value.

Dalton Schutlz (DAL, TE) at SEA

Schultz was the second coming of Jason Witten in Week 2, shocking the fantasy football world with nine receptions for 88 yards and a TD in his first start after stepping in for the injured Blake Jarwin. There is no “Legion of Boom” in Seattle these days as the Seahawks secondary has been shredded in both of its wins, yet the one positive thing they have done is cover their opponents’ starting tight ends (five receptions for 57 yards). Schultz has nowhere to go down from his breakout game, so do not be surprised to see him only catch three-to-five passes for 40 yards or less in his second start of the season. The sample size for Schultz is small. I think his stats line this Sunday will be small as well.



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Tight End Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 3

Two weeks down, two tight ends down!

The pickings are not slim at the tight end position in most fantasy leagues this early in the season. There are still plenty of grizzled veterans and up-and-coming youngsters to choose from for fantasy football managers. That is good news for those who might need a fill-in with San Francisco’s George Kittle and Indianapolis’ Jack Doyle possibly missing their Week 3 games with injuries after being sidelined this past week.

Here are the top tight end candidates to pick up in fantasy football leagues heading into Week 3:

 

Top Tight End Waiver Wire Options for Week 3

Jordan Reed, San Francisco 49ers

6% rostered

Remember this guy? Once one of the top tight ends in fantasy football when he stormed onto the fantasy scene with 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns back in 2015, Reed is relevant again after a couple concussion-marred years. In a shocking twist of events, Reed was one of the few 49ers not injured this past Sunday by the New York Jets.

Reed racked up seven catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns against the hapless Jets and seemed revitalized. If Kittle misses another game or two due to his knee injury, Reed could be a top-10 fantasy tight end on those weeks. And even if Kittle comes back, the injury-riddled 49ers could use both Kittle and Reed in two-TE formations and Reed could still hold some fantasy value in a receiver-starved offense like the Niners’. Take a flyer on Reed and pray he does not get hurt again.

Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys

1% rostered

Who? Guaranteed only fantasy players in NFC East-only leagues and tight-end touchdown leagues knew who Schultz was heading into the season. The loss of starting tight end Blake Jarwin to a season-ending injury was a gain for the fantasy worth of Schultz, Dallas’ fourth-round pick in 2018. No one could have imagined how well he would have done in his first start, however.

All Schultz did against Atlanta’s shredable defense was catch nine passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. On an explosive team with three above-average wide receivers, Schultz led Dallas’ pass-catching corps with 10 targets. With the Cowboys playing three consecutive home games against Cleveland, New York Giants and Arizona in Weeks 4 through 6, the schedule is favorable for Schultz. Let’s hope Schultz is not a one-week wonder and the fantasy players with a gaping hole at tight end could plug it with this fantasy surprise.

 

Other Tight End Options to Consider

Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team

32% rostered

Being one of the top targets in Washington is probably like being the most valuable item at a dollar store, but Thomas will give fantasy managers bang for that buck they spend on him. He has used his large frame to attract quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ attention (17 targets in two games) and should continue to see plenty of passes head his way since Washington is lacking any threats among its receivers other than standout Terry McLaurin.

Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars

10% rostered

The oft-injured Eifert is looking to stay healthy for the second season in a row, and so far, so good on that front. He is also doing well as Jacksonville’s top tight end as he managed to snag three Gardner Minshew passes for 36 yards and a score in Week 2 after being a fantasy dud in Week 1. The Jaguars passing attack and offense overall has played better than expected in the early going, so Eifert will continue to be productive as long as he stays on the field.

Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts

1% rostered

Anyone see this coming?  After never having more than 35 receiving yards in any of the first 26 games of his NFL career, all Cox did was catch a career-high five passes for 111 yards. With starting tight end Jack Doyle banged-up and No. 2 wide receiver Parris Campbell injured as well, Cox and his basketball body might be primed to have the most successful stats stretch of his young career.

 

Don’t Forget About…

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

31% rostered

How is it that Howard has outpointed Rob Gronkowski in both of Tampa Bay’s two games after being virtually ignored by head coach Bruce Arians during the 2019 season? Well, Gronk has been invisible (two catches for 11 yards on four targets), which has made it easier for Howard to be better, that’s for sure. If Gronkowski cannot grasp the offense or re-retires to become a WWE champion again, Howard could vault back into the top-15 among fantasy tight ends.

Greg Olsen, Seattle Seahawks

30% rostered

Olsen was shut out in Week 2 even though his QB Russell Wilson found the time and the receivers to throw five touchdown strikes this past Sunday night. The longtime fantasy stalwart did have a TD in Week 1, however, and can be a red-zone asset to Wilson and fantasy squads in the coming weeks.

Jordan Akins, Houston Texans

2% rostered

The third-year tight end is showing signs of life in Houston’s underachieving offense through two weeks, which is a pleasant surprise considering incumbent starter Darren Fells was coming off a career year. Akins has nine receptions for 94 yards and a TD entering Week 3, but temper your expectations since Fells is still entrenched in the tight end mix in the Texans offense.

Drew Sample, Cincinnati Bengals

1% rostered

C.J. Uzomah was looking like a breakout candidate at tight end until an unfortunate Achilles injury this past Thursday night put his season on ice. Now Sample, Cincinnati’s second-round pick from 2019, gets to step in as the Bengals’ top tight end. If he and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow can create some chemistry together, Sample could end up being a bargain-basement steal, especially in dynasty leagues.  With A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd distracting defenses from the outside, Sample should be able to do damage over the middle.



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Under-The-Radar Booms and Busts - Week 2

The opening week of fantasy football gave us surprises like O.J. Howard being the top Tampa Bay tight end instead of Rob Gronkowski, and it gave us things we expected such as DeAndre Hopkins catching every pass in sight and Philip Rivers and Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing multiple interceptions.

Now that fantasy managers have a week under their belts, will Week 2 in the NFL be any easier to predict? Let’s find out together!

Without further ado, here are my under-the-radar booms and busts for Week 2.

 

Week 2 Lineup Booms

Odell Beckham Jr., (CLE, WR) vs. CIN (Thursday)

Beckham’s start to the season looks ominous for fantasy managers on paper --- three receptions for 22 yards. But look deeper. He was targeted 10 times. He drew multiple penalties. Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw passes over his head when he was wide open. Beckham could have easily had a 100-yard game. Now he is facing a Cincinnati secondary that is short on experience at the cornerback position thanks to Trae Waynes being on injured reserve. Beckham loves shining in national games like a Thursday night contest. I will be shocked if he does not post monster numbers for his fantasy managers this week.

T.Y. Hilton (IND, WR) vs. MIN

In a Week 1 outing where the aforementioned Rivers completed 36 passes to an underwhelming Indianapolis pass-catching corps, you would have assumed Hilton would have managed more than four receptions. The loss of top tailback Marlon Mack might cause the Colts to throw more this week, along with the fact they are facing a Minnesota defense that allowed Aaron Rodgers to throw for 364 yards and four scores in their opening contest. Look for Hilton to get open early and often in his first home game of the season and for him to double his fantasy output from the opening week.

David Montgomery (CHI, RB) vs. NYG

Montgomery did not look worse for wear in Week 1 despite suffering a groin injury in training camp that caused concern. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry before losing playing time in the second half as Chicago mounted a winning comeback via its passing attack. The Giants made Pittsburgh backup Benny Snell look like Franco Harris this past Monday night (19-113) even though their defensive line is built to be better against the run than the pass. Montgomery has no threat to his early-down work and this should be a game where the Bears are more balanced in the second half with their play-calling. Montgomery should be in line for 100 yards and a TD or two with this ideal matchup.

Rob Gronkowski (TB, TE) vs. CAR

Gronk was a ghost in his first game as a Buccaneer, catching just two passes for 11 yards while tight end teammate O.J. Howard had four receptions for 36 yards and a TD. You cannot blame the snap count because Gronkowski was on the field for 17 more snaps than Howard was. You can blame Gronk for needing more time to adjust to a new team, offense and coaching staff.

Another week in the system should make Gronkowski more comfortable, along with quarterback Tom Brady. You have to think head coach and offensive mastermind Bruce Arians will find ways to integrate Gronkowski into the game plan this week against a Carolina defense that allowed Derek Carr and the Raiders to do whatever they wished in Week 1. Do not be shocked to see Gronk celebrating in the end zone in the second week of the season, especially if WR Chris Godwin is unable to play since he was placed in concussion protocol.

 

Week 2 Lineup Busts

Jimmy Garoppolo (SF, QB) at NYJ

Garoppolo had a weird Week 1, as did his 49ers. He threw for 259 yards and a touchdown, but most of it came early on a 76-yard touchdown pass where he threw the ball five yards to speed demon Raheem Mostert and the greyhound raced down the field untouched. The Jets allowed Buffalo’s Josh Allen to rip their secondary to shreds in Week 1, but they will hardly have anybody to cover if the 49ers are without Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and possibly tight end George Kittle if the latter’s knee sprain keeps him out. San Francisco signing Mohamed Sanu will be no help to Garoppolo this week. The 49ers might grind out a win, but do not expect Jimmy G. to have a banner day.

Adrian Peterson (DET, RB) at GB

You have to hand it to Peterson. The future Hall of Famer is 100 years old and was unceremoniously released by Washington on the eve of the season, yet he trots into Detroit and steals the spotlight and stats from Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift. Peterson’s 93 rushing yards in Week 1 will not be duplicated or topped in Week 2, though. While Peterson has an illustrious track record of giving Green Bay fits, there is no telling if he gets 14 carries or four carries this Sunday. Three-headed backfields are about as fun to navigate for fantasy players as choppy waters are fun to navigate for sea captains. Johnson or Swift could easily be the top tailback for the Lions in Week 2. Peterson is a feast or famine fantasy option, and the odds are against him having two straight weeks as a feast.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling (GB, WR) vs. DET

Valdes-Scantling has a couple of things going against him right off the bat. First off, how many fantasy superstars have hyphenated last names? Not many, right? Secondly, how many wide receivers can fantasy managers trust when they disappear for weeks on end? Valdes-Scantling has always had talent, but he has also had a penchant for vanishing like the appetite of a vegetarian who walks into White Castle.

MVS may have had four grabs for 96 yards and a TD in Week 1, but he cannot be counted on when he has been so inconsistent in the past and has recorded just seven catches for 110 yards over his last three games against Detroit. Valdes-Scantling has to prove he can string a couple of good games together before he becomes a boom candidate instead of a bust candidate. I would take teammate Allen Lazard over him.

Dwayne Haskins Jr., (WAS, QB) at ARI

Don’t look now, but the Washington Football Team is a Super Bowl contender! Haskins will not make your fantasy team a contender, though. His accuracy (54.8% in Week 1, 58.6% in 2019) is abominable and must make Washington fans long for Heath Shuler at times. Arizona locked down the 49ers passing game for the most part last week and has nobody to fear other than No. 1 wideout Terry McLaurin this week, who Patrick Peterson should be able to keep in check. Byron Murphy can cover whoever is trotted out as San Fran’s No. 2 WR. Washington does not have a lot of weapons and Haskins has a hard time hitting the broad side of a barn, so he not trustworthy for fantasy players this weekend, even with a bargain-basement price tag in DFS leagues.



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Tight End Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 2

If you think your fantasy football team is hurting at the tight end position, now is the time to fix the problem.

One week of the 2020 NFL regular season is in the books. When it comes to the tight ends, there is never as much juice on fantasy league waiver wires and free-agent lists than right now. The cupboards are stocked. You have your veterans to go after in standard leagues, and you have your youngsters to go after in dynasty leagues. There are plenty of tight ends to choose from.

Here are the top tight end candidates to pick up in fantasy football leagues heading into Week 2:

 

Top Tight End Waiver Wire Options for Week 2

Greg Olsen, Seattle Seahawks

26% rostered

Fantasy managers probably did not know what the change of scenery would do for Olsen’s fantasy value when he left the Carolina Panthers after a decade to join Seattle. The early returns are very promising. Even with incumbent starter Will Dissly returning to the fold after having his 2019 season shortened by an injury, Olsen found a place in Seattle’s above-average offense.

Olsen caught all four passes Russell Wilson threw to him in Week 1 and came away with 24 yards and his first TD in his first game as a Seahawk. I know Olsen has had numerous foot problems the past couple years and is not the same player who had three consecutive 1,000-yard years between 2014 and 2016, but I also know Wilson loves throwing to his tight ends down in the red zone, and Olsen should be open with secondaries concentrating on wideouts Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Olsen is a great get since he is available in more than half of leagues, even with a tough matchup in Week 2 versus New England’s staunch secondary.

Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears

5%rostered

Chicago has had as much luck with their tight ends in recent years as I have attempting to solve the Rubik’s Cube. The Bears hope longtime veteran and fantasy favorite Graham can stabilize the position. Graham is nowhere near the Pro Bowl player he used to be thanks to several injuries and Father Time, but he converted seven targets into three receptions for 25 yards and a touchdown against Detroit during the opening week.

The jury is out on how well the New York Giants pass defense will be in 2020, but it certainly was not good in 2019. The Giants ranked 28th against the pass and most experts do not believe they will cover pass-catchers much better this year. Graham has fared well against the Giants, catching 13 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns in a trio of career contests. If Graham stays healthy, he can be a decent addition for a fantasy squad since the Bears do not have an upper-echelon receiving corps, whether you need him for just next week or for several weeks.

 

Other Tight End Options to Consider

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

17% rostered

Do you really think Rob Gronkowski is going to suit up for all 16 of Tampa Bay’s games this year? Gronk failed to do so in each of his last seven seasons that led up to his one-year retirement. So if and when Gronkowski’s body fails him, Howard could step in and become a top-12 fantasy tight end again with Tom Brady leading him to touchdown opportunities. Do not write him off just yet, especially after he managed to have 36 yards and a TD in Week1 when sharing the field with Gronk.

Logan Thomas, Washington Redskins

2% rostered

Thomas played a pivotal role in Washington’s astounding and confounding comeback against Philadelphia in Week 1, hauling in four passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. Thomas led his team in targets and provided a big body for scattershot signal caller Dwayne Haskins. Washington will probably be trailing a lot and throwing a lot late in games, and Thomas will be one of the biggest benefactors of that.

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

2% rostered

Njoku was buried so far in Cleveland’s doghouse last season that the ASPCA could not have gotten him out. Then the Browns signed Austin Hooper to a multimillion-dollar deal this offseason, which made Njoku a distant No. 2 on the depth chart. Yet Njoku was the one who caught a Baker Mayfield touchdown toss in Week 1 and 50 receiving yards before suffering a knee injury, so fantasy managers have to keep tabs on the former first-round pick in case Cleveland features him more often. Just pay attention to the injury reports to see if Njoku will miss any time based on a late-game injury.

UPDATE: Njoku is expected to miss at least three games.

 

Don’t Forget About…

Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills

3% rostered

Having two 1,000-yard receivers (Stefon Diggs and John Brown) and a couple running backs with decent hands on the roster will not make it easy on Knox’s target total, but fantasy managers should not sleep on Buffalo’s third-round pick from 2019. Knox is a talented young tight end who would prosper more in another offense but has value in dynasty leagues due to his upside.

Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers

15% rostered

Thomas shrugged off a toe injury to catch both of the passes thrown his way this past Sunday, but his fantasy impact was minimal. He will be Carolina’s top tight end from here on out, however, so there is no reason to give up on the third-year man just because he had one lackluster outing. Better things are in the offing for this 24-year-old.

Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings

13% rostered

Splitting time and targets with tight end teammate Kyle Rudolph does Smith no fantasy favors, though he is the one with the better pass-receiving skills and better fantasy future. With the aforementioned Diggs in Buffalo, it should only mean a larger role in Minnesota’s passing plans for Smith. Top target Adam Thielen cannot catch all of the Kirk Cousins passes, and Smith has a shot to end up as the No. 2 target if things break right this season.



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Under-The-Radar Booms and Busts - Week 1

The NBA and the NHL are in the midst of their postseasons, and MLB is in the final month of its shortened regular season. Yet many sports fans and fantasy players who have been biding their time with those leagues are now ready for their main event of major sports --- and I am not talking about cornhole.

The NFL is back in action this week! Predicting which players will do what during the first week of the season is almost harder than predicting what Kanye West will do next, especially when there were no preseason games to watch. Fear not, fantasy footballers! I have some ideas of which players will be booms and which will be busts this week, with a special focus on players who were not selected within the first couple rounds of fantasy drafts.

Without further ado, here are my under-the-radar booms and busts for Week 1! Good luck, RotoBallers!

 

Week 1 Under-the-Radar Booms

Sammy Watkins (WR, KC) vs. HOU (Thursday)

Watkins deserves props taking a pay cut to stay with the reigning Super Bowl champs even if it means his numbers will take a hit since he is the No. 3 weapon in Patrick Mahomes’ passing attack behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Watkins has always done well in his career against Houston, though, as he has 256 receiving yards and three touchdowns in four games against the Texans. The Texans and their suspect secondary (29th vs. the pass in 2019) are bound to allow Watkins to break a couple of big plays against them in the opening game of the NFL season.

Robert Woods (WR, LAR) vs. DAL

Woods is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard years, though slot man Cooper Kupp and breakout tight end Tyler Higbee are the favorites of fantasy general managers entering the new season. Woods should see more action and targets since Brandin Cooks was dealt to Houston during the offseason. The steady veteran will run routes against a young Dallas cornerback crew that is lacking someone who can always shut top receivers down, so Woods should have no trouble getting open early and often this Sunday evening.

Jamison Crowder (WR, NYJ) at BUF

You would think using a wideout against Buffalo’s staunch secondary would be akin to sticking a blindfolded man in front of a firing squad. If Buffalo’s defensive backfield has a slight weakness, though, it is with its slot corners. Crowder exploited the Bills last season as he piled up 22 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown in two divisional tilts. With New York’s batch of receivers undermanned and banged-up, Crowder will certainly have his number called a lot this weekend. Do not shy away from him, especially in PPR leagues and DFS contests.

Indianapolis Colts Defense at JAC

Indianapolis’ defense does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the 1985 Chicago Bears or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. This year’s Colts defensive unit is probably middle-of-the-pack with some possible top-12 upside if everything breaks right. The reason I believe the Colts are an under-the-radar play this week is Jacksonville’s offense. You trust the Jags’ running game now that Leonard Fournette was waived and Ryquell Armstead was placed on the COVID list? You trust quarterback Gardner Minshew to be more than a one-year wonder? I do not trust either, so that is why I think the Colts could rack up some defensive fantasy points this week.

 

Week 1 Under-the-Radar Busts

Mitchell Trubisky (QB, CHI) at DET

Trubisky won Chicago’s starting signal-caller job against stiff competition from veteran Nick Foles, but do not go penciling him for 300 yards and three touchdown tosses for the opening week. Even though Detroit ranked 31st against the pass last season, and even though Trubisky threw six touchdown passes against the Lions last year, their cornerback corps is revamped and upgraded after drafting Jeff Okudah with the third pick overall and signing Desmond Trufant this offseason. This is not the matchup made in Heaven you would think it would be for Trubisky.

CeeDee Lamb (WR, DAL) at LAR

His future in fantasy leagues is brighter than a 1,000-watt bulb, but this rookie receiver might not get off to the greatest of starts in his first year. Lamb must battle Dallas’ top two receivers, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, for targets in the early going before he establishes himself. The Cowboys might take their time feeding Lamb tons of targets with two hungry pass catchers ahead of him in the pecking order. Lamb is someone to stay away from in DFS contests until he proves himself and the Cowboys prove they will get the ball into his hands.

Larry Fitzgerald (WR, ARI) at SF

Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer who still surprisingly has some gas in his tank as he embarks on his 17th season. He has a couple things going against him in Week 1, however. Fitz is facing 2019’s top-ranked pass defense, a 49ers crew that held teams to under 170 passing yards per week. Fitzgerald also now has to share targets with DeAndre Hopkins, who will undoubtedly find 8-10 Kyler Murray passes head his direction. Fitzgerald might be relegated to underneath-route duty and have his red-zone passes stolen by Hopkins. There will be better weeks to put Fitzgerald in your fantasy lineup.

Sony Michel (RB, NE) vs. MIA

Michel is coming off offseason foot surgery, so even though training camp competition Damien Harris is on the injured reserve with a hand injury, do not bank on Michel getting 20-25 carries right out of the gate. New England still has Rex Burkhead and James White around to share the workload. Michel should still see 10-15 touches, but who knows what he will do with them now that Tom Brady is not keeping front sevens honest and a couple of Patriots offensive linemen opted out of the season due to COVID concerns? Michel could be in for a 40-yard clunker for fantasy managers.



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Tight End Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 1

Did you finish your fantasy football draft and realize that you forgot to take a viable tight end? Are the only tight ends on your fantasy roster Jordan Akins and Trey Burton? If you fall into one of these categories, you came to the right place.

All of the undrafted tight ends in your fantasy leagues are available on the waiver wire, so if you made a grave draft mistake or do not like the matchups your current tight ends have Week 1, maybe one of the tight ends highlighted below could bail you out.

Here are some tight ends to consider adding via your fantasy league’s waiver wire heading into Week 1:

 

TE Waiver Wire Options for Week 1

Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers (34% rostered)

Greg Olsen ruled the tight end roost in Carolina for almost a decade, but now it is Thomas’ time to shine since Olsen took his talents to the Seattle Seahawks during the offseason. Fantasy general managers have avoided Thomas during their drafts this month as he was only taken in one-third of leagues. This has more to do about what he did not do last season (16-136-1) with Olsen blocking his target opportunities and people writing him off. Thomas should not be shunned, though.

Thomas is entering his third season and his first as a starter, but he showed flashes of what he can do when he is the No. 1 TE during his rookie campaign in 2018. Filling in for an injured Olsen, Thomas racked up 25 receptions for 246 and two touchdowns over his final five games of the season. While his target total will be stunted because Christian McCaffrey hogs 8-10 per game, Thomas could carve out a solid spot in Carolina’s offense this year and has a decent home matchup versus the Las Vegas Raiders during the opening week as long as his toe injury is minor.

Christopher Herndon, New York Jets (51% rostered)

Injuries and a suspension only allowed Herndon to find the field for one game during the 2019 season. Just one. Punters were more valuable fantasy-wise last season. So he might be forgotten by fantasy players with short-term memories or those that believe Ryan Griffin was signed to a multimillion-dollar extension to be New York’s starting tight end and relegate Herndon to understudy status.

Even though Griffin is a veteran and caught a career-high five touchdown passes last season, Herndon is the more talented pass catcher of the two. Herndon is a tight end with the body and skills of a wide receiver. He was second among rookie tight ends in 2018 with 502 receiving yards and developed a great chemistry with quarterback Sam Darnold. The Jets have one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL heading into the upcoming season. Herndon could be one of Darnold’s top two targets if no other Jets WR steps up other than Jamison Crowder. Take a flyer on Herndon if your tight end troops are mediocre. Just do not use him Week 1 against Buffalo’s stingy pass defense.

Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars (25% rostered)

Eifert has never found a body part he could not injure. Not many top tight ends have been plagued throughout their career by major injuries more than he has. 2019 was the first time in his seven-year career that Eifert suited up for all 16 games. In four of the six seasons leading up to last year he had played in eight games or less.  This is why he is currently available in almost 75 percent of fantasy leagues.

A change of scenery may not make Eifert any less injury-prone, but it could help his fantasy value. His main competition for tight end targets in Jacksonville was youngster Josh Oliver, who was placed on injured reserve with a season-ending injury. Eifert is now Gardner Minshaw’s top tight end as he heads into a home game against an Indianapolis Colts Defense that ranked 23rd against the pass last season. Do not pick up Eifert thinking you will get 13 touchdowns out of him like fantasy managers did back in 2015, but IF he stays healthy he could muster up 600 receiving yards and six touchdowns this year.

 

Other Options to Consider

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings (41% rostered)

Rudolph went undrafted in more than half of leagues because many fantasy players feel 2019 second-round pick Irv Smith is the better pass receiver and will take more time and targets away from Rudolph this season. Minnesota’s tight end twosome should get more action now that No. 2 WR Stefon Diggs was traded to the Buffalo Bills, though, so do not be surprised if he puts up 500 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns.

Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team (6% rostered)

Thomas is in line to be the de facto replacement for Jordan Reed as Washington’s No. 1 tight end despite only having 35 career catches to his name. While he has shown little burst as a tight end (9.1 YPC), the converted quarterback has a big body and could make some plays inside the red zone if given the chance. One thing is for sure --- Washington will be trailing in most of their games, so there will be plenty of passes thrown late in contests that could go Thomas’ way.

 

Don’t Forget About…

Dan Arnold, Arizona Cardinals (1% rostered)

Arnold caught two touchdown tosses in a brief three-game stint with Arizona last season and has beatable competition in Maxx Williams when it comes to tight end targets in the Cards passing attack. He is only 25 years old, has upside and is playing in an offense that will be throwing the ball a lot in 2020.  Arnold has been one of the most-added tight ends in fantasy football over the past couple days.



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Tyler Eifert (TE, JAX) - Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12-Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 25% of Leagues

ANALYSIS: Eifert has never found a body part he could not injure. Not many top tight ends have been plagued throughout their career by major injuries more than he has. 2019 was the first time in his seven-year career that Eifert suited up for all 16 games. In four of the six seasons leading up to last year he had played in eight games or less.  This is why he is currently available in almost 75 percent of fantasy leagues.

A change of scenery may not make Eifert any less injury-prone, but it could help his fantasy value. His main competition for tight end targets in Jacksonville was youngster Josh Oliver, who was placed on injured reserve with a season-ending injury. Eifert is now Gardner Minshaw’s top tight end as he heads into a home game against an Indianapolis Colts Defense that ranked 23rd against the pass last season.

Do not pick up Eifert thinking you will get 13 touchdowns out of him through the year like fantasy managers did back in 2015, but IF he stays healthy he could muster up 600 receiving yards and six touchdowns this year.

More Waiver Wire Pickups and Advice


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Updated Running Back Draft Rankings - Standard Scoring (Non-PPR)

The NFL might be a quarterback-driven, pass-first league these days, but you are not going to win a fantasy football league without a decent running back corps.

Even though more NFL teams are going with a running-back-by-committee philosophy rather than relying on a running back to be a three-down workhorse, fantasy rosters have to be stocked with multiple solid rushers to have a chance of making a run for their league’s title and trophy. This is why running backs are the top four picks and make up seven of the first 10 picks overall according to RotoBaller’s updated 2020 rankings.

Here is my analysis of RotoBaller’s latest 2020 running back rankings for standard fantasy football leagues:

 

Running Back Standard Rankings and Tiers

Position Rank Position Tier Player Name Overall Rank Overall Tier
1 1 Christian McCaffrey 1 1
2 1 Saquon Barkley 2 1
3 1 Ezekiel Elliott 3 1
4 1 Alvin Kamara 4 1
5 1 Derrick Henry 6 1
6 1 Dalvin Cook 7 1
7 2 Joe Mixon 10 2
8 2 Nick Chubb 12 2
9 2 Josh Jacobs 13 2
10 2 Clyde Edwards-Helaire 16 2
11 2 Miles Sanders 18 3
12 3 Austin Ekeler 20 3
13 3 Kenyan Drake 21 3
14 3 Aaron Jones 24 3
15 3 Leonard Fournette 26 3
16 3 Chris Carson 29 3
17 3 Melvin Gordon 31 3
18 3 Todd Gurley 35 3
19 4 James Conner 41 4
20 4 Le'Veon Bell 43 4
21 4 Jonathan Taylor 51 4
22 4 Cam Akers 52 5
23 4 David Montgomery 54 5
24 4 Mark Ingram II 55 5
25 4 David Johnson 57 5
26 4 Raheem Mostert 58 5
27 4 Devin Singletary 61 5
28 5 Kareem Hunt 67 5
29 5 D'Andre Swift 68 5
30 5 Jordan Howard 73 5
31 6 Sony Michel 82 6
32 6 Ke'Shawn Vaughn 90 7
33 6 Ronald Jones II 91 7
34 6 Marlon Mack 92 7
35 6 J.K. Dobbins 93 7
36 6 Tevin Coleman 95 7
37 7 James White 103 7
38 7 Zack Moss 104 7
39 7 Kerryon Johnson 105 7
40 7 Matt Breida 106 7
41 7 Latavius Murray 109 7
42 7 Phillip Lindsay 110 7
43 7 Tarik Cohen 118 8
44 7 Alexander Mattison 127 8
45 8 Joshua Kelley 132 8
46 8 A.J. Dillon 137 9
47 8 Boston Scott 140 9
48 8 Adrian Peterson 142 9
49 8 Duke Johnson 144 9
50 8 Nyheim Hines 147 9
51 8 Darrell Henderson 149 9
52 8 Chase Edmonds 161 10
53 8 Jamaal Williams 166 10
54 8 Tony Pollard 170 10
55 8 Justin Jackson 173 11
56 8 Darrynton Evans 177 11
57 8 Giovani Bernard 187 11
58 9 Damien Harris 191 11
59 9 Gus Edwards 207 12
60 9 Malcolm Brown 210 12
61 9 Benny Snell Jr. 212 12
62 9 Ito Smith 215 12
63 9 Antonio Gibson 216 12
64 9 Anthony McFarland Jr. 217 13
65 9 Justice Hill 220 13
66 9 Ryquell Armstead 223 13
67 9 Rashaad Penny 228 13
68 9 Lamical Perine 235 13
69 9 Carlos Hyde 241 13
70 9 Jalen Richard 242 13
71 9 Lynn Bowden Jr. 243 13
72 9 Jerick McKinnon 250 14
73 9 DeAndre Washington 252 14
74 9 Bryce Love 254 14
75 9 Rex Burkhead 256 14
76 9 Devonta Freeman 260 14
77 10 Jaylen Samuels 272 15
78 10 DeeJay Dallas 278 15
79 10 Chris Thompson 280 15
80 10 Royce Freeman 297 15
81 10 LeSean McCoy 298 15
82 10 Dion Lewis 301 15
83 10 Darwin Thompson 305 15
84 10 Peyton Barber 306 15
85 10 Eno Benjamin 309 15
86 10 Darrel Williams 315 16
87 11 Dare Ogunbowale 317 16
88 11 Lamar Miller 330 16
89 11 Elijah Holyfield 333 16
90 11 JaMycal Hasty 339 16
91 11 Mike Boone 342 16
92 11 Dwayne Washington 350 17
93 11 Brian Hill 353 17
94 11 Qadree Ollison 356 17
95 11 Reggie Bonnafon 357 17
96 11 Patrick Laird 360 17
97 11 Ryan Nall 366 17
98 11 Jordan Wilkins 378 17
99 11 Rico Dowdle 383 17
100 11 Jeff Wilson 385 18
101 11 Bo Scarbrough 386 18
102 11 Wendell Smallwood 387 18
103 11 Frank Gore 392 18
104 11 T.J. Yeldon 393 18
105 11 Wayne Gallman 401 18
106 11 Myles Gaskin 402 18
107 13 John Kelly 410 18
108 13 Josh Adams 413 18
109 13 J.J. Taylor 415 18
110 13 Kyle Juszczyk 418 18
111 13 Raymond Calais 420 18
112 13 Ty Montgomery 421 18
113 13 Trayveon Williams 422 18
114 13 Buddy Howell 426 18
115 13 Dalyn Dawkins 427 18
116 13 Mike Davis 428 18
117 13 Tyler Ervin 436 18
118 13 Ty Johnson 438 18
119 13 Karan Higdon 439 18
120 13 J.D. McKissic 440 18
121 13 Kalen Ballage 441 18
122 13 Travis Homer 443 19
123 13 Trey Edmunds 444 19
124 13 Dontrell Hilliard 445 19
125 13 Kerrith Whyte Jr. 446 19
126 13 Rodney Anderson 447 19
127 13 Bilal Powell 448 19
128 13 Andy Janovich 454 19
129 13 Dexter Williams 458 19
130 13 Michael Warren II 459 19
131 13 C.J. Anderson 461 19
132 13 Devontae Booker 462 19
133 13 Corey Clement 464 19
134 13 Ameer Abdullah 466 19
135 13 Kenneth Dixon 468 19
136 13 Jonathan Williams 470 19
137 13 C.J. Prosise 471 19
138 13 Trenton Cannon 473 19
139 13 Theo Riddick 476 19
140 13 Devine Ozigbo 483 20
141 13 Keith Smith 486 20
142 13 Jordan Scarlett 491 20
143 13 D'Ernest Johnson 499 20
144 13 Olamide Zaccheaus 510 20

 

Tier 1

C-Mac was the best point producer among running backs last season thanks to topping the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving yards, racking up 116 receptions, scoring 19 touchdowns, and is the no-doubt No. 1 fantasy player overall heading into the season. If you are worried that Teddy Bridgewater will cause harm to McCaffrey’s fantasy value, trash the idea. The kid was dominant despite having a battered Cam Newton and inconsistent Kyle Allen as his signal-callers in 2019. McCaffrey would put up great numbers if Christian Hackenberg was his QB.

Barkley is No. 2 because we all know he can pile up another 2,000 combined yards as he did in his rookie campaign if he stays injury-free and the Giants offensive line opens holes instead of bottling him up in the backfield. He could have 1,500 rushing yards and 900 receiving yards as long as Daniel Jones and the offense around him does not implode.

Zeke Elliott is not the pass-catcher out of the backfield like McCaffrey and Barkley are, but his rushing yards and touchdowns are right there with the top two. Fantasy owners just have to hope he does not suffer any after-effects from his bout with COVID this offseason.

Alvin Kamara was one of the most disappointing players in fantasy football last season, especially in the touchdown category since he scored 18 in 2018 and just a half-dozen in 2019. He is lucky to be ranked this high and is more valuable in PPR leagues, but if he can stay healthy and regain his old form he will supply his fantasy owners with 1,500 combined yards and double-digit TDs.

Derrick Henry barreled his way to the 2019 rushing title and tied Aaron Jones for most rushing touchdowns with 16. He also had the best YPC (5.1) for any back with 200-plus rushing attempts and was tied for third with nine runs of 20 yards or more. Henry’s only drawback is his lack of receiving value. McCaffrey had twice as many receptions last year as Henry has had over his entire four-year career.

 

Tier 2

Joe Mixon was able to muster back-to-back 1,000-yard years despite hardly ever having No. 1 WR A.J. Green to keep defenses from stacking the line. Cincinnati’s offense should be better with Green returning and No. 1 pick overall Joe Burrow manning the passing attack, which bodes very well for Mixon.

The only thing that will prevent Chubb from being a top-five fantasy back this year is Kareem Hunt. The former Chief is too talented to not be given 10-15 touches per game. It is too bad Cleveland does not run a wishbone offense so both Chubb and Hunt could get 20 touches apiece on a weekly basis.

Josh Jacobs earns every hard yard between the tackles and should be a shoo-in for a second straight 1,000-yard season with 8-10 touchdowns. What he needs is more opportunities in the passing game. His 20 catches for 166 yards and zero touchdowns last season does not cut it for fantasy purposes.

Nobody’s fantasy value has skyrocketed faster than Edwards-Helaire’s. The first-round rookie has gone from understudy to the top tailback in the most dangerous system in the NFL with Damien Williams opting out of the upcoming season. If he is a quick learner and blends into Patrick Mahomes’ offense seamlessly, Edwards-Helaire could be a Tier 1 back and a fantasy savor. But if he hits a rookie wall or has a hard time adjusting to the pro game, he could be a fantasy failure.

 

Tier 3

Austin Ekeler is the second-best pass-catching running back in the league besides McCaffrey. This year he will eclipse the 1,000-yard mark on the receiving side, but will he come close to it on the running side? While Ekeler has a career 4.8 YPC, he has never rushed for 600 yards in a season and might be hard-pressed to break as many big runs now that he is more of an every-down-back and less of a change-of-pace back.

Aaron Jones has an uncanny nose for the end zone and is given ample opportunities thanks to Aaron Rodgers and his Packers. He doubled his output in the passing game from 2018 to 2019 as well. The only thing keeping him down in this tier is he does not get his number called enough. Jones only ranked 15th in the NFL in rushing attempts last season.

Kenyan Drake escaped the fantasy Siberia of Miami and blossomed as the linchpin of Arizona’s rushing attack, slashing defenses for 643 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in just eight games. Now that David Johnson has been traded to Houston, all that stands between Drake and a monster year is if head coach Kliff Kingsbury decides to call pass plays 95 percent of the time. Don’t put it past him.

Leonard Fournette only found the end zone three times last year despite touching the ball 341 times and was recently waived by Jacksonville, so nobody’s fantasy stock has fallen faster as the season is about to start. There is no doubt a team will take a flyer on him, but Fournette has no chance of duplicating that touch total again in 2020.

Todd Gurley was on top of the fantasy world in 2017 and 2018 when he scored 40 touchdowns during those two years. He still enters 2020 as the top tailback in an explosive offense, although the offense is Atlanta’s and not Los Angeles’. A change of scenery is not going to help Gurley’s cranky knee, though, so he is a fantasy risk no matter when you draft him.

 

Tier 4

Bell being ranked behind Conner is a fantasy crime against humanity. Conner had one very good season in 2018. Bell has had three separate seasons where he had more than 1,900 combined yards. Both have backups who will slice into their time and touches --- Benny Snell for Conner, Frank Gore for Bell --- but Bell has plenty to prove and a better track record of these two.

David Montgomery’s training-camp groin injury is probably going to cost him a game or two, so he might drop a tier heading into your Draft Day. If he falls farther than he should because of his injury, though, feel free to take him and enjoy the 13-14 solid weeks he gifts you.

Baltimore has the perfect offense and quarterback for a straight-line runner like Ingram, who racked up 1,018 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in his first year as a Raven. The trouble is second-round pick J.K. Dobbins should flourish in this offense, too, and is going to be a titanic thorn in the side of Ingram’s fantasy owners this year. And if Dobbins does not steal some carries from Ingram, Gus Edwards and quarterback Lamar Jackson will.

I wrote a previous article on how fantasy players should stop the hype train regarding Mostert, so you will not see me arguing he should be rated higher. He has not proven he can handle more than 12-15 touches per game, and he likely will not get the chance with veterans Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon behind him on the depth chart in San Fran.

 

Tier 5

Swift’s chances of becoming Detroit’s primary ball carrier took a Brian Urlacher-like hit thanks to his preseason leg injury. Now Kerryon Johnson will likely be Detroit’s starting tailback until Swift gets back up to speed physically and with learning the offense.

Jordan Howard averaged 1,100 rushing yards and eight touchdowns per season over his three-year stint with the Chicago Bears before being robbed of six games last season with the Philadelphia Eagles. With injury-prone Matt Breida as his only competition for carries in Miami, Howard is a sleeper who could wake up fantasy teams with 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

 

Tier 6

Sony Michel is coming off a foot injury, has to battle Damien Harris, James White, Lamar Miller, and Rex Burkhead for playing time in New England’s crowded backfield, and no longer has Tom Brady orchestrating his offense. Oh, and his offensive line lost two members due to COVID-related opt-outs. I would not touch Michel with a 100-foot pole until the late rounds.

Ronald Jones is a super sleeper since he is surrounded by Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and the rest of Tampa Bay’s upgraded offense. If he can keep his helmet on straight, improve his pass protection, and not earn the wrath of Brady and head coach Bruce Arians, Jones could have a super season as the best back in this juggernaut.

Mack’s fantasy value was harpooned as soon as Indianapolis selected Jonathan Taylor in this past year’s NFL draft. Mack is a solid runner who can provide 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, but that is not going to happen now that Taylor is in town.

 

Tier 7 and Below

Poor Phillip Lindsay. The kid started his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard years, and what was his reward? Melvin Gordon and his multimillions placed above him in the pecking order. Even if Gordon and Lindsay split the touches and time it still means Lindsay’s fantasy worth has been damaged beyond repair.

I keep hearing how Chicago head honcho Matt Nagy is an offensive genius, yet what has he done with franchise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky? And how poorly did he utilized Cohen last season? Cohen will not average a paltry 3.3 yards per carry and 5.8 yards per reception XXX

All-Day AP is 700 years old and a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame when his career finally ends, but the guy is the No. 1 RB for the only NFL team that he could be the No. 1 RB on. Somehow, someway A.P. will end up with 800 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns, especially now that Derrius Guice probably got himself kicked out of the league due to his domestic violence arrest and sexual assault allegations.

Ryquell Armstead is no longer a Tier 9 back in the wake of the aforementioned Fournette being cut. But even though he will be Jacksonville's No. 1 rusher, the Jaguars offense is below-average at best and will be quarterbacked by a possible one-year wonder in Gardner Minshew, so do not pencil Armstead in for 1,000 yards just yet. His ADP is sure to shoot up in the final days before the NFL season. He's worth a mid-to-late round pick but don't overpay.



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Updated Wide Receiver Draft Rankings - Standard Scoring (Non-PPR)

RotoBaller’s 2020 wide receiver rankings for standard fantasy football leagues are looking a little different than they did a few months ago.

The NFL draft, trades, free-agent signings, salary-cap cuts and opt-outs due to the COVID crisis have all affected the wide receiver rankings since the last time our website’s rankings were released. So now that the start of the football season is a couple of weeks away, it is time to take a last look at these updated rankings before your upcoming auctions and drafts.

Here is my analysis of RotoBaller’s current 2020 wide receiver rankings for standard fantasy football leagues:

 

Wide Receiver Standard Rankings and Tiers

Position Rank Position Tier Player Name Overall Rank Overall Tier
1 1 Michael Thomas 5 1
2 1 Julio Jones 8 1
3 1 Davante Adams 10 2
4 1 Tyreek Hill 11 2
5 1 DeAndre Hopkins 14 2
6 1 Chris Godwin 15 2
7 2 Kenny Golladay 19 3
8 2 Mike Evans 25 3
9 2 Allen Robinson II 28 3
10 2 Amari Cooper 30 3
11 2 JuJu Smith-Schuster 32 3
12 2 Adam Thielen 34 3
13 2 Cooper Kupp 36 3
14 2 A.J. Brown 37 3
15 2 Odell Beckham Jr. 38 4
16 2 D.K. Metcalf 39 4
17 2 D.J. Moore 40 4
18 3 Courtland Sutton 42 4
19 3 D.J. Chark 44 4
20 3 Tyler Lockett 45 4
21 3 DeVante Parker 46 4
22 3 Robert Woods 47 4
23 3 Calvin Ridley 48 4
24 3 Keenan Allen 49 4
25 3 T.Y. Hilton 50 4
26 4 Stefon Diggs 60 5
27 4 Terry McLaurin 61 5
28 4 Jarvis Landry 66 5
29 4 A.J. Green 72 5
30 4 Michael Gallup 73 5
31 4 Tyler Boyd 75 6
32 4 Julian Edelman 77 6
33 4 Marquise Brown 78 6
34 4 Marvin Jones Jr. 79 6
35 5 Brandin Cooks 82 6
36 5 Will Fuller V 85 6
37 5 Mike Williams 87 6
38 5 Darius Slayton 95 7
39 5 CeeDee Lamb 98 7
40 5 John Brown 100 7
41 5 Emmanuel Sanders 102 7
42 6 Justin Jefferson 106 7
43 6 Jerry Jeudy 108 7
44 6 Christian Kirk 112 8
45 6 Anthony Miller 114 8
46 6 Golden Tate 116 8
47 6 Deebo Samuel 118 8
48 6 Preston Williams 119 8
49 6 Sterling Shepard 120 8
50 6 Breshad Perriman 121 8
51 7 Diontae Johnson 126 8
52 7 Robby Anderson 128 8
53 7 Jamison Crowder 129 8
54 7 Henry Ruggs III 130 8
55 7 N'Keal Harry 132 8
56 8 Allen Lazard 141 9
57 8 DeSean Jackson 143 9
58 8 Brandon Aiyuk 146 9
59 8 Mecole Hardman 148 9
60 8 Curtis Samuel 150 9
61 8 Jalen Reagor 151 9
62 8 Sammy Watkins 152 9
63 8 Kelvin Harmon 155 10
64 9 Michael Pittman Jr. 161 10
65 9 Hunter Renfrow 167 10
66 9 Parris Campbell 168 10
67 9 Tee Higgins 170 10
68 9 Tyrell Williams 171 11
69 9 Alshon Jeffery 172 11
70 9 Kenny Stills 174 11
71 9 Dede Westbrook 177 11
72 9 Denzel Mims 180 11
73 9 Corey Davis 183 11
74 9 Randall Cobb 184 11
75 9 James Washington 188 11
76 9 Larry Fitzgerald 190 11
77 10 John Ross 195 11
78 10 Devin Funchess 198 12
79 10 Laviska Shenault Jr. 203 12
80 10 Antonio Gandy-Golden 208 12
81 10 Cole Beasley 209 12
82 10 Danny Amendola 211 12
83 10 Chase Claypool 212 12
84 10 Mohamed Sanu 214 12
85 10 KJ Hamler 224 13
86 11 Josh Reynolds 231 13
87 11 Chris Conley 232 13
88 11 Russell Gage 235 13
89 11 Steven Sims 241 13
90 11 Albert Wilson 246 13
91 11 Miles Boykin 250 14
92 11 Tre'Quan Smith 252 14
93 11 Adam Humphries 253 14
94 11 Andy Isabella 255 14
95 11 Demaryius Thomas 257 14
96 11 Tyler Johnson 269 15
97 11 Phillip Dorsett 271 15
98 11 Devin Duvernay 276 15
99 12 Demarcus Robinson 278 15
100 12 Zach Pascal 293 15
101 12 Van Jefferson 304 15
102 12 Bryan Edwards 305 15
103 12 J.J. Arcega-Whiteside 313 16
104 12 OlaBisi Johnson 315 16
105 12 Jake Kumerow 316 16
106 12 Tajae Sharpe 317 16
107 12 Taylor Gabriel 327 16
108 12 Marquise Goodwin 328 16
109 12 Marquez Valdes-Scantling 329 16
110 12 Willie Snead 330 16
111 12 David Moore 337 16
112 12 Scott Miller 339 16
113 12 Nelson Agholor 345 16
114 12 Cody Latimer 350 17
115 12 Auden Tate 351 17
116 12 Javon Wims 361 17
117 12 Trent Taylor 364 17
118 12 Jakobi Meyers 367 17
119 12 Greg Ward 377 17
120 12 Keke Coutee 380 17
121 12 Antonio Brown 381 17
122 13 Kendrick Bourne 385 18
123 13 Ted Ginn 391 18
124 13 Andre Patton 395 18
125 13 Marqise Lee 397 18
126 13 Allen Hurns 398 18
127 13 Dante Pettis 404 18
128 13 Josh Gordon 411 18
129 13 DaeSean Hamilton 417 18
130 13 Paul Richardson Jr. 419 18
131 13 Quincy Enunwa 430 18
132 13 Keith Kirkwood 431 18
133 13 Damiere Byrd 436 18
134 13 Rashard Higgins 437 18
135 13 Jauan Jennings 439 18
136 13 Geronimo Allison 440 18
137 13 Keelan Cole 441 18
138 13 Isaiah Coulter 458 19
139 13 Byron Pringle 460 19
140 13 Justin Watson 462 19
141 13 KeeSean Johnson 463 19
142 13 Trey Quinn 471 19
143 13 Jakeem Grant 473 19
144 13 Kalif Raymond 474 19
145 13 Deon Cain 479 19
146 13 K.J. Osborn 483 20
147 13 John Ursua 486 20
148 13 Tim Patrick 488 20
149 13 Cordarrelle Patterson 489 20
150 13 Zay Jones 491 20
151 13 Hakeem Butler 494 20
152 13 Robert Foster 497 20
153 13 Equanimeous St. Brown 499 20
154 13 Deonte Harris 501 20
155 13 Riley Ridley 504 20
156 13 Collin Johnson 505 20
157 13 Gabriel Davis 506 20
158 13 Isaiah Hodgins 507 20
159 13 Quintez Cephus 508 20
160 13 K.J. Hill 511 20
161 13 Alex Erickson 513 20
162 13 Christian Blake 514 20
163 13 Taywan Taylor 515 20
164 13 Donovan Peoples-Jones 516 20
165 13 Isaiah McKenzie 517 20
166 13 Vyncint Smith 518 20
167 13 Darius Jennings 519 20
168 13 Dezmon Patmon 521 20
169 13 Joe Reed 522 20
170 13 Devin Smith 523 20

 

Tier 1

Michael Thomas led all receivers in receptions, targets and receiving yards in 2019, and he nobody was in his zip code in any of the categories. Considering he is only 27 years old and has trusty future Hall of Famer Drew Brees passing to him again, there is no reason to doubt this Thomas will be the top receiver in fantasy football for a second straight season.

Julio Jones has every right to be ranked right up with the best of the receivers, but his major drawback is he does not find the end zone nearly as often as other upper-echelon pass catchers. He has not had a double-digit touchdown season since 2012 and has only scored 17 times over this past three seasons despite being targeted 475 times. When a receiver is seeing that volume of passes, he has to get himself into the end zone more, especially when he is as talented as Jones is.

DeAndre Hopkins was already in a superb situation in Houston with Deshaun Watson throwing to him and having the Texans passing attack revolve around him, but now he gets to go to Arizona’s pass-first offense that is designed to open up space and create big-play opportunities for its playmakers. Fantasy players can bank on Hopkins gifting them 110 receptions, 1,400 yards and a dozen touchdowns in 2020.

Chris Godwin is coming off a breakout season (86-1,333-9) and will enjoy a humongous quarterback upgrade going from interception machine Jameis Winston to Hall of Famer Tom Brady. It is hard to place Godwin any higher, though, because you have to wonder how the targets in Tampa will be divided among him, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and everyone else involved in Bruce Arians’ offense.

 

Tier 2

Golladay racked up 1,190 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last year even though he had Jeff Driskel and David Blough throwing dying quails at him for half the season after Matthew Stafford was injured. His 2020 numbers will be even better if Stafford suits up for 16 games.

Smith-Schuster has a lot to prove coming off his injury-riddled 2019 campaign. He still has to show that he can post big numbers when Antonio Brown is not on the opposite side of the field distracting defenders.

Now that Brandin Cooks has been traded to Houston, Kupp’s targets should increase and so should his role in the Rams passing attack. Scattershot Jared Goff might not throw the prettiest passes, but they always seem to find Kupp’s sticky hands when they head his way.

A.J. Brown has four 100-yard games and five touchdowns over the final half-dozen games of the regular season, but he was shut down in the playoffs (five catches for 64 in three contests). Which Brown will fantasy players get in 2020? He deserves his Tier 2 ranking, but do not be surprised if he ends up as a Tier 1.

 

Tier 3

Both Sutton and Chark are young, exciting receivers who had breakout years in 2019 and have tremendous upsides. That said, they are in Tier 3 and not Tier 2 because they do not have proven track records and neither do the quarterbacks that will be throwing to them this season.

Keenan Allen was Philip Rivers’ top target and thanks to the veteran quarterback was able to post three consecutive seasons of at least 97 catches, 1190 yards and six touchdowns. Now that Rivers is in Indianapolis and Allen is stuck with either rookie Justin Herbert or mediocre veteran Tyrod Taylor, look for Allen’s numbers to trail off.

Not only is DeVante Parker coming off a career year that saw him rack up 1202 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, he has less competition for targets now that No. 3 and No. 4 receivers Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson have opted out of the upcoming season. He is the one to watch out of the Tier 3 group.

Hilton is coming off a season where he missed a career-high six games and averaged a career-low 11.1 yards per catch, plus he is 30 and will turn 31 in November. He has also never scored eight touchdowns in a season, which is a mild surprise considering how successful he has been. But since he has five 1,000-yard seasons to his credit and Philip Rivers coming in as his QB, Hilton deserves a spot in this tier rather than a tier or two below.

 

Tier 4

Stefon Diggs is one of the most explosive receivers in the business, is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard years in Minnesota and is escaping Adam Thielen’s shadow now that he is in Buffalo. But will Diggs be able to escape Buffalo’s winter weather in December when Mother Nature is causing him more headaches than sticky cornerbacks? Switching offenses will not be a fantasy upgrade for Diggs, either.

McLaurin struggled at first when franchise quarterback Dwayne Haskins took over the offense in Washington, but the pair’s chemistry improved at the end of the season when McLaurin piled up 16 receptions for 273 yards and two touchdowns over his last three contests. Washington might not have a team name, but they have an undeniable No. 1 WR.

Fantasy players cannot afford to forget about A.J. Green. Sure, he cannot be ranked higher since he missed all of 2019 due to injury and was banged-up the year before, too. But Green was a top-five fantasy receiver before his injuries and has No. 1 pick overall Joe Burrow as his battery mate. If Green drinks his milk, takes his vitamins and stays healthy, his fantasy value will be a couple tiers higher than where it is now.

Edelman’s fantasy value will be decimated by the departure of longtime passing partner Tom Brady. His new quarterback and passing partner, Cam Newton, has not done his wideouts any fantasy favors in recent years. No Carolina WR topped the 1,000-yard mark when Newton was at the helm between 2015 and 2018.

Marquise Brown has the makings of being the next DeSean Jackson. He is going to be a hit-or-miss fantasy receiver who could hit a home run or two in a game and give fantasy owners 150 yards and two touchdowns one week, then be held to two catches for 30 yards the next. He will just not be targeted enough to be a top-tier fantasy WR because of Baltimore’s run-first offense. Hollywood was not targeted more than seven times in any of last 11 regular-season games last year.

 

Tier 5

Brandin Cooks was a money-in-the-bank fantasy producer between 2015 and 2018, breaking the 1,000-yard barrier with three different teams during those glory years. Of course, he was part of three tremendous offenses and benefitted greatly from the schemes and quarterbacks in those situations. Now Cooks will be part of a reshuffled receiver corps in Houston and is one concussion away from possibly having from having his career ended, so those risks keep him from reaching Tier 4 status right now.

Mike Williams is dealing with a sprained shoulder, which could impact his availability for Week 1. Nagging injuries have hampered him at times throughout his young career, and while his 20.4 YPC in 2019 was quite impressive, finding the end zone only two times after 10 scores in 2018 was not.

The door is wide open for Will Fuller to make a huge fantasy impact in Houston now that Hopkins has been dealt away, but will his harmed hamstrings and knobby knees allow him to? Fuller has missed 22 games during his four-year career and is too risky to rank any higher.

Emmanuel Sanders finds himself on his third team in less than a calendar year. Signing with the Saints might sound like it makes fantasy sense on paper, but No. 2 receivers never post quality numbers in New Orleans with Michael Thomas, tight end Jared Cook and top tailback Alvin Kamara all higher on the target totem pole.

CeeDee Lamb is a greyhound and would be ranked a tier or two higher if he was not drafted by Dallas. He might have a hard time finding consistent targets with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup already entrenched as the top two receivers in “Big D.”

 

Tier 6

Golden Tate’s 2019 numbers were skewed by a drug suspension that cost him the first month of the season. He would have finished with 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns over a full season if he was around all 16 weeks. Keep that in mind when ranking your receivers on your cheat sheet.

This year that other talented young receivers who might have their fantasy values stunted by issues beyond their control. Christian Kirk is on the verge of becoming a star, but now Nuk is in Arizona to assume the No. 1 WR role and take most of the targets.

Jerry Jeudy will be a future star in Denver, but what kind of quarterback play can he expect?

Perriman shows flashes of brilliance in limited time with Tampa Bay towards the end of last year, but can he be consistent and injury-free as a member of the New York Jets offense?

 

Tier 7 and Below

Diontae Johnson is an intriguing late-round option as long as Ben Roethlisberger does not suffer another season-ending injury.

Give Watkins credit for sticking with Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes for at least one more season even though he had to take a pay cut. Winning means more to him than putting up fantastic stats. That makes him a great guy but not the best fantasy receiver to hang your helmet on.



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Updated Tight End Draft Rankings - Standard Scoring (Non-PPR)

The NFL season will be here quicker than Travis Kelce runs a slant route.

RotoBaller’s tight end rankings for standard fantasy football leagues have not changed drastically during the offseason, but there have been some risers and fallers to make note of. Most of the fantasy value changes have to do with the supporting casts around the tight ends in question changing either due to COVID opt-outs or other roster-related moves. If you want to be successful in fantasy football, you have to keep your eyes and ears open during the offseason. Yesterday’s sixth-ranked tight end might become tomorrow’s fifth-ranked in the blink of an eye.

Here is my analysis of RotoBaller’s current 2020 tight end rankings for standard leagues:

 

Tight End Standard Rankings and Tiers

Position Rank Position Tier Player Name Overall Rank Overall Tier
1 1 Travis Kelce 17 2
2 1 George Kittle 20 3
3 2 Mark Andrews 35 3
4 2 Zach Ertz 52 5
5 2 Darren Waller 56 5
6 3 Hunter Henry 69 5
7 3 Tyler Higbee 70 5
8 4 Rob Gronkowski 84 6
9 4 Jared Cook 88 6
10 4 Evan Engram 90 7
11 4 Hayden Hurst 97 7
12 4 Austin Hooper 101 7
13 4 Noah Fant 109 7
14 5 Mike Gesicki 124 8
15 5 Jack Doyle 135 9
16 5 Dallas Goedert 136 9
17 5 T.J. Hockenson 137 9
18 5 Jonnu Smith 138 9
19 5 Eric Ebron 140 9
20 5 Blake Jarwin 145 9
21 6 Chris Herndon IV 166 10
22 6 Irv Smith Jr. 173 11
23 6 Greg Olsen 191 11
24 6 Ian Thomas 193 11
25 7 Jace Sternberger 206 12
26 7 Dawson Knox 226 13
27 7 Dan Arnold 227 13
28 7 O.J. Howard 230 13
29 7 Kyle Rudolph 234 13
30 7 Will Dissly 236 13
31 7 Jimmy Graham 238 13
32 7 Jordan Thomas 244 13
33 7 Darren Fells 249 14
34 8 Gerald Everett 260 14
35 8 C.J. Uzomah 262 14
36 8 Nick Boyle 268 14
37 8 Durham Smythe 270 15
38 8 Levine Toilolo 272 15
39 8 David Njoku 283 15
40 8 Tyler Eifert 285 15
41 8 Marcedes Lewis 286 15
42 8 Chris Manhertz 288 15
43 8 Jacob Hollister 291 15
44 8 Devin Asiasi 295 15
45 9 Cameron Brate 300 15
46 9 Robert Tonyan 301 15
47 9 Vance McDonald 302 15
48 9 Daniel Brown 306 15
49 9 Trevon Wesco 309 15
50 9 Blake Bell 310 15
51 9 Jordan Akins 312 15
52 9 MyCole Pruitt 319 16
53 9 James O'Shaughnessy 321 16
54 9 Tyler Conklin 322 16
55 9 Charlie Woerner 325 16
56 9 Jeremy Sprinkle 326 16
57 9 Seth DeValve 331 16
58 10 Johnny Mundt 341 16
59 10 Adam Trautman 342 16
60 10 Foster Moreau 344 16
61 10 Jason Witten 346 17
62 10 Anthony Firkser 348 17
63 10 Trey Burton 349 17
64 10 Ryan Griffin 352 17
65 10 Deon Yelder 353 17
66 10 Josh Oliver 356 17
67 10 Derek Carrier 357 17
68 10 Joshua Perkins 362 17
69 10 Delanie Walker 368 17
70 10 Richard Rodgers 369 17
71 10 Cethan Carter 376 17
72 10 Cole Kmet 379 17
73 10 Drew Sample 383 17
74 10 Demetrius Harris 384 18
75 10 Harrison Bryant 393 18
76 10 Kaden Smith 403 18
77 10 Jaeden Graham 408 18
78 10 Albert Okwuegbunam 413 18
79 10 Jesse James 415 18
80 10 Maxx Williams 418 18
81 10 Mo Alie-Cox 421 18
82 10 Kahale Warring 423 18
83 10 Ricky Seals-Jones 424 18
84 10 Dalton Keene 444 19
85 10 Dalton Schultz 455 19
86 10 Josh Hill 467 19
87 10 Nick Vannett 484 20
88 10 Matt LaCosse 487 20
89 10 Tyler Kroft 496 20
90 10 Logan Thomas 498 20
91 10 Ross Dwelley 502 20

 

Tier 1

Kelce and Kittle deserve the most money out of all tight ends and have both been paid handsomely this offseason, with both of them signing multimillion-dollar extensions this month. Kelce has four straight seasons of 80 receptions and 1,000 yards to his credit and has only missed one game over the past six years. Kittle is coming off back-to-back campaigns of at least 85 catches and 1,000 yards despite being stuck in a run-first offense. There is no debate that they are the top two tight ends in fantasy football

 

Tier 2

Andrews had fantasy players worried that his Type 1 diabetes would cause him to opt out of the upcoming season, but it appears that he give it a go, which is great news considering he topped all tight ends with 10 touchdowns last season. Philadelphia drafted TCU standout Jalen Reagor in the first round of April’s draft, but Ertz will continue to be the focal point of the Eagles passing attack, even with tight end teammate Dallas Goedert taking some targets. Waller racks up receptions and yards with the best of them at the position, but the fact that he only scored three touchdowns last year and that the Raiders upgraded their receiving corps keep him out of the top tier.

 

Tier 3

Henry has as much upside and talent as any tight end in the NFL, but he has two things going against him that keep him in this third tier. One is his lack of durability (23 missed games in first four seasons). The other is that Tyrod Taylor or rookie Justin Herbert will be throwing to him and not Philip Rivers. Higbee was the breakout star and arguably the most valuable waiver addition in fantasy leagues in 2019. The questions are was his fantastic five-game stretch at the end of last year (43 receptions for 522 yards) a fluke and will Gerald Everett cause the Rams tight-end twosome to lose value if the pair splits time and targets.

 

Tier 4

While fantasy players should be titillated by the fact that Gronkowski has come out of retirement to join old quarterback buddy Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, the fact is that the injury-prone Gronk has two other above-average tight ends (O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate) and arguably the top tandem of receivers in the NFL (Mike Evans and Chris Godwin) to fight with for targets. He cannot in good conscience be rated much higher than this. Cook is more durable than Engram, has a better track record than Hurst or Fant, and has a much better QB passing to him than Hooper, hence the higher spot in the rankings.

Hurst has been a prime mover in the tight end rankings, though. He has moved up 10 spots and two tiers since my May column about tight ends in standard leagues came out.

 

Tier 5

Gesicki’s target total should go up this year now that Miami wideouts Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson have both opted out of the 2020 season. Doyle should be buoyed by the quarterback upgrade of Indianapolis replacing Jacoby Brissett with the aforementioned Philip Rivers, not to mention no longer having to share the tight end targets with Eric Ebron.

Hockenson battled ankle, shoulder and concussion problems during his rookie year and had a stint on the COVID-19 list a few weeks ago, but if he can just stay on the field he should have a super sophomore season.

 

Tier 6

Now that longtime top tight end Greg Olsen has taken his talents to Seattle, Thomas has the golden opportunity to prove he can be a No. 1 tight end. Granted, he will have Teddy Bridgewater as his quarterback, who did not do any fantasy favors for Jared Cook in New Orleans last season. Cook only had 13 receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns in the five games Bridgewater subbed in for the injured Drew Brees.

 

Tier 7 and Lower

Knox was lining up to have a super sophomore season after showing glimpses of being a future fantasy force during his rookie campaign. Buffalo trading for Stefon Diggs to team with incumbent top target John Brown and slot receiver Cole Beasley might limit the targets Knox sees in 2020, though.

Will DeAndre Hopkins having his talents traded to Arizona help or hurt Fells’ fantasy value? That is the question for players who are not sure if Fells is a TE1 or TE2 coming into 2020 after his career year (seven TD) last season. Fells might get more looks, but will he get more opportunities for touchdowns if Hopkins is not around to help Houston get in the red zone? Fells has dropped in the rankings over the past couple months, so we expect him to struggle.

Howard had everything go against him in 2019, especially a head coach who never used him consistently and wavered in how involved he wanted Howard in the offense. Now that Gronkowski is in Tampa, it is hard to fathom Howard getting much more than 50 receptions and 550 yards with everyone that needs to be fed in that hungry Buccaneers passing attack.



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Be sure to also check out all of our other daily fantasy football articles and analysis to help you set those winning lineups, including this new RotoBaller YouTube video:

More Fantasy Football Analysis


Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




Categories
2020 Fantasy Football Waiver Pickups List NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Ronald Jones II (RB, TB) - 2020 Fantasy Football Draft Sleeper

BALLER MOVE: Target Around ~70 Overall

CURRENT ADP: ~83

ANALYSIS: Jones only suited up for nine games in his 2018 rookie-season due to various problems ranging from injury to just not being prepared to play in the NFL, and when he did get on the field he averaged an embarrassing 1.9 yards per carry. Last year he rebounded and rushed for 724 yards and six scores while adding 31 receptions for 309 yards. Even better, he did not miss a game.

Tom Brady has taken his talents to Tampa Bay. So has his favorite unretired tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Couple this with the fact that Tampa Bay already has arguably the top tandem at wide receiver in the NFL (Mike Evans and Chris Godwin) and another top-notch tight end in O.J. Howard and fantasy players have every right to wonder how many touches Jones will be able to garner in 2020.

Rookie RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn is a real threat to Jones in the backfield, but he is an inexperienced (at the NFL level) between-the-tackles runner who would mostly be there to give defenses a different look when the shifty Jones is not on the field. When it comes to touches, Jones should get 12-20 per game, especially now that he has elevated his receiving skills. Jones has a better shot at playing on all downs than Vaughn, who only caught 66 passes in four collegiate seasons.

Jones is in one of the most enviable positions for a running back entering the 2020 NFL season. He is surrounded by top-tier talent. He also has an unproven rookie as his top competition for his starting spot in the backfield. With all of Tampa Bay’s offensive firepower, Jones will be set up perfectly to pile up fantasy points. There is no reason he cannot be a super sleeper in fantasy football and rack up 1,000 rushing yards, 350 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns in 2020.

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Stop That Hype Train! Raheem Mostert

Raheem Mostert went from a special teams ace to the top tailback on a Super Bowl team faster than a greyhound chases a mechanical rabbit around a racetrack. Mostert was a journeyman running back who was on five different teams in his first two NFL seasons before cementing his status as a member of the San Francisco 49ers the past few years. He was San Fran’s No. 3 or No. 4 RB entering the 2019 campaign and looked like a lost fantasy cause with Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida ahead of him on the depth chart.

But thanks to the injuries and ineffectiveness of those higher on the pecking order, Mostert gradually gained more touches and total yards late in the season. He scored touchdowns in each of the 49ers’ final six regular-season contests (eight TD in all over that span) and barreled for 220 rushing yards and four scores in their win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. That is why fantasy footballers are more excited about Mostert numbers this upcoming season than Rachael Ray is when she receives a new stand mixer.

Before fantasy players pencil Mostert in for 1,200 rushing yards and a dozen touchdowns, let me play conductor and put the brakes on his hype train. San Fran’s No. 1 RB has several factors working against him that could cause him to be a fantasy flop rather than a fantasy force in 2020.

 

One-Year Wonder Syndrome

Mostert snuck up on defensive coordinators and front sevens because leading into 2019 he only had 41 rushing attempts over his first four NFL seasons. There was no book on him. There was no tape on him. Then Mostert’s downhill rushing style, coupled with Kyle Shanahan’s run-centric offense, made mincemeat of rushing defenses as soon as he was given his long-awaited opportunity.

Defensive coordinators have had a lot of time on their hands during this pandemic. They have been locked in the basement dungeons of their homes watching countless hours of tape on Mostert and his 49ers. Mostert will not be a surprise anymore. Linemen and linebackers will be keying on him. Defenses might stack the box to stop Mostert and force quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to beat them. Mostert is a known commodity now, and that is not going to make the sledding easier for him this year.

 

Pass Catching 

Mostert is not the second coming of Roger Craig when it comes to catching passes out of the backfield. The guy only had 14 receptions for a paltry 180 yards during his super season and he only has 20 career catches to his credit in his career. So Mostert is not a three-down back who can horde all the touches and touchdowns for himself, no matter who else is in the backfield mix with him. This definitely dents his fantasy value in all formats, especially in PPR leagues.

 

No Workhorse History

Mostert’s body should be pretty fresh considering the light amount of carries he has had throughout his NFL career. His running style leads to contact, though, as he is more apt to run through defenders than around them.

Even when Mostert was “the man” at the tail end of last season he was not overwhelmed with a heavy workload. He only had 20 touches in one regular-season game, and during his scintillating six-game stretch that made fantasy players blush, Mostert only averaged 12.8 touches per contest. We have no idea on how well Mostert will hold up if given 15-20 touches per week if that indeed happens. Maybe Mostert breaks down like Pittsburgh’s James Conner did in 2019 after Conner’s breakthrough 2018 campaign. Maybe he shows himself to be a one-year wonder or someone who is much more effective when used sporadically rather than as the cornerstone of the 49ers running attack.

 

Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon

Coleman is not being paid millions by San Francisco for five touches per game. He had 724 combined yards and seven total touchdowns last year. Coleman has a better chance of being the yin to Mostert’s yang than being out-touched by Mostert 20-5. Coleman’s presence will stunt Mostert’s fantasy value, no doubt.

McKinnon has yet to play a down for the 49ers during the first two years of his four-year contract due to serious knee problems. He too has been paid handsomely, so even if he is a distant third on the depth chart at running back, you have to believe that McKinnon will have an impact on the Forty-Niner's running game at some point in the season. Back in 2017, he accounted for 570 rushing yards and 421 receiving yards as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. When McKinnon is healthy he is a solid multi-purpose option for the Niners, which is not good for Mostert’s fantasy worth.

 

Let Someone Else Ride the Hype Train

Mostert is a solid between-the-tackles runner who once he squares his shoulders and runs upfield can be a terror for tacklers, especially in Shanahan’s zone-blocking run offense. Coming off the spectacular end of his breakout 2019 season, his fantasy value has never been higher. The issue with Mostert is that he has just as much of a chance of finishing with 500 rushing yards as he does finishing with 1,000 and has just as much of a chance of ending up third on the SF depth chart at RB as he does as being at the top of it. So let’s put the brakes on his hype train, fantasy footballers!



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2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper: Ronald Jones

Ronald Jones II has caused fantasy football players more problems over his short career than a malfunctioning stat service.

Jones’ rookie campaign was a nightmare Freddy Krueger would have been proud of. He only suited up for nine games due to various problems ranging from injury to just flat out not being prepared to play in the NFL, and when he did get on the field he averaged an embarrassing 1.9 yards per carry and was not even able to muster a 10-yard run on any of his 23 carries. If he was not drafted in the second round of the draft, Jones probably would have been cut by most NFL teams.

Jones took his helmet out of his keister and rebounded in his sophomore season, though. He showed explosiveness and pass-catching ability while outplaying veteran plodder Peyton Barber as the pair split the workload in the backfield. Jones rushed for 724 yards and six scores while adding 31 receptions for 309 yards. Even better, he did not miss a game and improved in every facet as the season went on, which made the Buccaneers brass confident he could be their top tailback heading into the 2020 campaign.

 

Some Fantasy Players Will Pass on Jones Because...

A man named Tom Brady has taken his talents to Tampa Bay. So has his favorite unretired tight end, Rob Gronkowski. This dynamic duo has been amazing for offenses and fantasy players over the years, but they have not always been a boon for the fantasy values of the running backs on their squads. New England only had two 1,000-yard rushers during the last eight years Brady and Gronkowski were together between 2011 and 2018, and those backs topped the plateau largely because Gronk missed significant time due to injuries in both of those seasons.

Couple this with the fact that Tampa Bay already has arguably the top tandem at wide receiver in the NFL (Mike Evans and Chris Godwin) and another top-notch tight end in O.J. Howard and fantasy players have every right to wonder how many touches Jones will be able to garner.

Let me shoot holes through these theories like I am Buffalo Bill. First off, it was normally a running-back-by-committee situation during those Brady-Gronk New England years. On the early downs the Pats trotted out grinders like LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Sony Michel, and on passing downs versatile backs such as Danny Woodhead, Dion Lewis and James White would take over. Because the Pats never had a dynamic do-it-all workhorse back, that is why they did not have a ton of 1,000-yard rushers during the time Brady and Gronkowski, not because the pair kept the ball away from their runners.

Meanwhile, the talent behind Jones on the depth chart is thinner than a linguini noodle. Barber is now with the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins, and all that is left on the running back bench is third-round rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn (great name) and third-down specialist/special teamer Dare Ogunbowale. While Vaughn is a real threat to Jones, he is a between-the-tackles runner who would give defenses a different look when the shifty Jones is not on the field. Vaughn will also be a rookie trying to learn an intricate offense while Brady and head coach Bruce Arians are yelling at him all the time. While Jones might not be a lock to be Tampa’s top tailback, neither is Vaughn.

When it comes to touches, Jones should get 12-20 per game, especially now that he has elevated his receiving skills. Jones has a better shot at playing on all downs than Vaughn, who only caught 66 passes in four collegiate seasons. If you think Jones will be subbed out for Vaughn when the Bucs get close to the end zone, remember that Jones scored six rushing touchdowns last year and reportedly added some muscle this offseason. While Jones has breakaway speed and is a home run threat, he has a nose for the end zone and now has extra bulk to power his way across the goal line in tight spots.

 

Time For a Breakout in 2020

Jones is in one of the most enviable positions for a running back entering the 2020 NFL season. He is surrounded by Hall of Fame and Pro Bowl-caliber talent at the skilled positions and has an above-average offensive line (ranked 13th by Pro Football Focus) blocking for him. He also has an unproven rookie as his top competition for his starting spot in the backfield. With all of Tampa Bay’s offensive firepower, Jones will be set up perfectly to pile up fantasy points. Even if Arians has a pass-first offense, he is going to call his running back's number enough to make him a fantastic fantasy play.

All Jones has to do is not pull a Mark Sanchez and fumble this golden opportunity. If Jones can stay on the straight and narrow with Brady and the coaching staff and smooth out the sloppy parts of his game (pass blocking), there is no reason he cannot be a super sleeper in fantasy football and rack up 1,000 rushing yards, 350 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns in 2020.

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Tight End Standard Rankings, Tiers and Analysis

It is never too early to start setting up your cheat sheet for your fantasy football drafts and auctions.

The 2020 NFL season is going to be interesting fantasy-wise at the tight end position. With longtime fantasy demigod Rob Gronkowski putting his pro wrestling career on hold and coming out of retirement to reteam with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, there will be an intriguing battle among top-tier tight ends for the title of No. 1 TE in standard fantasy leagues. One thing is for sure --- the depth at tight end in fantasy football has arguably never been better.

Here is a look at my analysis of RotoBaller’s early 2020 standard rankings at tight end!

 

Tight End Standard Rankings and Tiers

Position Rank Position Tier Player Name Overall Rank Overall Tier
1 1 Travis Kelce 16 2
2 1 George Kittle 21 3
3 2 Mark Andrews 45 4
4 2 Zach Ertz 48 4
5 2 Darren Waller 58 5
6 3 Tyler Higbee 78 6
7 3 Hunter Henry 82 6
8 4 Evan Engram 96 7
9 4 Rob Gronkowski 99 7
10 4 Austin Hooper 103 7
11 4 Jared Cook 109 7
12 4 Noah Fant 127 8
13 5 Dallas Goedert 146 9
14 5 Mike Gesicki 149 9
15 5 T.J. Hockenson 152 9
16 5 Jack Doyle 154 10
17 5 Jonnu Smith 155 10
18 5 Eric Ebron 170 10
19 6 Darren Fells 183 11
20 6 Blake Jarwin 184 11
21 6 Hayden Hurst 193 11
22 6 Ian Thomas 196 12
23 6 Irv Smith Jr. 204 12
24 7 Chris Herndon IV 225 13
25 7 Dalton Keene 245 13
26 7 Kyle Rudolph 247 13
27 7 Adam Trautman 257 14
28 7 Will Dissly 258 14
29 7 Harrison Bryant 261 14
30 7 Jace Sternberger 262 14
31 7 Devin Asiasi 264 14
32 7 O.J. Howard 267 14
33 7 Greg Olsen 270 15
34 7 Dawson Knox 272 15
35 8 Ryan Griffin 279 15
36 8 Jimmy Graham 291 15
37 8 Jeremy Sprinkle 311 15
38 9 Jacob Hollister 321 16
39 9 C.J. Uzomah 322 16
40 9 Albert Okwuegbunam 329 16
41 9 Gerald Everett 333 16
42 9 David Njoku 336 16
43 9 Cole Kmet 351 17
44 9 Tyler Eifert 376 17
45 9 Vance McDonald 377 17
46 9 Cameron Brate 380 17
47 10 Kaden Smith 393 18
48 10 Brycen Hopkins 396 18
49 10 Nick Boyle 403 18
50 10 Josiah Deguara 405 18
51 10 Jason Witten 406 18
52 11 Trey Burton 412 18
53 11 Foster Moreau 413 18
54 11 Colby Parkinson 416 18
55 11 Jordan Akins 418 18
56 11 Josh Oliver 424 18
57 11 Delanie Walker 426 18
58 11 Drew Sample 438 18
59 11 Jared Pinkney 24 19
60 11 Jordan Reed 24 20
61 11 Mo Alie-Cox 24 21

 

Tier 1

No current tight end is coming off four consecutive 1,000-yard years like Kelce is, nor has anybody at the position been as durable (one missed game in six seasons). No other tight end has reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes throwing to them, either. To top it off, according to Pro Football Focus, Kelce led all pass catchers in 2020 by averaging 2.8 yards per route when lining up out wide and led tight ends with 274 deep receiving yards (yards on passes that traveled 20 yards in the air).

Name Team Deep Targets Deep Rec. Deep Rec. Yards Deep TD
Travis Kelce Chiefs 12 8 274 3
Mark Andrews Ravens 18 8 224 4
Darren Waller Raiders 12 5 160 0
Dawson Knox Bills 10 5 160 0
Jimmy Graham Packers 13 4 146 0
O.J. Howard Buccaneers 10 5 141 0
Mike Gesicki Dolphins 15 5 130 2

This is all why Kelce is numero uno at tight end.

Kittle does not have Mahomes as his QB and is stuck in a run-first offense, which makes his back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons arguably more impressive. He is the Julio Jones of tight ends because he does not find his way into the end zone as much as he probably should considering the volume of passes he catches (12 TD in three seasons).

 

Tier 2

Andrews topped tight ends with 10 touchdowns in 2019 and proved once and for all that he should have been the one drafted in the first round in 2018, not Hayden Hurst. Now that Hurst has been traded to Atlanta and Baltimore did zilch to upgrade its receiving corps, Andrews could be even better in 2020 as Lamar Jackson’s top target.

Despite having to share some time and targets with upstart Dallas Goedert, Ertz still led all tight ends in targets per game. As long as Carson Wentz is his quarterback and the Eagles wide receivers are the most injury-prone in the NFL, Ertz will remain a fantasy force.

Waller was a darling of fantasy pundits and prognosticators at the start of the season, but who had him finishing second among tight ends in receptions and receiving yards? His WR-like skills make him virtually uncoverable in open space. Waller just needs some of his big plays to translate into touchdowns before he puts pressure on the big boys at the position (3 TD in 2020).

 

Tier 3

There were a couple weeks last season when everyone thought the L.A. Rams tight end who was a breakout star was Gerald Everett. Then Everett got injured, and Higbee ended the season with 43 receptions for 522 yards over his final five games to cement himself as one of the most valuable waiver-wire pickups in fantasy leagues. There is some risk with Higbee as he had never shown that ability before and has a scattershot quarterback and a revamped offensive crew surrounding him, but I do not believe he is a five-hit wonder.

It is hard to invest emotionally in Henry. He has scored more touchdowns than Kittle over the past three seasons and has a longer track record than Higbee, Andrews or Waller, but Henry has only suited up for 41 games in four years and has an unsettled quarterback situation instead of having Philip Rivers as his rock behind center.

 

Tier 4

Engram averaged a career-high 8.5 targets per game (2nd among tight ends) in 2019 thanks to ball hog Odell Beckham Jr. being traded to Cleveland. Beckham not being around did not help Engram stay any healthier, however. He has missed more games (14) than scored touchdowns (12) over his three-year career.

Gronkowski has returned from retirement and has five double-digit touchdown seasons and four 1,000-yard years to his credit. Will he be recharged after a year away and teaming with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, or will he be a shell of his former self that has to cede many of his tight end targets to O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate? The risk might be greater than the reward with Gronk, especially if a WWE superstar powerslams him to win his 24/7 championship he still holds.

Hooper became the highest-paid tight end in the NFL during the offseason and has improved his numbers in each of his pro seasons, yet his fantasy stock actually takes a hit because he had it slightly better in Atlanta than he will in Cleveland. Quarterback Baker Mayfield holds Hooper’s fantasy value in his hands.

If you want a projection of what Cook could do in his second season with the Saints, look at what he did last November and December (28-537-7) and not what he did during September and October (15-168-2). Fant has more value in dynasty and keeper leagues because of his youth and upward mobility. He has a better chance of having a breakout season in 2021 than he probably does this year.

 

Tier 5

Goedert would probably be good for 800 yards and eight touchdowns if he did not have the role as the best second-fiddle tight end in the league behind Ertz in Philly.

Gesicki played like a second-round bust for the first 25 games of his career but then finished last year on the highest of notes by scoring five times over the final seven games of the season.

Hockenson’s rookie campaign was ruined by injuries after he tantalized fantasy owners with 131 yards and a TD in his very first pro contest. Let’s hope he is not another Engram.

Doyle is better suited for PPR leagues because he does not exactly rack up yards or touchdowns but should be a solid TE2 with tight-end-lover Rivers as his quarterback and target stealer Eric Ebron now in Pittsburgh.

The jury is out on whether the inconsistent Smith can be productive as Tennessee’s top tight end over the course of a full season. He is a top-five tight end in terms of big-play ability and speed. Smith just needs to prove he can post decent numbers week in and week out.

Ebron is a humongous boom-or-bust option in deep leagues as he is only a year removed from his scintillating 14-TD season but had five mediocre-at-best years sandwiched around it.

 

Tier 6

Fells set career-highs across the fantasy board last season but will be hard-pressed to find open spaces in secondaries without DeAndre Hopkins running routes and attracting double teams anymore. That being said, Fells is ranked three tiers higher in the standard league rankings than the PPR rankings because he does not need a compass to find the end zone (seven TD in 2019).

Hurst did not get a fair shake in Baltimore, so it will be intriguing to see what he can put up in Atlanta with the middle of the field wide open thanks to wonderful wideouts Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley distracting defenders.

Smith cannot be ranked any higher when Kyle Rudolph is alongside him in Minnesota’s offense and is signed for multimillions for the next several seasons.

 

Tier 7 and Lower

Remember that Herndon was second to Mark Andrews in receiving yards among rookie tight ends back in 2018 before a drug suspension and injuries ruined his sophomore season.

Keene was not even listed in RotoBaller’s PPR rankings at the position, but he could stumble into some touchdowns since he does not have much competition facing him on New Eangland’s depth chart.

Howard’s fantasy growth has been severely stunted by Tampa Bay head honcho Bruce Arians and now the arrival of Gronkowski. He deserves better.

Chicago has been the place where tight ends watch their fantasy value fall flat (ask Trey Burton owners), so between that and Father Time stripping the speed from his legs, we should not expect more than 500 yards and four touchdowns from Graham.

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Tight End PPR Rankings, Tiers & Analysis

Fantasy football players probably hope the 2020 NFL season is better for tight ends than the 2019 season was. 2018 was arguably the greatest year for tight ends in the history of the NFL and fantasy football thanks to Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz setting the single-season record for receptions and San Francisco’s George Kittle setting the single-season record for receiving yards for tight ends.

2019 was not a season for tight ends to find their way into the Guinness Book of World Records, though. Only one tight end scored double-digit touchdowns (Baltimore’s Mark Andrews) and nobody caught 100 passes after Ertz and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce did it the year before. Plus, longtime fantasy stalwart Rob Gronkowski retired, which left a gaping void on many fantasy teams.

This should be a bounce-back year for tight ends in fantasy football. There is just too much talent out there at the position, especially now that Gronk has returned and been traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reunite with Tom Brady. Here is my analysis of RotoBaller’s early 2020 PPR rankings at tight end!

 

Tight End PPR Rankings and Tiers

Position Tier Position Rank Player Overall Tier Overall Rank
1 1 Travis Kelce 2 14
1 2 George Kittle 2 17
2 3 Zach Ertz 4 40
2 4 Mark Andrews 4 45
2 5 Darren Waller 5 53
3 6 Tyler Higbee 5 65
3 7 Hunter Henry 5 70
3 8 Evan Engram 6 78
4 9 Rob Gronkowski 7 90
4 10 Jared Cook 7 95
4 11 Austin Hooper 7 99
5 12 Noah Fant 8 113
5 13 Mike Gesicki 8 126
5 14 Dallas Goedert 8 128
5 15 Jack Doyle 9 133
5 16 T.J. Hockenson 9 134
5 17 Jonnu Smith 9 138
5 18 Eric Ebron 9 144
6 19 Hayden Hurst 10 154
6 20 Blake Jarwin 10 161
6 21 Irv Smith Jr. 10 163
6 22 Ian Thomas 10 168
7 23 Chris Herndon IV 11 193
7 24 Kyle Rudolph 12 214
7 25 Greg Olsen 12 215
7 26 Jace Sternberger 13 219
7 27 Will Dissly 13 223
7 28 Dawson Knox 13 228
7 29 O.J. Howard 13 229
8 30 Jimmy Graham 13 243
8 31 Gerald Everett 14 255
9 32 Cameron Brate 15 280
9 33 Darren Fells 15 281
9 34 Tyler Eifert 15 282
9 35 David Njoku 15 283
9 36 Jacob Hollister 15 288
10 37 Albert Okwuegbunam 15 296
10 38 Vance McDonald 15 297
10 39 Jeremy Sprinkle 15 300
10 40 C.J. Uzomah 15 301
10 41 Jaeden Graham 16 317
10 42 Delanie Walker 16 319
11 43 Harrison Bryant 16 329
11 44 Adam Trautman 16 339
11 45 Ryan Griffin 16 341
11 46 Colby Parkinson 17 350
11 47 Jason Witten 17 351
11 48 Trey Burton 17 356
11 49 Cole Kmet 17 357
11 50 Jordan Akins 17 360
12 51 Demetrius Harris 17 370
12 52 Josh Oliver 17 373
12 53 Nick Boyle 17 378
12 54 Kaden Smith 17 380
12 55 Foster Moreau 17 381
12 56 Thaddeus Moss 18 392
12 57 Mo Alie-Cox 18 396
12 58 Brycen Hopkins 18 400
12 59 Hunter Bryant 18 415
12 60 Drew Sample 18 425
12 61 Ricky Seals-Jones 18 426

 

Tier 1

All Kelce has done is post four consecutive seasons of at least 80 receptions and 1,000 yards. He has also never missed a game, is a key cog in the most explosive offense in the NFL and has MVP Patrick Mahomes throwing to him. He is the clear-cut No. 1 TE heading into the season.

Back-to-back 85-catch, 1,000-yard years make Kittle impossible to rank lower than No. 2. The only thing you can hold against him is that he has only scored 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons despite all the catches and yardage. In dynasty, Kittle might be the more desirable asset due to age but he has yet to surpass Kelce in redraft based on offensive context.

 

Tier 2

It was going to be difficult for Ertz to duplicate his record-smashing 2018 numbers, so his slight comedown in 2019 was no surprise. The issue is that tight end teammate Dallas Goedert is on the rise and proved he could be a No. 1 TE on most NFL teams, so he will continue cutting into Ertz’s time and targets.

Andrews topped tight ends in touchdowns in 2019 thanks to the improved play of quarterback Lamar Jackson, and now that running mate Hayden Hurst was traded to Atlanta it means Andrews will get most of the tight end targets. Baltimore’s run-first offense prevents Andrews from being ranked higher, though.

Waller was the breakout star at the position in 2019. He only had 173 receiving yards over his first three seasons before exploding for 1,145 last year. Waller’s pass-catching skills will keep him as a top-five fantasy tight end, though fantasy owners should be worried that Las Vegas drafted three wide receivers in the first three rounds of this past April’s draft, so that's why his fifth and not higher.

 

Tier 3

Higbee went from being a block-first tight end to becoming the biggest revelation at the position faster than Usain Bolt runs a 100-yard-dash. He ended the season with 43 receptions for 522 yards over his final five games and should remain a focal point of the offense now that he has proved his worth.

Henry could rack up 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns if he stayed healthy. The problem is he never does. The other problem is he no longer has Philip Rivers as his quarterback, so only time will tell if rookie Justin Herbert and/or scrambler Tyrod Taylor can get Henry the ball. Henry has also averaged just 3.3 receptions per game in his career --- not great for PPR leagues.

Engram has missed 14 games over his first three seasons and cannot be counted upon until he starts drinking more milk and taking more vitamins, but he has shown over the past couple years that he can be an elite fantasy tight end when he is not sharing the field with Odell Beckham Jr. He is a sprained ankle from falling two tiers, though.

 

Tier 4

We all know how well Gronkowski has performed in the past. His four 1,000-yard years and five double-digit touchdown seasons make him an all-time fantasy favorite. However, Gronk’s injury history, his one-year layoff, and the fact that he is part of a tight end trio in Tampa Bay force his ranking to be this low. Gronkowski is arguably the biggest risk-reward guy among all tight ends entering the season.

Cook’s 2019 campaign was a tale of two seasons. During the first month of the season while he was getting acclimated to Drew Brees and Sean Payton’s intricate offense, Cook only managed eight catches for 90 yards. Yet during the last 10 games he suited up for he supplied 35 catches for 615 yards and nine touchdowns. Expect more of the latter production from Cook in 2020 during what might Brees’ swan song.

Hooper’s numbers have quietly improved in each of his four seasons, but his fantasy value will likely take a hit going from Atlanta to Cleveland. Let’s hope he does not become another David Njoku and falls out of fantasy favor because wideouts Jarvis Landry and the aforementioned Beckham Jr. take all the targets.

 

Tier 5

Fant is a former first-round pick for a reason --- he has more tools than Lowe’s and Home Depot combined. If Denver can get decent quarterback play out of Drew Lock, Fant will be a prized asset in dynasty and keeper leagues for several seasons.

Gesicki did not score a touchdown in the first 25 NFL contests of his career, but the light finally clicked on inside his helmet during the second half of last season. Because of his combination of size, strength and speed he could end the year a tier or two higher than he is now.

Goedert could have found himself in a Top-three tier if he found himself on another NFL team that did have Zach Ertz as its top tight end.

Doyle should have an above-average year in PPR leagues now that Ebron has taken his talents to Pittsburgh. Fantasy players know how much Philip Rivers loves throwing to his tight ends.

Hockenson racked up 131 yards and a TD in his first pro game last year, then proceeded to score only one more time and have only one more 50-yard game before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Do not forget about the former first-rounder when making out your cheat sheet in August.

The Delanie Walker Era is over in Tennessee, so Smith will be the Titans’ top tight end for the foreseeable future. Smith has more big-play ability than most tight ends, but he also vanishes during games more than many tight ends.

Ebron could score 14 touchdowns in Pittsburgh like he did with Indianapolis in 2018 if everything goes right, or he might muster only three like he did last season if things go awry, and because of his history (and Vance McDonald) I see him ending up closer to the latter number.

 

Tier 6

Hurst was a major fantasy disappointment and totally outplayed by Mark Andrews during his two seasons in Baltimore, but he gets a new lease on life playing in a TE-friendly Atlanta offense where wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley always open up the middle of the field for their tight ends. If Hurst cannot post decent numbers in this situation, he is a bonafide bust.

With Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and first-round pick CeeDee Lamb at WR, Jarwin is a distant fourth in the pass-catching pecking order in Dallas. S

mith Jr. will still have to split targets and touches with veteran Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota, which severely stunts his fantasy growth.

Thomas has the Carolina tight end job all to himself and is a sleeper after showing glimpses of what he can do when subbing in for Greg Olsen the past two years.

 

Tier 7 and Lower

Olsen was an iron man between 2008 and 2016 when he did not miss a game for nine straight seasons, but in recent years his body has betrayed him, costing him 18 game over the past three seasons. If he can stay injury-free, Olsen should thrive in Seattle as Russell Wilson loves utilizing his tight ends (especially in the red zone).

Knox has a bright future ahead of him in Buffalo, especially if Josh Allen continues improving as a signal caller, though his numbers will be tamped down thanks to Buffalo’s offense revolving around running the ball.

Fantasy pundits and players all assumed Howard would become a top fantasy tight end in 2019. Turns out Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians had other plans, and now the front office obviously has other plans as well.

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Biggest Breakouts of 2019: Tight End

There were a lot of fantasy football busts at the tight end position in 2019, but there were also a lot of breakout stars. The 2018 season saw Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz break the NFL record for most receptions in a season by a tight end, while San Francisco’s George Kittle broke the record for most receiving yards by a tight end. In 2019, no tight ends had 100 catches, 1,300 yards, or 11 touchdowns, plateaus that were all eclipsed the year prior, but that does not mean there was not a fair share of breakout seasons.

Many tight ends who were ranked near the bottom on cheat sheets heading into fantasy drafts turned in better years than many of the guys who were rated in the top 10, and these young stars will continue to deliver for fantasy players for several seasons.

Here are fantasy football’s biggest breakouts of 2019 at tight end.

 

Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders

2019 Stats: 90 receptions, 1,145 yards, 3 TD

Even though his resume only had 18 receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns on it coming into the season, Waller was pegged as a fantasy sleeper by many experts because they believed that head coach Jon Gruden would give him an expanded role in the Oakland offense. Thanks to Antonio Brown’s mental meltdown and subsequent release during training camp, as well as Tyrell Williams’ injury-prone, inconsistent season, Waller was utilized more often than fantasy players could have ever imagined.

Waller flashed wide-receiver skills as he made countless plays downfield, but his big body made it difficult for defensive backs to cover him consistently on short routes as well. Waller and quarterback Derek Carr clicked with their chemistry as Waller became Carr’s go-to guy on third downs and in crucial situations. Waller should continue to be Oakland’s top target unless the Raiders severely upgrade their receiving corps this offseason during their move to Las Vegas. Look for Waller to be a top-five tight end in fantasy football for years to come.

 

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

2019 Stats:  64 receptions, 852 yards, 10 TD

Andrews was not even the first tight end Baltimore drafted when he came out of college in 2018. Hayden Hurst was selected in the first round and then Andrews was taken in the third. Andrews has been the one playing like a first-rounder the past two seasons, however. After an impressive rookie campaign which saw him lead first-year tight ends with 552 receiving yards, Andrews bumped his game and his fantasy value up a few notches this year and became the most valuable and reliable weapon in Baltimore’s passing attack.

Andrews led all tight ends with 10 touchdowns during his sensational sophomore season. Both his reception and target totals doubled as he quickly became the favorite target of the uber-improved Lamar Jackson. There is no reason to think Andrews cannot break the 1,000-yard plateau in 2020 as he continues his meteoric rise, especially if Baltimore concentrates on its tight ends more than its wide receivers in the passing game.

 

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

2019 Stats:  69 receptions, 734 yards, 3 TD

Higbee signed a multiyear contract extension during the season to solidify his standing in L.A.’s offense, but that did not make fantasy players think for a second that any big breakout was coming from him. Higbee only had 672 receiving yards and four touchdowns over his first three NFL seasons and was not the downfield threat that tight end teammate Gerald Everett had shown to be when given an opportunity. Higbee probably went undrafted in 99.9 percent of fantasy leagues entering the 2019 season.

All Higbee did was unseat Everett as the top tight end in Los Angeles, and he was the most productive tight end in fantasy football during the final five weeks of the season when fantasy players needed him the most. Higbee had an astounding 43 receptions for 522 yards and two touchdowns over that scintillating stretch, which included four straight 100-yard games. Now that Rams head honcho Sean McVay has discovered that his talented tight end should be featured and not ignored when designing and calling plays, Higbee should be a top-10 TE in 2020 and beyond, and possibly even a top-five guy.

 

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

2019 Stats:  51 receptions, 570 yards, 5 TD

Miami’s second-round pick from 2018 has been a project since being drafted. Blessed with above-average speed and size, Gesicki had major issues fitting into Miami’s offense during his rookie campaign and needed more seasoning on route running and blocking before the coaching staff could rely on him. How much seasoning? Gesicki did not score a touchdown in any of the first 25 games of his career. When it came to finding the end zone, Gesicki was no Magellan.

Gesicki finally broke his touchdown drought in his 26th game, however! The super-skilled youngster ended his second season with 23 catches for 276 yards and FIVE TOUCHDOWNS. He is too fast for linebackers to cover him easily and too strong for defensive backs to cover him in tight spaces. With Miami finishing up the 2019 season strong and heading into 2020 with a bright outlook, the sky is the limit for Gesicki. He should be ready to break the 750-yard barrier next season as long as Ryan Fitzpatrick or a capable quarterback is throwing to him.

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Biggest Busts of 2019: Tight End

2019 was not the record-breaking season for tight ends 2018 was. San Francisco’s George Kittle (most receiving yards for a TE in a season) and Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz (most receptions for a TE in a season) did not break the records they set last season, although both were fine for fantasy players. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Oakland’s Darren Waller had 1,000-yard years, while Baltimore’s Mark Andrews was surprisingly the only tight end with double-digit touchdowns.

But while many tight ends had fantastic years for their fantasy owners, there were others at the position who probably cost fantasy players league championships and hundreds of dollars in DFS contests.

Without further ado, here are fantasy football’s biggest busts of 2019 at tight end.

 

Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts

2019 Stats: 31 receptions, 375 yards, 3 TD

Ebron was just one year removed from leading all tight ends in touchdowns when he scored 13 in 2018, a year where he also set career-highs in receptions and receiving yards as well. But there were warning signs entering the 2019 campaign that Ebron would have trouble duplicating those numbers. Quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly retired, and tight end teammate Jack Doyle was 100-percent healthy and ready to split time and targets with Ebron. Astute fantasy players knew that Ebron would be hard-pressed to post another sparkling season with all this going against him.

Ebron finished the season with just a fraction of the fantasy value he has the season prior, and he ended on the worst note possible when he had to get surgery on both of his ankles. Ebron is a talented tight end when healthy and focused since he possesses the skills of a wide receiver but has a tight end body. He should make multimillions on the free agent market, but he will be a fantasy risk no matter where he ends up considering he has only had one great year during his six-season NFL career. His 2020 fantasy value will depend heavily on where he ends up.

 

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 Stats:  34 receptions, 459 yards, 1 TD

Most fantasy players and pundits assumed Howard was about to ascend to lofty fantasy heights in his third professional season after an injury-shortened 2018. He would have finished with 900 yards and eight touchdowns if he has stayed healthy for 16 games. Howard’s size-speed combo along with the skilled players surrounding him made Howard a sure top-10 tight end on fantasy cheat sheets entering the season. Yet Howard had the worst year of his short career because new head honcho Bruce Arians decided to have his passing attack revolve around wonderful wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin while Howard was an afterthought in the offense.

The offseason will be interesting, to say the least, for Howard. It is painfully obvious that he does not fit into Arians’ offensive plans and the Buccaneers could trade their top tight end to help bolster other areas where they are weak. The Bucs also have Cameron Brate on the roster, which could make Howard even more expendable. Hopefully, Howard finds his way to a team that utilizes him properly, because Arians ruined his season with the way he and quarterback Jameis Winston constantly ignored him.

 

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

2019 Stats:  5 receptions, 41 yards, 1 TD

2019 was supposed to be Njoku’s breakthrough season. He was primed to build off a sophomore season where he had 56 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns, Baker Mayfield was ready to take the next step towards being a franchise quarterback, and Cleveland had acquired Odell Beckham Jr. to play alongside Jarvis Landry outside, which was going to free Njoku up against opposing secondaries. Instead, Njoku fractured his wrist in Week 2 and missed three months. When he returned Njoku was unceremoniously benched by one of the worst coaches of 2019, Freddie Kitchens, and forced to sit on the sidelines as a healthy scratch like he was the seventh defenseman on an NHL squad.

Njoku will have a clean slate with a new coaching staff in 2020, so he will likely be on the lists of many fantasy experts who expect him to have a bounce-back season. He has seem-breaking speed and has shown the ability to make plays downfield and in the red zone. New head coach Kevin Stefanski knows how to involve tight ends in his offensive scheme as he was able to get both Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. opportunities this past season in Minnesota, so Njoku should be able to right his ship. That does not help fantasy players who used Njoku this past year, however.

 

Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers

2019 Stats:  38 receptions, 447 yards, 3 TD

The longtime veteran and fantasy stalwart has probably won millions for his fantasy players over his illustrious career. Graham belongs in the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame one day. That said, 2019 will go down as the worst year since his rookie campaign a decade ago. Despite having Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, no real threat behind him on the tight end totem pole, and the Packers receiving corps being made up of Davante Adams and not much else, Graham still stunk on most Sundays for his fantasy owners. He did not have more than 65 yards in any game and did not reach the end zone over his last nine contests of the season.

Father Time and a couple of knee injuries have sapped the speed out of Graham's legs. Gone are the days where he can race down the seems of defenses for chunk plays or outleap defensive backs for jump balls in the end zone. Now all fantasy owners can hope for is 50 yards and the chance for a one-yard TD grab after a play-action fake to Aaron Jones. Graham might not be in a Green Bay jersey next year, or any jersey at all depending on the market and how banged-up his body is.

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2020 Early Sleepers and Draft Targets: Running Back

It is going to be almost impossible to win your fantasy football league in 2020 without a strong set of running backs, even in today’s pass-happy NFL.

While quarterbacks and wide receivers have gained importance in fantasy football in recent years, building your fantasy roster around your running back corps is still one of the most tried-and-true ways to achieve success. There are now fewer workhorse backs than there used to be in the NFL, so being able to acquire a couple of top tailbacks to serve as the core of your fantasy team will always make your squad a title contender in whatever type of league you are in.

We all know that Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey rules the roost at running back and will be the top tailback taken in fantasy drafts next season. Here are my early sleepers and draft targets at the running back position for the 2020 fantasy football season!

 

Kareem Hunt, Free Agent

2019 Stats: 179 rushing yards, 37 receptions, 285 receiving yards, 3 TD

Hunt was hampered because he was suspended for the first half of the season and then had to be the backup behind 1,494-yard rusher Nick Chubb, so his stats were less than scintillating. Hunt hopefully reminded many fantasy owners why he was a top-five running back during the first two years of his short career with what he contributed in the passing game, however. Only fantasy players with the shortest or foggiest memories would have forgotten that during his first 27 NFL games Hunt racked up 2,151 rushing yards, 833 receiving yards and 25 total touchdowns.

Hunt now heads into the offseason with the chance to be a No. 1 running back again for an NFL team. Even though he enters the free-agent fray as a humongous risk due to his numerous off-the-field issues, some organization will probably pony up millions to have him lead their backfield. At Hunt’s peak, he averaged over 100 combined yards and a touchdown per game. If he slots in as the top tailback in Miami, Washington, Tampa Bay, or wherever, AND he stays on the field AND out of trouble, Hunt will be a fantasy force once again in 2020.

 

Melvin Gordon, Free Agent

2019 Stats:  612 rushing yards, 42 receptions, 296 receiving yards, 9 TD

Gordon was behind the eight ball thanks to a contract holdout that cost him all of training camp and the first four games of the 2019 season. His fantasy value was up and down all year long as a result, although he still finished with 908 total yards and nine touchdowns in the dozen games he suited up for. Gordon was a disappointment for those who drafted him in early rounds, though, since he did not break the 50-yard mark in any of the first four games he played in when he returned from his holdout.

We have no idea what the makeup of the Chargers are going to be in 2020. Philip Rivers might not be the quarterback, and Gordon will likely not return as their primary ball carrier thanks to his asking price and the emergence of Austin Ekeler. Gordon will be fine fantasy-wise no matter where he signs, though. This is a guy who accounted for over 1,300 combined yards and double-digit touchdowns for three straight seasons between 2016 and 2018. He can score, run and catch, the Holy Trinity in fantasy football for running backs. Gordon will undoubtedly be a No. 1 RB for an NFL offense and should be a top-10 RB in fantasy football in 2020.

 

Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

2019 Stats: 147 rushing yards, four receptions, 37 receiving yards, 0 TD

Henderson’s rookie campaign was a total loss as he was buried behind Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown on the depth chart and then suffered a season-ending ankle injury during the final month. His limited playing time made him a total fantasy non-factor. But while many might ignore L.A.’s 2019 third-round draft choice, astute fantasy players should keep an eye on the Rams running back situation throughout the offseason and training camp.

Henderson was not drafted in the third round last April to play special teams and serve Gurley lunch. Henderson had the same YPC as Gurley had (3.8) and was a tad better than Brown in the department (3.7). Brown did not distinguish himself as the heir to Gurley’s throne in 2019, so the Rams might trade or release him in the offseason and make Henderson the No. 2 RB entering the 2020 campaign. Considering how explosive Los Angeles’ offense can be and the continuing question marks surrounding Gurley’s arthritic knee, Henderson should be a top handcuff and/or late-round sleeper in fantasy leagues for the upcoming season.    

 

Ryquell Armstead, Jacksonville Jaguars

2019 Stats:  108 rushing yards, 14 receptions, 144 receiving yards, 2 TD

Armstead was drafted in the fifth round this past April as Leonard Fournette insurance, but surprisingly the injury-prone Fournette was injury-free for the first 15 games of the season until bowing out before Jacksonville’s final contest. Thus, Armstead was not able to produce many fantasy points for people as he rode the pine 99 percent of the time as Fournette was the workhorse in Jacksonville’s inconsistent offense.

Armstead showed flashes of what he can do when given opportunities during Jacksonville’s last game of the season, however. He had five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown while adding 33 yards on the ground. While Fournette stayed on the straight and narrow after a few internal dustups with the Jaguars and a DUI arrest and stayed healthy for the bulk of a season, fantasy players know he is a still a risk because he has missed a dozen games over his three NFL seasons due to his various issues. Armstead should become a bigger part of the offense next year as he has a skill set that can keep him on the field on all downs, and if Fournette misses more time due to injury or incompetence, Armstead would be the next man up in the running back pecking order.

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2020 Early Sleepers and Draft Targets - Tight End

Just because the NFL’s regular season is over, it does not mean that you stop focusing on fantasy football!

Besides all of the playoff leagues and DFS contests that fantasy footballers can enter, you can also look forward to the 2020 NFL season and start preparing for your drafts and auctions now. Why not get a jump on the competition?

We all know Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, San Francisco’s George Kittle, and Las Vegas’ Darren Waller will garner much of the attention heading into the 2020 NFL campaign. Let’s look at the lesser-known tight ends who could provide plenty of bang for the buck next season. Here are my 2020 early sleepers and draft targets at the tight end position.

 

Dallas Goedert - Philadelphia Eagles

2019 Stats:  58 receptions, 607 yards, 5 TD

Goedert proved this year that he can produce whether Zach Ertz is on the field or not. The former second-round pick hauled in four Carson Wentz touchdown tosses in the first 10 games he suited up for when Ertz was the top target in the passing attack. Goedert saved his best work for late in the season when his fantasy owners needed him the most, though. He caught 27 passes for 318 yards and one score during his final five contests, and during that span, he was targeted as often as Ertz was (31 targets apiece) until Ertz suffered a fractured rib and lacerated kidney and missed the Eagles’ last game of the season. With Ertz banged up in the Wild Card game, Goedert led the team with seven catches for 70 yards.

Fantasy players worried before about Goedert’s fantasy effectiveness when Ertz was on the field taking the targets and touches. Truth is, Goedert has fantasy value even when Ertz is with him because Philadelphia employs so many two-tight end sets in its offense. Could this be the offseason the Eagles decide to trade one of their talented tight ends away to sure up a hole at another position, though? If that happens this season and Goedert is the top tight end for whichever team he is on, his fantasy stock will skyrocket.

 

Noah Fant - Denver Broncos

2019 Stats:  40 receptions, 562 yards, 3 TD

Denver’s 2019 first-round draft choice had an uneven rookie season that ended on a sour note when all he could muster over the final two games of the season was three receptions for 14 yards. His season totals were nice considering it was his first pro year, but those numbers are mediocre for a tight end in the fantasy football world. You have to remember, though, that Fant had to play with three different quarterbacks (Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, Drew Lock) and did not have any receivers other than Courtland Sutton distracting defenses once veteran Emmanuel Sanders was shipped to San Francisco midseason.

Denver should be vastly improved on offense in 2020 as Fant, Sutton, and franchise quarterback Lock all gain another year of experience and spend another season working with one another in the offense. Fant has electrifying playmaking ability and can turn 10-yard crosses over the middle into 50-yard touchdowns. At just 22 years old the sky is the limit for this kid, especially if Denver’s offense improves around him. Fant might not turn in the same sophomore season the aforementioned Kittle did in 2018 when he set the record for receiving yards for a tight end in a season, but Fant could surely have 800 yards in 2020 and 1,000 in 2021 if you hold onto him in dynasty leagues.

 

O.J. Howard - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 Stats:  34 receptions, 459 yards, 1 TD

Howard entered the 2019 season as a prime candidate to have anywhere from 800 to 1,000 yards since he was coming off a year where he racked up 565 receiving yards and five touchdowns in just 10 games. Then Bruce Arians became Tampa Bay’s head honcho. Howard suddenly disappeared from the offense quicker than a vegetarian’s appetite at a hot dog stand, and his fantasy value fell through the floor. Howard finished with the same amount of catches, 106 fewer yards and four fewer touchdowns than the year prior despite appearing in four more contests.

Tampa Bay’s offense is built around its terrific twosome of receivers, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Buccaneers also have another tight end in Cameron Brate who could start for many teams in the NFL. This means Howard’s best chance to become a fantasy goldmine again is to be traded out of Tampa to a team starving for a super-skilled tight end. Can you see Howard swallowing up red zone passes from Tom Brady in New England in 2020? Maybe offensively-challenged squads such as Jacksonville, Washington, or Arizona try to acquire the former first-rounder for a bargain-basement price. If Howard lands somewhere other than Tampa Bay in 2020, then he instantly becomes a more attractive fantasy piece.

 

Jonnu Smith - Tennessee Titans

2019 Stats:  35 receptions, 439 yards, 3 TD

Delanie Walker ruled the roost at tight end for Tennessee for several seasons, but injuries and Father Time combined to tackle him this year, so he probably will not be in the Titans' plans for 2020. Smith filled in admirably for Walker this year and last as well. The third-year pro had five games of 50-plus receiving yards and was an integral part of Tennessee’s turnaround once Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback and the offense went from one of the worst in the NFL to an above-average unit with plenty of playmakers.

Smith is more of a home run threat than most tight ends. That was witnessed when he broke a 57-yard run on a rare tight end handoff in Week 15. It was the longest run for a tight end in over 40 years. Because he has the speed of a wide receiver and can break bulk plays, Smith has to be thought of as a great buy-low or draft-low candidate for 2020 since he just needs to learn how to be more consistent and run routes better to take his game to the next level. If Tannehill and the Titans offense continue their upward trend, Smith should have 700 yards and six scores next season and be someone to build around in dynasty leagues.

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Fantasy Football Booms, Busts - Joe Mixon, Michael Gallup, Derek Carr

The fantasy football booms and busts do not take a break for the holidays.

If you are fighting for your fantasy league’s championship and subsequent gold trophy/prize money, you are going to need one of more of your guys to be a fantasy boom while none of your guys can afford to be a bust. If you are participating in a million-dollar DFS contest to end the NFL’s regular season, the same rule applies --- no busts, only booms!

Here are my under-the-radar booms and busts for Week 17!  Good luck, RotoBallers!

 

Week 17 Lineup Booms

Joe Mixon (CIN, RB) vs. CLE

Mixon has had no trouble mincing the meat of Cleveland’s front seven during his career. The center of Cincinnati’s running attack has had 160 combined yards or more in three of his last four games against Cincy’s state and division rival. It would be nice for the 1-14 Bengals to end the season on a high note, and Mixon should personally have no trouble against a Myles Garrett-less run defense that has been gashed for 648 rushing yards over its last three games.

Michael Gallup (DAL, WR) vs. WAS

Gallup has virtually become Dak Prescott’s top target in recent weeks because Amari Cooper has more leg problems than Johnny Depp has legal problems. Gallup has either scored a touchdown or had 55-plus yards in six of his past seven contests. While Washington’s pass defense in ranked in the top half of the league, the Redskins have surrendered over 600 passing yards and eight touchdown tosses in its last two games. Look for Gallup to build on his first 1,000-yard year and help Dallas be victorious in its must-win game this Sunday.

Jonnu Smith (TEN, TE) at HOU

Smith has thrived as Tennessee’s top tight end in the wake of Delanie Walker’s season-ending injury, accounting for 209 combined yards and a pair of scores over his last three starts. Houston’s 30th-ranked pass defense will not suddenly become staunch in a game that is meaningless for the Texans, especially since it is far from meaningless for Smith and his Titans since a playoff spot is on the line. Smith should be Ryan Tannehill’s second-favorite option this Sunday and go for 75 yards and a TD just when Titans fans and fantasy players need it the most.

Russell Gage (ATL, WR) at TB

Gage has been the one who has benefitted the most since No. 2 wideout Calvin Ridley was finished for the season by an abdominal injury. Gage has been targeted at least six times and caught five-plus passes in four of his last five outings. Tampa Bay’s defense might be No. 1 against the run but it has struggled all season long versus the pass (29th). Gage’s workload might expand if banged-up superman Julio Jones sits out of this game that does no favors for either team involved. Do not be shocked to see Gage have six catches for 80 yards and a TD, which would be his best game of the season if it happens.

 

Week 17 Lineup Busts

David Carr (OAK, QB) at DEN

Carr is coming off a solid 291-yard game with one touchdown pass and one touchdown run, which now gives him three decent performances in a row. If you think he is going to head into the 2020 campaign in Las Vegas on a great four-game stretch, though, you are as sadly mistaken as those who think President Trump does not tweet enough. Denver’s sixth-ranked pass defense should lock down Tyrell Williams and Co. in the Broncos final home game of the season, and Carr has only thrown for multiple touchdowns in one of his last half-dozen games against his AFC West rivals. This is a week to expect a Carr clunker.

Gus Edwards (BAL, RB) vs. PIT

Edwards gets to fill in for the injured Mark Ingram in a game where the top-seeded Ravens will be resting a whole bunch of starters, including quarterback Lamar Jackson. Edwards has two major obstacles that will likely keep him from having a fantastic fantasy day, however. One is a hungry Pittsburgh defense that is ranked in the top 10 against the run and is playing for its playoff lives. The other is that explosive No. 3 RB Justice Hill will split the touches with Edwards and could get more carries late in the game depending on how the contest shakes out. Edwards might be looking at a 10-carry, 40-yard game when all is said and done.

Christian Kirk (ARI, WR) at LAR

Kirk went without a catch in Week 16 and has not reached the end zone since his spectacular three-touchdown game all the way back on November 10, so fantasy players should already be tempering their expectations with him. But with L.A.’s top cover corner Jalen Ramsey ruled out for the game, and because of Kirk’s low price tag in DFS leagues, some people out there are probably willing to take a chance on him. I would not personally take the risk on this feast-or-famine player who has been more of the latter than the former this season, especially if Arizona’s signal caller, Kyler Murray, does not play due to his hamstring injury.      

Cole Beasley (BUF, WR) vs. NYJ

Week 17 is always a fantasy fiasco because you never know which stars will sit, which will play one half and then sit, and which will play the full game. Beasley and many of his Buffalo teammates are in that boat since as of the writing of this column we have no idea what the Bills plan is for this Sunday. Chances are Beasley could play a quarter or two while other starts like quarterback Josh Allen, receiver John Brown, running back Devin Singletary and key members of the defense get the whole game off. Buffalo cannot rest all of its starters, but Beasley’s playing time could definitely be limited to protect him, which could end up killing the chances of the fantasy players who put him in their lineups.

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Week 17 Tight End Waiver Picks and Streamers

The last week of the NFL’s regular season comes down to one day.

No Thursday games, no Saturday games, no Monday night game. Everyone is suiting up on Sunday in the NFL this week as the fantasy football season ends for leagues that did not already have their Super Bowl during Week 16. If you have not moved onto fantasy hockey or basketball yet and are either playing for your football league’s championship or trying one final time to win a six or seven-figure payday in a DFS contest, keep on reading --- especially if you are in the market for a tight end for this final week.

Without further ado, here are my tight end waiver wire picks for Week 17!

 

TE Waiver Wire Options for Week 17

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams – 49% owned

If you are in your league’s championship game and you desperately need a tight end, and there is no rule that freezes rosters at the beginning of the postseason, if Higbee is available and you do not pick him up you are dumber than an NBA superstar who thinks the Earth is flat. Higbee has now racked up four straight 100-yard games now. Only New Orleans megaman Michael Thomas has a longer streak this year among pass catchers. Even with former starting tight end Gerald Everett back from injury, Higbee was undeterred and nine receptions for 104 yards against San Francisco’s stingy pass defense.

To say that the Arizona Cardinals have been inept at covering tight ends this season is like saying that kale will never be on a McDonald’s menu. The Cards have been the worst at it from start to finish and will undoubtedly allow Higbee to roam around as uncovered as a visitor at a nudist colony. Higbee will be high-priced in DFS contests but should still be well worth the money, and he could win a fantasy title for many whose leagues are on the line this Sunday.

Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans – 22% owned

Injury-plagued veteran Delanie Walker has not been missed in recent weeks as Smith has taken over the top tight end spot and probably will not give it back for several seasons. Smith has accounted for 209 combined yards and two touchdowns over his past three games as he has flashed as much big-play ability as any tight end in the NFL. Surprise of the Year Ryan Tannehill has elevated the fantasy values of all of his playmakers (unlike Marcus Mariota), and Smith has been one of the biggest benefactors.

Smith will run his routes against division rival/division winner Houston, whose inconsistent defense and secondary play this season has made it a favorite for fantasy players to take advantage of. Smith has 123 yards and a touchdown over his last two games versus the Texans and should exploit their defensive backs and linebackers in a game that has no meaning for Houston. Feel free to use him in any DFS format or any fantasy league Super Bowl you participate in this weekend!

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins – 38% owned

Gesicki has provided fantasy players with three great games, one average game, and one clunker over his last five contests. He saved his best for this past week, however, as he posted the first two-TD game of his short career and added six catches for 82 yards against the hopeless Cincinnati Bengals. This has now cemented him as a fantasy force and a guy who should be a top-10 tight end in fantasy circles in 2020 and beyond.

Gesicki’s problem in Week 17 is he has to get open against a New England secondary that does not allow many pass catchers to get open. Worse, the Patriots have a first-round bye to play for, so they will not be resting their regulars. Gesicki had two catches for 20 yards in three career contests against the Pats, but that trio of games happened before the light went on inside his helmet and he started piling up some serious stats. Miami’s passing attack has been on fire thanks to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, so Gesicki should not be counted out completely since he is playing the best ball of his pro life, but he is a risk in a big spot this week due to his opponent.

 

Other Options to Consider

Noah Fant, Denver Broncos – 44% owned

Fant’s 10-yard dud this past weekend might have ruined the Super Bowl hopes of thousands of fantasy owners, but he should not be overlooked as an option this week. Fant is faced with an Oakland pass defense that remains near the bottom of the rankings, so Fant has a better chance of being a hit more than a miss. He is also not dependent on touchdowns to make him valuable since he has averaged 60 yards per game over the past three weeks.

Jacob Hollister, Seattle Seahawks – 40% owned

Hollister has lost some shine on his shoes now that he has not scored a touchdown over his last five games, but Seattle will have no choice but to throw this Sunday with running backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny out for the season with major injuries. Hollister’s volume of targets should be on the uptick due to this development.

Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals – 25% owned

Eifert is averaging 50 yards per game over his last three outings and looks healthier and faster than he has all year. He also has scored five touchdowns in his last four games against the Cleveland Browns, who are his Week 17 opponent.

Darren Fells, Houston Texans – 42% owned

Fells has fallen off in recent weeks after having the most productive stretch of his career during the middle of the season. He should not be ignored during Week 17, though, since there is a chance receivers Will Fuller and Kenny Stills might be rested because of injuries they are dealing with. Of course, since Houston clinched the AFC South title, quarterback Deshaun Watson will probably be rested, too, which would not help Fells’ fantasy worth.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 22% owned

With wonderful wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin shelved with hamstring injuries, Tampa Bay head honcho Bruce Arians has had no choice but to incorporate his talented tight ends into his passing plans. Brate might be a one-week stopgap for your fantasy squad this week as he faces Atlanta’s below-par pass defense, but if you are in a dynasty league and think he might be traded his offseason because he does not fit into Arians’ future, then picking him up on the down low is a decent idea. Brate did score 20 touchdowns over the past three years before being ignored this season.

Nick Boyle, Baltimore Ravens – 5% owned

Boyle is Baltimore’s third-best tight end, and third-string tight ends usually have the same fantasy value as holders, snappers and punters in fantasy football. That said, I would not be shocked to see Baltimore bench Mark Andrews for its meaningless game against Pittsburgh, which would open the door for Boyle to garner more playing time and targets. Hayden Hurst would obviously get a bump in both as well if Andrews does sit out.

 

Don’t Forget About…

Rob Gronkowski, Free Agent – 18% owned

It sure seems like Gronk is enjoying the retired life between all of his television appearances, pictures of him partying, and frolicking with Camille Kostek, but there is still that glimmer of hope that he comes out of retirement in 2020 and becomes Tom Brady’s top target once again. New England could certainly use the help since the tight end trio of Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo has done little to erase the memory of Gronk in the minds of Patriots fans. I would say there is a five-percent chance Gronkowski comes back, so stashing him in the last spot on your fantasy roster in a dynasty league is not a horrible idea if you have the room.

Irv Smith Jr, Minnesota Vikings – 21% owned

Minnesota’s two-tight-end formations have not worked wonders for the fantasy values of Smith and veteran Kyle Rudolph this season. The only time the duo did much on the fantasy scale was when No. 1 wideout Adam Thielen missed several weeks due to his hamstring injury. Smith will definitely be better and utilized more often in 2020, though, so you cannot forget about him dynasty leagues where you could get him on the cheap or in standard leagues where you could draft him in the late rounds.

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2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Busts & Overvalued Players 2020 Fantasy Football Matchups and Start/Sit 2020 Fantasy Football Sleepers Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Fantasy Football Booms, Busts - Marlon Mack, Philip Lindsay, John Brown

It all comes down to this for millions of fantasy football players, well, unless your league thinks having its Super Bowl on Week 17 when half the league rests its star players is a good idea.

If you are still alive in your fantasy league and on the verge of winning a championship, congratulations to you! If you are in desperate need of cold hard cash to cover your holiday present expenses, then this is the last week you have to bring home enough bacon to pay for the clothes, flat-screen televisions and Star Wars paraphernalia you are gifting your friends and families. I will do my very best to give you my takes on who will be great and who will be terrible in fantasy football this week so you can play the booms and sidestep the busts.

Here are my under-the-radar booms and busts for Week 16!  Good luck, RotoBallers!

 

Week 16 Lineup Booms

Marlon Mack (IND, RB) vs. CAR

Mack has been a shell of his former fantasy self in the two games since returning from injury, carrying the ball 24 times for a paltry 57 yards, and scoring just one touchdown with no receptions. Unfortunately, he has run smack into two of the top four run defenses in the NFL (Tampa Bay and New Orleans) in those games, and both were on the road. Mack will now face Carolina’s 30th-ranked run defense in Indianapolis’ final home game of the season, and he might be able to singlehandedly win fantasy titles for his owners. I expect 100-plus rushing yards and multiple touchdowns for Mack against a Panthers Defense that has not met a running back it liked enough to stop this season.

O.J. Howard (TB, TE) vs. HOU (SAT)

Pity poor Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers had arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and unfortunately, both have been lost to hamstring injuries in back-to-back weeks. While reclamation project Breshad Perriman has filled the receiver void as much as one humanly can (four TD in the last two weeks), Howard is in the midst of his most productive stretch of the season with 13 receptions for 180 yards over his last three games. Tampa’s talented tight end will have a ton of targets this Saturday against Houston’s 28th-ranked pass defense, a unit that allowed Tennessee’s Jonnu Smith to have the longest run by a tight end in over 40 years last week and Denver rookie Noah Fant to rack up 113 yards and a touchdown the week before that.

Phillip Lindsay (DEN, RB) vs. DET

Lindsay’s fantasy stock is falling faster than a skydiver whose parachute doesn’t deploy. Denver’s top tailback has failed to crack the 60-rushing-yard barrier in his last four games and has delivered very little touchdown-wise (one) or reception-wise (six for 19 yards) during this month-long span. I know Detroit’s run defense (18th in NFL) is much, MUCH better than its pass defense (31st), but I think this will be a game where Denver gets on top early and relies on the run during the second half. I also see Denver’s passing attack setting up scoring opportunities for Lindsay in the red zone. Look for Lindsay to atone for how lackluster he has been in recent weeks with a huge game when his fantasy owners need him the most.

Mike Williams (LAC, WR) vs. OAK

Williams had been one of the bigger disappointments in fantasy football this year until the past three weeks where he has put his big-play ability to good use, piling up 251 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. The buck is not stopping this weekend. Oakland’s playoff hopes are dashed after a four-game losing streak, so the Raiders are now playing out the string. Their 27th-ranked pass defense is going to have a hard time matching up with Williams and fellow wideout Keenan Allen. Do not be surprised to see Williams build on his fantasy momentum with another sparkling game as long as he can find the field as he deals with another nagging injury.

 

Week 16 Lineup Busts

Ronald Jones II (TB, RB) vs. HOU (SAT)

Everything lines up for Jones to have a decent game, right? Tampa Bay is without its top two wideouts and could be inclined to run the ball more often than usual, and Houston’s Swiss cheese run defense has allowed an average of 166 yards per game on the ground over its past five contests. The problem is Jones evenly split the touches with veteran plodder Peyton Barber last week, and only had two more touches than Barber the game prior. While Tampa Bay has been one of the hottest teams in the NFL, this game means more to Houston, and Deshaun Watson and Co. seem to bring their “A” games when the games are more important. Jones has a better chance of finishing with less than 40 yards than gaining more than 75.

John Brown (BUF, WR) at NE (SAT)

Brown has stayed healthy and made many of his fantasy owners wealthy this season. He has already set career-highs in receptions, targets and receiving yards and has a chance to top his personal best in touchdowns as well. But how is Brown going to evade the clutches of the top cornerback in the NFL, Stephen Gilmore? The man might be the Defensive Player of the Year, and he has helped hold Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill, Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins, and Dallas’ Amari Cooper all below the 70-yard mark in recent weeks. In Cooper’s case, he did not even catch a pass. It is hard to see Brown making much headway against Gilmore and New England’s tight pass defense when those stalwarts could not dent it.

Sam Darnold (NYJ, QB) vs. PIT

Darnold is on a bit of a hot streak, with a 10-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his past five games and has averaged 267 passing yards per game during that span. He has been fortunate schedule-wise, however. Miami, Washington, and Oakland do not have pass defenses that challenge quarterbacks, that’s for sure. Darnold will be throwing into a buzzsaw this Sunday, when the Steelers Defense comes to town. Remember when we all questioned why Pittsburgh would trade a first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick? I personally thought they went after the wrong Fitzpatrick at the time and should have traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick instead since Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow was torn up. We were all wrong. Pittsburgh has the fifth-best pass defense in the NFL thanks in large part to the Fitzpatrick they traded for, and he and the Steelers are going to keep Darnold from doing any favors for his fantasy owners.

Greg Olsen (CAR, TE) at IND

Olsen missed the last two games due to a concussion, and while he was gone Ian Thomas filled in nicely at tight end (7-80-1). Carolina has also decided it might be time to hand the offense over to unproven rookie Will Grier. While Grier has not been officially anointed as the starting signal caller this Sunday as of the writing of this column, chances are he will be the one doing the passing, which does not help Olsen’s fantasy value. Carolina might not even play Olsen for the entire game considering the jury is out on whether he is part of their future plans. He may split the snaps 50-50 with Thomas while Grier is throwing passes at his feet. Stay away from Olsen in your league championship or million-dollar DFS contest.

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