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Tight End Breakouts, Busts for Fantasy: Week 15

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We have officially made it. We’re here – the Fantasy Football Playoffs. 14 weeks of hard work will come down to the next three weeks. Three more games to claim your championship, and with it, bragging rights for the next year. It’s an awesome feeling and congratulations to all of those who still have that goal in front of them. It isn’t easy making it this far.

Unfortunately, Week 15 has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start to say the least. Seven teams are in extensive Covid-19 protocols with the Cleveland Browns experiencing the worst of it. The fantasy football landscape likely has a lot more dominoes to fall this week and it’ll put every fantasy manager still in the playoffs to the test. Between the countless injuries and this Covid-19 outbreak across the league, fantasy managers will be tested to set their starting lineups.

Start and sit decisions will be crucial, which pretty much defines the entire state of the tight end position. As I look through Week 15 rankings, I’m left wondering – how much do we really trust Dalton Schultz and Kyle Pitts this week? Even when the answer is “not very much”, it doesn’t really matter because the options elsewhere aren’t very good either. So my best advice for you this week is simple – have George Kittle on your roster. Unfortunately, that fantasy manager is likely unwilling to share, so we’ll have to scramble to make do with what we got. Despite the chaos, let’s see if we can get a better handle on the Week 15 tight end slate, so we can keep advancing in the playoffs, shall we?

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What Is Going On With Dalton Schultz?

From Weeks 1–6, Schultz had four double-digit performances and was the No. 5 tight end in terms of points per game (PPG) with 11.6. The Cowboys went on bye in Week 7 and from Weeks 8–14, Schultz has only averaged 5.9 PPG, which ranks just 23rd among tight ends in PPG. So what is going on? Is he still the set it and forget tight end he was to start the season?

In the first six weeks of the season, Schultz averaged 6.2 targets per game and that number has dropped to 5.3 since the bye week. The slightly decreased target total, while certainly not ideal, isn’t the major culprit for the drastic decrease in fantasy value. In Weeks 1–6, Schultz caught 83.8% of his targets and that number has plummeted to 61.1%. The decrease in volume is only part of the problem, but the bigger issue has been Schultz’s efficiency has fallen off a cliff. The odd thing is in the first six weeks, fellow tight end Blake Jarwin played every game and since the bye, he’s only suited up once.

His yards per game have also taken a dramatic dive, going from 60 to 32 yards per game. So why the change? In Weeks 1–6, Schultz ran 56% of his routes from the slot or out wide position. Fantasy managers want this number as high as possible for their fantasy football tight end. The more their tight end is treated as a receiver, the better it tends to be for their fantasy production. This is mostly because it comes with a higher average depth of target, meaning he is getting targeted down the field, increasing his ceiling. This has played out perfectly in regards to Schultz. The first six weeks of the season he had an average depth of target of just six yards, which ranked 27th among 35 qualifying (three target per game average) tight ends.

In Weeks 8–14, Schultz’s slot and out wide route increased substantially, all the way up to 73%. With this change in utilization, his average depth of target also skyrocketed all the way up to 8.8 yards. This ranks ninth among 40 qualifying tight ends. Everything we would expect to occur has happened except the all-important fantasy production. What is the biggest culprit?

Dak Prescott. He suffered a calf strain prior to their bye week and missed the following Week 8 contest. The splits between Weeks 1–6 and Weeks 9–14 are significant.

Michael Gallup‘s return hasn’t stopped Schultz’s fantasy production as many expected. His targets have gone down, but only by one per game. That decrease in volume would easily have been made up with his more fantasy-friendly usage. His increased depth of target and more time in the slot and out wide should easily offset losing one measly target per game, but the difference has been Prescott’s significant decline in performance. It’s unknown if his calf strain is still bothering him, but something is undoubtedly going on and until Prescott rights his ship, Schultz is going to see his fantasy value capped. It’s unlikely fantasy managers have a better option right now – the best thing to do is to keep firing him up and hope Prescott snaps out of it.

 

Can we trust him? I mean, can we really trust any tight end? It’s a bit of a trick question, but Everett is 100% on the streaming radar and he should be someone fantasy managers start paying attention to. We all know, for the most part, the tight end position is touchdown or bust, right? Well, how about this…

What’s the best way to score touchdowns? Get targets inside the red zone and no player in the entire NFL has a higher target share of his team’s targets inside the 10-yard line than Gerald Everett. It’s insane considering D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are on the same roster, but we have 14 weeks of data at this point, so it isn’t a fluke. That 38.5% target share referenced above was before their Week 14 contest – it’s actually gone up if you can believe that. He now has been targeted on 40% of every Seattle Seahawks pass inside the 10-yard line. It’s certainly an added benefit when the only thing you’re looking for out of your tight end is a touchdown.

Everett has quietly been the TE9 since Russell Wilson returned in Week 10. This is despite matchups against the Packers, Cardinals, and 49ers, who are all in the top-seven in the fewest points allowed to opposing tight ends. It’s been a brutal stretch and Everett has delivered for the most part. In the last five weeks, Everett has had weekly finishes of TE8, TE6, and TE8.

Over the last five weeks, Everett ranks 12th in targets per game among tight ends, but is seventh in receptions, displaying excellent efficiency with his targets. However, with an average depth of target of just 3.4 yards – 39th out of 39 qualifying tight ends – Everett requires a touchdown to score well. This is true for most tight ends, but for Everett, he is unlikely to put up any high yardage totals. In his last five games, he has finished with 40 or fewer yards in four of them.

He is running 51.8% of his routes for the slot or out wide position, which is a little lower than what fantasy managers would like to see. One of the bigger issues is that while Everett is undoubtedly the No. 1 tight end in Seattle, Will Dissly is still seeing a decent amount of snaps. In fact, in Week 14 Dissly actually outsnapped Everett. From Weeks 10–14, Everett has played on 75% of the snaps with Dissly at 51%. Because of this split, Everett’s total route participation during this time period is just 68.9%.

All of this is to say – no, we cannot trust Gerald Everett. This Seattle offense just doesn’t have too many, if any, trustworthy parts. However, he has played his way onto the streaming radar and he is finally starting to realize some of the potential that was bestowed upon him when he signed in Seattle.

 

Best Tight End Streamers for Week 15

1. Hunter Henry, New England Patriots

In a touchdown or bust world at tight end, Henry absolutely needs to be in lineups this weekend for two reasons and there aren’t two better reasons when it comes to streaming tight ends.

The first is his matchup. The Patriots will do battle with the Colts in Week 15 and it’s been one of the most generous of matchups for tight ends this season. The Colts are allowing 9.8 points per game, which is the fourth-highest in the NFL.

The second is his red-zone utilization. Henry is tied for sixth among tight ends in red-zone targets with 14. His red-zone target share among tight ends is the second-highest in the NFL at 25.0%. His usage is even better compared to his peers inside the 10-yard line. He’s tied for third in targets inside the 10 with seven and his target share in this area of the field is 33.3%, which ranks second among tight ends.

If the Patriots are to score a passing touchdown this weekend, there’s a very good chance it’ll be to Henry.

2. Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll know my opinion of Higbee. He’s nothing more than a streamer despite being in an absolutely incredible situation. Still, he deserves mention this week as a streamer. I’m not a big fan of the talent with Higbee –the lack of production kind of speaks for itself – but we’re playing the matchup and the situation with him this week.

Odell Beckham Jr. is currently on the Covid list after testing positive, which means he’s likely out this Sunday. Robert Woods is also on IR following his torn ACL injury. All of the sudden, the Rams’ group of receivers is looking pretty depleted. Two other tight ends, Johnny Mundt and Jared Pinkey, have also been added to the Covid list. With the status of their tight end room, fantasy managers should be expecting Higbee to play close to 100% of the snaps. And with OBJ on the Covid list, there are some targets that are up for grabs. Both factors will increase Higbee’s opportunity and could lead to more volume.

The second-factor fantasy managers should be happy about is their opponent. In Week 15, the Rams will go up against the Seattle Seahawks, who have struggled to defend tight ends all season. This week also finds Jamaal Adams is on IR. The Seahawks are allowing 11.2 points per game to opposing tight ends on the season, which ranks as the third-highest in the NFL. It’s an excellent matchup for Higbee and with the status of some of the other pass-catchers in question, Higbee has the opportunity to take on a bigger role this upcoming weekend.

3. Gerald Everett, Seattle Seahawks

We talked about Everett and his role the past few weeks above so you should have a pretty good idea of who he is, along with what to like and what not to like about him. Everett will be matched up against the Rams in Week 15, who are pretty much middle of the road when it comes to defending tight ends. They’ve given up the 14th-most points to tight ends this season at 7.9 points. It’s not a great matchup, but it’s a good one. Good enough anyway.

The over/under number for this matchup is currently set at 46, which illustrates some potential for a higher-scoring outcome. This is what fantasy managers should always be chasing. The Rams have allowed the seventh-fewest rushing yards this season and the Seahawks have rushed for the 11th-fewest. Needless to say, fantasy managers should not expect the Seahawks to have much, if any, success on the ground. If they’re going to move the ball, it’s likely going to have to be through the air. A more pass-heavy game script increases the chances for Everett to see more volume and since Week 10 – Wilson’s return – Everett is averaging more receptions per game than Metcalf.

The Rams are at home and favored 4.5 points, which as long as that holds true, will put the Seahawks in a position where they’re having to throw the ball to stay in the game. Everett has been solid as of late and in Week 15, he has a decent matchup and what looks to be a positive game script for him.

 

Tight Ends to Avoid in Week 15

1. Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers

When fantasy managers log onto their fantasy website, whatever that one may be, they’re likely to see Cook assigned a positive matchup rating for this weekend’s game against the Chiefs. After all, the Chiefs are allowing the 12th-most points to opposing tight ends this season at 8.6. That’s not really a good depiction of what the Chiefs’ defense is currently doing, however.

Over their last six games, opposing tight ends have scored just 5.35 points per game, which would be the sixth-fewest in the NFL. During that six-game stretch, the Chiefs’ defense has allowed 10.8 points per game to their opponents. It’s a brutal matchup. In fact, there may be no hotter team in the NFL right now than the Kansas City Chiefs.

Keenan Allen is set to return to the lineup in Week 15 and it sounds as if Austin Ekeler will be healthy enough to go too. That leaves Cook a middling fourth or fifth option in the passing game, going up against one of the hottest defenses in the NFL. Cook is averaging under five targets per game and presents with a nonexistent ceiling – even with a touchdown. On the season, Cook sports just a 13.9% target share inside the red zone, which trails Ekeler, Allen, and Mike Williams.

2. Ricky Seals-Jones, Washington Football Team

When Logan Thomas was placed on IR prior to Week 15, RSJ instantly became an interesting waiver wire name. The first time Thomas went down, RSJ inherited 100% of Thomas’ role. This resulted in RSJ playing on 99% of the snaps and being highly involved in the passing game. When Seals-Jones went down with an injury of his own, rookie John Bates got the call and once again inherited, for the most part, 100% of Logan Thomas’ initial role. Things have been different this time around, however.

In Week 12, Thomas’ first game back to the lineup, he played 79% of the snaps to Bates’ 57%. In Week 13, Thomas played 64% of the snaps, leaving the game in the second half and Bates was at 57%.  In Week 14 with Thomas on IR, it was Bates who led the way with a 71% snap share. Ricky Seals-Jones played only 46% of the snaps. Bates also ran 27 routes compared to RSJ’s 17. It’s unknown if this was because Washington was just working Seals-Jones back into the lineup after a prolonged injury, but the snap count and routes run numbers are incredibly concerning. Despite the great matchup in Week 15, fantasy managers should find it extremely difficult to trust either Washington tight end in a must-win game. Their roles present just too much of an unknown and the reward doesn’t come close to outweighing the risk.

3. Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

I have been a believer in Kmet all season and the role he’s had certainly presented a good deal of upside. The problem is the coaching staff and front office quite honestly. This is just a bad football team all the way around and it’s incredibly difficult for a tight end to be on a bad team and produce without getting insane volume, which Kmet certainly is not getting.

He’s averaging 5.3 targets per game, which ranks 12th among tight ends. The volume isn’t the biggest problem, it’s the efficiency, or rather, lack thereof. If we’re being honest, he bigger problem is gigantic and that’s the fact that Kmet has not scored a single touchdown this season. There’s a reason for it. One, the Bears’ offense is atrocious. It’s bad. The second is the infatuation the Bears’ coaching staff has with Jimmy Graham.

Despite Kmet playing 82% of the snaps this season and Graham being at 27%, somehow Graham has only two fewer red-zone targets than Kmet. Kmet has eight and Graham has six. Inside the 10-yard line, Graham actually has more! He has one more target inside the 10-yard line (3 to 2) than Kmet, which is crazy. Kmet is averaging just 0.62 targets per game inside the red zone and just 0.15 targets inside the 10-yard line, which leaves his scoring percentage way lower than any fantasy manager should be happy with.

To make matters worse, their Week 15 opponent is the Minnesota Vikings, who have allowed the 12th-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season at 6.6 PPG. The matchup is not good. The scoring chances are in the dirt and the offense is bad. There’s very little upside here if any at all. If you’re looking for a dart throw, there are much better ones than Kmet.

Win Big With RotoBaller

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

https://www.rotoballer.com/finding-tight-end-breakouts-champs-chumps-and-contenders-9/975446 Tight End Breakouts, Busts for Fantasy: Week 15

Britta Zeltmann

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