Hey there. If you weren’t already aware, you’re reading Part-4 of a 4-Part breakdown on this week’s Divisional Round DFS slate. In this article, we’ll be breaking down all relevant TEs. Get the breakdowns for QBs, RBs, and WRs.
Before digging too deep into the individual players, I did want to mention a few important notes this week:
1) On a typical full-game slate, I want to feel comfortable with every player I’m rostering. Ideally, even my punt-plays are tremendous values with high-upside. On a shorter slate like this (6 games or 3 games depending on which tournament you enter) it’s okay to roster a relatively “gross” name if you feel they give you a stronger lineup overall – allowing you to pay up elsewhere.
2) I can’t stress enough the importance of late-swap on these smaller slates. If you have any tournament lineups that seem unlikely to cash, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding exposure to some “riskier” lower-owned players.
3) In the TLDR, I’ve listed out the top TE plays in order of value (according to me). This isn’t super strict. And in some cases sort of arbitrary. But it also doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as most of my readers think it does. What really matters, and especially with this short slate, is that you’re building a lineup that’s well correlated. Or, as Johnny would say “that tells a story.”
DK: Austin Hooper > Travis Kelce > Robert Tonyan > Jared Cook > Mark Andrews
FD: Travis Kelce > Austin Hooper > Mark Andrews > Jared Cook > Rob Gronkowski
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
DK: $7,800, FD: $8,500
Kelce is the highest-priced TE on both sites. On DraftKings, he’s the 3rd highest-priced receiver, and on FanDuel he’s 4th. But he ranks 2nd among all receivers in FPG on DraftKings (22.1), and 3rd on FanDuel (17.4). Immediately that suggests at least some value. But let’s dig deeper:
On DraftKings, he provides 186% of the production of the next-closest TE but at just 156% the cost. Against the No. 4 TE, he provides 260% of the production at 195% of the cost. And so on…
On FanDuel, he provides 177% of the production of the next-closest TE but at just 129% the cost. Against the No. 4 TE, he provides 239% of the production at 151% of the cost. And so on…
So, Kelce is no doubt expensive, but he’s also an immensely strong value. And especially in this matchup – Cleveland ranks 2nd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (+3.7). Behind the highest implied point total of the slate (33.75, most by +6.25), he’s an easy top-2 TE play on both sites.
Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
DK: $5,000, FD: $6,600
Andrews and Marquise Brown were two of my biggest misses this past offseason. The talent was always there, but not so much the volume and production we were hoping for. Since Week 10, he averages 7.1 targets, 63.6 yards, and 13.2 FPG. This sort of makes him look like a reverse Robert Tonyan – 63.6 YPG is only comparable to the Big 3 TEs, but due to a lack of touchdowns, his FPG production isn’t too different from Tonyan who is wholly touchdown-reliant. And the Big 3 TEs are still a good distance ahead of both TEs.
Buffalo is a soft matchup for TEs, however. In the regular season, they ranked 5th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (+2.6). Last week, they gave up 14 catches, 136 yards, and 1 touchdown to Indianapolis TEs (on 16 targets). And if Tre’Davious White shadows Marquise Brown (which I think is highly likely), that could funnel even more volume towards Andrews. Baltimore has the 3rd-lowest implied point total of the slate (23.75), but also are underdogs for just the 3rd time this season, implying the potential for a more pass-heavy attack.
Andrews is probably a lock for the Saturday slate on FanDuel, but otherwise I don’t expect to have much exposure.
Robert Tonyan, TE, Green Bay Packers
DK: $4,200, FD: $6,200
After Kelce, just about every TE on this slate feels “touchdown-or-bust.” You’re really just praying for a touchdown, and maybe two to keep pace with Travis Kelce. But Tonyan probably has the best odds of scoring a touchdown this week, only behind Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Stefon Diggs. I mean, after all, he finished the season ranking 5th in receiving touchdowns (11), tied with Travis Kelce.
Since Week 11, he averages only 3.9 targets per game and 34.1 receiving YPG, but also 12.1 FPG. He hit double-digit fantasy points in 5 of 7 games and scored a touchdown in 6 of 7 games. Again, you’re really banking on a touchdown here. And the upside beyond that doesn’t seem great, but the matchup is strong against Los Angeles’ TE funnel defense.
The Rams rank best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WRs (-7.7). They rank 9th-best against RBs (-3.0). But they rank 16th-worst against TEs (-0.1). 23.5% of their total receiving fantasy points allowed has gone to TEs, which ranks 9th-most. And the Packers have the 3rd-highest implied point total of the slate (26.25).
Tonyan is solidly the 3rd-best TE play of the slate on DraftKings, but too expensive on FanDuel. Because he plays in the first game of the slate, he gives you some flexibility to get creative on high-upside late-swaps should he fail to find the end zone.
Jared Cook, TE, New Orleans Saints
DK: $4,000, FD: $5,600
Over Cook’s last 17 full regular season games with Drew Brees under center, Cook averages 12.7 FPG, hitting double-digit fantasy points in 15 of 17 games. These numbers look pretty great, but this sample is also somewhat noisy, and Cook’s usage has been trending downwards for a while. He did see 7 targets last week – or 5 if you go by PFF’s numbers – catching 4 for 40 yards with no scores. However, he ran a route on just 18 of Drew Brees’ 39 dropbacks (46%). That was only slightly more than Adam Trautman’s 14 routes. Cook has now played fewer than 40% of the team’s snaps in 6 of his last 10 games, with a high of just 58%. People will gravitate towards him based on name alone, but without realizing he’s now far more of a part-time player. Ultimately, there are better options, but he’s fine – not great, but fine. He averages 5.0 targets and 10.5 FPG over his last 6 games. That’s about the expectation for him (maybe more if Tampa Bay shuts down Alvin Kamara again this week) in this slightly above-average matchup.
Austin Hooper, TE, Cleveland Browns
DK: $3,800, FD: $5,500
Hooper has seen 31 targets over his last 3 games. That’s crazy-good, but far less so when you realize 15 of those targets came in a game Cleveland was down 4 starting WRs. Still, he saw 11 targets last week (in a brutal on-paper matchup against the Steelers), catching 7 for 46 yards and a score. He now averages 6.8 targets, 38.7 yards, and 12.4 FPG over his last 6 games. Though, 4 of his total 5 touchdowns have come over this 6-game stretch.
Cleveland has the 2nd-lowest implied point total of the slate (23.25) in a game they should be forced to lean pass-heavy (10.5-point underdogs). The on-paper matchup is fairly good – Kansas City ranks 7th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to TEs (+1.8), and 3rd-worst over the last 6 weeks (+4.7). They’re also a top TE funnel defense, giving up the 4th-highest percentage of total receiving fantasy points allowed to TEs (25.5%). Jarvis Landry, meanwhile, has the much tougher draw, as Kansas City ranks 2nd-best in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (11.1). This should funnel more volume towards Hooper.
Now factor in that he’s egregiously mispriced, and he’s clearly a top-2 TE play on both sites.
Rob Gronkowski / Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DK: $3,600, FD: $5,600 / DK: $2,900, FD: $4,900
Last week, Gronkowski out-snapped Brate 54 to 35. But Brate ran 22 routes to Gronkowski’s 18. He also caught 4 of 6 targets for 80 yards, while Gronkowski failed to catch his only target. In all honesty, I’m not sure what happened here. Since Week 6, Gronkowski averaged 5.2 targets and 11.2 FPG. Over the same span, Brate averaged 2.4 targets and 4.7 FPG.
My theory is that Chase Young scared the crap out of Tampa Bay, so they used Gronkowski predominantly as a blocker in an attempt to neutralize him. Another theory I heard is that Washington is very vulnerable against 12 personnel. Another was that Gronkowski just looked slow – maybe the grind of a full NFL season and a game with 35-degree weather just “got to him.”
New Orleans’s pass rush has been just as dominant as Washington’s so maybe Gronkowski again gets stuck playing more offensive line then receiver. Maybe Brate is in play, but he reached 9.5 fantasy points only once during the regular season and was held to 5.5 or less in 11 of 16 games.
The Saints are a neutral to below-average matchup on paper, but Gronkowski was held to just 2.2 FPG fantasy points against them through 2 games this year. Brate was held to 0.0 FPG. In their last meeting (their first meeting was Week 1 when Gronkowski was still being eased back into real work), Gronkowski ran a route on just 19 of Brady’s 41 dropbacks (46%). And he’s seen his usage dip following the re-emergence of Antonio Brown. I’ll be looking elsewhere.
Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills
DK: $2,900, FD: $5,000
Last week, Knox caught 2 of 3 targets for 5 yards. But he also scored a touchdown, and well, that’s basically what you were hoping for when you played him. He’s reached 40 yards only once this season, and reached 9.0 fantasy points only twice during the regular season. He’s scored 4 touchdowns this year, with all 4 coming over his last 7 games. What’s the expectation this week? Again, you’re basically just praying for a touchdown, and anything on top of that (probably something like 2 catches for 34 yards) is a bonus. There are better plays this week.
Tyler Higbee / Gerald Everett, TE, Los Angeles Rams
DK: $3,000, FD: $5,200 / DK: $2,700, FD: $4,300
Last week, a banged-up Jared Goff threw 19 times after John Wolford left the game with an injury after attempting 6 passes. Tyler Higbee caught 1 of 3 targets for 4 yards. Gerald Everett failed to catch his lone target.
Higbee has hit double-digit fantasy points twice over his last 14 games, averaging 8.2 FPG over his last 6. Everett has hit double-digit fantasy points twice over his last 12 games, averaging 4.1 FPG over his last 7.
The Rams have – far-and-away – the lowest implied point total of the slate (19.5). The matchup is bottom-3 on paper, with opposing TEs collectively falling short of their per-game average by 3.4 FPG when facing Green Bay. Jared Goff’s baby hands and the injury to his throwing thumb could be an issue for the passing attack in this cold-weather game. Hard fade.