Wild Card DFS Breakdown: TEs


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Wild Card DFS Breakdown: TEs

Hey there. If you weren’t already aware, you’re reading Part-4 of a 4-Part breakdown on this week’s Wildcard Weekend DFS slate. In this article, we’re breaking down all relevant TEs, after already covering QBs, RBs, and WRs.

We have an exciting collection of teams featuring the best-of-the-best facing off in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs. Follow along as we examine each positional grouping for each team to identify the DFS value/upside on both DraftKings and FanDuel.

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. And, I suppose, there is something of an edge towards players with games later in the weekend.

3) In the TLDR, I’ve listed out the top 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.” And making sure you’re paying attention to ownership and then working off of that. Is Ezekiel Elliott a better play than Elijah Mitchell? On paper, and in cash, it’s Mitchell. But in tournaments, it depends. Who will be more highly owned? Elliott might make more sense if fading Jimmy Garoppolo and his pass-catchers and stacked with Dallas’ DST.


In order, with Tier 1 in bold:

DK: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, CJ Uzomah, Tyler Higbee, Darren Waller, George Kittle

FD: Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, Dallas Goedert, Rob Gronkowski, George Kittle, Darren Waller, Tyler Higbee, Dalton Schultz

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs (VS. PIT)

Kelce [TE1/TE1] is the top TE by FPG (16.6), targets per game (9.3), and XFP/G (15.9), and to nobody’s surprise – is the highest priced TE on both sites. And if there was ever a slate to pay up at TE, this is it. Both DraftKings and FanDuel (but especially DraftKings) condense player pricing for smaller slates, and that’s resulted in Kelce being the cheapest he’s been on FanDuel since Week 13, and the cheapest he’s been on DraftKings all season.

The matchup is on the tougher end, with Pittsburgh allowing the 10th-fewest FPG to opposing TEs (10.5). But with a player like Kelce, matchups don’t concern me unless it’s at the polar extreme. And especially when we account for the Chiefs’ slate-leading 29.25 implied point total, this is still a fantastic spot for Kelce. Throughout his career, Kelce has averaged 20.6 DraftKings FPG and 16.10 FanDuel FPG when the KC implied team total is over 29.0. If all Kelce did was hit those averages this week, he would easily be the top value TE in our projections, and it wouldn’t really be close. And Tyreek Hill is dealing with a heel injury that capped him at 3 targets and 22% of routes last week. After Hill practiced in a limited capacity Thursday, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to anticipate some additional volume for Kelce this weekend if Hill’s unable to perform his usual role.

Kelce should be one of the top-3 highest-owned TEs on both sites in GPPs, but can’t be considered the cash TE given the outstanding value further down the board.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (VS. PHI)

Chris Godwin is out for the season, Antonio Brown is no longer with the team, and Mike Evans is questionable with a hamstring injury. Or, put another way, 43% of the Buccaneers’ targets from the regular season are either out, or questionable.

And what have we seen from this offense since Godwin and Brown departed? Well, in Week 17 (no Godwin and half a game from Brown), Gronk [TE2/TE2] saw 10 targets (2nd-most of the season) and had his 2nd game with over 100 receiving yards (115) scoring 18.5 fantasy points. And in Week 18, Gronk yet again had 10 targets, and this time turned it up to 137 yards, and 20.7 fantasy points. So in our 2 game sample, Gronk is averaging 10.0 targets per game, 126.0 YPG, and 19.6 FPG.

Gronk carries outstanding TD upside, having posted 4 multi-TD games in his last 14 contests. And with Tampa Bay missing 26% of their end zone targets from the regular season, and offering the 3rd-highest implied team total of the weekend (27.0), another multi-TD game for Gronk is arguably more likely now than ever before. And especially once we factor in Mike Evans shadow date with Darius Slay; Evans has historically struggled in shadow games, both this season and throughout his career, and that, at least in theory, would push Gronk towards being the clear No. 1 option in this passing attack.

Even so, I don’t think we can consider Gronk the cash game TE, ahead of Kelce, Zach Ertz, or Dallas Goedert on either site. So, that leaves tournaments as our main route for exposure.

Interestingly, the Eagles have given up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing TEs (17.1), but they held George Kittle (5.7 fantasy points) and Travis Kelce (6.3) to near-season-low performances. So despite the matchup looking great on paper, the Eagles adjusting for star TEs could push Gronk closer towards a floor performance. Still, it’s hard not to love Gronk as a top option at the position in tournaments, and I imagine I’ll end up slightly overweight here given his outstanding TD upside.

George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers (@ DAL)

In 13 games with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, George Kittle [TE3/TE3] has averaged 14.9 FPG and 7.1 targets per game – numbers which would rank 2nd- and 4th-best among slate-eligible TEs. Impressively, Kittle is responsible for 2 of the 5 highest-scoring fantasy outings by a TE this season (39.6 and 34.1 fantasy points), granted, one of those games came without Deebo Samuel in the lineup, but it still showcases Kittle’s incredible ceiling.

The scoring environment in this contest is excellent, boasting the highest total of the slate (51.0), while San Francisco offers the 6th-highest implied team total (24.0). As 3.0-point underdogs, it’s certainly possible SF will need to throw, and Kittle should certainly benefit given his 19% target share. But, as the TE3 (by salary) on both sites, Kittle is in an awkward spot. He’ll be one of the 4 or 5 highest-owned TEs, yet, isn’t a strong enough value to be considered anything close to a cash game play. But still offers strong-enough upside to warrant tournament exposure, and especially so if Deebo Samuel is looking chalky. So, similar to Gronk, I’ll likely have most of my Kittle exposure in SF stacks and Dallas run backs, and will aim towards being neutral on him vs. the field in tournaments.

Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders (@ CIN)

Waller [TE4/TE4] is probably the TE I’m the most excited about, at least for tournaments. He isn’t expected to be a very popular play, but, he ranks 2nd among all slate-eligible TEs in XFP/G (15.4), 2nd in targets per game (8.9), and 1st in XFP per $ of salary (2.70). He leads the position in end zone targets per game (0.9), deep targets per game (1.2), and air yards per game (89.3). So right off the bat, Waller’s TE4 salary on both sites makes him jump out as an immediate value, at least from a volume perspective.

But Waller hasn’t exactly been great at turning volume into fantasy production this year. He ranks last among all slate-eligible TEs in PAR (-3.3), meaning he’s underperformed his XFP expectation by 3.3 FPG. Waller has just one game with over 20.0 fantasy points this season (Week 1), in contrast to Travis Kelce (3 games of 20.0 or more), Rob Gronkowski (2), or George Kittle (3), and that’s obviously not what we want (although he did have 3 such games in 2020). That underperformance could be due to injuries, as Waller has missed 6 games this season and is still nursing the knee injury that caused him to miss every game from Week 13-17. And he posted a less-than-encouraging 22 yards on 9 targets last week. So the knee could be a real issue here.

The matchup for Waller, however, is excellent. Cincinnati has given up the 4th-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+8.0) to opposing TEs over their last 5 games, and the 4th-most overall FPG to TEs (15.5) this season. Plus the Bengals have funneled fantasy points to TEs this year at the 5th-highest rate in the league (25.7%).

And while Waller continuing to underperform or his knee injury flaring back up are certainly concerns, his volume numbers suggest there’s a strong chance Waller will be the focal point of this passing attack, in a game where the Raiders will likely be facing negative gamescript as 5.0-point underdogs. Priced as the TE4 on both sites, Waller is one of my favorite tournament TE plays of the slate (at what I expect to be middling/low ownership), although I’m not bullish enough (from a median outcome perspective) to call him anything close to a cash game play.

Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys (VS. SF)

Schultz [TE5/TE5] has seen consistent mid-range TE1 volume as of late, earning more than 13.5 XFP in 5 of his last 7 games, while seeing at least 5 targets in 6 of his last 8 games. And over his last 8 games, he’s averaged 13.6 FPG, which would rank 4th-best among slate-eligible TEs.

But this is a tough matchup for Schultz, with the 49ers allowing the 5th-fewest FPG to opposing TEs this season (8.5), and letting up just 16% of their total receiving FPG to TEs (4th-fewest).

Still, Schultz has the advantage of playing for the team with the 3rd-highest implied team total (27.0) and in a game with the highest over/under (51.0). But similar to George Kittle, he’s in an awkward spot priced as the TE5 on both sites, where he isn’t a strong enough value to be a cash game play or very popular in tournaments, but offers too much upside (3 games of 20.0 or more fantasy points this year) to fade entirely. Interestingly, Schultz has led this group of Dallas pass catchers in fantasy points scored on 4 occasions this season (Weeks 3, 4, 15, and 16), and on 2 of those occasions, he was the only Dallas pass catcher to score more than 15.0 fantasy points. So in 24% of his games, he led all receivers in fantasy points, and in 12% of his games he was basically the only Cowboy pass catcher to post anything resembling a DFS worthy score.

I’ll probably only wind up with minimal Schultz exposure, and what I do have will be in stacks with Dak prescott. Given he’s been the only viable fantasy option in multiple games for the Cowboys this year, it wouldn’t be hard to argue he’s a solid play, and even viable outside of Cowboys stacks. But the matchup surely doesn’t favor him, as SF has ranked as a bottom-7 defense for opposing TEs in each of the last 4 seasons (by FPG allowed), and we expect Dallas to heavily lean on their WRs with the 49ers ranking as a top-10 matchup (by FPG allowed) to both slot and outside WRs. And, at least to me, the nail in the coffin here is Blake Jarwin earning a 30% route share in Week 18. If that holds for Wild Card weekend, Schultz will likely be both overpriced and overowned.

{Dawson Knox|TE|BUF}}, TE, Buffalo Bills (VS. NE)

Knox [TE6/TE6] profiles as one of the least enticing TE plays on this slate. He’s our 10th-highest projected TE, but is the TE6 (by salary) on both sites. Among slate-eligible TEs, he ranks 6th in FPG (10.0), 7th in XFP per game (10.8), and 8th in targets per game (5.1). The Bills offer a middle of the road implied team total of 24.0, and Knox himself has only averaged 6.3 FPG in his 2 previous games against New England this season. So, there’s really not a ton to love here, especially once we account for the slate-worst positional matchup, with the Patriots allowing -5.9 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs this season.

If I had to give a bullish note for Knox, it would be his usage near the goalline. He’s tied with Darren Waller for 1st among slate-eligible TEs in end zone targets per game (0.9) and actually leads all slate-eligible TEs in red zone targets per game (1.5) and XTD/G (33%) of volume-based expectation. So, if he ends up being the TE you need to win a tournament, it’s likely on the back of a multi-TD performance. But I remain unconvinced Knox is a good play relative to his current salary, given he would almost certainly need to score a TD to be able to compete with the other TEs on the board. I’ll have some exposure in Josh Allen lineups, but I imagine I’ll wind up underweight the field here.

Zach Ertz, TE, Arizona Cardinals (@ LA)

Zach Ertz [TE7/TE10] has averaged 18.2 XFP/G (Weeks 15-17), 10.8 targets per game, and 13.3 FPG since DeAndre Hopkins Week 14 knee injury. Among slate-eligible TEs, those numbers rank 1st, 1st, and 4th. He’s also been remarkably consistent, with games of 11, 13, 9, and 10 targets in that span, while never falling under 13.7 XFP in any individual contest. As the TE7 (by salary) on DraftKings, and the TE10 on FanDuel, it’s glaringly apparent Ertz is one of the most mispriced TEs of the slate.

And, in particular, Ertz is also a massive TD regression candidate. Since Week 14, he’s earned 3.2 expected touchdowns, but has scored 0 TDs. If he had simply scored as many TDs as expected, he’d be averaging 17.1 FPG since Week 14. That number would have ranked behind only Mark Andrews (17.5 FPG) for 2nd among all TEs across the entirety of the regular season.

In a perfectly neutral on-paper matchup, the worst thing we can note about Ertz is the Cardinals’ 22.75 implied team total, the 5th-lowest of the slate. But even with that in mind, Arizona will likely be forced to throw as 4.0-point underdogs. And when we combine that with the incredible volume he’s seen as of late, it’s tough not to love Ertz as the top value TE, and the preferred TE cash game-play on both sites. And in spite of the low total, Ertz has massive (or at least massively underrated) touchdown potential, which is something we’re always looking for from a tournament TE.

Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (@ TB)

Over his last 4 games, Goedert [TE8/TE7] has averaged 11.3 XFP/G, 84.8 YPG, and 16.7 FPG. Among slate-eligible TEs over the full season, those numbers would rank 5th-best, best, and best. Those numbers are certainly impressive relative to Goedert’s TE8 and TE7 price tags on DraftKings and FanDuel, and he’s pretty clearly a top-3 value at the position on both sites.

On paper, the matchup is largely neutral. But maybe only on paper. With DeVonta Smith likely shadowed by Carlton Davis on at least two-thirds of his routes, we could certainly make an argument that Goedert will be the clear-cut No.1 receiving option option in this offense, especially given that Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins offer YPRR numbers of 0.67 and 1.58, respectively.

After that, the biggest remaining question is just how well Goedert will fare given the Eagles’ 18.75 implied team total, the 2nd-lowest on the slate. This season, Goedert averages just 7.9 DraftKings FPG and 6.4 FanDuel FPG when the Eagles’ implied total is 23.5 or lower (5 instances). And he averages just 9.3 DraftKings FPG and 7.8 FanDuel FPG in the 6 games he’s played where the Eagles have been underdogs this year.

His recent production means we need to consider him a value relative to his salary, but, at least to me, he’s not in the cash game conversation given just how strong of a play Zach Ertz is. And for tournaments, I see myself being massively underweight on Goedert (assuming he’s one of the highest-owned TEs), given the plethora of other strong options (at lower ownership) available at the position.

Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ KC)

Freiermuth [TE10/TE12] ranks 9th in XFP/G (8.8) and 10th in FPG (9.5). So on the surface, he seems appropriately priced, if not slightly underpriced, as the TE10 on DratKings and the TE12 on FanDuel. The on-paper matchup isn’t necessarily anything to be afraid of, and the Steelers status as 12.5-point underdogs implies that they’ll need to take a pass heavy approach that should benefit Freiermuth given his 12% target share on the season.

But obviously, the major concern here is the Steelers’ 17.0-point implied team total (the lowest of the slate), along with Big Ben’s brutal QB play (55.2 PFF passing grade this season). And this implied total of 17.0 points is actually 1.75 points lower than the Steelers’ lowest implied total during the season, so we could easily be looking at the Steelers’ worst offensive performance of the season here.

Freiermuth does offer the benefit of consistency, hitting at least 7.2 fantasy points and earning at least 3 targets in every game since Week 11. And while I believe his floor is relatively secure with how much Pittsburgh should have to pass in this game, it’s certainly fair to question the ceiling of both Freiermuth and the offense as a whole, given Roethlisberger has thrown for over 200 yards just once in his last 4 games, and his arm truly does appear to be cooked.

He’s a valid play in Big Ben stacks (especially on FanDuel), but given how little exposure I’ll have to Roethlisberger and this offense as a whole, I don’t see myself winding up with much, if any, Freiermuth exposure this week.

Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams (VS. ARI)

Higbee [TE10/TE9] ranks as the TE3 by XFP/G per dollar of salary (2.36X), and as the TE4 (by value) in our projections. He’s earned at least 5 targets and at least 6.9 XFP in each of his last 7 games, and he ranks top-5 among all slate-eligible TEs in both red zone (1.2) and end zone (0.6) targets per game. And he averages 13.8 FPG over his last 4 games, which ranks 4th-best among Wild Card TEs.

The matchup is on the tougher end, with Arizona allowing the 5th-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs (-3.8). And the Cardinals have been tremendously vulnerable to opposing WRs, allowing the most schedule-adjusted FPG (+20.3) over the last 5 weeks. So, we would need to figure that the Rams game plan won’t heavily involve Higbee, despite his solid volume relative to price.

In a vacuum, I’d consider Higbee a fine tournament play. But his major problem is he’s very similarly priced to both Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert on both sites, and both Ertz and Goedert are the far superior plays. Higbee will be significantly lower-owned than both Ertz and Goedert, so I still think there’s merit to playing him in game stacks (especially on DraftKings), but I’ll wind up with limited exposure here overall.

Hunter Henry, TE, New England Patriots (@ BUF)

Henry [TE11/TE7] averaged 9.7 FPG this season, but was absolutely stonewalled in his previous 2 games against Buffalo, scoring just 1.9 fantasy points across both games. And well, for the Wild Card Round, we expect New England to rely pretty heavily on their ground game given Mac Jones is averaging a laughable 8.0 completions, 82.0 yards, 0.0 touchdowns, 1.0 interception, and 1.0 fumble per game against Buffalo.

With 33% of his total fantasy points coming from TDs, Henry’s only real path to a tournament-suffcient score is by falling into the end zone, and given the Patriots’ 20.0-point implied team total (and the brutal matchup), I wouldn’t consider that especially likely.

If you are making 150 teams, single-digit exposure to Henry can be argued as reasonable on DraftKings. Personally, I don’t think I can play him, or really any New England pass catching options outside of maybe Jakobi Meyers (and even Meyers seems thin). The -4.9 schedule-adjusted FPG Buffalo has allowed to opposing TEs (3rd-toughest) just makes this matchup too unappealing. That, and the Patriots 20.0-point implied team total.

CJ Uzomah, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (VS. LV)

Uzomah [TE12/TE12] is the cheapest TE we can consider “in play” on DraftKings, clocking in at TE12 (by salary). And, at least on DK, his cheap salary ($3,200) allows us to pay up elsewhere at more important positions, which is arguably his greatest strength this week. So while Goedert and Ertz are the clear top values, Uzomah is certainly a viable punt in tournaments on DK.

In 16 games this year, Uzomah has averaged 5.6 FPG over his worst 14 games, but has scored 24.1 or more twice. He’s basically useless in 87% of games, but presents a truly slate-breaking ceiling in the remaining 13%, which, at least for tournaments, can be considered beneficial. His volume has been subpar, as he offers just 6.3 XFP/G, and ranks 13th among Wild Card TEs in XFP per dollar of salary (1.96X).

Uzomah's highest-scoring game this season came when the Bengals had their highest implied team total of the regular season (26.75), and this week, their team total is even better at 27.0. That could be noise given his other boom game came with a team total of just 19.75, but it’s interesting nonetheless, and could be considered a rather bullish note.

Facing a neutral matchup, Uzomah makes for a great (and fairly unique) stack pairing with Joe Burrow, or even a solid bring-back candidate to Raiders’ stacks. Given their condensed TE pricing, I wouldn’t use him outside of those situations on FanDuel, but on DraftKings, he has enough standalone value at his price-tag to be used on any team that needs the savings.

Jake Tribbey is the 2022 FSWA Football Writer of the Year and the leading Spring Football expert in the fantasy industry. He is a lifelong football fan obsessed with extracting every edge possible from DFS, Best Ball, and player props/futures.