Hey there. If you weren’t already aware, you’re reading Part-4 of a 4-Part breakdown on this week’s Divisional Weekend DFS slate. In this article, we’re breaking down all relevant TEs.
We have an exciting collection of teams featuring the best-of-the-best facing off in the Divisional 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 (4 games or 2 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 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.” And making sure you’re paying attention to ownership and then working off of that.
In order, with Tier 1 in bold:
DK: Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, George Kittle, C.J. Uzomah
FD: Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Tyler Higbee
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs (VS. BUF)
DK: TE1 [$6,500], FD: TE1 [$8,200]
Kelce leads all slate-eligible TEs in FPG (16.4), XFP/G (15.9), XFP per dollar of salary (2.45X), and targets per game (8.4). Interestingly, Kelce’s two best games since Week 3 (41.1 and 21.8 fantasy points) have come in his last four games. And over that stretch, Kelce has averaged an otherworldly 90.0 YPG, 1.3 TDs per game, and 22.4 FPG. Although, he managed those numbers on just 8.0 targets per game and 17.3 XFP/G, so he has meaningfully outperformed his volume as of late.
But given his recent play, it should come as no surprise he’s the highest-priced TE on both sites.
The Chiefs offer the highest implied total of the slate (28.0), and Kelce has crushed these spots over the last three seasons, averaging 20.5 DraftKings FPG and 16.1 FanDuel FPG when the KC implied total is over 27.5 points.
But, this is the definition of a brutal matchup. The Bills have allowed the 3rd-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs (-4.9), and the 2nd-fewest receptions (54). In fact, only four TEs have scored more than 10.0 fantasy points against Buffalo. Still, Kelce managed the best performance of any TE against Buffalo this season, scoring 17.7 fantasy points in Week 5. So despite the difficulty of this matchup on paper, Kelce has shown (albeit in a 1 game sample size) that he’s capable of overcoming that handicap.
And this is a tough matchup for every Chiefs pass catcher, not just Kelce. The Bills rank as the toughest matchup for opposing outside WRs (13.0 FPG allowed, 3.0 less than the next-closest team), the 5th-toughest matchup for opposing slots (11.4 FPG allowed), and as the toughest matchup for opposing WR1s (-4.2 schedule-adjusted FPG allowed). So, while Kelce’s matchup is about as tough as it gets, it shouldn’t meaningfully impact his volume as there isn’t a Chiefs pass catcher with a plus matchup this weekend.
It’s difficult not to call Kelce the top TE play of the slate given just how impressive his volume has been this year relative to the other TEs available (25% target share over his last four games). He’s my preferred cash game play on DraftKings, and is right there with Rob Gronkowski on FanDuel as the top TE value of the slate. For tournaments, Kelce is going to be one of the 3 highest-owned TEs, so we can certainly make an argument to fade him in GPPs just based on that. Personally, I imagine I’ll end up overweight Kelce in GPPs just based on how easy it is to fit him into lineups, given this is the cheapest he’s been all season on DraftKings.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (VS. LA)
DK: TE2 [$5,800], FD: TE2 [$7,100]
Since Antonio Brown went “Super Gremlin” in Week 17, Gronkowski has averaged (a team leading) 15.0 XFP/G, 17.8 FPG, and 8.3 targets per game. Among slate-eligible TEs, those numbers rank 2nd, 1st, and 2nd. And Gronk leads all slate-eligible TEs in air yards per game (76.2), deep targets per game (0.9), and red zone targets per game (2.0).
The matchup is perfectly neutral on paper, and the Buccaneers offer the 4th-highest implied team total of the slate (25.75), so we really can’t make any bullish or bearish assumptions based on the game environment or matchup.
With that said, I still fully expect Tampa Bay to air the ball out in this contest. They led all teams this season in pass rate over expectation (+11%), 4% more than the nest-closest team. Last week, in a game they Buccaneers controlled from start to finish, Tom Brady still threw the ball 37 times. And in their Week 3 matchup with the Rams, Brady attempted a season-high 55 passes, showcasing just how aggressive Tampa Bay can be through the air.
And with Gronk earning a 21% target share over his last three games, it’s safe to say he’s a massive beneficiary of a pass happy Buccaneers attack. He also carries outstanding TD upside, having posted 4 multi-TD games in his last 15 contests. But that stat may not accurately represent just how likely another multi-TD game is for Gronk, as Tampa Bay is absent 26% of their total end zone targets from the regular season after Chris Godwin’s ACL tear and the departure of Antonio Brown.
Overall, Gronkowski’s target floor and overall upside are both very comparable to Travis Kelce. While I don’t think you can go wrong with either TE in cash, I prefer Kelce more on DraftKings, while Gronk is a slightly better value on FanDuel. In tournaments, I’m expecting Gronk to be one of the top-3 highest-owned TEs of the slate, so how do we approach that?
Interestingly, in last week’s 3-game Sunday slate, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski stacks clocked in at just 1.3% ownership, and were just the 7th-highest owned Buccaneers stack. So, one potential way to get unique is by just pairing Brady and Gronk together, with no other Buccaneers, although I prefer that route more so on the two-game Sunday-only slate. Or, alternatively, pairing Gronk with Matthew Stafford stacks as a bring back, given Stafford is likely to be one of the lowest-owned QBs of the slate.
Cameron Brate [DK: TE9, FD: TE9], is also in play for the two-game Sunday-only slate. He’s a decent value based on usage, ranking as the 4th-best TE option by XFP per dollar of salary (2.19X). But he also hasn’t scored more than 9.1 fantasy points in a game this year, so the play is fairly thin overall.
George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers (@ GB)
DK: TE3 [$5,300], FD: TE4 [$6,400]
This season, George Kittle has played 14 games with Deebo Samuel, averaging 10.5 XFP per game, 11.7 FPG, and 6.0 targets per game. Among slate-eligible TEs, those numbers rank all rank 3rd-best. But, in contrast to what Rob Gronkowski – who costs just 9% more on DraftKings and 10% more on FanDuel – has averaged over his last 3 games, Kittle’s numbers with Deebo healthy are 30% worse, 34% worse, and 28% worse. And compared to Travis Kelce – who costs 18% more on DraftKings and 22% more on FanDuel – Kittle’s numbers are 34% worse, 29% worse, and 29% worse.
Kittle also hasn’t earned more than 70 targets in any of his last five games in spite of an 87% route share, and has fallen below 30 receiving yards in each of his last four games.
The point I’m getting to is this: Kittle can’t be considered for cash games or as one of the top TE values of the slate given his production relative to his price in this current version of the 49ers offense.
But, for tournaments, there are still reasons to be bullish. The matchup is the most favorable on the slate, with Green Bay allowing +2.7 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs (8th-most), and the 2nd-most over their last 5 regular season games (+9.0).They have given up 5 games of 17.1 or more fantasy points to opposing TEs, including the 4th-best TE performance of the season by Mark Andrews in Week 15 (35.6 fantasy points). And when these teams played in Week 3, Kittle scored 17.1 fantasy points (his 4th-best game of the season), while Deebo Samuel was mostly held in check, scoring just 10.2 fantasy points (his worst game of the season).
Kittle himself has shown an incredible ceiling, earning two of the five highest-scoring fantasy outings by TEs this year, and one of those performances came with a healthy Deebo.
Kittle is a mediocre value on DraftKings, and that’s where I’ll likely have most of my tournament exposure, given ownership should be lower than on FanDuel (where he is a stronger value). He makes for a great super-contrarian low-owned pairing with Jimmy Garoppolo (0.48 correlation), but outside of some unique stacks, I’ll mostly be looking elsewhere for my TE exposure in tournaments.
Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills (@ KC)
DK: TE4 [$4,900], FD: TE3 [$6,500]
Knox went absolutely ballistic during Wild Card weekend, catching all 5 of his targets for 89 yards and 2 TDs, resulting in 25.9 fantasy points – the best mark of any TE.
But, it’s worth noting that Knox massively overproduced relative to his 9.7 expected fantasy points. Given he isn’t in play for cash games, Knox falls under the category of TEs that can only post a tournament winning performance with TD luck on their side.
To illustrate this, I’ll note that Knox averages just 5.1 targets per game, which ranks 5th among slate-eligible TEs, but he's tied for 1st with Rob Gronkowski for 0.6 TDs per game, and leads all slate-eligible TEs with 0.5 XTDs per game. As a result, Knox has averaged 19.1 FPG in his seven best games, but just 6.3 FPG in his other nine games. And despite his impressive FPG average in his best games, Knox averages just 6.3 targets per game and 11.9 XFP/G in those contests. So he’s reliant on hyper-efficiency to hit his ceiling, which is hard to trust.
That shows up in the usage numbers, with Knox ranking 6th among slate-eligible TEs in XFP per dollar of salary (2.04X) – suggesting he’s a relatively bad play, at least from a usage perspective.
But, Knox did lead all Buffalo pass catchers in route share last week (93%), so perhaps his role is expanding within the offense (seemingly at WR Cole Beasley’s expense).
By far the most bullish note we have for Knox is this game's slate-leading 53.5 total, and the Bills 26.25 implied total (tied for 2nd-best on the slate). Knox has only played three games this season with a total over 53.0, but he’s averaged 16.7 DraftKings FPG and 13.6 FanDuel FPG in those games.
The on paper matchup is a slight negative, with Kansas City allowing the 10th-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG during the regular season (-1.1). But, no TE scored more fantasy points in a game against KC than Knox (20.7), so the on paper matchup may not matter much here.
Knox’s viability as a tournament-play will largely depend on his ownership. It’s hard not to love him in GPPs if he’s one of the lowest-owned TEs of the slate, but if his ownership exceeds, say, 15% on the four-game slate, then his risk/reward profile shapes up as below-average. Given he boasts the best correlation of any Buffalo pass catcher with Josh Allen (0.60), one interesting way to play Knox is by simply single stacking him with Allen, while most other DFS players will likely feel obligated to force a Buffalo WR in Allen stacks.
Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams (@ TB)
DK: TE5 [$4,000], FD: TE6 [$5,400]
Higbee ranks as the 4th-best TE value on both sites in our projections, and as the No. 2 TE by XFP per dollar of salary (2.43X). But, outside of being an above-average value, it’s difficult to get behind Higbee as a strong play.
His volume numbers are perfectly in line with his pricing, but he doesn’t project well enough to be considered at all for cash games. That leaves tournaments as our only route of exposure here.
And Higbee hasn’t shown much of a tournament-worthy ceiling this year, at least compared to the other TEs available. Higbee has just one game of more than 16.0 fantasy points this season, compared to 5 for Dawson Knox, and 3 for C.J. Uzomah – who are Higbee’s closest peers in terms of price.
But, we do expect the Rams to attack through the air in this game. Opposing teams are absolutely petrified of running on Tampa Bay, as they’ve allowed the fewest total rush attempts of any team (250, 38 less than the next-closest team) and the 2nd-highest pass rate relative to expectation (+5.5%). So from a volume perspective, the matchup is likely to be favorable.
The on paper matchup is also slightly favorable, with Tampa Bay giving up the 12th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs (+0.9).
So, while I question the overall ceiling, I think Higbee is likely a great leverage opportunity in tournaments if he ends up being one of the lowest-owned TEs of the slate. But I’m not sure he will be. He projects as an above-average value, and that often leads to above-average ownership. And especially on FanDuel, where he’s cheaper than C.J. Uzomah, I’d expect him to be fairly popular. Even so, he’s arguably the top way to punt TE on FanDuel, which in and of itself is valuable as it allows us to pay up at more important positions.
I’ll be mostly targeting Higbee on DraftKings where I expect lower ownership, but outside of Matthew Stafford stacks, I don’t think I’ll have much exposure here.
CJ Uzomah, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (@ TEN)
DK: TE6 [$3,400], FD: TE5 [$5,500]
Similar to last week, C.J. Uzomah’s biggest strength for this upcoming slate is that he’s the cheapest TE that projects reasonably well, at least on DraftKings. So while there are certainly better values at the position, Uzomah is the best way to punt TE on DraftKings, and is right behind Higbee as the best option to punt on FanDuel.
Uzomah has, however, been tremendously volatile this season. He averages 23.0 FPG in his best 3 games, but just 5.6 FPG in his other 14 games. So, he essentially breaks the slate 18% of the time, and is completely useless in the remaining 82% of games – which, at least for tournaments, can be considered beneficial. His volume has been subpar, averaging 6.3 XFP/G (6th-best among slate-eligible TEs), while ranking 7th among slate-eligible TEs in XFP per dollar of salary (1.85X).
On the bearish side of things, we have a difficult matchup (-2.7 schedule-adjusted FPG allowed, 8th-toughest) and the Bengals 22.0-point implied team total – the 2nd-lowest of the slate. In fact, no TE this season has scored more than 13.5 fantasy points against Tennessee. And the Titans are extremely vulnerable to opposing WRs, allowing the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+5.4). And with how good the Bengals WRs are, it’s hard to see Cincinnati feeding Uzomah if Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are getting open at will.
All these factors combine to suggest Uzomah is likely headed for a floor performance this weekend. Even so, Uzomah still warrants tournament exposure in both Joe Burrow lineups and game stacks, and at least on DraftKings, can be used as a one off play in any lineup that needs to punt TE.
Tennessee TEs (VS. CIN)
Both Anthony Firkser [DK: TE7, FD: TE7] and Geoff Swaim [DK: TE9, FD: TE9] are in play for large-field GPPs as low-floor punt options. So who’s the better play?
In the Titans last 5 games of the season, Firkser averaged a 39% route share, 3.0 targets per game, 1.2 red zone targets per game, 0.4 end zone targets per game, 5.5 XFP/G, and 8.1 FPG. Those are eerily similar numbers to Swaim, who averaged a 37% route share, 2.6 targets per game, 0.8 red zone targets per game, 0.4 end zone targets per game, 6.1 XFP, and 4.8 FPG.
But, importantly, Firkser saw significantly better usage in Week 18, earning 10.1 XFP and a 49% route share, compared to just 1.5 XFP and a 29% route share for Swaim. Could that have been a dress rehearsal for the playoffs? I’m not sure, but I do think we need to consider Firkser the superior play between the two, given his Week 18 usage and that he’s run 79 more routes than Swaim over the full season in one less game. And our projections agree, listing Firkser as the No. 2 TE on DraftKings by fantasy points per dollar of salary (2.61X).
Cincinnati can be considered a favorable matchup for opposing TEs, having allowed the 10th-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+1.7), and the 4th-most FPG overall (15.5).
But the Titans are 3.5-point favorites, and this game’s slate-low total of 47.0 suggests that we could be looking at the ugliest offensive game of the Divisional round. That’s bad news for both Firkser and Swaim, as their ability to post a tournament-winning performance is dependent on their capability to find the end zone, given that outside of a 7 target Week 11 performance from Firkser, neither player has seen 6 or more targets in a game this season.
On the 4 game slate, I’m not touching either of these TEs on FanDuel. On DraftKings, Firkser can be used in the largest GPPs for the full four-game slate, but I’d only roster him in Ryan Tannehill (0.33 correlation) stacks or in game stacks in an attempt to both save salary and lower my lineup’s overall ownership.
Where both TEs truly come into play is the Saturday-only two-game slate. Both players will be on the bottom end of ownership, and should both C.J. Uzomah and George Kittle flop, Firkser or Swaim could easily wind up on GPP-winning teams if they can simply approach or exceed double-digit fantasy points. With how condensed FanDuel TE pricing is, I’ll aim for most of my exposure to this pair on DK, but they are viable low-owned punts on both sites for the 2 game slate.
Green Bay TEs (VS. SF)
Similar to Tennessee, Green Bay offers a pair of low-priced punt TEs in Josiah Deguara [DK: TE8, FD: TE8] and Marcedes Lewis [DK: TE11, FD: TE11].
Deguara possesses the superior role, averaging a 55% route share, 3.6 targets per game, 6.9 XFP/G, and 6.7 FPG over his last 5 games. Lewis sees fewer routes and less volume, averaging a 20% route share, 2.2 targets per game, 4.6 XFP/G, and 3.7 FPG over that same stretch.
So while it’s safe to say Deguara has the superior floor, both players, interestingly, offer similar touchdown expectations. Over their last 5 games, both Deguara and Lewis have 5 red zone targets each, while Deguara has just one more end zone target (3) than Lewis (2). Over that stretch, Deguara accounted for 1.7 XTD, while Lewis totaled 1.6 XTD. So similar TD expectations, but stronger volume for Deguara.
The matchup is on the tougher end, but only barely. The 49ers gave up the 9th-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs this season (-1.3), but were significantly worse over the final 5 weeks of the regular season, allowing +3.6 schedule-adjusted FPG. The major risk with this matchup is that if the Packers dominate this game (which is somewhat likely as 6.0-point favorites), then it will be incredibly difficult for either Deguara or Lewis to see the targets they need to exceed their salary-based value.
For the 4 game slate, only Deguara is in play for large-field GPPs on DraftKings. Otherwise chalky Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams stacks can both save salary and lower their average ownership by rostering Deguara, but it’s an overall thin play that should really only be considered for ownership reasons. Outside of that, I don’t see much of a reason to play either TE (especially on FanDuel) for the full slate.
However, for the two-game Saturday only slate, both TEs are in play. Lewis is slightly more intriguing to me in large-field contests, as he’ll carry sub-5% ownership on both sites and, like I said, has a comparable TD expectation to Deguara. While I wouldn’t play Lewis outside of Aaron Rodgers lineups or game stacks, his strong correlation with Rodgers (0.73) demonstrates he’s worthy of exposure in those spots. Deguara is also a fine play in stacks, but I prefer him for the shorter slate as a one off play, given he can more realistically achieve a decent score without getting into the end zone.