Fantasy Football: Sleeper tight end options to start in Week 9

2RYM794 Dallas Cowboys tight end Jake Ferguson (87) gets past New England Patriots safety Jabrill Peppers (5) for extra yardage after catching a pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

Jake Ferguson returns: The Dallas Cowboys‘ tight end is a sleeper pick again with a favorable matchup this week.

Can Dalton Kincaid keep performing?: The Cincinnati Bengals defense is allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends this season, can Kincaid take advantage?

Dominate your fantasy leagues in 2023: For up-to-date fantasy draft rankings and projections, check out PFF’s fantasy rankings tool.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The 2023 NFL trade deadline passed on Tuesday afternoon and the league's landscape looks slightly different now. However, our pursuit of the right sleeper tight ends every week has not changed. In the words of Led Zeppelin, the song remains the same. And based on how some of our Week 8 picks performed, a few lucky fantasy managers will feel like rockstars heading into Week 9.

The week started with Dalton Kincaid breaking out on Thursday Night Football and though Gerald Everett didn’t play against the Chicago Bears and Dalton Schultz had a quiet performance, our Week 8 picks still averaged 14.1 fantasy points — kudos to Kincaid and Taysom Hill. They’ll be two to stay on the radar moving forward.

But enough of the reminiscing, let’s slide into Week 9 with more sleeper tight end picks. A few names like Sam LaPorta, Evan Engram, and George Kittle are on byes this week, so the stakes are heightened.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

Opponent: Arizona Cardinals

Four consecutive top-20 finishes and a season-high 17.70 fantasy points against the Seattle Seahawks have thrust David Njoku back into the sleeper consideration. We were asking for a breakout from him before Week 7 and, so far, he’s delivered. Now, we can consider him someone we can rely on weekly. 

Through the last two weeks, Njoku’s 87.1 receiving grade is fourth among all tight ends, and his 15 targets tied for the seventh most in that stretch. You’d like Njoku to bring in more than nine catches off those targets, but he’s been plagued by way-below-average quarterback play from P.J. Walker. That could be enough to scare some fantasy managers off, but Njoku has shown that he can make plays after the catch, turning loose for 243 yards after the catch, the third-most among all tight ends in the NFL. 

Per our matchup tool, Njoku has a healthy 18% matchup advantage over his likely primary defender, Josh Woods, who has a 44.0 overall grade this season. Even though the Cardinals are allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends this season, Njoku is still worth a start. He’s starting to find his feet and can hopefully record another touchdown this week.

Cade Otton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Opponent: Houston Texans

A long-time listener, and first-time caller, Cade Otton is here! The Buccaneers' 2022 fourth-round pick has been periphery of fantasy relevance this season, but back-to-back top-20 scoring weeks show that, maybe, there’s a sign of consistency heading his way. 

Otton has caught 22 passes for just 174 yards and one touchdown this season, but he’s had 12 targets in the last two weeks and is taking on a Houston defense that’s allowing the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this season. He’s not ripe for a big game, but Otton has a chance to build on his recent consistency. He projects more as a short-yardage option for Baker Mayfield, as opposed to someone who is going to burst past the sticks, but the matchup is hard to ignore, even with the likes of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at wide receiver.

That’s because the Texans have been good at stifling opposing wide receivers this season. They’re allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers and have given up just two passing touchdowns to wide receivers. Otton has an 8% matchup disadvantage against his primary defender this week but bet on him putting in another good fantasy week.

Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills

Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

The breakout has arrived! The last two weeks have been exactly what the Bills drafted Kincaid for. The first-round pick has averaged 16.5 PPR points per game in Week 7 and caught 13 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown, earning a receiving grade of 80.5, sixth among all tight ends.

Compared to the elite tight ends, Kincaid is still being out-targeted, but with Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis on the Bills offense, that’s going to be the case. However, Kincaid’s consistency while Dawson Knox has been banged up is promising and he’s averaging 0.31 fantasy points per route. He could be a top-five fantasy tight end the rest of the way. 

Nonetheless, it starts with a tough matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football. However, this isn’t the Bengals' defense from the last couple of years, it currently ranks 16th in EPA per play while allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. As a bonus, our matchup tool projects Kincaid to have a massive 32% matchup advantage against his primary defender this weekend. That’s the second-highest advantage among all tight ends. A must-start.

Jake Ferguson, Dallas Cowboys

Opponent: Philadelphia Eagles

Hello again, old friend. For those of you who are new here, Ferguson was an early-season mainstay of this column before we moved into a different direction for a few weeks. Diversifying the portfolio and whatnot. Also, Ferguson was the TE22 and TE34 in Weeks 5 and 6. There wasn’t much appeal.

However, he bounced back strong post-bye, scoring 14.70 PPR points against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8, securing all four of his targets for 47 yards and a touchdown, an excellent red zone throw down the seam from Dak Prescott. So, we’re dipping back into the Ferguson stocks for another week, and for good reason.

Per our matchup tool, Ferguson has a healthy 24% matchup advantage over his primary defender, Nakobe Dean on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles defense has been a top-half unit in EPA per play this season, and they’re in the middle of the pack for fantasy points allowed to tight ends this season (11.74), but Ferguson is still worth starter consideration. He’s a fixture in one of the better offenses in the league, and only four players have more red zone targets this season than Ferguson. Once the Cowboys get into that area, Ferguson comes alive. Can he record another big week against the Eagles? We hope so.


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