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Fantasy Football: Tight end target tiers and Week 3 rankings

  • Twelve tight ends ran a route on at least 70% of their offense’s dropbacks while demanding a target on at least 15% of those routes.
  • Atlanta Falcons TE Kyle Pitts and Chicago Bears TE Cole Kmet stand out as the top-two tight ends in terms of running plenty of routes, but not getting targets.
  • Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee and Cincinnati Bengals TE Hayden Hurst are both viable streamers for injured rosters.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Every year the fantasy football industry convinces itself that there are more viable late-round tight ends than ever. Also every year the community is forced to deal with the realization that depth charts that look wide open in August tend to close up in a hurry once September comes along.

Today’s goal: Establish which tight ends are even somewhat viable fantasy options at this point based on their Week 2 usage.


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History tells us that tight ends who run a route on at least 80% of their team’s dropbacks and manage to earn a target on at least 20% of their routes tend to put up massive fantasy numbers. These instances are few and far between; regardless we’re looking for tight ends who are:

  1. On the field almost all the time when their team is passing
  2. Good enough to command targets on at least a fifth or so of their routes

The below chart reflects the Week 2 snap rate, route rate and targets per route run from every team’s top-two tight ends. The top-two tight ends were determined by route rate:

Overall, just 12 tight ends ran a route on at least 70% of their team’s dropbacks while also commanding a target on at least 15% of their routes:

There are plenty of non-surprises in the above group, but the likes of Higbee, Hurst, Engram, Njoku, Conklin and Johnson are the ones who are most likely to be available on the waiver wire if an upgrade is needed. I’d prioritize them in that order. Check out the Tuesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for weekly waiver wire analysis.

Sadly, there were three other tight ends last week who qualify in terms of running a route on at least 70% of their offense’s dropbacks, but weren’t quite targeted enough to qualify in the above group:

It’s tough to imagine a worse start to the season for Pitts, and I don’t really feel like trying. With that said, his underlying route metrics are just fine: The No. 4 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft ran a route on 29 of Marcus Mariota’s 32 dropbacks last week. While the early ascension of Drake London could limit Pitts’ true 2022 ceiling, continue to fire up the second-year talent as a (hopeful) upside TE1 against the Seahawks.

Kmet’s goose-egg stretch to start the season has come with Justin Fields throwing the 33rd-most passes in the NFL. Note that there are 32 NFL teams. Better days could be ahead; they can’t get much worse, but for now I’ll be answering the overwhelming majority of close start/sit questions involving Bears pass-catchers with the other guy.

Schultz (PCL) could miss some time. Rookie Jake Ferguson could be forced to fill a full-time role, although he’s nothing more than a DFS dart throw for next Monday night’s matchup against the Giants due to the uncertainty in the pecking order behind Schultz.


Week 3 Tight End Notes:

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