Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

The tight end position is known for big targets that can create space and are touchdown machines in the red zone. Tight ends can sometimes be nerve racking because there aren’t many that are elite. When its draft time it’s all about patience especially for tight ends as you don’t want to reach too high or wait to long for your starting TE.

Here are the top-5 fantasy tight ends you should consider for your fantasy team in 2017.

No.5 Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

To start, my number five tight end is Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings. In 2016 he was the most heavily targeted tight end in the league. This was due in part to Pat Shurmur replacing Norv Turner as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator in early November. Tight ends have accounted for a 24 percent target share during Shurmur’s 122 games as a head coach or coordinator since 2009 according to ESPN.

In 2016, Rudolph  paced all tight ends with 128 targets and ranked in the top four in receptions, yards, touchdowns and end zone targets (11). In the past, Rudolph would average around three receptions and 27.8 yards per game, basically becoming a touchdown-or-bust tight end. Rudolph flipped the switch in 2016 and put up 5.2 grabs and 52.5 yards per game. This helped him finish second at the position in fantasy points, his best ranking since he landed 11th in 2012.

In 2017, Rudolph should continue to be a featured option in the Viking offense as Shurmur is still around. He’s not a top-tier option but he’s much better than the tight ends you’ll find at the end of your draft.

No.4 Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Jordan Reed has proven to be a valuable target in Washington. In 2016 he ranked in the top 10 tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns despite only playing 12 games.

Reed has posted a pair of top-10 fantasy seasons in the past two seasons. In 2015, he had his best season to date with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, which allowed him to finish as the No. 3 fantasy tight end in standard leagues. In 2016 he still produced at a high level with 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns but finished as just the No. 8 tight end in standard formats. An impressive stat is that Reed has caught at least three-quarters of his targets during each of his four NFL seasons. That’s scary good.

The one issue with Reed is injuries. He has yet to play a full 16 games in his career. Last year he missed two games with a shoulder injury and one with a concussion. But these injuries haven’t prevented Reed’s numbers to drastically decline. However in 2017 he should become the number one option in Washington with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both moving on.

No.3 Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

My number three tight end is Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers. He may not be the flashiest player, but without a doubt he’s the most consistent tight end in the NFL.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Greg Olsen (Photo by: nj.com)

Olsen finished third in fantasy points and in the top-seven at the position in targets, completions and receiving yards each of the past five years. In 2016 he had seven games with eight-plus fantasy points. He did, however, only have three touchdowns, his fewest since 2007. Olsen is still the main piece in the Panthers passing game especially in the red zone . He had another 1,000 yard season for the third year in a row and maintains consistency in targets and receptions.

The thing that Olsen excels in is durability. He hasn’t missed a game since 2007. He is always a reliable TE1 and expect him to bounce back in touchdowns and being consistent.

No.2 Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by: washingtontimes.com)

I know I will have some hate mail, but if it weren’t for injuries Gronkowski would be my number one tight end. The three-time top fantasy tight end has missed at least one game during each of the past five years and a total of 24 during that span. However, outside of fantasy he is the best tight end in the NFL and always a top two in fantasy.

In 2016 he appeared in eight games and finished with 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns on 38 targets. He still finished as the No. 20 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues which goes to show how good he is. From weeks 6-10 he was the top fantasy tight end in fantasy points. He’s finished in the top five in touchdowns, fantasy points and yards per target during the past four seasons in which he’s appeared in at least 11 games. In fact he has double digit touchdowns in all but two seasons of his seven year career and they were due to injuries.

Again, people will not agree with this ranking but I fear Gronkowski will again have injury issues. He hasn’t seen a full 16 games since his first two seasons. In 2014 and 2015 he only missed a total of two games and had top fantasy seasons. We hope he plays at least 13 games because when he’s healthy he’s easily the best fantasy tight end in any format. If he can do that he will be the Gronkowski that we can rely on. I do expect him to be ready and also to be the first tight end off the board in Rounds 2 or 3.

No.1 Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone might question this but I’m going with Travis Kelce as my number one tight end for fantasy in 2017. The first thing is why is he in front of Gronkowski? . Gronkowski hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2011. Kelce has played in 16 games three of his four seasons and has started 42 of his 49 career games.

But other then durability Kelce had a breakout 2016 season. He led almost every category at the tight end position including yards, yards per game, catches for 20 and 40 plus yards, and had the longest catch among tight ends. The Chiefs tight end was also second in receptions. Kelce finished as the No. 1 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues with 85 catches for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns on 117 targets. Another interesting stat about Kelce is that he was second among receivers with 100 plus yard games behind only Julio Jones with six. He had a span where he had four 100 plus yards game towards the time of the fantasy playoffs.

Kelce if anything he should see an increase in usage this year with the release of Jeremy Maclin.  Even though he will be picked as the second tight end behind Gronk, Kelce is a good option and is valuable in both standard and PPR leagues. Look for him around the 4th to 5th round to be off the board as he has become a top tier tight end in fantasy.

 

Featured image from arrowheadaddict.com.

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Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl Series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl Series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the second edition, Super Bowl Series: AFC East.

New England Patriots

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The defending Super Bowl champions are the easiest team in the NFL to dissect during the Super Bowl series. If you had to bet your life on a team winning the division then your safest bet would be the Patriots. Since 2000, the Patriots have won 14 out of the 17 division titles, including eight straight. New England’s dominance within the division shouldn’t change this season.

The old adage says defense wins championships. Defensively, the Patriots are going to be stacked. Last season, the Patriots ranked first in points allowed per game at 15.6. They were also eighth in yards allowed per game (326.4) and ranked seventh in opponents third down conversion percentage (37 percent). The Patriots also added defensive end Kony Ealy and cornerback Stephon Gilmore to improve.

To win Super Bowl LII, New England must put up defensive numbers in the same ballpark as last seasons. If the Patriots allow under 20 points per game, the chances of making it back to the Super Bowl increase exponentially.

One area of concern from the Patriots’ offense comes from the offensive line. Pro Football Focus recently released its projected 2017 offensive line rankings in which New England was surprisingly ranked 19th. Tom Brady can make up for a poor offensive line with his quick release which averages between 2.1 to 2.5 seconds.

The Patriots will improve as they get Rob Gronkowski back from injury. New England also traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks who will help stretch the field vertically.

The only thing stopping the Patriots from winning Super Bowl LII is injuries to key players, and even then, Bill Belichick could still pull a rabbit out of his hat and win the big game.

Miami Dolphins

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Miami was a surprise playoff team last year, especially after its 1-4 start. The Dolphins finished the season with a 10-6 record to earn a wild card berth. They lost that wild card game in Pittsburgh, 30-12.

In order to win the Super Bowl, the Dolphins must improve vastly on defense. Miami ranked 18th in points allowed per game (23.8), 15th in passing yards allowed per game (242.2), 19th in sacks (33) and 30th in rushing yards allowing 140.4 yards per game.

Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips must stuff the run this season to help Miami improve their rush defense.

Rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillian was a tackling machine at Ohio State, racking up 275 total tackles in three years and his immediate impact should help the Dolphins stop the run better in 2017.

On the offensive side of the ball, Miami must continue to dominate up front. The Dolphins ranked ninth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 114 yards per game. Miami needs to stay in the top 10 in rushing to help Ryan Tannehill succeed in the passing game.

Running the ball consistently will help Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins offense improve their 26th-ranked passing attack. If the Dolphins can progress their passing game to a similar level of their running game, then the offense can average more than 22.7 points per game which ranked 17th last season.

Miami must improve its rushing defense, passing offense and upset New England in the regular season to earn some home playoff games. If the Dolphins are able to do this then they will have a shot at hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy.

Buffalo Bills

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo is starting off fresh with new head coach Sean McDermott. McDermott will emphasize defense with the Bills and that could turn them into contenders very quickly. Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999 and taking the leap from 7-9 to Super Bowl champs is going to be difficult.

Last season, the Bills were the best rushing team in the NFL averaging 164.4 yards per game. Staying first in rushing will be the first step towards making the playoffs. Buffalo did not have trouble scoring points either as they averaged 24.9 points per game which was 10th best in the NFL.

The major area that needs improvement on offense is in the passing game. Buffalo only threw for 189.8 yards per game last season. In this era of football, passing for less than 200 yards is somewhat pitiful. Buffalo needs to jump that number up past 230 yards or more to become a dangerous offensive juggernaut.

Defensively, Buffalo was average last season. The Bills gave up 23.6 points per game which ranked 16th. Buffalo should try to become a top-10 scoring defense to improve its chances of making the playoffs. The secondary was the best unit on defense as they only gave up 223.9 yards passing per game.

The rush defense was a different story. Buffalo ranked 29th, giving up 133.1 yards per game. If Buffalo’s rush defense can move into the middle of the pack, then its defense can really become great.

For the Buffalo Bills to end their long playoff drought and win the Super Bowl, they must improve their passing attack on offense and stop the run on defense. Also, just like Miami, the Bills must split with the Patriots. Splitting with New England gives the Bills a shot at winning the division and home games in the playoffs make all the difference.

New York Jets

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

The New York Jets are going to need a miracle to win Super Bowl LII. Coming off a 5-11 season, the Jets seemed to have gotten worse with the moves they have made. New York let go of Eric Decker, David Harris, Marcus Gilchrist, Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Nick Folk and Nick Mangold. The roster is going to look completely different from last year.

Making the playoffs is going to be hard and winning the Super Bowl is going to be close to impossible. If the Jets are going to win the Super Bowl, then Josh McCown, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg are going to have to have an unbelievable year. The Jets ranked 27th in passing yards per game with 216.6. Whoever earns the starting job at quarterback will need to take a big leap to improve this number.

New York ranked 30th in points scored last season, averaging only 17.2 points per game. That must also improve drastically. The Jets did have a solid running game averaging 112.6 yards per game last year. Matt Forte is getting old for a running back but Bilal Powell will spell Forte enough that the Jets can continue to be a solid running team.

Head coach Todd Bowles is known for his defense but last season the Jets had no defense. They ranked 28th in points (25.6), 29th in interceptions (8), 29th in sacks (27) and 17th in passing yards allowed per game (243.6). Bowles must turn the Jets into a top five defense if the Jets want to win games this season.

The most important thing the Jets must do is find their starting quarterback. Improving the passing game and putting more points on the board is key in the Jets pursuit of a Super Bowl. If they manage to do this along with becoming a top five defense under Bowles, then the Jets can win Super Bowl LII.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: AFC East. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series.

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC East

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC North

 

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Marshawn Lynch is Going Home

Marshawn Lynch is going home to play for the Oakland Raiders. According to Michael Silver, the source who broke the news, Lynch and the Raiders have agreed to terms on a deal for the 30-year-old running back. Lynch is a native of Oakland, California.

Silver said the Seahawks were shocked and unaware the two parties were in agreement. The Raiders now must put together a trade with the Seahawks to officially finish the deal.

Trading for a 30-year-old running back should be relatively easily. The trade will likely come in the form of conditional draft picks, meaning the pick they get depends on how Lynch performs. The picks will likely come from either the third or fourth round with the possibility of being an earlier round if Lynch has a certain amount of carries.

 

Raiders Favorites?

What does this mean for the Raiders, The AFC, and the rest of the NFL? The Raiders aren’t going to be the favorites in the AFC by solely acquiring Marshawn Lynch. New England is still the favorite but the gap has closed significantly.

Lynch’s last full season as a full-time starter came in 2014 in which he had 280 carries for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns. Lynch played in 2015 but only appeared in seven games due to injuries. He has spent the last season retired from the game, meaning he has fresh legs.

Marshawn Lynch Oakland Raiders

(Photo Credit: https://www.fanragsports.com)

This gives the Raiders an offense with no weaknesses at all. Derek Carr is entering the top five of quarterbacks in the NFL. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are one of the best receiver duos in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked the Raiders line as fourth best in the NFL. All that was missing was a workhorse running back.

Because their offense will be so potent, they will be able to score with any offense in the league, including New England’s. Not to mention they traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks as well.

This move allows the Raiders to focus completely on their defense in the draft to try and close the gap even more. If the Raiders can make moves to build the depth of their defense, they will have just as much as a shot at winning the AFC as the Patriots.

Buckle up Oakland, the last few years in the city may lead to parades.

 

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Week 13 NFL Picks Against the Spread

I am coming off my best week in a long while. I was 10-6 against the spread last week. After taking a narrow defeat Thursday night, 87-92-6 is where I sit for the year. The black is ever so close as December football begins in earnest. This football season is moving way too fast for me. There are several tough games to call this week.

Broncos (-3.5) at Jaguars- For the first time in about two years, Denver’s defense could not close out a game last week. That loss could really hurt, but the defense is still easily the best part of this football team. Jacksonville just is not very good. Denver needs this win and will get it behind rookie backup quarterback Paxton Lynch, but it will not be pretty. Jacksonville does not have the pass rush to rattle a young quarterback that will be playing behind a shaky offensive line. Den 20 Jac 14

photo from Denver.cbslocal.com

photo from Denver.cbslocal.com

*Lions at Saints (-6) – The Lions keep finding ways to win. New Orleans has found ways to lose its share of big games this year. This will be fun to watch. Two of the hottest quarterbacks on the planet facing off. Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees know that they will have to lead their offenses to a ton of points. The Lions have a little defense, the Saints have none. I am not sure this would be considered that much of an upset. Det 35 NO 31

Texans at Packers (-6.5) – Are the Packers finally back after their season saving win last week? Honestly, we will not find out much here. Despite still controlling their division, Houston has a negative point differential and more turnovers than touchdowns on offense this year. It is hard picking a team like that to win any week. It is impossible to do so when they are traveling to Lambeau Field to play Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. GB 34 HOU 21

Chiefs at Falcons (-5.5)- The Chiefs are riding high after a big win in Denver last week, but Atlanta is a nightmare matchup for them. As solid as Kansas City is on defense, Atlanta has proven it can score on anybody this year. Kansas City has played one similar opponent this year in terms of offensive firepower. They traveled to Pittsburgh on a Sunday night and the game was over after the first quarter. Atlanta has not given anyone any reason to think their offense will not be hot again on Sunday. If it is, there is nothing Kansas City and their methodical offense can do to keep up with them. ATL 31 KC 20

Rams at Patriots (-13) – In a week where I do not feel strongly about much, this game is an exception. The Rams are not all that dissimilar to the Jets, the offense is a tick worse, the defense a tick better. The Jets gave the Patriots fits last week, the Rams will do the same, but Bill Belichick toys with young quarterbacks. Jared Goff does not have much help around him. The Rams are a good team for New England to play while they find their way without Rob Gronkowski on offense. NE 21 LA 12

Dolphins at Ravens (-3.5) – This is the toughest call of the week for me. I have been high on the Ravens all year, and have fallen in love with the Dolphins over the last month. The Ravens are at home and their defense is the best unit in this game. Ryan Tannehill could be in for a long afternoon. This is possibly the best defense he will see all year. No one runs the ball on Baltimore either. That has been Tannehill’s security blanket as of late, but the Dolphins defense is pretty good too. Miami keeps it close, but not close enough. Bal 23 Mia 17

Eagles at Bengals (-1.5) – Here, we have two teams that are absolutely sinking. Both teams had playoff aspirations at one point. That feels like a distant memory. It really is a coin flip, but the Bengals are a little more experienced. In a game where there is not much to play for, I think the young Eagles may come out flat. Cin 23 Phi 14

49ers at Bears (-3) – They both stink in a big way. Chicago stinks a little less… I think. Chi 21 SF 17

*Giants at Steelers (-6) – This is a very similar matchup to Detroit and New Orleans. The two crowned jewels of the 2004 quarterback draft class take center stage here. The Giants have gutted out some really tough wins to get to their 8-3 mark. It has not always been pretty. So, I understand the spread here. However, I struggle to trust that Steelers defense against any upper echelon quarterback. Eli Manning certainly falls into that group. NYG 30 Pit 24

photo from associated press

photo from associated press

Bucs at Chargers (-4) – This is a classic letdown game for a young team like the Bucs. After consecutive big wins against really good opponents to put themselves in the playoff race, they travel west to take on the most talented last-place team in league history. The other notable member of that 2004 quarterback draft class is Philip Rivers. Despite never having the coaching or supporting casts that Manning and Ben Roethlisberger were blessed with, he continues to play great football. The Chargers will lose sleep over all those close losses early in the year, but no one wants to play them right now. SD 28 TB 21

* Redskins at Cardinals (-2.5) – This is the strangest line I have seen in a long time. Washington might have the best offense in football at the moment. They have the fewest three and outs in the league, and Arizona is a big disappointment this year. They just are not as good as they look on paper. The Redskins feel like easy money. It is too good to pass up. A word of warning though, Vegas is always smarter than average folks like me. Was 27 Ari 19

Bills at Raiders (-3) – Finally, I am reluctantly buying into the Raiders. They still commit too many penalties for my liking and the defense is still atrocious. However, they are winning games, despite being dead to rights almost every week before miraculously pulling out a victory. Buffalo is the top rushing team in the NFL. They will have some success with that in this matchup, but the biggest weakness on this Raiders defense is the secondary. The banged up Buffalo receivers will struggle to exploit that. Another Raiders nail biter, another win. Oak 31 Buf 27

Panthers at Seahawks (-7) – Seattle’s offense throws in about three clunkers a year. Last week in Tampa certainly qualifies, but they always end up playing in January and February, they will be fine. Meanwhile, Carolina is desperate for wins to keep their fading playoff hopes afloat. Seattle is the wrong place to go to get that done. However, the Panthers are one of few teams that have the talent to go into Seattle and compete, even though they are underachieving this year. Expect a tight one. Sea 23 Car 20

MNF: *Jets at Colts (-1.5) – As awful as this matchup is, it is still very relevant for the Colts who are hanging around in the below par AFC South. However, the Jets defense is really good, despite the team’s 3-8 record. Rushing the quarterback is their strong suit. Whether it is a dinged up Andrew Luck or backup Scott Tolzien at quarterback, they will be playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. This is just a bad matchup for Indianapolis. NYJ 17 Ind 13

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Week Twelve NFL Picks Against the Spread

It was another middle-of-the-road effort by me last week. I went just 6-8 against the spread. I am now 77-85-6 on the year. A hot stretch is absolutely necessary for me to finish the year in the black. Hopefully, this weekend is the start of that. My picks are bolded. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. With not one, but three games on Thursday for Thanksgiving, I am at it early. Here we go.

Vikings at Lions (-2.5) – First place in the NFC North is at stake here. Both teams have taken strange paths to their 6-4 records. The Lions have trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this season. Minnesota is relying almost exclusively on their defense and special teams to win games. It is hard to sustain the kind of winning both these teams are doing. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford continues his rise to becoming an elite quarterback every week. The gap between the two offenses is just too great to not swallow the points. Det 31 Min 20

Redskins at Cowboys (-7) – This game sells itself. Two of the hottest teams in football facing off in a holiday rivalry game. I have been wrong on Dallas all year. Amazingly, so has Vegas. Dallas is 9-0-1 against the spread this year. However, I am foolishly going to take the Redskins here. Rivalry games are always closer than they should be anyway. Washington’s offense is a problem for any opponent, especially if undrafted rookie Robert Kelley continues to spark the run game. Dallas and their freakishly talented rookies will get the job done, but will be made to work. Dal 28 Was 24.

photo from nfl.com

photo from nfl.com

Colts at Steelers (-7.5) – With Andrew Luck likely out due to a concussion, this number will probably continue to grow until game time, and rightfully so. Pittsburgh can score on anybody, and while their defense is still bad, Colts backup quarterback Scott Tolzien is the backup for a reason. He will not be able to exploit their defensive deficiencies. Pit 38 Ind 17

Sunday:

Cardinals at Falcons (-4) – This could go either way. Atlanta got off to a white-hot start, particularly on offense, but has struggled since. Arizona has struggled from the start, but we have seen flashes of why they reached the NFC championship game last year. Due to their division, Atlanta is in much stronger playoff position and they are at home. That is good enough for me. Atl 31 Ari 24

Bengals at Ravens (-4) – I have been high on the Ravens all year with mixed results. This week, they are catching the Bengals at a perfect time. Cincinnati’s relevant season may have ended with last week’s loss to Buffalo. Additionally, they will be without two of their main offensive weapons, wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Giovanni Bernard. The Ravens appear to be one of the strongest bets of the week. Bal 31 Cin 17

Jaguars at Bills (-7.5) – A streaky team like Buffalo as this big of a favorite makes me nervous, but the Jags played the Lions to the wire last week and still could not manage to cover. So… Buf 28 Jac 17

Rams at Saints (-7.5) – The Rams offense was cute last week in Jared Goff’s debut. He made no mistakes, but was not asked to do much. You can count on one hand the number of times he threw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. The “training wheels” approach won’t lead to enough points to keep up with Drew Brees and the Saints. NO 34 LA 17

Giants (-7) at Browns – As I noted last week, the Giants always keep it close. Despite rarely looking impressive, a 7-3 record is a 7-3 record. Also, this is the Browns we are talking about here. Between the injuries and general lack of talent on the roster, they may be unable to keep it close with anyone right now. NYG 30 Cle 17

Chargers (-1.5) at Texans – Here you have a last-place team favored over first place team. You just do not see that very often. The fact is San Diego is better by just about every statistical measure, except the important one. The Texans do have a slight edge on defense, but the difference between quarterbacks is too vast for me to pass up. SD 30 Hou 23

49ers at Dolphins (-7.5) – Miami keeps winning. Last week was closer than it should have been, but this isn’t college football. Style points are irrelevant. When everything around him is functioning well, Ryan Tannehill is just fine as an NFL quarterback. That is the case right now and San Francisco is not good enough on defense to expose his limitations. Mia 23 SF 13

photo from dolphinswire.usatoday.com

photo from dolphinswire.usatoday.com

Titans (-5.5) at Bears – It has probably been a few years since the Titans have been this significant of a road favorite. They showed their immaturity last week against the Colts after roughing up Green Bay. If the Titans stay the course, they will be really good in about two years. However, this is another spot where their youth and inexperience could hurt them. Also, the Bears have played people tough all year. It is hard for me to imagine them winning this game with third stringer Matt Barkley at quarterback, but I will take the points. Ten 24 Chi 21

Seahawks (-5.5) at Bucs – Seattle continued their recent great form by pushing around the Eagles last week. I would take them to cover against anyone right now. Even though I am impressed with the way Jameis Winston and the young Bucs have put themselves right in the middle of the playoff race, they are no exception. Sea 27 TB 17

*Panthers at Raiders (-3) – I am still not a believer in the Raiders. Yes, the defense has gotten better lately. However, the inevitable will happen at some point. Derek Carr will struggle and the hole the offense finds itself in will be too deep. As for Carolina, they are still very dangerous. The struggles of their division rivals leaves them with plenty to still play for. The Panthers are due to catch a break, and all the mistakes and penalties are due to catch up to Oakland. Car 27 Oak 20

Patriots (-7.5) at Jets – Again, rivalry games are always close. The Patriots will likely be without Rob Gronkowski for another week. They struggled for three quarters with the 49ers last week. The Jets beat the Patriots last year. The main parts of each roster are basically the same. Lastly, the Jets pass rush is a problem for any opponent, even if they are quarterbacked by Tom Brady. An outright upset with shock everyone but me here. NE 24 NYJ 20

 

 

Chiefs at Broncos (-3.5) – This is a huge game for both teams. It becomes even bigger if Carolina does indeed knock off Oakland. Despite current records, I would still argue that these two teams will eventually finish ahead of the error prone and one-dimensional Raiders. Given, that Denver is finally healthy off a bye week, I would have thought they would be a bigger favorite here. Kansas City found a very creative way to lose to Tampa Bay at home last week. I have too much respect for Kansas City to call for a blowout, but with Denver rested, healthy and at home 3.5 points feels like a steal. Den 24 KC 17

NNF: Packers at Eagles (-4) – I am officially out on the Packers, but I will tell you one thing. The problem is not Aaron Rodgers. Anyone who tosses 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions through 10 games is not the problem. The problem is that it looks like the defense is playing with about six guys on the field, the last two weeks have been particularly brutal. Any team with the kind of quarterback play the Packers are getting can turn around at any moment, but you will not see me predicting it. The Eagles are really solid along the offensive and defensive lines and should be able to manhandle the lifeless Packers here. Phi 34 GB 23. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving everyone!

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Week Eleven NFL Picks Against the Spread

Week 11 in the NFL started with a familiar script, special teams dooming the Saints and me being on the wrong side of a Thursday night spread, even though it was by just a half point. I posted a 7-7 mark last week. Highlights were calling the Broncos’ and Seahawks’ upset wins. 71-77-6 is where I start the week. My picks are bolded, upsets have an asterisk and all spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let’s go.

*Cardinals at Vikings (-2.5) – I have no feel for this game at all. Despite their four game losing streak, the Vikings defense is still giving up just 17 points a game. Again, they are on a four game losing streak. So, what that really means is the offense cannot move the ball against anyone at the moment, including the hot and cold Cardinals… I think. Ari 17 Min 12

*Ravens at Cowboys (-7.5) – This is one of two games I feel very strongly about this week. Folks, I have been saying it all year as well as before the season. The Ravens are a really dangerous team that will be around in January. The offense has come alive after two divisional wins. With Joe Flacco and those receivers, it was just a matter of time. On the other side of the ball, gone are names like Ray Lewis, Chris McAllister and Ed Reed, but they have finally been suitably replaced by names like CJ Mosley, Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. This is easily the best defense the Cowboys have seen all year. They are top-ranked against the rush.

 

As a general rule, great defense stops great offense. As good as Dak Prescott has been, Ezekiel Elliott will be at least somewhat neutralized here. I do not think Prescott can do it all on his own. The Cowboys are a good football team, but other good football teams should be able to exploit their flaws. They finally run into one of those here. Bal 31 Dal 20

Bills at Bengals (-2.5) – I am excited to be going to this game. It is a coin flip. These teams are similar. Both are loaded with firepower, particularly on offense, but they find themselves fading in the AFC playoff race. This is an elimination game. Buffalo’s back may already be broken. They really outplayed Seattle last time out, but have nothing to show for it. Given preseason expectations, the Bengals should be more desperate and play well. As a native Cincinnatian (who is by no means a fan), that is terrible logic to use when evaluating the Bengals, but it is all I have got. Cin 27 Buf 23

Bears at Giants (-7.5) – We are getting late enough into the season that it is not a bad idea to start looking at trends. There is one that made me change my pick here. This season, all but one of New York’s games have been decided by seven points or fewer. The Bears are awful and after getting annihilated last week in Tampa Bay, the resurgence of Jay Cutler appears to have only lasted one week, but a trend like that should never be ignored. NYG 23 Chi 17

Jaguars at Lions (-6.5) – With division rivals Green Bay and Minnesota limping along at the moment, this may be Detroit’s year to make a real run at the big time. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing at an MVP level. I have seen nothing from Jacksonville this year that makes me think this will be close. Det 40 Jac 21

Steelers (-7.5) at BrownsFor the first time in my almost 24 years of life, the Steelers are flat out bad on defense. Giving up 380+ yards per game including well over 100 yards per game on the ground will not get you in the playoffs. It does not matter how good the offense is. There are major issues that need correcting in Steelers country. Fortunately for them, the Browns are all that is on tap this week. The Steelers are still plenty good enough to handle that task. Pit 34 Cle 24

Bucs at Chiefs (-7.5)- Boy, there are certainly easier places to go than Arrowhead Stadium if you are trying to build off a win last week the way the Bucs are. Kansas City continues to win games by playing mistake free football, having an opportunistic defense, and doing just enough on offense. As always, that style may have a ceiling on it come playoff time, but it will do the trick for now. KC 20 TB 10

Titans at Colts (-3)- It has been a very long time since I whiffed on a football game as bad as I did be Tennessee/Green Bay game last week. The Titans are a legitimate contender in that division and a lot better than I thought. Also, it is so nice to see running back DeMarco Murray back in a system that suits his skill set. However, much like the Titans, the Colts may have really found something their last time out, which was also against Green Bay. In what could be a shootout between two young and hot quarterbacks, I trust Andrew Luck a bit more than Marcus Mariota. Ind 30 Ten 24

Dolphins (-1) at Rams- This is the other game I feel very strongly about. In my house, we call this a “Nova game.” A game my dad and I would bet our beloved dog, Nova on. Thankfully, this is only hypothetical. We would have lost her many times by now. In all seriousness, Miami is rolling behind Jay Ajayi. Conversely, while his debut does add a layer of intrigue here, one can only assume that there is a good reason why Jeff Fisher and the Rams had to be dragged, kicking, and screaming to start top draft pick Jared Goff at quarterback. Mia 35 LA 17

photo from oddshark.com

photo from oddshark.com

Patriots (-13) at 49ers- As good as the Patriots are, the 49ers are that bad. However, the match-up is not terrible for them here. Without Rob Gronkowski, none of New England’s pass catchers are to be feared. The extra attention defenses must pay to Gronk creates more favorable match-ups for everyone else. Chip Kelly’s Eagles gave Bill Belichick’s Pats fits last year. These two things are enough to make this much closer than most people think. NE 35 SF 30

Eagles at Seahawks (-6.5) – The NFL’s surprise of the year is the way the Eagles have played. With a rookie head coach and quarterback, they are right there in the playoff race, but this is a tall order for Carson Wentz and company. With Russell Wilson finally healthy and the defense playing up to their capabilities, Seattle gets my vote for the best team in football right now. I am not sure how much the opponent matters to the Seahawks at the moment. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they get a rookie quarterback in their building. This week will be the start of Seattle catching Dallas for the number one seed in the NFC. Sea 31 Phi 17.

*Packers at Redskins (-3) – I am giving the Packers one more week before I bail on them. The good news is Aaron Rodgers and the offense were not the problem last week. If you give up 47 points, you are not going to win. The Redskins always put up huge yardage numbers, but really struggle in the red zone. They will lose by kicking one too many field goals Sunday night. GB 35 Was 32

MNF from Mexico City: Texans at Raiders (-5.5) – If the NFL is insistent on playing games outside our borders, this is how it should be done, in Mexico featuring two teams from cities with significant Mexican populations. As for the game itself, I struggle to buy into both these first place clubs long term. The Raiders are still committing way too many penalties. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler is the weak link in Houston. You can’t hide the quarterback forever in this league. Houston’ defense is carrying them and the Raiders offense is doing the same in Oakland. This will be really close. The team with the MVP candidate at quarterback will do just enough to get over the finish line, but taking the points is smart here. Oak 24 Hou 21

photofromamericanfootballinternational.com

photofromamericanfootballinternational.com

 

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Why You Didn’t Win Your DFS League

You just woke up after the best night’s sleep you had all week and let out a magnificent yawn as your body adjusts to the light. After going downstairs, open up FanDuel, turn to your favorite NFL pregame show, and look to adjust your DFS lineup. But this morning is different. You wake up to find that the Giants and Rams are tied at 10 during the third quarter.

Depending on your dedication you either woke up early to check your lineup, or, did not play in a league that included the 9:30 AM EST game. Whether you overslept or not isn’t the point. The point is, the London series is a back breaker to the average DFS player. As players, we already have to deal with Monday and Thursday night games detracting from the 1 PM EST main event pool.

This past Sunday, we lost access to players like Todd Gurley, Odell Beckham Jr., and Eli Manning. While they may not be playing well at the moment, these players have posted gaudy numbers in the past and have been critical to many people’s success in DFS.

Discovering Diamonds in the Rough 

With the number of options decreasing further from the 1 PM EST main event, finding an optimal lineup becomes even more challenging. Moreover, this makes finding key sleepers borderline impossible, for example, Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers was owned by 42.23% of all FanDuel players this weekend (NumberFire). This means without the ability to pay up for backs like Lamar Miller or CJ Anderson, you’re sleeper play becomes chalk. Thus, you lose your competitive edge in large tournaments.

Jacquizz Rodgers runs through a putrid Niners rush defense

Jacquizz Rodgers ran through the 32nd ranked Niners rush defense to accumulate 16.8 points

If you did play Rodgers, you’re ecstatic about the 16.8 points he produced. Given his low price tag, you no doubt were able to pay up for players like Julio Jones and AJ Green, right? Well, so was everyone else.

Jones and Green were the two highest owned players in all of FanDuel this past weekend. The two elite receivers were owned at 47.84% and 45.81% respectively (NumberFire). Once again, even though the decision to play them both was correct, you lost your tournament edge.

The first reason why you didn’t win your DFS League is that your lineups weren’t unique enough, and it wasn’t your fault. Blame our friends across the pond for the inability to roster Odell Beckham Jr. and dilute the ownership of Jones and Green.

 

Chalk vs. ChAnce

Since you, and many others, will have to keep dealing with these ridiculous London games, let’s look at ways to sift through the chalk plays and regain our competitive advantage. The best place to start is by examining player matchups. Jacquizz Rodgers was so widely owned not because he was a starter, but because the 49ers had the worst ranked run defense in the NFL. So, given his price tag, his volume, and his opponent, Rodgers became a no brainer.

On the other hand, Melvin Gordon was facing a top 10 rush defense in Atlanta, and a bottom third pass defense. Gordon’s price tag was also high at $8,000 given his unfavorable matchup. These factors contributed to a crazy low ownership of Gordon, 5.01% in fact (NumberFire). While both Rodgers and Gordon has successful outings, Gordon had a monster game and accumulated 33.1 points, more than doubling the production of Rodgers.

What’s the point? Understand the way other players are picking lineups, and counter their way of thinking. Now, let’s look at one player at each core position this week to be considered chalk and one to be considered chance.

Quarterback:

Chalk: This week’s chalk play at quarterback is none other than the golden boy, Tom Brady. Not only is he projected to be the highest scoring Quarterback, but also his DFS floor is outstanding. This past week versus the Steelers was his lowest scoring game to date with 18.18 points. Look for the Patriots to establish the run and come over the top with play action. If Ryan Tannehill can score 16.26 points and find receivers running free throughout the secondary, then no doubt Brady can as well.

Chance: While he may never seem like a chance play, Drew Brees will have an ownership under 5% this week. Why? Because the Saints play the Seahawks, who have a top-10 rush and pass defense. But here’s the key: The Saints are playing at home, which means, play Drew Brees. In each of his three home games, Brees has scored at least 25 points and topped 30 points twice. If you think I’m crazy about Brees’ ownership, he was only owned by 2.58% of players this past Sunday against the Chiefs, where he scored 25.68 points (NumberFire).

Running Back:

Chalk: Jacquizz Rodges will no doubt be another popular play this week. His price of $6,600 and his matchup vs. the 28th ranked Raiders rush defense makes him prime for another successful fantasy outing. Once again, you can play Rodgers again this week, just understand that you’ll need to differentiate your lineup at other positions. Also, be careful about the emergence of Peyton Barber. Barber had 12 carries for 84 yards and stole a touchdown from Rodgers against the 49ers.

Chance: Ty Montgomery will prove to have a big day against the Falcons. While he’s nowhere near the runner that Melvin Gordon is, Montgomery is going to be extremely effective out of the backfield. With 20 catches on 25 targets over the past two weeks, his role in the passing game will remain large. He also doesn’t have to be an efficient runner to score points, as Gordon only accumulated 68 yards on 22 carries last week versus Atlanta.

Wide Receiver:

Chalk: For the second week in a row, Mike Evans will have an ownership percentage over 25% across all FanDuel contests. With players Like Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, and Odell Beckham Jr. unavailable, Evans is the second most expensive receiver at $7,900 and has a great matchup against the Oakland Raiders, who has the worst ranked pass defense. In five of Evans’ last six outings he only scored less than 16 points once and scored more than 20 points twice.

Chance: Justin Hunter is starting to gain a lot of traction. While his outing against Miami was not impressive, he got the start in place of Robert Woods and played 53 of the 57 offensive snaps. This past Sunday was the first time since Hunter joined the Bills that he didn’t have a touchdown. Expect Hunter to have a high volume of touches as the Bills will likely be playing from behind and with a price of $5,200, he gives any lineup great flexibility.

Tight End:

Chalk: Do I really need a whole paragraph to talk about why Rob Gronkowski is chalk this week? Since Brady’s return, Gronkowski hasn’t had a game in which he scored less than 13.4 points. Expect Gronkowski to do major damage on play action deep down the middle of the field.

Chance: If you are looking to take advantage of the Raiders defense this weekend, look to Cameron Brate. The emergence of Russell Shepard against the 49ers cut into Brate’s production, but the only player to score a touchdown against the Raiders last week was Julius Thomas. Since the Buccaneers are not playing the 49ers, expect the game to be much closer and force them to throw the ball more often, leading to a higher volume for Brate.

I just want to be clear, I am not suggesting that rostering any of these chalk players is foolish. Tom Brady and Mike Evans are going to produce. Just know that if you decide to roster one of these players, you’ll need to find another area of your roster to regain your competitive edge when it comes to ownership.

Love Them or Hate Them, the Patriots Continue to Amaze

 

Before we start looking ahead to the second full Slate of NFL football, I want to take a look back at the one performance of opening weekend that really stood out to me. That was the Patriots going into Arizona and knocking off the Cardinals.

 

It was not just the fact that New England was able to get the win with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback instead of Tom Brady. When you dig deeper it is truly amazing. New England was also without the best tight end in football, Rob Gronkowski, starting running back Dion Lewis and two starting offensive linemen. For most teams, a partial injury report like that is a death sentence for any given week. However, the Patriots used the power run game, led by Legarrette Blount, and lots of short passes to their shifty wide receivers, like Julian Edelman, to hide their obvious offensive deficiencies. Despite the final score being close, they never trailed and were in control throughout. Bill Belichick and entire offensive staff seemed to be well aware that they were vulnerable to any kind of pass rush on Sunday night. Thus, Garoppolo’s average release time was a shade over .3 seconds. No pass rush on planet Earth can to a quarterback that quickly. This is partially good coaching and knowing your personnel, but Garoppolo also deserves credit for being able to execute the release so quickly.

photo from sports-news.com

photo from sports-news.com

 

The most incredible thing about New England’s performance Sunday night was the quality of the opponent. Arizona had the top offense in football last year and fell a game short of appearing in the Super Bowl. Also, many people are very high on the Cardinals again this year, myself included. Yet the Patriots were able to go into their building with an offensive starting lineup that looked like it belonged in the preseason and knock them off.

 

No matter how well Garoppolo plays, Brady’s job will be waiting for him when he returns in week five. Thus, his long term future in New England is cloudy. In the short term though, they continue to win regardless of who their opponent is or who is available on their own team.

photo from sportingnews.com

photo from sportingnews.com

I have never been a huge fan of the Brady/Belichick debate as far as who deserves more credit for New England’s unprecedented success. They are both great and each makes the other better. I do not know or care who is greater. However, I do know this. Belichick has posted 14 straight seasons of 10 or more wins. That is the most incredible sports statistic I have ever heard. Additionally, there has never been a more shining example of his brilliance than this past Sunday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

Top 20 Quarterbacks: Brady falls due to suspension, but how far?

Top 20 Running Backs: Lack of bellcows causes top RBs to be pivatol

Top 30 Wide Receivers: Brown, Jones lead the way

Top 15 Tight Ends: Who’s after Gronk?

All rankings are PPR rankings. Although some of my colleagues here at The Game Haus disagree, PPR is the way to go. I believe it, and you, the fans, believe it too (according to a Twitter poll). Here’s your 2016 fantasy football tight end rankings.

1. Rob Gronkowski

From Surefire Tight Ends: “Rob Gronkowski is head and shoulders above the rest of the tight end crop. In the four seasons in which Gronk’s played 15 or more games or more, he’s finished first in points among tight ends three times; the only time he didn’t finish first was his rookie campaign.

It seems to me that fantasy players are overly-concerned with Rob Gronkowski’s health. He’s only had two seasons in which he hasn’t played 15 games. The root of the concern seems to stem from the fact that the two seasons Gronk missed more than one game came back-to-back (11 games in 2012, 7 games in 2013). Sure, he’s had some minor issues in each season, but none of them have been severe enough to hurt his numbers.

Gronk has proved pretty durable since the start of 2014. He’s also enjoyed three huge years with his New England Patriots while he’s been a starter and stayed healthy. Looking at the table below shows just how explosive the Arizona product has been.

2011 90 REC, 1,327 yards, 17 TD (1 rushing)
2014 82 REC, 1,124 yards, 12 TD
2015 72 REC, 1,176 yards, 11 TD

There’s not really much that needs to be said about Rob Gronkowski. Barring injury, he’ll finish as the best tight end in football yet again this season. I still refuse to take him before the twelfth(ish) pick. However, grabbing a player with the Surefire Stamp of Approval (patent pending), and then picking Gronkowski will be huge for your team this season.”

2. Greg Olsen

2016 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

Greg Olsen is Cam Newton’s favorite player to throw to. (Photo: buccaneers.com)

From Surefire Tight Ends: “Greg Olsen has blossomed since joining Carolina five seasons ago. He’s stepped into the role of being Cam Newton’s primary pass catcher, which isn’t something tight ends normally do. Olsen will be a great tight end this season.

There are no question marks surrounding Greg Olsen’s durability. Olsen has been a pro for eight years, and in each of the last seven, Olsen has played in all 16 games. To add to his toughness, Olsen has started all 16 games in each of his last four seasons.

Greg Olsen is also Cam Newton’s favorite face to throw to. Last season, Olsen reached his career mark in targets with 129. Two seasons ago, he had 126, even with Kelvin Benjamin playing in all 16 games. The Miami (FL) product has led the Panthers in receptions in each of the last three seasons, proving he’ll get a high volume of targets this season.

The most exciting and safe argument for Greg Olsen has been his consistency. Consistency is the name of the game when I select players to receive the Surefire Stamp of Approval, and Olsen fits the bill. Olsen’s best seasons have been in each of his last four. In those seasons, he’s finished as the eighth-highest scoring tight end or better, including being the fourth-best tight end for two seasons in a row.

2013 69 REC, 843 yards, 5 TD
2014 73 REC, 816 yards, 6 TD
2015 77 REC, 1,104 yards, 7 TD

I would suggest drafting Olsen over Rob Gronkowski as your starting tight end. He’s got a lot better value in terms of ADP, being selected at the 41st pick on nfl.com and espn.com. You’ll be able to stock up on other positions before selecting Olsen with your fourth(ish) pick.”

3. Delanie Walker

From Surefire Tight Ends: “The last player to earn the Surefire Stamp of Approval in our Surefire series is Delanie Walker. Walker’s career has taken off since joining the Tennessee Titans three seasons ago. He’s played in 15 games in each of his three seasons as a Titan, and his playing time has amassed strong numbers for the Central Missouri State product (go fighting Mules?).

With Walker consistently staying off the injury report, he’s been able to accrue at least 14 games in every season except for his rookie season. That said, he’s been able to finished as the 12th, 8th, and 5th tight end in 2013,2014, and 2015, respectively.

Walker also dominates red zone targets on his team. He saw 17 red zone targets last season, seven more than the second-highest target receiver. Walker also caught 14 passes in the red zone, an astounding 10 more than the second-highest receiver.

2013 60 REC, 571 yards, 6 TD
2014 63 REC, 890 yards, 4 TD
2015 94 REC, 1,088 yards, 6 TD

A starter for the last three seasons, Walker has also seen his best three career seasons each year since 2013. Last year, he caught 94 balls. That was first among tight ends, and more than Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, and Allen Robinson. Walker’s 1,088 yards were more than Amari Cooper, Sammy Watkins, or Eric Decker. Walker simply needs to maintain the numbers he’s put up in recent years, and just add a few touchdowns to his statline.

Walker is a less talked about and less drafted tight end. He’ll still be taken in every draft, but he won’t be taken as high as the aforementioned tight ends. He’s being taken as a low TE1 right now, which is great value. If you want to wait on a tight end until Walker, it could be a great plan. You’ll be able to really pad your other position groups before going tight end.”

4. Jordan Reed

From Surefire Tight Ends: “Jordan Reed celebrated this offseason by signing a 5-year, $47M extension. Washington hasn’t thrown around money like it grows on trees either, as they’ve been stingy with paying Kirk Cousins top dollar. This shows that the front office in Washington is confident in Reed leading the tight end position for years to come for the Redskins.

The money Reed received is likely due to his breakout season in 2015. He finished with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Reed looks to use 2016 as a springboard to elite status. After finishing with the third-most points among tight ends last season, Reed can cement himself as a top tight end with another big year.

The fun part about Reed is his touchdown scoring potential. He had the third-most red zone targets last season, totaling 23. Brandon Marshall (25), Antonio Brown (24), and Gary Barnidge (24), were the only players who had more targets, and Marshall was the only one with more touchdowns (14). Reed reached paydirt 11 times, which was tied for first among tight ends.

There is some concern with his ankle issues, but other than that, Reed will be a high-quality and safe draft pick. The University of Florida product will always be Kirk Cousins’ favorite red zone target, which gives him ample opportunities to have consistent and quality fantasy performances.”

5. Coby Fleener

Now a member of the New Orleans Saints, Coby Fleener could have a huge 2016 season. We know Drew Brees knows how to utilize tight ends. He helped Jimmy Graham become a star and even allowed Benjamin Watson to have a good season last year. Fleener is a pure receiving tight end. He’s a great fit to the Saints’ system, and is in line for a 65/900/6 statline by the time this season is over. Yes, Fleener hasn’t produced TE5 numbers in his career, but this season could very well be his first season doing so.

6. Ladarius Green

At this point, the common reader will blow me off, call me an idiot, and not read my reasoning on why Ladarius Green should be number six. Per Green’s first six games of the season, he was on pace to finish with 64 catches for 811 yards and eight touchdowns. In my book, that’s a solid season. Now getting all the starting reps in Pittsburgh, Green is poised to breakout. We saw how much Ben Roethlisberger loved Heath Miller, and it’s now Green’s turn to take over that role. In a pass heavy offense, look for Ladarius Green to break out this season.

2016 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

Tyler Eifert’s inconsistency and high ADP scares me away. Regardless, he’s still a good tight end if it’s late enough in the draft. (Photo: AP/Gary Landers)

7. Tyler Eifert

Tyler Eifert is the most risky player that you can draft at any position right now. Being taken as the number four tight end right now, his asking price is way too high. The first red flag with Eifert is that he was incredibly touchdown dependent last season. He scored 13 touchdowns last season, which is great. However, if someone told you that Eifert had less catches and yards than Jacob Tamme and Benjamin Watson, I don’t think you’d believe it. Well, that stat is true. If you take out Tyler Eifert’s best two games (a combined 17/194/4), Eifert’s stats aren’t appealing at all. The most catches he had in a game was five, and the most yards he had was 69.

I cannot stress enough that you should buy into a player if a high volume of his stats came in two games or less. I’m passing on Eifert right now, as his asking price is too high.

8. Travis Kelce

Travis Kelce was the most consistent tight end last season. In an astounding 75 percent of the games Kelce played, he had 4-6 catches. However, the yards totals were’t as high as you’d like to see. Kelce also found the end zone just five times, and only three times if you take out the first game of the season. The University of Cincinnati product is the best tight end after the catch, as he averaged 12.15 yards per reception last season. Kelce will be a consistent but low level TE1 this season.

9. Julius Thomas

In his first season in Jacksonville, Julius Thomas battled injuries while trying to learn a brand new offense. That doesn’t add up to a great season. Thomas had 46 catches for 455 yards and five score last season. Jacksonville’s offense is turning into a fantasy relevant team at every position, including tight end. Thomas will be better this season, but he still probably won’t get much better than a middling TE1 this season.

10. Zach Ertz

Go ahead and light me up for this ranking too. Zach Ertz had 75 receptions last season- 75 in six games started. Ertz also had 853 receiving yards. Ertz would’ve been a solid TE1 last season, had he caught more than a mere two touchdowns. I’m all for guys who aren’t touchdown dependent. Ertz was far from it, and because of that, he has tremendous upside for this season.

11. Gary Barnridge

Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell- those are the players Gary Barnridge has to battle with this season for touches. With his breakout season coming at age 30, I don’t trust Barnridge has much left in the tank. He also won’t be the one of two respectable targets on the team like last season. His numbers will go down, so don’t overestimate Gary Barnridge this season.

12. Jimmy Graham

Healthy again, Jimmy Graham could be ready to get back to his old ways. A superstar in New Orleans, Graham started slow last season. Graham missed nearly half the season thanks to a torn patellar tendon, which ended an already disappointing 2015 season. The Seahawks will be passing more this season, which means Graham will have more opportunities. Still,  I’m not trusting Graham to be anything more than my backup.

2016 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

Zach Miller’s upside is enticing for 2016. (Photo: Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

13. Zach Miller

Zach Miller is one of the few non-TE1s with upside. He’s taking over for Martellus Bennett this season, and Bennett did well in his time with the Bears. I think Miller can pick up where Bennett left off, as he hauled in 29 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns in his final seven games last season. I like Miller’s situation and end to 2015, which paves way for him to have some upside for this season.

14. Jason Witten

Jason Witten has never finished worse than the TE13 since 2004. Witten will always have fantasy relevance as long as he plays, but he is trending downwards. He’s finished 11th and 12th in the past two seasons, and it’s hard to believe he’ll get much better this season. Witten is a great backup option, but I’m not trusting him to start for my team.

15. Antonio Gates

Somehow the Chargers let Ladarius Green walk, who I thought was the future of their franchise at tight end. San Diego must trust that Antonio Gates will be around for at least a few more seasons. Like Witten, as long as he’s around, Gates will be a fantasy producer. However, finishing no better than eighth in three of the last four seasons proves Gates is trending down.

NFL Players Who Will Breakout in 2016

As a brand new NFL season draws nearer, we all know guys like Rob Gronkowski, Adrian Peterson, and Aaron Rodgers will have great years, baring injuries. There is only so much top level to go around though. Here are a few under the radar candidates for break out seasons.

NFL breakout players 2016

photo from gridironexperts.com

Mohamed Sanu– He missed a lot of time due to injuries during the first four years of his career in Cincinnati, but when healthy, his versatility is appealing. A wide receiver by position, Sanu can do a little bit of everything. He can run the ball on options, reverses and end arounds. He even lined up at quarterback on occasion for the Bengals. With Roddy White out of the picture, the Falcons were in desperate need of another pass catching target to take the heat off of Julio Jones. The five-year $32.5 million deal they locked up Sanu with in free agency is a risk given his injury history, but he is more than capable of filling the so-called “Robin” role.

Jameis Winston– I know he is not up for any good citizen awards, but I am stunned by the lack of praise the former Florida State standout received for his rookie season. He threw for over 4,000 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. For a rookie who started all 16 games for a team that was 2-14 before he got there, those numbers are really impressive. Winston led the Bucs to a record of just 5-11. They lost five games by just a single possession. Another year of experience for Winston and the law of averages tells me that those games could go the other way in 2016. The offense is already loaded with talent like Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, and Mike Evans. The defense is the only thing that may keep the Bucs from the playoffs this year. Regardless, I expect a noticeably slimmer Winston to rise towards the NFL’s elite.

 

C.J. Anderson– The man crush I developed on this guy as his powerful runs were leading the Broncos in their late-season surge last year boarders on unhealthy. I just love the way he runs into defenders rather than around them. Two 100+ rushing yard performances against New England last year sealed the deal for me. You can relive his game-winning scamper in week 12 against the Pats on the NFL’s YouTube channel above. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield. With Peyton Manning gone, the shotgun and pistol will likely become a thing of the past in Denver. This will only help Anderson run the ball downhill more effectively. If not forced to split too many carries with Ronnie Hillman and rookie Devontae Booker, I think he has a real shot to lead in the league in rushing.

Clive Walford– Here is my very deep fantasy draft sleeper. The Raiders tight end only caught 33 balls in an injury plagued rookie season. However, there were enough flashes of size, speed, and raw athleticism to catch my attention. If this guy pops like I think he is going to, the Raiders talented offense will have another talented piece for Derek Carr to throw to. You can see Walford’s glimpses of brilliance below thanks to Pablo Productions on YouTube.

A final word in closing. There are several defensive players out there that are fantastic and primed for great years. Defensive players do not get the publicity for one simple reason. In most cases, you cannot put them on your fantasy team. I am fortunate enough to draft individual defensive players in all the leagues I am in. Just remember, defenders are people too.

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