3 Fantasy Football Tight End Streaming Options for Week 1
The tight end position in 2019 features distinct tiers. It's headlined by the elite trio of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz. Behind them is a young trio of promising options who many gamers expect to take a leap forward this year in the form of O.J. Howard. Evan Engram, and Hunter Henry.
The talent doesn't evaporate after these half-dozen players, so don't fret if you've opted to punt the position and stream. Furthermore, with the position featuring a handful of players on the rise, others coming off of career years, and some youngsters joining the mix, the streaming options look more appealing this year than in recent memory. Below, there are three widely available options for streamers for the opening week of the 2019 NFL season.
Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders
Yahoo Ownership: 22%
After years of teasing, Jared Cook put his wheels and tantalizing measurables to use for an age-31 breakout with the Oakland Raiders in 2018. He's since left as a free agent and the Raiders have added talent on offense (namely Antonio Brown), but Darren Waller is a speedster with mouthwatering measurables -- which you can check out at PlayerProfiler -- who has an opportunity to make it back-to-back years of breakout performances at the tight end position for the Raiders.
Waller has a much less prolific track record than even perpetual tease and 2018-breakout Cook did before blowing up last year, but his lack of production isn't entirely for football reasons. The 26-year-old tight end discussed his substance abuse issues on "Hard Knocks," as Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle points out in this piece.
Back in June, Kawahara shared quotes from coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr gushing about Waller's speed and talent level. At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, Waller's a big target, but he's a fast one, as well, having recorded a blistering 4.46-second 40-yard dash time at the NFL Draft Combine back in 2015.
Waller could have staying power and be more than merely a streamer this season, but for the purposes of this piece, he stands out as a solid streaming option. Our tools project Waller to finish 16th in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring at tight end in Week 1. Additionally, his elite straightline speed awards him a likelier path to a home-run play than his slower-footed peers at the position, adding to the appeal of using him in Week 1.
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos
Yahoo Ownership: 15%
Opposing Waller in Week 1 in the second game of the Monday Night Football doubleheader is rookie tight end Noah Fant. The Denver Broncos selected Fant with the 20th selection in the first round of this year's NFL Draft.
He's a freakish athlete who fits the profile of the modern-day pass-catching tight end. As impressive as Waller's measurables are, Fant's are a pinch more impressive. He was a touchdown-scoring machine with the Iowa Hawkeyes. In 30 career games, he scored 19 touchdowns, per Sports-Reference. He also averaged a strong 13.9 yards per reception.
Rookie tight ends have traditionally struggled to produce fantasy-relevant stats in their first year in the league, but Fant's first game as a pro couldn't provide him a much easier matchup as we project the Raiders 31st in team defense this year. Furthermore, tight ends punched the Raiders in the mouth last year. Oakland allowed the 13th-most receptions (75), fifth-most receiving yards (1,060), and tied for the third-most touchdown receptions (nine) coughed up to the position last year, according to Pro-Football-Reference.
Fant's rookie season should provide some ups and downs on the fantasy rollercoaster, but Week 1 has a chance to be one of the high points given the Charmin-soft matchup.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
Yahoo Ownership: 9%
Injuries have plagued Tyler Eifert throughout his career, but his on-field skills have never been in question. He's played in only 14 games combined over the last three years, and his 2018 campaign came to an end with a broken ankle suffered in the fourth game of the season.
The Cincinnati Bengals have exercised caution with Eifert in the offseason, but he's appeared in preseason action and is healthy entering the regular season. When Eifert's been on the field in his career, he's been darn good.
Last year, Eifert hauled in 15 receptions on 19 targets for 179 receiving yards and a touchdown. He also totaled 0.50 Target Net Expected Points (NEP) per target, though the sample is small. To put that last number in perspective, Vance McDonald and Eric Ebron posted an identical marks of 0.42 Target NEP per target, Rob Gronkowski had 0.46 Target NEP per target, and Kelce barely bested Eifert's mark at 0.51 Target NEP per target in 2018. Obviously, the small sample caveat is important, but Eifert's no stranger to producing when healthy.
In an eight-game 2016 campaign, Eifert reeled in 29 receptions for 394 yards and five touchdowns on 47 targets, and his 0.48 Target NEP per target that year was tied for the sixth-highest out of 35 tight ends targeted a minimum of 45 times. The year before, however, Eifert posted a clip of 0.76 Target NEP per target, which tied Gronk's mark in 2012 for the fifth-highest Target NEP per target out of 356 seasons by tight ends since 2009 with a minimum of 25 receptions and 35 targets.
Injuries might have robbed Eifert of a 2015-type ceiling going forward, but he's demonstrated a high-level of success in his injury-shortened campaigns over the last few years. He'll also have an opportunity for a steady diet of targets for the time being with number-one receiver A.J. Green sidelined with a foot injury and little in the way of offensive talent to complement receiver Tyler Boyd and running back Joe Mixon.
The Bengals probably won't want to overwork Eifert given his injury history, but when he's on the field, he's a decent bet for usage. Our algorithm projects Eifert to finish 14th at tight end in scoring in PPR formats in Week 1. Despite being the lowest-owned option highlighted in this piece, he's the highest projected scorer of the trio and a viable starter out of the chute for tight end streaming gamers.