Tight End Streaming: Week 1 Edition
If you’re familiar with the content here at numberFire, you’ve probably surmised by now how we feel about the quarterback, tight end, and team defense positions for fantasy football purposes. The depth at all three positions allows owners to stream options from the waiver wire according to favorable weekly matchups.
Instead of using valuable early-round draft picks on these positions, you can instead load up on running backs and wide receivers, positions that require multiple starters each week in most fantasy formats.
If you’ve chosen to go the early-round tight end approach, you probably feel very confident in the fact you have a plug-and-play, every week starter. If you’re a Rob Gronkowski owner, you may even be twirling your shirt above your head in celebration at the news that he will play in Week 1.
But if you’re among the group who went late-round tight end or drafted a high-upside platoon at the position, this weekly series of articles is for you.
Each week I'll be highlighting tight ends that are owned in less than 50% of ESPN and Yahoo fantasy leagues that have a high probability of ending up as startable options in 12-team leagues. I can’t guarantee that every option will go off, but this will give you a great place to start when looking for streaming options at the tight end position.
Week 1 starts tomorrow, so let's get at it.
Travis Kelce - Kansas City Chiefs
Owned: ESPN - 7.4% Yahoo - 24%
Week 1 numberFire Rank: 19th
Before Week 1 of the preseason, Travis Kelce was known only by a small contingent of the fantasy community. That quickly changed after he caught touchdowns of 43 and 69 yards in Weeks 1 and 2 of the preseason.
Even though Kelce is listed behind Anthony Fasano on the Chiefs’ depth chart, 38.4% of his snaps were with the first-team offense in the Week 4 of the preseason, even lining up once as a slot receiver. Kansas City beat writers believe this to be a positive sign regarding Kelce’s future usage.
If Kelce sees the field often on Sunday, there’s a good chance that he goes berserk against a Titans defense that ranked 27th against tight ends last season, and in doing so could become an every-week starter.
The combination of talent and opportunity makes Kelce extremely appealing.
Jared Cook - St. Louis Rams
Owned: ESPN - 8.4% Yahoo - 15%
Week 1 numberFire Rank: 16th
I know, I know. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Heading into the 2013 season, Jared Cook was hyped as a breakout candidate, and he didn’t disappoint in Week 1, catching seven balls for 141 yards and two scores. Then the other shoe dropped. Cook scored only three more touchdowns in 2013, eclipsed 50 yards receiving just once, and left many owners feeling scorned.
Despite how you may feel about Cook, he still has elite measureables. Call me crazy, but I find it difficult to totally disregard 248-pound players who can run a 4.5 40-yard dash.
For those concerned about the loss of Sam Bradford, new starter Shaun Hill may not be as bad as people tend to believe.
In Week 1, Cook faces Minnesota who was dreadful last season, finishing dead-last in terms of Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), a numberFire metric that measures pass defense efficiency. They also finished last specifically in terms of stopping tight ends.
Personnel and coaching changes aside, until the Vikings show some interest in defending opposing tight ends, I’m willing to bank on their ineptness and Cook's athleticism in Week 1.
Garrett Graham - Houston Texans
Owned: ESPN - 2.0% Yahoo - 31%
Week 1 numberFire Rank: 22nd
Among all the ambiguity surrounding the Houston Texans’ offense this year, one thing seems obvious: with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, Texans’ tight ends look to be in line for a massive amount of targets.
New head coach Bill O’Brien has also shown a willingness to involve his tight ends during his time in New England, and if he continues this in Houston, Garrett Graham will be the main beneficiary. And while Graham will never be mistaken for a dominant athlete, Fitzpatrick helped make Delanie Walker fantasy relevant with a 60-catch, 6 touchdown-season while in Tennessee last season.
In Week 1, Graham faces the Redskins who finished 27th last season against the pass according to our numbers. The only real addition to the defense for 2014 is safety Ryan Clark, who struggled for the majority last season in Pittsburgh.
Assuming Fitzpatrick gels with Garrett Graham quickly, he could end up being a borderline TE1 by season’s end. Make sure you jump on board prior to Week 1 before the rush.