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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

The More, The Better: TEs
All Out Blitz: Volume 136
RBs | WRs | TEs

Imagine if, in one year in the near future, candy wasn't handed out on Halloween, turkey wasn't served on Thanksgiving or gifts weren't placed under the tree for Christmas. Pick one. Now imagine thinking "this is the new normal" because of that one singular incident in one year. In a nutshell, this is how owners tend to react after Week 1.

Thankfully, my loyal readers either know better than to overreact after Week 1 or simply don't bother to reach out to me to panic. That's good. (Thank you.) As hard as it is for most people in a compressed season, each week is little more than a series of data points that we hope tell a more complete story by season's end. Sometimes we know 30 minutes into a movie or a couple of episodes into a TV series that it is time to bail. How many times have you not bailed and glad you stuck it out? This is the fine line owners walk sometimes in this hobby.

It is my intention to spend the first four weeks trying to lay the foundation for this season. Snap counts and targets are a nice starting point, but I want to go a bit deeper. In particular, I think it will be helpful for owners to know how much of the backfield pie their backs are getting, their receivers' target shares and how often their tight end is getting the ball when he is on the field, etc.


Snap % - The percentage of plays the player was on the field

Target Share - The percentage of team targets

Activity -
How often the receiver was targeted when he was on the field

Note: Tight ends who failed to play at least 30 snaps were not included.

 Tight End Participation, Week 1
Player Tm Snaps Snap % Tgts Tm Tgts Tgt Share Activity
Ricky Seals-Jones ARI 49 92% 6 34 17.6% 12.2%
Austin Hooper ATL 59 84% 4 43 9.3% 6.8%
Nick Boyle BAL 54 68% 6 38 15.8% 11.1%
Maxx Williams BAL 44 55% 3 38 7.9% 6.8%
Charles Clay BUF 40 62% 2 33 6.1% 5.0%
Ian Thomas CAR 37 55% 2 26 7.7% 5.4%
Chris Manhertz CAR 34 51% 0 26 0.0% 0.0%
Trey Burton CHI 61 87% 6 35 17.1% 9.8%
C.J. Uzomah CIN 36 64% 1 28 3.6% 2.8%
David Njoku CLE 78 88% 7 40 17.5% 9.0%
Darren Fells CLE 39 44% 1 40 2.5% 2.6%
Geoff Swaim DAL 58 91% 4 29 13.8% 6.9%
Jeff Heuerman DEN 60 81% 1 39 2.6% 1.7%
Jake Butt DEN 36 49% 4 39 10.3% 11.1%
Jimmy Graham GB 59 98% 4 37 10.8% 6.8%
Ryan Griffin HOU 63 85% 5 34 14.7% 7.9%
Jordan Akins HOU 37 50% 2 34 5.9% 5.4%
Jack Doyle IND 77 94% 10 53 18.9% 13.0%
Eric Ebron IND 37 45% 5 53 9.4% 13.5%
Austin Seferian-Jenkins JAX 55 87% 5 33 15.2% 9.1%
Travis Kelce KC 56 100% 6 27 22.2% 10.7%
Virgil Green LAC 44 54% 2 51 3.9% 4.5%
Antonio Gates LAC 33 40% 3 51 5.9% 9.1%
Tyler Higbee LAR 60 95% 0 33 0.0% 0.0%
A.J. Derby MIA 46 74% 0 28 0.0% 0.0%
Kyle Rudolph MIN 59 83% 2 36 5.6% 3.4%
David Morgan MIN 30 42% 1 36 2.8% 3.3%
Rob Gronkowski NE 75 100% 8 39 20.5% 10.7%
Ben Watson NO 51 80% 4 45 8.9% 7.8%
Evan Engram NYG 64 90% 5 37 13.5% 7.8%
Chris Herndon NYJ 34 57% 0 21 0.0% 0.0%
Jared Cook OAK 67 91% 12 40 30.0% 17.9%
Zach Ertz PHI 70 97% 10 34 29.4% 14.3%
Jesse James PIT 69 82% 5 41 12.2% 7.2%
Nick Vannett SEA 35 61% 2 33 6.1% 5.7%
Will Dissly SEA 33 58% 5 33 15.2% 15.2%
George Kittle SF 51 77% 9 33 27.3% 17.6%
O.J. Howard TB 43 65% 2 28 7.1% 4.7%
Jonnu Smith TEN 40 58% 3 38 7.9% 7.5%
Delanie Walker TEN 39 57% 7 38 18.4% 17.9%
Vernon Davis WAS 47 59% 1 30 3.3% 2.1%
Jordan Reed WAS 41 52% 5 30 16.7% 12.2%
Jeremy Sprinkle WAS 34 43% 0 30 0.0% 0.0%

** Sorted by team and then by Snap %

The tight ends that played 90 percent of their team's snaps: Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Zach Ertz, Tyler Higbee, Jack Doyle, Ricky Seals-Jones, Geoff Swaim, Jared Cook, Evan Engram

Notable tight ends that did not play more than 75 percent of their team's snaps: O.J. Howard, Jordan Reed, Eric Ebron, Antonio Gates

Significant playing time doesn't always translate into heavy fantasy production at tight end, making it unlike any other position on the typical fantasy roster. Look no further than Tyler Higbee and Geoff Swaim above. Both players are widely known as the best blockers at their position on their respective teams. If either of them come into significant fantasy production down the road, consider it a fluke. I mention that in part because Will Dissly is going to be a popular add this week. Barring a complete change of role, however, he may need four games to accomplish what he did against a Denver defense that has given up a ton of fantasy points to tight ends since HC Vance Joseph took over last season.

Of the sub-75 percent group of tight ends, all of them are involved in some kind of committee approach at the position - albeit for different reasons. Howard simply needs a few things to break his way - a process that may have started last weekend with DeSean Jackson suffering a shoulder injury and concussion. At some point, Tampa Bay is going to understand how dangerous its offense can be with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on the outside and Howard stretching the seam. Buy low and hope that realization happens this year. Reed surprisingly saw six fewer snaps then Vernon Davis (47-41), although that could have been as much because Reed didn't play at all in the preseason or the lopsided nature of the opener as it was anything else. It's simply too early to know for sure.

The masses are likely going to take another bite of the Ebron apple in hopes that Andrew Luck can make him into something Matthew Stafford could not. It could happen, although I'm not going to bet on it. Ebron played less than half of the snaps against Cincinnati while Jack Doyle played on 94 percent of them. Anyone who believes that Doyle is somehow on shaky ground as the Colts' top tight end because he didn't score and Ebron did is exactly the type of manager former Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen owners should target. The case with Gates is pretty simple; he's a 38-year-old veteran who rejoined the team just over a week ago. Consider it a major accomplishment he played 40 percent of the snaps. Don't be surprised if his role mirrors that of Reed and Virgil Green assumes the bulk of blocking duties on early downs.


The term "funnel" (as in run funnel or pass funnel) has become a vogue in fantasy circles in recent years. Although it is much too early to draw concrete conclusions, I would be stunned if the Rams, Bengals, Falcons and Chiefs aren't among the defenses that funnel passing-game production to running backs and tight end for the bulk of the season. Allow me to explain:

The Rams' top three cornerbacks (Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Nickell Robey-Coleman) are as good of a threesome as there is in the league, while the defensive line (Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh) will probably shut down most running games. Los Angeles isn't exactly weak at linebacker or safety, but those are the two positions where the team doesn't boast All-Pro level talent. When we consider how often the Rams figure to operate in positive game scripts, the passing-game RB/TE funnel notion makes even more sense. Expect several more performances like Jared Cook and Jalen Richard had in Week 1 this season against LA. For DFS and streamer purposes, this should be a defense to target at those positions. David Johnson and Ricky Seals-Jones are next up in Week 2.

Although not to the degree of the Rams, Cincinnati gets solid cornerback play as well, at least from William Jackson III. Much like LA, the Bengals should be able to stop a lot of running games and can get a formidable pass rush with their defensive line. Unlike the Rams (who I believe will funnel production to satellite backs and tight ends more because of game script), Cincinnati lacks the kind of the elite size and athleticism at linebacker and safety - and has for what seems like years. It would be stunning to me if several of the following - Alex Collins, Javorius Allen, Mark Andrews, Christian McCaffrey, Ian Thomas, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Austin Hooper, Kenyan Drake and even Mike Gesicki - don't take advantage of the Bengals over the next four weeks.

Atlanta has acted as a funnel for running backs in the passing game ever since HC Dan Quinn arrived in 2015, giving up at least 100 catches to the position in each of his first three seasons on the sidelines. The Falcons were probably on the verge of getting that solved in 2018 with linebackers Deion Jones and Duke Riley working together, but the former - considered by some the best cover linebacker in the league - landed on IR this week. It's not like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara needed any help, but they'll probably get it this week and next, respectively. For what it's worth, enforcer S Keanu Neal is out for the season, which should give opposing run games a boost as well.

The Chiefs used S Daniel Sorensen to fill in for Eric Berry last season with mixed results. Kansas City was without both players in the opener and it showed. Without either player near the line of scrimmage, the Chargers relentlessly attacked the Chiefs' linebackers through the air, targeting Gordon and Ekeler 18 times. Berry, who is easily in Kansas City's best defender, may not play this week either and Sorensen is out indefinitely. Even when Berry returns, ILBs Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland - not to mention OLBs Justin Houston and Dee Ford - do not excel in coverage. Expect plenty of James Conner in the passing game this week and Phillip Lindsay in Week 4 as a result.


Call it a hunch, but I added Orleans Darkwa to some of my TFC teams (20-man rosters) this week. It's a longshot for sure, but he's arguably the best free-agent runner available. He tried out for the Patriots on Tuesday, and it just so happens New England could really use a bigger back to fill the role Jeremy Hill was supposed to occupy. With Rex Burkhead's status questionable for this week and only James White and Kenjon Barner cleared for action at the moment, a signing could happen any day (although such moves usually happen on Mondays and Tuesdays during the season). Nevertheless, the Patriots still have a need for a healthy banger.

Another deep-league stash is Hayden Hurst, who is admittedly much less of a shot-in-the-dark pick than Darkwa and one owners in most leagues need to keep high on their watch lists. He's expected back from a stress fracture in his foot around Week 3 or 4 and was reportedly a big part of the Ravens' plans on offense prior to undergoing surgery. Considering Week 1 robbed owners of Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker for the foreseeable future, owners may need to take some chances to find upside at tight end. Most of the tight ends tied to the hip with Joe Flacco in recent years have stayed busy.

Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”. Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.