USA Today Sports. Pictured: Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce
- Below is a breakdown of workload data for all the relevant fantasy football tight ends.
- Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Jordan Reed and Jared Cook are the league's only tight ends to lead their team in targets per game.
- O.J. Howard and Vernon Davis join Kittle, Kelce and Ertz as the only tight ends with more than two yards per route (minimum 20 targets).
It’s not a coincidence that former basketball players often gravitate toward the tight end position. It’s typically reserved for one of the best athletes on the team. Blocking and catching are full-time jobs reserved for offensive linemen and wide receivers, respectively, but tight ends are asked to do both regularly.
Tight ends come in all shapes and sizes while possessing different roles because of the position’s intuitively unique nature. Let’s take a look at fantasy’s different tiers of tight ends with an emphasis on red-zone opportunity as well as snap and target share.
TEs Who Are No. 1 Receivers
Some tight ends are quite literally the No. 1 pass-game option on their teams, while others are at least used as much as a typical lead wide receiver is. The following tight ends are averaging at least six targets per game this season.
- Zach Ertz trails only Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr. and Adam Thielen across all positions with his 11.1 targets per game. His 17 red-zone targets rank fifth in the league.
- Ertz (11.1), Travis Kelce (8.6), George Kittle (7.1), Jordan Reed (6.6) and Jared Cook (6.6) are the league’s only tight ends to lead their team in targets per game.
- Kelce and Eric Ebron join Ertz as the league’s only tight ends with at least 15 red-zone targets.
- It’s tough to see Ebron’s first-half success persisting. Jack Doyle has out-snapped and out-targeted Ebron 105-38 and 10-6 in two games since returning from injury.
- Both Kittle and Cook lead their respective offenses in red-zone targets and rank among the league’s top-10 tight ends in deep-ball targets.
- Reed and Gronk have three and two targets inside the 20-yard line, respectively. They’ve each failed to find the end zone since Week 1.
- Jimmy Graham has lined up in the slot or out wide on 64% of his snaps this season. He joins Ebron (64%), Greg Olsen (62%) and Mark Andrews (61%) as the only tight ends with more than 60% (min. 3 targets per game).
- Austin Hooper has double-digit targets in three of his past five games. Hooper joins Ebron, Kelce and Ertz as the only tight ends with more than two games with 10-plus targets.
Some tight ends aren’t heavily utilized as receivers due to schematic preferences, natural limitations or superior pass-catching options. These players are largely locked in as the No. 1 tight ends on their teams, but they’ve averaged between four and six targets per game this season.
- David Njoku (3 red-zone targets), Ricky Seals-Jones (2), Evan Engram (4), Greg Olsen (3) and Vance McDonald (3) simply haven’t seen many opportunities in scoring position this season.
- Njoku (81%) is one of just eight tight ends to play at least 80% of his offense’s snaps this season. Still, he’s seen just six targets in two games with interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.
- Seals-Jones (16.7%) has the highest target share of the group. RSJ (13 targets) is tied with David Johnson (13) and Christian Kirk (13) behind Larry Fitzgerald (22) in two games with interim OC Byron Leftwich.
- Engram has gained more than 50 yards in just one game this season. Overall, Engram has averaged 1.8 fewer targets and 3.5 fewer fantasy points per game with Odell Beckham Jr. in the lineup since the beginning of last season.
- Greg Olsen (28 targets) has been locked in a three-way battle with Christian McCaffrey (31) and Devin Funchess (32) for Cam Newton’s attention since Olsen returned from injury in Week 6.
- The Bears have heavily utilized Burton from both a snap (80.1%) and target (15.5%) share perspective, but the eventual return of inline tight end Adam Shaheen (foot, injured reserve) could complicate matters.
- Kyle Rudolph has gone scoreless in six consecutive games for the first time since the opening stretch of his career back in 2011. Still, he’s averaged five targets per game with a career-best 75.6% catch rate with Kirk Cousins.
- Vance McDonald has out-targeted Jesse James 38-28 this season, but James has out-snapped V-Mac 58%-47%. James also leads 5-3 in red-zone targets, making McDonald’s weekly floor far from secure.
- O.J. Howard has played 60% of the offense’s snaps compared to just 37% for Cameron Brate. Howard has easily out-targeted Brate 42-23, and on the Buccaneers he trails only DeSean Jackson (21) with his average of 16.8 yards per reception.
- Howard (2.18) joins Kittle (2.7), Kelce (2.39), Ertz (2.26) and Vernon Davis (2.05) as the league’s only tight ends averaging more than two yards per route (min. 20 targets).
- Jeff Heuerman caught 10 of 11 targets for 83 yards and a score in the Broncos’ first game without Demaryius Thomas. He’s emerged as the team’s top receiving threat close to the goal line.
Targeting tight ends with fewer than four targets per game isn’t ideal, but sometimes that’s the only option we have. These tight ends have averaged between three and four targets per game this season.
- Ryan Griffin (9), Ben Watson (9), Mark Andrews (6) and Nick Boyle (6) are the group’s only tight ends with more than five red-zone targets this season, but each faces plenty of competition for snaps on a weekly basis.
- Nick Vannett has no more than five targets in every game this season. Anyone in the league’s run-heaviest offense will have week-to-week volatility, but quarterback Russell Wilson is always capable of filling up the stat sheet.
- Charles Clay could face renewed competition from the likes of Jason Croom and Logan Thomas once he returns from his hamstring injury.
- The Jaguars have been decimated by injuries at tight end and are now utilizing a three-way committee of no-names like James O’Shaughnessy, Blake Bell and Ben Koyack.
- C.J. Uzomah has emerged as the Bengals’ No. 1 tight end with Tyler Eifert (knee, IR) done for the season and Tyler Kroft (foot) also sidelined, but he’s cleared 50 yards just twice in 38 career games.
- Geoff Swaim hasn’t had more than three targets in a game since Week 4, and he regularly yields pass-down looks to the likes of Rico Gathers and Dalton Schultz.
Notable TEs averaging fewer than three targets per game:
- Jets TE Chris Herndon (2.6)
- Bucs TE Cam Brate (2.6)
- Chargers TE Antonio Gates (2.6)
- Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki (2.4)
- Redskins TE Vernon Davis (2.3)
- Eagles TE Dallas Goedert (2.3)
- Rams TE Gerlad Everett (2.3)
- Ravens TE Hayden Hurst (2)
- Colts TE Mo Alie-Cox (2)