The tight end position has been a disappointment this season.
Other than Antonio Gates (when healthy) and the touchdown heroics of Marcedes Lewis, fantasy owners have been left to play the matchup game, plug-and-play options on the wire and try to determine whether target counts are enough to warrant a starting slot.
Injuries decimated the upper-tier of the predraft list, while several other would-be heroes have disappeared from the radar.
Top Tight Ends
(Other than Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis, Jacob Tamme and Marcedes Lewis)
Brandon Pettigrew vs. New England
Pettigrew hasn’t become the dominant red zone option that we anticipated, but he continues to pile up high target counts in the pass-happy Detroit offense. He’s caught three or more passes in eight of his past nine games (48.7 yards per game overall). Look for more opportunities as Detroit seeks to keep pace with Tom Brady. Kevin Boss vs. Jacksonville
Boss’ two-game mini-scoring streak ended last week with a two-catch, 22-yard effort against the Eagles. I expect Boss to figure more prominently this week against the bottom-tier Jacksonville pass defense given the myriad of injuries affecting the receiving corps. You have Mario Manningham, Boss and several brand-new options. As such, I anticipate a big run from the tight end.
Todd Heap vs. Tampa Bay
He’s not overwhelming, but he’s consistent. Heap has caught three or more passes in eight of 10 games this week, including six games with at least 40 receiving yards. He remains Joe Flacco’s most trusted target and will be in line for another big effort this week.
Chris Cooley vs. Minnesota
Cooley caught seven passes for 91 yards against the Titans, his fifth game this season with at least five receptions. He’s averaged 55.4 receiving yards per game and, although his red zone opportunities have been infrequent, Cooley’s high weekly target count makes him a fantasy starter.
Zach Miller vs. Miami
Miller returned to action in Week 10 and was quieted by the Steelers (two receptions for nine yards). He was affected by his foot injury in the second half, so we’ll need to monitor his status until kickoff. Still, if available, he warrants consideration against a struggling Miami defense.
Rob Gronkowski at Detroit
Put the red zone beast on the radar against the Lions. He’ll split the workload with Aaron Hernandez, as always, but we can certainly anticipate multiple red zone possessions for the Patriots in this one. Gronkowski ranks second third among tight ends with six touchdown receptions and will figure prominently in this game.
Michael Hoomanawanui at Denver
Hoomanawanui has recorded multiple receptions in four consecutive games. He’s also scored twice during this period and has become a top target for Sam Bradford. Hoomanawanui represents a strong plug-in option against a struggling Denver pass defense.
Bo Scaife at Houston
Scaife caught four passes in each of the Titans’ past two games and has recorded multiple receptions in nine of 10 games. I’ll throw him on the radar with Rusty Smith under center, as the check-down options at running back and tight end figure prominently into the offense with an inexperienced quarterback.
Jason Witten vs. New Orleans
Witten caught four passes for 48 yards in Week 11, a nice up-tick from his one-catch, seven-yard performance of Week 10. Still, I can’t rate him as anything more than a low-end TE1 option against the aggressive New Orleans pass defense. The Saints have performed well against the pass, particularly in the red zone, and are getting healthy at the right time. New Orleans will work to make Jon Kitna move in the pocket, and that might mean more work in pass protection for Witten.
Tony Gonzalez vs. Green Bay
Gonzalez is a solid and safe play for fantasy owners, having caught four or more passes in three straight games (six overall). However, he’s scored just three touchdowns this season and has topped 60 receiving yards twice. Gonzalez might see a few opportunities over the middle as the Packers attack Matt Ryan, but I’m not expecting huge production here.
Kellen Winslow at Baltimore
As with Gonzalez, you can anticipate a decent target total and a few receptions from Winslow each week. You can also expect few red zone targets and low receiving yardage totals. Winslow has finished three games with more than 60 receiving yards and has scored once. Take the sure points in a PPR league. Leave him by the wayside in standard formats.