Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): I’m no scientist but I think the underlying principle of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is “survival of the fittest.” In the NFL, I think we’re seeing some natural selection going on at tight end. Or maybe just plain old bad luck. Again, I’m not a scientist.
Either way, there’s a very real possibility that three of the league’s top tight ends will be absent this week. Jimmy Graham (torn patellar tendon) we know is out, while Rob Gronkowski (bruised knee) is an extreme long shot. Tyler Eifert (stinger) has the best chance to play but he’s no sure thing.
The timing couldn’t be worse for fantasy owners. We’re in Week 13, the last week of the fantasy regular season. A quick check of the waiver wire shows that Vernon Davis, Crockett Gillmore and Jacob Tamme are available in most leagues. Add Kyle Rudolph, Charles Clay and Scott Chandler to that list and you’ve got quite a few names to choose from.
Assuming we’ll be without the holy trinity of Gronk, Graham and Eifert, who’s the best waiver wire option this week? I kind of like Tamme. With Leonard Hankerson out and Roddy White a complete non-factor, I think he has a relatively high floor to work with. It would be nice if Tamme punched in a touchdown once in a while, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?
Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield): Scott Chandler makes the most sense to me, provided Gronk is out for Week 13. Gronkowski and Chandler have combined for 28.6% of the Patriots’ targets this year, which would be the highest individual tight end target total in the league (Greg Olsen has 27.8% of team targets). Chandler is also near minimum priced on daily sites against an Eagles team that is hemorrhaging fantasy points to opposing offenses.
Evan Silva (@evansilva): Jacob Tamme already shredded the Bucs once this season and he's been an every-week TE1 whenever Leonard Hankerson misses time. If Hank is out again, I like Tamme No. 2 behind Scott Chandler from this group. Can also see an argument for Tamme over Chandler.
Rich Hribar (@LordReebs): I'm into a lot of these guys because I love bad football players and tight end allows you to embrace that for fantasy. I'm definitely pro Tamme but it really depends on what's available to you from league to league.
Tamme dropped a 10/103/1 line on Tampa in Week 8 on 12 targets and Hankerson is looking doubtful again, so keep going to the well on him for a floor play with upside.
I'm into Chandler as he was targeted on three of eight throws after Gronk left but I'm not overly excited about the matchup as the Eagles have allowed just three touchdowns to tight ends since the start of LAST year. It may not matter because the Pats could score enough to make that irrelevant as the Eagles appear to be playing out the end of the Chip Kelly era right now.
I'm also kind of into Kyle Rudolph if he's available. He's had 19 targets, 13 receptions and 153 yards over the past two weeks and teams have game planned to attack Seattle with their tight ends. The Steelers clearly had a plan to heavily incorporate Heath Miller last week before he was injured.
Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin): I have Chandler and Tamme – as long as Hankerson is out – as the top two plays, and I think Kyle Rudolph is worth a look as well with the Vikings prioritizing him in the pass game in good matchups. A more under-the-radar name I am interested in this week and moving forward is Vance McDonald. Blaine Gabbert has targeted tight ends on 24-of-95 passing attempts in his three starts with McDonald seeing 16 of those looks. With Garrett Celek set to miss at least a couple weeks with a high-ankle sprain, McDonald should be the clear passing-game option at tight end and has a real chance to lead the 49ers in targets each week. Gabbert has, to basically everyone’s surprise, played competently in his three games running the show, and as long as that continues McDonald should be a solid option.
Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat): I think people might forget about Zach Ertz this week. The Patriots aren't a great matchup, but he was coming on before his concussion. There are lots of super cheap intriguing plays this week. Vance McDonald against the Bears, Cameron Brate against the Falcons. Might even go back to the Crockett Gillmore well now that everyone else seems to be off him.
Jeff Brubach (@Jeff_Brubach): I've got Chandler a few spots above Tamme, but I am comfortable rolling either one out as a TE1 this week for sure. The Gronk/Eifert/Graham gut punch was a lot to absorb in one week, but folks can still plug in a number of options to survive and keep fantasy playoff hopes alive. I do agree with what Rich said regarding Kyle Rudolph against Seattle. It does appear that teams are fully prepared to exploit Seattle's struggles in defending opposing tight ends, and Heath Miller was going to give us a monster performance last week if he didn't get injured.
Pantuosco: In my Live Chat this week, someone asked if I thought Giovani Bernard would take on a bigger role in the passing game if Eifert sat out. I thought that was interesting. Eifert has averaged six targets per game, not an overwhelming total but a noticeable amount. Of course, many of those targets have come inside the red zone where Eifert has completely dominated this year.
So if Eifert can’t play, who would the Bengals look to inside the red zone? At 6’4,” A.J. Green certainly profiles as the type of guy who would succeed in that area. Naturally, both of his touchdowns last week against the Rams came inside the 18. Eifert scored three touchdowns against the Browns in Week 9 so if Green were to take over that role, he could be in for an absolutely mammoth game. I know I’m thinking out loud here but there’s certainly a domino effect that comes from losing a great player like Eifert.
Hribar: Rex Burkhead is going to score two touchdowns on three touches this week.