There are a handful of managers in every fantasy football league that will spend part of their Columbus Day weekend exploring for a solution to the tight end position.
In what has become an unwelcome annual tradition, the TE landscape has become as barren as any position in fantasy football and entering Week 6, there are barely a half-dozen players that most would feel comfortable starting any given week.
For every elated Austin Hooper or Mark Andrews manager that landed a steal late in their draft or on early waiver wires, you can find a frustrated league-mate that spent significant draft capitol on O.J. Howard or Hunter Henry.
My attempts to navigate through the position in search of rest-of-season value led me to putting together the following tiered TE rankings to consider moving forward.
1. Travis Kelce (Kansas City): The top-ranked TE entering the season has just one TD through five games but leads the position in yardage (87.8 per game) and ranks third in targets (8.6). No questions here, he’s still the man.
2. George Kittle (San Francisco): The third-year stud likely slammed any potential ‘buy-low,’ window shut by scoring his first TD and topping 60 receiving yards for the first time in Week 5. Four of his next six matchups are against defenses in the bottom 10 of points allowed to the position.
3. Evan Engram (N.Y. Giants): The Giants’ primary pass game option sat out Thursday night’s Week 6 opener with a knee injury but practiced on a limited basis during the week, which bodes well for a quick return. The third-year budding star enters Sunday’s games as the only TE that has produced both a pair of 100-yard games and two double-digit target outputs.
4. Zach Ertz (Philadelphia): Ertz has been steady if unspectacular through five weeks — logging between 54-72 yards each game to go with just one touchdown — but ranks second in targets (45) and fourth in catches (29) among TEs, remaining one of the safest bets each week.
THE NEW CLASS
5. Darren Waller (Oakland): The popular sleeper candidate has yet to reach the end-zone but enters Week 6 leading all TEs in receptions per game (7.4), tied for fourth in targets per game (8.4), and is fourth in receiving yards per game (71.8). Jon Gruden will knock on wood all day for this kid, man.
6. Mark Andrews (Baltimore): Reported ankle and shoulder injuries could catch up to the second-year breakout but consistent targets (7.8 per game) and securing a TD in three of five games places him among the top assets at the position.
7. Austin Hooper (Atlanta): The fourth-year Falcon has been among the most consistent options, ranking tied for fourth among TEs in targets per game (8.4) while recording 56 yards or more in four of five performances. Tied to a high-volume passing offense and shoddy defense, he’s a weekly starter the rest of the way.
8. Will Dissly (Seattle): The most surprising member of this group, Dissly has scored four TDs and averaged 62.5 yards over his last four games, reaching at least 50 yards each outing while hauling in 17 of 19 targets during that span. Dissly enters Week 6 tied for ninth in the NFL in both red-zone receptions (four) and red-zone targets (six), according to pro-football-reference.com.
9. Hunter Henry (L.A. Chargers): The once-elite fantasy prospect caught 4-of-5 targets for 60 yards in his Week 1 return from a torn ACL that cost him all of 2018, but then suffered a knee injury in practice the following week that has sidelined him since. Henry recently returned to practice and could return to a high-volume role in a strong offense as early as Week 7, but health concerns linger.
10. Gerald Everett (L.A. Rams): Everett has been among the most added players in a variety of leagues over the past two weeks, and led all players at the position with 136 receiving yards in Week 5. He scored his first TD the week prior and combined for 19 targets over his last two, but a crowded Rams receiving corps and so-far inconsistent pass game make it hard to see him sustaining weekly TE1 production.
11. Vance McDonald (Pittsburgh): The Steelers’ quarterback injuries combined with his own shoulder ailment have rendered McDonald mostly a non-factor, but he has the physical tools and defined role to contribute to fantasy lineups after Pittsburgh’s Week 7 bye.
12. O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay): The No. 19 overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft has been among the biggest fantasy letdowns of the season after garnering a top-five positional ranking on most preseason draft boards. Entering Week 6, Howard ranks 26th in TE targets (14), 23rd in catches (11), 17th in yards (141) and has yet to score a TD while drawing criticism from coaches for poor run-blocking. Howard is too talented to cut at this point and has three straight matchups against teams ranked in the bottom seven of fantasy points allowed to TEs after his Week 7 bye, but managers are justifiably losing patience.
13. Jared Cook (New Orleans): The first-year Saints TE scored his first TD and posted a season-high 41 yards in Week 5, and has caught just 12 of 24 targets entering Sunday’s games. Cook’s forgettable start can be partially explained by the thumb injury to Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees and the subsequent struggles of the pass game overall prior to Week 5, so he remains worthy of a roster spot for his potential down the stretch.
14. Chris Herndon (N.Y. Jets): The sophomore injured a hamstring preparing to return from a four-game suspension this week and could miss an additional two games, but is worth stashing in the meantime as the Jets offense looks to recalibrate during QB Sam Darnold’s Week 6 return from mononucleosis.
This group of former stalwarts at the position can no longer be relied on as every-week starters but are highly capable of producing in favorable matchups: Delanie Walker (Tennessee); Greg Olsen (Carolina); Jimmy Graham (Green Bay); Jason Witten (Dallas).
These are players worth monitoring for various reasons but will be difficult to trust consistently: T.J. Hockenson (Detroit); Eric Ebron/Jack Doyle (Indianapolis); Noah Fant (Denver); Dawson Knox (Buffalo); Vernon Davis (Washington).