*All scores, projections, and rankings are based on ESPN’s standard PPR scoring system*
#1: Travis Kelce
Kelce’s number one ranking here is obvious. Kelce is technically ranked as the best tight end in all of fantasy football in PPR leagues and has scored 25+ points in three of his last four games. With Kareem Hunt gone, Kelce, a tight end, appears to actually be the centerpiece of this Chiefs offense (which is incredibly valuable considering the Chiefs’ offense is likely the best in the NFL).
While his matchup this week might look unappealing on the surface (Ravens are currently ranked as the #2 pass defense per ESPN Stats & Info), but the Ravens have been somewhat susceptible to production from the TE position as they have allowed 753 receiving yards in addition to five TDs to TEs so far in 2018. Regardless, Kelce is matchup-proof as a TE1, and with the exception of week one he has put up double-digit fantasy points every week in PPR leagues.
— clip aka Paul Maul (@tweetingclip) December 2, 2018
Kelce currently leads all NFL tight ends in yards with 1,082 while no other TE has broken 1,000 yet, leads all TEs in catches for 20 yards or more with 16, is second to only Eric Ebron in TDs with nine, and is second to only Zach Ertz in receptions with 79. Kelce has shown every skill a coach could want out of a TE. He has speed, toughness, great hands, and athleticism. Sometimes, it all comes together like on this play where Kelce leapt for an amazing catch and held onto the ball despite taking a hard shot on a seam route:
Kelce led all Chiefs skill players in targets against the Raiders with 13 last week, and he hauled in 12 of them for 168 yards and two touchdowns while scoring nearly 40 points in PPR leagues. Its playoff time, and Kelce is heating up at the just the right moment for his fantasy owners.
#2: Zach Ertz
For the record, the tight end position is so incredibly thin this year that the top three tight ends have been pretty obvious all season. Kelce, Ertz, and Ebron have been the top three TEs basically the whole year and Ertz comes in just ahead of Ebron here simply because of the matchup. The Cowboys are no cakewalk matchup either as their defensive line has been wreaking havoc against opposing QBs lately (including stifling Drew Brees and the Saints last week), but the Texans have been a flat out scary team lately.
Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt might be the best two defensive ends in football and they are on the same fucking team. I genuinely feel somewhat sorry for the offensive coordinators that have to prepare a game plan/scheme to matchup against the Texans defense. Gotta be a long night.
— NFL (@NFL) November 25, 2018
Anyways Ertz would have stolen the #1 ranking here had it not been for Travis Kelce’s recent production explosion as he too is among lead leaders in a number of categories, and it has shown in the box scores for fantasy owners. Like Kelce, Ertz too has scored double-digit fantasy points in PPR leagues every week with one exception which came against the Saints in week 11.
The dud of a game against possibly the best team in the NFL aside, Ertz is ranked as the #2 TE in PPR leagues in 2018 for good reason as he leads all TEs in receptions with 93, catches for first downs with 54, and trails only Travis Kelce in TE yards with 978.
#3: Eric Ebron
With Jack Doyle gone for the season, Ebron’s already productive role has seen an uptick in volume, solidifying his TE1 status for most fantasy owners.
Ebron came out of the University of North Carolina as one of the most hyped tight end prospects in recent memory. The Lions drafted him at 10th overall and never saw even first-round production from him and were likely happy to let him go this offseason. Although, based on this year that lack of production appears to be more of a product of the Lions’ inability to properly maximize Ebron’s talent than anything else.
Standing at six feet and four inches tall and weighing 245 pounds, Ebron appears to be one of the fastest and most athletic tight ends in the NFL and uses his size well on jump balls, like he did on this play against the Raiders:
While Ebron has basically half as many yards (589) as Kelce and Ertz, his talent and his current role in the Colts’ offense puts them all in the same conversation. Somehow, Ebron has emerged as one of 2018’s best redzone threats as the Colts love targeting him in the end zone.
Ebron currently leads all TEs in touchdowns with 11 and he is tied with Devante Adams and Tyreek Hill for the second-most receiving TDs in the NFL amongst all players. Ebron trails only Antonio Brown for the most receiving TDs in 2018 as Brown has 12 so far. Ebron also has a rushing touchdown as the Colts have found creative ways to use the playmaker.
As mentioned earlier, Jack Doyle’s absence has had an effect on Ebron’s production as he is coming off back-to-back weeks where he put up 15+ points and saw plenty of targets. Against the Dolphins in week 12, Ebron caught five balls for 45 yards and two TDs on six targets. Last week against the Jags, Ebron had 10 catches for 81 yards on a team-high 16 targets. Failing to score despite getting 16 targets is a fluke for a player like Ebron, and for an offense like the Colts offense in general.
Part of the reason the Colts put up 0 points last week is because they failed to convert on fourth down all three times they went for it against the Jaguars. Look for the Colts and Ebron to put this scoring drought behind them as Ebron will likely find a way to sneak into the end zone once again against the Texans given his target share. Unless you have Ertz or Kelce on your team too, feel comfortable sliding Ebron into your lineup as your TE1.
#4: George Kittle
George Kittle coming into week 14 ranked right behind Ebron is pretty fitting. If you look at Kittle’s 2018 season so far, it has been very similar to Ebron’s except without the TD production, which is one reason Kittle comes in just behind him.
George Kittle ONE HANDED ??
— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) November 2, 2018
In 2018, Kittle is third amongst TEs in yards (893), receptions (62), and receptions for first downs (42) but has only scored three times. Kittle does have a very consistent role in the 49ers offense though, and consistency is hard to come by at the TE position. Per NBC Sports, Kittle played 67 of the 49ers’ 76 total offensive snaps last week. Even more telling: since week seven, Kittle has had four or more catches and forty or more yards in every single game. Like the other guys on this list, Kittle’s role is also solidifying at the perfect time for fantasy owners.
Over the last three weeks, Kittle has seen at least nine targets and six catches in each game including a nine-catch game against the Giants in week 10.
#5: Jared Cook
Jared Cook is quietly having a pretty good fantasy season by TE standards. He is fourth amongst 2018 TEs in yards (709), tied with Ebron for fifth in catches (54), is tied for third in TDs with Zach Ertz with six (a career-high), and is second to only Kelce in catches for 20 yards or more (14).
There are a few TEs who deserve consideration here for the fifth spot such as Gronk, Austin Hooper, Jordan Reed, and Jimmy Graham. Cook tops them all in part due to his matchup but mostly because of his recent production and consistency.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 2, 2018
While Gronk had 56 yards and a TD against the Jets in week 12, he has been hampered lately and has not had more than three catches in a single game since week five. Additionally, that touchdown against the Jets was his first since week one.
Hooper isn’t a bad option (has at least four catches in each of the last four weeks), but his matchup this week is. The Packers have surprisingly given up the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2018 and are coming off a week where they held all Arizona TEs to just one catch for ten yards.
Jordan Reed also isn’t a horrendous option by any means (has at least four catches each week since week 8), but he just does not offer the same upside or consistency that Jared Cook offers. Reed has just two TDs on the year and has had 60 yards or more in just three games in 2018 despite playing all 12 games.
Some might think Jimmy Graham deserves to make this list at five instead of Cook following Graham’s eight-catch game against the Cardinals. But that game strikes me as an absolute fluke considering that was the most catches Graham has had in a game all season, and considering the fact that he had four catches in the previous three weeks combined. Furthermore, those eight catches came with Mike McCarthy as head coach, and he was fired in part because he and Aaron Rodgers butted heads about offensive play calling, so whatever the Packers did offensively that led to Graham getting eight catches isn’t likely to happen again now that McCarthy has been fired.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 25, 2018
Then you look at Cook, who has scored in four of his last six games, and has scored in each of his past three. Also, he is coming off a game against the Chiefs where he had 100 yards, a TD, and seven grabs on eight targets. Few TEs have the potential to put up those kinds of numbers, and it is fantasy playoff time where you are probably going to need decent TE production to beat your opponent. Facing the Steelers defense which has given up the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, Cook has another opportunity reach the end zone for the fourth straight week.