FAVORABLE MATCHUPS (CASH/GPP)
Travis Kelce (DK – $6,600/FD – $7,600): After eight games, Kelce is on pace for 88 catches for 1,284 yards and eight TDs on 140 targets. Even with a career-high pace, Travis slipped to second in TE scoring behind Zach Ertz. Kelce has three games with over 100 yards receiving (7/109/2, 8/114, 5/100) and one other 20-point game (7/78/1), but no impact game in his last four starts due to only one TD since Week 4. Cleveland is league average against TEs (44/443/2) with two teams (OAK – 11/133/2 and TB – 12/111) gaining over 100 yards from the TE position. In every other game, the Browns faced mid-tier TEs or below (NO, NYJ, BAL, LAC, and PIT X 2). Kelce sure seems like a matchup problem for Cleveland in Week 9 especially with Tyreek Hill having a slight injury issue. Possible 30+ Fantasy points with a pair of TDs.
Greg Olsen (DK – $4,700/FD – $6,200): Last week Olsen had his best game (4/56/1) of the year, but he only received four targets. Over his last three games after returning from his injury, Greg has two TDs while averaging 5.3 targets per game. His opportunity will never be as high as it was in his prime, but the Panthers still have him on the field well over 95 percent of the time over the last three weeks. Tampa allows the fourth-most Fantasy points to TEs (42/564/4 on 52 targets) with three teams (PHI – 15/151, PIT – 5/119/1, and ATL – 9/71/1) scoring over 20 Fantasy points from the TE position. An excellent matchup with a chance to improve on last week’s output. Cam Newton has a great matchup, and Olsen has a reasonable chance of being part of the impactful ride.
O.J. Howard (DK – $4,300/FD – $6,000): Howard has been a nice steady TE in his last five games (3/96/1, 6/72, 4/62/1, 5/67, and 4/68/) pushing him to 7th in TE scoring despite missing one game. His success in his six full games (24/419/3) would put him on pace for 64 catches for 1,117 yards and eight TDs if he played a full season. Over the last three games, O.J. has been on the field for about 60 percent of the time after being closer to 70 percent over the first three games of the season. The Panthers have had huge problems defending TEs (32nd – 48/545/4 on 65 targets) in 2018. They’ve allowed a TD to the TE position in three straight games leading to four games with 19 or Fantasy points allowed (CIN – 9/109, WAS – 8/84/1, PHI – 13/181/1, and BAL – 7/67/1). In their other three games, Carolina played three teams (DAL, ARI, and NYG) with weak TE options. Upside matchup, but Tampa has a lot of mouth’s to feed plus Cameron Brate may steal some of his explosiveness. Well worth his salary as 4 X his salary seems to be a pretty safe bet if he scores a TD.
Kyle Rudolph (DK – $3,600/FD – $5,700): Rudolph continues to have a boring smell while extending his scoreless streak to five games as he watches Kirk Cousins feature his top two WRs in almost every game. Kyle gained fewer than 60 yards in seven of his eight games while averaging 5.4 targets per game. Last year Rudolph had one impact game (4/63/2) on the road against the Lions. Detroit is 23rd in the NFL defending TEs (31/389/3 on 45 targets). With Stefon Diggs a little banged up with a hip issue and CB Darius Slay scheduled to defend him, Cousins should look more toward Rudolph in this matchup. Also, Matt Patricia comes the Bill Belichick coaching tree, which points to the Lions coming up with a game plan to limit the catches and opportunity for Adam Theilen. Price in a favorable range and I expect Kyle to hit paydirt at least once in Week 9.
MATCHUP RISK / AGAINST THE GRAIN (GPP)
Trey Burton (DK – $4,500/FD – $6,100): Burton was a game flow casualty in Week 8, which led to his shortest output (3/18 on four targets) since Week 1 (1/15). Trey has one impact game (9/126/1) and four TDs while averaging 5.3 targets per game. In six of his seven games, Burton has five targets or fewer. The Bills are 9th in the NFL vs. the TE position (31/343/3 on 57 targets) with one team gaining over 100 yards from the TE position (BAL – 9/103). I don’t see a fight on the scoreboard, which points to another shallow game by him in Week 9.
BAD MATCHUP (AVOID)
Jordan Thomas (DK – $2,900/FD – $4,800): Thomas was awarded the start at TE over the last two games for the Texans with Ryan Griffin battling an illness. After an empty game in Week 7 vs. the Jaguars, Jordan had the best game (4/29/2) of his career vs. the Dolphins, but he only saw four targets. Griffin is due back this week, which will hurt the playing time of Thomas. Denver is 22nd in the league against the TE (35/513/3 on 54 targets) with much of the damage coming against the Chiefs (9/137/1 and 6/79/1). A weak piece to the puzzle with a minimal chance at follow through.
Mike Gesiki (DK – $2,600/FD – $4,400): Over the last four games, Gesiki has 11 catches for 95 yards on 15 targets while receiving a lower percentage of snaps in each game (84, 47, 35, 29, and 24). Possible bye week filler in the season-long ability due to his pass catching ability, but his playing time is well below a winning play in the daily games.
NEUTRAL (ALL FORMATS)
Jordan Reed (DK – $4,800/FD – $5,600): Reed ranks 12th at TE in PPR leagues (64.60) despite scoring less than half the Fantasy points of Zach Ertz (143.20) and Travis Kelce (132.20). Jordan doesn’t have a TD in his last seven games while failing to score over 12.0 Fantasy point over this span. Last week he did catch a season-high seven balls, but he gained only 38 yards. Reed has fewer than 50 yards receiving in his last four starts. Atlanta sits 19th defending TEs (33/338/3 on 46 targets) with Tampa having the most success (6/82/2). Washington has a favorable matchup for their passing game, which gives a chance to post his best game of the year. Last week the Redskins had him on the field for a season-high 78 percent of their plays. He may not be as sexy as he once was, but he could be sexy enough in Week 9 to a value play with his best output of the year.
David Njoku (DK – $4,600/FD – $5,200): After a nice start to the year (31/297/2), Njoku gave Fantasy owner a big fat zero in Week 8 with no targets against one of the worst defenses in the NFL vs. the TE position. Cleveland had him on the field for 84 percent of their snaps, which fell in line with his previous games. This week David missed some time in practice with a knee issue while expecting to play on Sunday. The Chiefs will give up double-digit Fantasy points to TEs in most games leading to the 28th ranking at TE (43/596/3 on 63 targets) with one disaster showing (PIT – 8/164/1). A chaser game does work in Njoku’s favor, and the game is at home. Let me ask you, how many times do you go on a second date after being stood up on the previous time? Proceed with caution even in a favorable matchup.
Austin Hooper (DK – $3,800/FD – $5,900): After two favorable matchups (9/77 and 9/71/1), Hooper came up short in his last game in Week 7 (3/48 on four targets). Austin now has five games with five targets or fewer and two games with elite chances (12 and 10). Washington is about league average defending TEs (34/292/3 on 55 targets) with no team gaining over 55 yards from the TE position. Possible 5/50 type game, but a TD may not be in the cards while the Redskins try to run the ball to keep the Falcons’ offense on the sidelines.
Vance McDonald (DK – $3,700/FD – $5,300): McDonald hasn’t been as productive as Fantasy owners hoped in two of his last three games (1/6 and 3/47) after showing promise in his best game in Week 3 (4/112/1). Over the last five games, Vance has 20 catches for 295 yards and one TD on 22 targets with none playable game (5/62) in Week 4 vs. the Ravens. Baltimore allowed over 18.0 Fantasy points to the TE position in three of their last four games pushing them to 25th in the TE rankings (44/510/2 on 58 targets). Not ideal as McDonald does still split snaps with Jesse James.
Chris Herndon (DK – $3,000/FD – $5,400): Herndon has a TD in three straight games, but he only has 11 targets over this period with two mid-teen games (2/56/1 and 4/42/1). In Week 2, Chris caught two of his four targets for 30 yards against Miami. Even with his success, Herndon was on the field for fewer than 45 percent of the time over the last three games. The Dolphins are 21st in the league against TEs (36/279/5) while allowing five TDs to TEs over the last three games. Miami allowed fewer than 60 yards to the TE position in their last seven games. I don’t see another TD even with the data suggesting that is a possibility.
Hayden Hurst (DK – $2,600/FD – $4,300): Last week Hurst scored a mop-up TD with Lamar Jackson behind center leading to his best day (2/29/1 on three targets) in his short NFL career. Baltimore had him on the field for a season-high 44 percent of their plays, which may be a sign of a breakout game vs. a poor Steelers’ TE defense (30th – 49/512/4 on 66 targets). Two teams (KC – 7/109/2 and TB – 9/109/1) have impact games at TE against Pittsburgh. The Ravens also rotate in Nick Boyle and Mark Andrew at TE, which does cloudy up the upside of Hayden. On the year, Baltimore’s TEs have 49 catches for 493 yards and three TDs on 75 targets. Possible GPP play due to his salary cap relief.