Remember your months of research and your awesome NFL fantasy draft? Throw it all out the window. Now we analyze trends, rumors, and more each week before telling you who should be in your lineup and who you should prefer to see in someone else’s lineup.
START THIS GUY: Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh (at Cleveland)
When McDonald came over late in the preseason from San Francisco, fans in Pittsburgh were ecstatic. They saw a big, fast pass catcher in the middle of the field that would provide an outlet target to a decreasingly mobile Ben Roethlisberger. Some thought he would need a little time to learn the new playbook, but hey! That’s Cleveland on the other side of the field. The same Cleveland that allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than any other team in 2016.
Roethlisberger wastes no time in trying out his new toy. McDonald has a drop but makes up for it with five catches, 82 yards, and his first Steeler touchdown.
SIT THIS GUY: Jack Doyle, Indianapolis (vs. Los Angeles Rams)
Doyle is widely predicted to be headed for a breakout season in his new role as the number one tight end in Indy. But these are strange times in Indiana. It looks like Scott Tolzien will be quarterbacking the Colts this week, which isn’t the type of information that sends any receiver’s fantasy stock rising. Throw in the Rams tough defense (and fifth-lowest tight end points allowed in 2016) and you have the makings of a forgettable Week 1 for Doyle.
Doyle grabs three passes for only 28 yards without a touchdown.
START THIS GUY: Evan Engram, New York Giants (at Dallas)
The Dallas Cowboys gave up ten fantasy points per game to tight ends last season and that was before they lost their starting middle linebacker in the preseason. The Giants come in with four tight ends on their roster, but the one Eli Manning wants to see in the Cowboys’ defensive backfield is Engram. Don’t be surprised if Manning connects for more than one touchdown to tight ends. Engram will grab at least one of them on his way to an NFL debut of 68 yards on four catches.
SIT THIS GUY: Eric Ebron, Detroit (vs. Arizona)
Not only has Eric Ebron missed most of the preseason with some injuries, he faces last season’s top tight end defense in the Arizona Cardinals. Matt Stafford is completely in sync with his top wide receivers and his tailbacks. He might need another week to catch up with Ebron.
Ebron is held to one catch for nine yards in his season debut.
START THIS GUY: Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay (at Miami)
There is a lot of conjecture about what Brate’s role will be after Tampa drafted O. J. Howard. This may be an issue down the road, but for now, the rookie Howard is still learning the techniques of the professional tight end position while Brate remains a big target over the middle. Brate received the most red-zone touchdowns in Tampa last season. Jameis Winston will remember how Brate is able to use a strong vertical and arm strength to come down with jump balls.
Howard’s time will come, but this week, Brate catches Winston’s first touchdown of the season en route to 75 yards via six catches.
SIT THIS GUY: Martellus Bennett, Green Bay (vs. Seattle)
This won’t be all Bennett’s fault as Green Bay faces one of the top overall defenses of 2017. Their effort against tight ends last season ranked fourth-best (5.5 points-per-game). We are still not sure if Aaron Rodgers will use his tight end more now that he has someone of Bennett’s caliber. We probably still won’t be able to tell after this game.
Bennett’s debut is a mediocre four catches from a scrambling Rodgers for 32 yards and no scores.
The too-easy-to-write-about top five
Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Gregg Olsen, Travis Kelce, and Jordan Reed.
Week 1 flash in the pan prediction
Julius Thomas of Miami grabs four passes for 29 yards, but two go for touchdowns from Jay Cutler.
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