It happens every year at tight end -- you draft a "name player," and he starts slowly while other sleepers do better. By the time you figure out that you've drafted a bust, all the hot-starting sleepers have been picked up and you've taken subpar production from your TE spot for four or five weeks. We're trying to get ahead of that curve with our Week 3 fantasy TE rankings. We're not saying you should drop a big-name TE like Zach Ertz or Rob Gronkowski (well, maybe Gronk) in order to play Dalton Schultz or Drew Sample, but it's not a bad idea to keep your options open and adding a backup from the waiver wire.
We know there will be season-long surprises at this position, like Darren Waller last year, so looking at early-season trends and taking a shot on rising stars like T.J. Hockenson (@ Cardinals) and Mike Gesicki (@ Jaguars) over Ertz (vs. Bengals) or Evan Engram (vs. 49ers) shouldn't be all that controversial. Obviously, Ertz and Engram are capable of big games at any time, but Hockenson and Gesicki are, too. The difference between them isn't that great right now. Jonnu Smith (@ Vikings) has rocketed past all the above thanks to his athleticism and big-play ability, and a matchup against a Vikings team that was just torched for over 100 yards by the similarly athletic Mo Alie-Cox suggests another big game is in the offing. Likewise, Noah Fant (vs. Bucs) already established himself as an every-week play.
Jordan Akins (@ Steelers) has also looked more involved early on, and the Steelers had trouble with Fant last week. He's a sleeper with more upside than Austin Hooper (vs. Washington) or Gronk (@ Broncos), and the aforementioned Sample (vs. Eagles, who just allowed three TDs to Tyler Higbee) and Schultz (@ SEA) aren't far behind.
Injuries could shake up these rankings later in the week. We currently have George Kittle (knee) and Jack Doyle (ankle) included, but if they're out, we know backups Jordan Reed and Alie-Cox can slide right in and get the job done. They represent two more sleepers who have as much upside as some of the "old guard." (Update: Kittle is out and Doyle is expected to play.)
We're not saying you should do anything crazy like bench Mark Andrews (vs. Chiefs) because he's coming off a one-catch game, but you should always be looking at all the stats (targets, specifically red-zone targets) and the matchups. Tight end is often a set-it-and-forget-it position, and while it's nice to have one less start 'em, sit 'em decision, you might be better off if you give the position a little more thought.
Note: We'll continue to update our tight end rankings to throughout the week, so check back for updates.
Week 3 Fantasy TE Rankings (Standard)
These rankings are for non-PPR leagues
12 Zach Ertz, PHI vs. CIN. It's been a slow start for the normally reliable Ertz, though he's had seven targets in each game. With Jalen Reagor (thumb) out, there will be more targets to go around, and Ertz is always a prime candidate to gobble them up. With so many other solid TE options, Ertz isn't necessarily a must-start against a Bengals defense that's actually done pretty well against tight ends this year, but he still has plenty of upside.
Mark Andrews, BAL vs. KC
Travis Kelce, KC @ BAL
Jonnu Smith, TEN @ MIN
Tyler Higbee, LAR @ BUF. The Bills were just torched by Mike Gesicki for 130 yards and a score, so even though you can't count on another three scores from Higbee, he's in a good spot to produce.
Noah Fant, DEN vs. TB
Hunter Henry, LAC vs. CAR
Darren Waller, LV @ NE. Waller put on a clinic against the Saints on Monday night, but New England is as tough against TEs as any defense in football. Waller's high target share (24 targets on 50 Raiders pass attempt) will always keep him high in TE rankings, particularly PPR, but as we saw in Week 1 when he caught six passes for 45 yards, he's not guaranteed to put up big standard-league numbers. He's still a must-start, but this will be a tough game for him.
Jared Cook, NO vs. GB. Cook managed a short touchdown last Monday despite just two catches (five targets) for 13 yards. It was expected he'd have a bigger role with Michael Thomas (ankle) out -- and that's still a possibility if Thomas is out again -- but Cook owners are likely lukewarm on his upside this week. Green Bay did well against Minnesota's TEs in Week 1 but give up some big gainas to T.J. Hockenson in Week 2, so Cook remains low-floor, high-ceiling play.
T.J. Hockenson, DET @ ARZ. Hockenson has done well in each of the first two weeks, but Kenny Golladay (hamstring) missed both of those contests. If he's back this week as expected, Hockenson's outlook is a bit dimmer, particularly in regards to red-zone targets. Arizona has held TEs in check through two games after being far and away the worst TE defense last year, it's due for some regression. Hockenson has a high ceiling in this one.
Mike Gesicki, MIA @ JAX. Gesicki was held down by the Pats in Week 1 and erupted again the Bills in Week 2. His true value is somewhere in between, but he should be closer to his ceiling against a Jags defense that was just burned for 84 yards and two TDs by Jonnu Smith. Miami's erratic QB play will always make Gesicki somewhat risky, but he looks like a solid starter this week, if for now other reason than his frequent looks in the red zone (4).
Hayden Hurst, ATL vs. CHI. Hurst broke out in Week 2, hauling in five-of-eight targets for 72 yards and a score. Chicago struggled against T.J. Hockenson in Week 1 and allowed Evan Engram to rack up catches and yards in the second half in Week 2, so Hurst is in a good spot for the second straight week.
Zach Ertz, PHI vs. CIN. It's been a slow start for the normally reliable Ertz, though he's had seven targets in each game. With Jalen Reagor (thumb) out, there will be more targets to go around, and Ertz is always a prime candidate to gobble them up. With so many other solid TE options, Ertz isn't necessarily a must-start against a Bengals defense that's actually done pretty well against tight ends this year, but he still has plenty of upside.
Evan Engram, NYG vs. SF. Engram was having another disaster of a game before turning it on the second half in Week 2. It still seems like he's slightly out of step with QB Daniel Jones, but at least he's trending in the right direction. The 49ers are typically tough on TEs, but all the injuries to the defensive line figure to affect the pass rush, which should help the Giants passing game in general. With Saquon Barkely (knee) and Sterling Shepard (toe) out, there will be more targets to around, so Engram is still in play but he has a low floor.
Dallas Goedert, PHI vs. CIN. Goedert managed just 30 yards in Week 2, but he still had an impressive eight targets (one more than Ertz). He could just as easily outproduce his more famous teammate, but given the Eagles' offensive woes, Goedert is merely on the start/sit bubble as opposed to a "must-start."
Jordan Reed, 49ers @ Giants. With George Kittle (knee) once again out, Reed should see five-plus targets and have another good chance to score. However, with injuries ravaging the 49ers offense, including QB Jimmy Garoppolo, it's tough to completely count on Reed.
Eric Ebron, PIT vs. HOU. Ebron showed some signs of life last week, catching three-of-five targets for 43 yards. He remains a big-play threat every week, and it seems like only a matter of time before he breaks out. Houston has faced two of the best TEs in the NFL in the first two weeks, getting roasted by Travis Kelce but limiting Mark Andrews just one catch, so this figures to be a slightly favorable matchup.
Jordan Akins, HOU @ PIT. Akins scored in Week 1 and caught all seven targets in Week 2. He passes the eye test with his size and athleticism, and Pittsburgh hasn't been as good against TEs as expected, allowing 57 yards and a TD to Noah Fant and getting lucky against Evan Engram who stopped his route on a sure TD in Week 1. He's a sneaky sleeper this week, but with Darren Fells also commanding red-zone targets, it's tough to go all-in on Akins.
Logan Thomas, WAS @ CLE. Thomas continues to be a target machine, picking up 17 through two weeks. Cleveland couldn't stop Cincinnati's mediocre TEs in Week 2 and allowed five catches and 73 yards to Hunter Henry in Week 1. Thomas is a legit sleeper, but his shaky QB play is a worry.
Drew Sample, CIN @ PHI. Sample takes over for C.J. Uzomah (Achilles'), and he made a good impression last week by catching seven-of-nine targets for 45 yards. Philadelphia allowed a touchdown to Logan Thomas in Week 1 and three touchdowns to Tyler Higbee in Week 2, so this is a good spot for the young TE to really break out if you're willing to take a risk.
Dalton Schultz, DAL @ SEA. Schultz caught nine-of-10 targets for 88 yards and a score last week, and even though Seattle's TE defense isn't as bad as Atlanta's, it's still allowed a lot of production through the air. It's possible that continues to go almost entirely to WRs, but Schultz is a big enough part of Dallas's offense that he's at least in the start 'em, sit 'em discussion this week.
Austin Hooper, CLE vs. WAS
Chris Herndon, NYJ @ IND
O.J. Howard, TB @ DEN
Jack Doyle, IND vs. NYJ
Rob Gronkowski, TB @ DEN
Tyler Eifert, JAX vs. MIA
Jimmy Graham, CHI @ ATL
Taysom Hill, NO vs. GB
Ian Thomas, CAR @ LAC
Dan Arnold, ARI vs. DET
Irv Smith Jr., MIN vs. TEN
Greg Olsen, SEA vs. DAL
Kyle Rudolph, MIN vs. TEN