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2016 Tight End Bye Week Options

Jul 6, 2016

Dec 6, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills tight end Charles Clay (85) celebrates his touchdown catch with tight end Matthew Mulligan (82) during the second half against the Houston Texans at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Texans 30-21. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Clay is an intriguing bye-week fill-in for Week 13

Charles Clay is an intriguing bye-week fill-in for Week 13

“There are those who believe that a tight end with ballast and strength and girth is key to their offensive system because he has as important a role as a blocker as there is. If the tight end can block a defensive lineman on the edge of the offense, then you automatically have a running game just with that single feature. If the tight end can block those defensive linemen, who are now being placed on tight ends where some years ago they weren’t, then the entire offense has a focal point from which to work.”

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Bill Walsh was undoubtedly a footballing visionary. His explanation of what role the tight end should play in an offense was without a doubt accurate when the above words were written, back in 1997. At the end of that football season, there had been 17 tight ends with 1,000-yard seasons between 1920 and 1997 and seven of those had been claimed by Kellen Winslow, Ozzie Newsome and Shannon Sharpe.

But the game has changed. Including the 97 season, up to the end of the 2015 campaign, there have been 26 1,000 yard seasons for tight ends. They have a bigger role in the passing game, and as such in fantasy football.

For years, the strategy with tight end has resembled “if you don’t draft Rob Gronkowski, stream the spot,” but hopes are high this year that the second tier may be ready to step up. As a result, it is imperative that fantasy players keep their tight end spot contributing fully to their roster, week by week, without allowing a left up when their first choice is on a bye week. To that end, here are the essential handcuffs to the top ten tight ends off the board, that owners will need to plug in during their stud’s bye week.

Rob Gronkowski (NE)/Jordan Reed (WAS)/Tyler Eifert (CIN) – Bye Week 9
With three of the top three tight ends (as per FantasyPros ADP) all on a bye in the same week, it will be important to have a good plan in place for their owners. That plan is San Francisco 49ers tight end Vance McDonald. A fourth-year player out of Rice, McDonald finished fourth in terms of targets for the 49ers last season, converting his 46 looks into 30 receptions for 326 yards and three touchdowns.

He saw at least five targets in three of his last five games of the season and assuming he makes the starting job his own he has a new head coach with a history of featuring the tight end. In Chip Kelly’s three seasons with the Eagles, the TE1 saw 15% of total team targets. In Week 9, the 49ers take on the New Orleans Saints, who had troubles against tight ends in 2015.

They allowed a league-high 12.19 fantasy points per game to the position. McDonald is currently the 29th tight end going off fantasy draft boards, but has breakout potential on his merit, should any of your first choices go down.

Greg Olsen (CAR) – Bye Week 7
With the Panthers sitting this week out, it would be an ideal time for owners to slot Dwayne Allen into their lineups. Finally free of the symbiotic link with Coby Fleener, Allen should see few barriers towards on his way to surpassing the sub 50% snap count he “achieved” in 2015. Allen has 13 career receiving scores among his 91 career catches but saw just 29 targets a year ago as the team featured Fleener more in the passing game.

Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski (ironically a former OC of Olsen) has enjoyed some success with tight ends in the past, including Olsen and Kellen Winslow Jr., and with Andre Johnson and Fleener now gone, and a huge question mark where a run game should be, Allen should be a bigger part of the Colts offense in 2016. His Week 7 matchup against the Titans makes him an ideal spot starter, given the Titans generosity towards touchdowns in the past.

They allowed 11 touchdown receptions to tight ends in 2015, tied for second most in the league. Allen is currently the 18th tight end to be drafted, and a case could be made for his being a TE1 in his own merit in 2016. But as a safety valve for Olsen, he should do quite nicely.

Travis Kelce (KC)/Coby Fleener (NO) – Bye Week 5
Ladarius Green (PIT) – Bye Week 8
Like Gronk, Eifert and Reed owners, people who select the three above will need to be very wary of when to draft in a deputy. This deputy, at least for the weeks mentioned above, should be Jared Cook. Cook is a player who has burned fantasy owners in the past, but that has been when he has been expected to carry the load on a seasonal basis.

In these two weeks, even he should be able to contribute given the matchups he will face. Week 5 sees the Packers take on the New York Giants, who could not have been more accommodating towards tight ends last season. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends (11.39), was tied for most receptions given up (101, tied with the Bengals), allowed the most yards (1,303) and the nine scores given up were good for a tie for sixth most.

Week 8 sees Cook and the Packers travel to Georgia to lock talons with the Falcons, who were nearly as gracious as the Giants in 2015. Only four teams allowed more FPG to tight ends than the Falcons 9.53, only the Giants, Bengals and Saints allowed more receptions (94) and receiving yards (1,004) than the Falcons, and the Falcons are one of the teams tied with the Giants with nine touchdown receptions allowed. If Cook can’t be trusted against these scrubs, he’ll never be trustworthy.

Delanie Walker (TEN)/Gary Barnidge (CLE) – Bye Week 13
Only six tight ends are earning more per season than the Bills are paying Charles Clay, according to OverTheCap.com. It would be nice if he started to justify this expense. He started his Bills career with a bang, and through his first four games in the blue of Buffalo he had 29 targets, 21 receptions, 255 yards and two scores.

If he’d continued that pace, he would have finished the season with 116 looks, 84 receptions, 1,020 yards and eight scores. He didn’t, however.

The rest of the season saw him targeted just 48 times more, with 30 catches, 368 yards and a single score. But with Sammy Watkins in danger of earning the dreaded “injury prone” tag and no other established depth at receiver, Clay figures to remain a part of the offense.

His Week 13 matchup sees him go up against the Raiders, who though much improved on paper still have a dubious pedigree when it comes to allowing tight ends to have their way with them. The team gave up the third most FPG to tight ends in 2015 with 10.12 and the eighth most in 2014 with 8.75.

The Raiders and the Lions shared the league lead for touchdown receptions allowed to tight ends with 12. Clay, like McDonald, is to be found among the doldrums in terms of ADP in terms of tight ends selected, and is worth monitoring for weeks such as this.

Zach Ertz (PHI) – Bye Week 4
When you get the chance to start the best tight end in football, you simply have to take that chance. For the second time in recent memory, Kyle Rudolph has made this grandiose claim without a hint of irony. Maybe, had he been playing back in 1997, Bill Walsh would have loved what he saw, as Rudolph probably fits in quite nicely with his description of the position mentioned earlier.

But this is 2016. Rudolph was somewhat useful in the red zone for the Vikings last season, turning his 10 targets into three scores, but he did only catch four of the passes sent his way. His ADP of TE20 is probably a little generous,

But with the Vikings hoping Teddy Bridgewater can become a more threatening passer, Rudolph could enjoy some success working the middle of the field with teams focusing on rookie Laquon Treadwell. Week 4 sees the team welcome those Giants to Minnesota, and given what has already been written about them this could be a day in which the gap between Rudolph’s hopes and his grasp might not seem so vast.

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Neil Dutton is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Neil, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @ndutton13.

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