The NFL regular season is already halfway over with, which means the same is true of the fantasy season as well. As usual, chaos rules the fantasy landscape, with injuries, busts, and breakouts making even the best drafters have to scramble to adjust. Some players like Travis Kelce have lived up to expectations, others like George Kittle have appeared out of nowhere to reward their fantasy owners. Of course, there are mighty names like Rob Gronkowski have not quite lived up to expectations. Since we’re officially at the midpoint of the NFL season, let’s take a look back at the best performers, biggest surprises, and biggest disappointments thus far at the running back position.
Fantasy Football: Travis Kelce, George Kittle Win Midseason Tight End Superlatives
Our top two performers at the position are not very surprising. Travis Kelce is number one in standard, and Zach Ertz is first in PPR. In each scoring style, they are top two. Some wondered how Kelce would do with a change in quarterback from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes. There was a big potential for growing pains as the offense got in sync under a second-year quarterback getting into his first full season as a starter.
Those doubts were quickly eliminated week one. Well, mostly. Mahomes threw for four touchdowns in an offensive showcase, but unfortunately, Kelce only managed one catch for six yards. He’s since been on fire, having three 100-yard games and not going under 50 yards receiving. Kelce has become a huge part of Kansas City’s pick-your-poison offense and will continue to ball out for the remainder of the season.
Ertz as the number two tight end is also not surprising. Since last season he has been an absolute target monster. He has only seen less than ten targets in two games this season. (One of which was nine targets.) It’s tough not to put up points with that many looks per game. Like Kelce, he too has had three 100-yard games but one less touchdown (3) than Kelce (4).
The targets aren’t a surprise considering Ertz has been the only reliable receiving threat for most of the season. Number one receiver Alshon Jeffery missed the first three games of the season recovering from a shoulder injury. Other wideouts like Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews have been less than reliable. However, something to keep an eye on is the fact that Golden Tate was just traded from the Detroit Lions to the Eagles. There is a chance that he eats into Ertz’s targets, but his owners should not be too concerned.
Eric Ebron was many analysts breakout candidate for the past few years when he was on the Detroit Lions. They finally seemed to give up on him when the Lions released him. Jack Doyle seemed like he was going to lock down the number one role the Indianapolis Colts, but Ebron finally decided to wake up and start putting up number this year. With quarterback Andrew Luck looking like he is finally healthy again, Ebron has been getting plenty of chances to put up points in fantasy.
Ebron is making most of his fantasy money in the end zone. Ebron leads all tight ends this year with seven touchdowns. He doesn’t always get the yards, but he is seeing plenty of targets. He has three games where he has over ten targets and only two with less than five. In a season where many tight ends are either hurt or disappointing, it is nice to see someone exceeding expectations.
The player who makes our list who was the most unknown prior to this season is George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers. While there were a few places pegging Kittle as a breakout candidate prior to the season, those who did end up drafting him were rewarded nicely. Kittle came into week nine as the fourth-highest scoring tight end in both formats and has a good shot of shooting even higher after his Thursday Night blowup against the Oakland Raiders.
The biggest surprise is how Kittle is doing it. After losing starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the season, some of his owners must have been a bit nervous on if he would be able to still put up numbers with C.J. Beathard. He did. Then, when it was announced that Beathard was missing week nine’s game, the nervousness continued. Those who left him in their lineups were rewarded with his second -best game of the season. He has proved that no matter who is throwing him the ball, that he is going to put up points.
It is tough to call a tight end who is still in the top ten at their position a bust, but considering where most people drafted him, he not lived up to expectations. It looked it was going to be the same old dominant Rob Gronkowski after week one’s game against the Houston Texans. Gronkowski had 123 yards and a touchdown in a dominant performance.
Since then, it has not bee the same. Gronk has failed to find the end zone or go over 100 yards. He also only has one game where he has more than five catches. He missed week seven’s game against the Chicago Bears with a back injury, but there are reports that he has an ankle injury that is hampering more. Gronk may be trying to play through it for contract incentives.
His bye is week 11, so fantasy owners hope that he can at least limp into that, and hopefully get some much-needed rest for a playoff push.
The other disappointments at tight end are due mostly to injury. It is not exactly fair to label guys like Evan Engram and Greg Olsen as busts since they have missed games. Jordan Reed, however, has no excuse. It has been somewhat of a bizarro season for Reed. He is usually a guy who puts up a ton of fantasy points but misses a ton of games due to injury. This year, he hasn’t missed a game yet but just hasn’t been putting up points.
Like Gronk, Reed’s best week came in week one, where he caught four catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. It has been all downhill since then. Weeks two and three were the only other weeks he eclipsed 50 yards. Still, although his targets have been sporadic game-to-game, he only has two games under five targets. He just isn’t doing much with them. His low point probably came last week, when he saw a whopping twelve targets, but only turned them into seven receptions for a dismal 38 yards.
He is already outside of the top ten in terms of points scored, and those that haven’t dropped him yet are probably pretty close to doing so if can’t turn it around fast.
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