We're now in the divisional round of the playoffs. Eight teams remain in the hunt for a trip to the Super Bowl and this week trips to the AFC and NFC Championship are on the line. The latest and final round of eight teams brings us the best matchups with the return of four teams on a bye week, some of your favorite plays from throughout the season return to the fold.
Before we can put lineups together, we want to evaluate the options we'll have to choose from this week. We evaluated the quarterbacks earlier, now we'll rank and break down the tight ends on the slate and how likely we are to use them.
1. Rob Gronkowski, NE vs. TEN, ($8,500)
Last week, the Kansas City Chiefs found ways to attack the Tennessee Titans defense early with tight end Travis Kelce, then it all went downhill when Kelce took a big hit in the second quarter and left the game with a concussion. If Kelce never suffers that concussion, we might be talking about a 100-plus yard, two-touchdown performance. It opens our eyes for what others could do.
Now enter Gronk against the same Titans' defense. Tom Brady watches plenty of film and he will pepper Gronkowski with targets in this matchup. Gronk is one of the game's elite players and plays at a position where that carries even more weight. With Kelce now gone and Zach Ertz dealing with a backup quarterback, Gronkowski at tight end is an even greater advantage.
2. Delanie Walker, TEN @ NE, ($6,200)
In a game where Tennessee is nearly a two-touchdown underdog, it's a high probability the Titans will need to throw a lot in this game. In a road game where pressure will be in his face and he'll want a security blanket he can rely on in his second playoff start, Mariota will look towards Walker regularly. Of Walker's pass attempts this season, nearly a quarter went towards Walker.
New England will look to take away the running game and has the cornerbacks to match up fairly well against the Titans' wide receivers. Walker should be targeted throughout this weekend's matchup as Tennessee aims to play catch up and offers the upside for eight-plus FanDuel points. Given how weak the tight end position is outside of Gronkowski, Walker's status as TE2 also puts him in a tier above the next closest options.
3. Kyle Rudolph, MIN vs. NO, ($5,900)
Rudolph's health status will be something to monitor for the upcoming game. The team kept him limited due to an ankle injury in the season's final weeks and there were reports he wore a walking boot in Week 17. Fortunately with plenty of time to rest, his ankle should be in much better shape and we should get a clearer picture for his status after Wednesday and Thursday's practice.
If Rudolph is able to suit up and play, the matchup against a New Orleans Saints defense that just allowed a hobbled Greg Olsen to toast them for 107 yards and a touchdown is quite attractive. Carolina didn't even have the number of weapons to account for that Minnesota will, making the challenge to cover everyone even tougher and leaving a greater probability that someone will be open for a stretch of seconds long enough for Case Keenum to hit them for a big play. Given his price, red zone usage and potential yardage upside, Rudolph settles in as a quality bargain option in DFS.
4. Zach Ertz, PHI vs. ATL, ($7,200)
Ertz would be a premium option in a world where Carson Wentz never gets injured, unfortunately that's just not the case. While Nick Foles showed the ability to get the ball in Ertz hand and target him frequently, more often he shows an inability to move the offense and a once high-scoring machine becomes a unit that turns out one three-and-out after another.
Part of the reason for Ertz placement is price, simply put he is overvalued right now. For $1,300 more you can invest in a far better player and matchup with Gronk in a role you can trust, while Walker is a better play and $1K cheaper. While Ertz isn't someone to completely avoid, in terms of shares this week in DFS he is fourth in line for us as a player to target.
5. Austin Hooper, ATL vs. PHI, ($4,900)
Hooper is an upside, bargain play who'd we target as someone that allows us to spend up at wide receiver or running back. The tight end slate is very thin so when we reach this tier, it all becomes an intention of banking on the chance for one big play or a potential touchdown. Hooper could draw up to five targets in this matchup and averaging over 10 yards per catch paired with a few red zone looks, Hooper holds the ability to rack up points. Given his athleticism and the other weapons Philadelphia must account for paired with injuries at linebacker, Hooper is a decent play.
6. Josh Hill, NO @ MIN, ($4,700)
At this point it's all about the chance for a touchdown. Hill draws some red zone targets and is someone Drew Brees counts on three to four times a game. Hill could certainly finish with only two FanDuel points but given the attention Minnesota's defense will give towards Michael Thomas and the Saints' running backs, Hill should get open a few times and draw some attention from Brees.