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Fantasy Football Week 5: Tight End Streaming Options

C.D. Carter lists tight ends with potentially exploitable matchups for week 5.

Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay
Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay

Sep 22, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay (42) catches a pass against Atlanta Falcons linebacker Joplo Bartu (59) in the fourth quarter at Sun Life Stadium. Miami won 27-23. Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The numbers pointed their collective finger at two waiver wire tight ends last week, and if you listened, you cashed in.

Coby Fleener and Heath Miller, available in all but the deepest of re-draft leagues — and available for a song on some daily fantasy sites — were our Week 4 streaming tight ends.

Their matchups and opportunity spikes were plain to see. Not every week will be that easy, sadly, but last week was a prime example of how we can use the waiver wire as our extended bench.

Player Week 4 fantasy points Rank
Tony Gonzalez 26 1
Jimmy Graham 22 2
Jordan Cameron 19 3
Coby Fleener 13 5
Seth McGrath 12 7
Charles Clay 10 8
Martellus Bennett 9 10
Kellen Winslow 7 12
Heath Miller 7 12

Fantasy owners turn their panicked eyes toward the waiver wire this time of year, when their precious every-week options are on bye. Sometimes desperation drives us to rational fantasy decision making, believe it or not.

It’s in those times that we’re forced to exploit matchups, rather than rolling with the same mediocre option facing an obviously difficult matchup.

Let’s run down our top-three tight end streamers for Week 5.

Sean McGrath (KC) at Tennessee Titans: McGrath, the replacement-level tight end whose beard is reminiscent of Michael Myers‘ in Rob Zombie’s atrocious Halloween 2, has seen his fair share of action in Kansas City’s dink and dunk offense. Alex Smith‘s refusal to throw outside the hash marks is a decidedly good thing for the Chiefs’ slot receivers and tight ends.

Not so much for poor Dwayne Bowe.

Now for a quick fantasy points per route run (FPPRR) breakdown, made possible with Pro Football Focus’s compilation of route-running stats: McGrath, who has run an average of 29 pass routes in his three games, has posted a respectable, but not sparkling, .23 FPPRR.

(FPPRR, for the uninitiated, measures a player’s fantasy production on a per-route basis. We find it particularly helpful with running back and tight end projections.)

Maintaining that level of route running with the .23 FPPRR would give the bearded wonder an average of 6.7 fantasy points per game in standard leagues. I think a lot of fantasy owners would sign up for 6.7 points from a waiver wire tight end.

McGrath’s matchup is right. He’s facing a Titans’ defense that has allowed the fourth most fantasy points to tight ends, allowing 6.3 tight end receptions per game. Tennessee’s defense sports two of the league’s best cover linebackers — Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers — along with two of the NFL’s worst cover safeties. PFF ranked Michael Griffin and Bernard Pollard 41st and 82nd in pass coverage, respectively.

Targets are my main concern with McGrath. He’s running a good amount of routes, but he’s been targeted four times a game. That sort of efficiency will take a hit unless he sees even a small boost in weekly looks.

Charles Clay (MIA) vs. Baltimore Ravens: Count me a tad dubious of Clay’s Week 5 prospects. The Ravens, since being roasted by Julius Thomas on Opening Night, have allowed a mere five fantasy points per contest to tight ends. That was expected for a defensive unit that has been traditionally stingy against tight ends.

Clay delivered once again last Monday, grabbing six balls for 42 yards and a score. That raises his FPPRR to a gleaming .31, well above the .23 that we look for in tight ends. He’s running 29.5 pass routes a game — a pace that would score 9.1 points per game, if he can maintain the high FPPRR.

And there’s not really a reason to think that FPPRR is unsustainable, since Clay has drawn more targets than all but nine tight ends.

Dallas Clark (BAL) at Miami Dolphins: Clark is our most desperate waiver wire prayer for Week 5, as he’s proven inefficient on an otherworldly level. Oh Dennis Pitta, where art thou?

Clark’s FPPRR sits at a hideous .13 through four games. He’s running 33 pass routes a game — a number usually reserved for elite tight ends — and has somehow, some way stayed out of the top-20 fantasy tight ends. It’s remarkable, really.

We can’t ignore that he’s running those routes in an offense that sported a 50-9 pas-run ratio in Week 4. He’s also been targeted 29 times (7.3 targets per game).

The Dolphins have allowed more points to tight ends than any team in the league (16.3) thanks in large part to six tight end touchdowns. Jimmy Graham’s fantasy ceiling last Monday night was probably around 200 yards and four touchdowns against that Miami defense.

Miami linebacker Koa Misi is bottom-10 in coverage, according to PFF, and safety Reshad Jones is ranked 85th in coverage. He’s even worse than Philadelphia safety Patrick Chung. That’s bad, folks.

Clark’s FPPRR puts him around 4.3 fantasy points per game, which, while hardly inspiring, could suffice in 14 and 16-team leagues during the ever-hellish bye week.

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