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Those who rolled with Jacob Tamme as their Week 15 tight end learned an unpleasant lesson in Donald Rumsfeld’s known unknowns.
It was Tamme, Peyton Manning’s lumbering security blanket from Indianapolis, who was supposed to replace Wes Welker and absorb the little man’s slot routes against the Chargers on Thursday Night Football. Tamme, after all, ran every single slot route in Week 14 after Welker was helped off the field with a concussion.
That, as we now know, was drawing conclusions based on available information. Welker leaves, Tamme comes in, and no one else gets a crack at Welker’s role. It’s what we saw. It’s what was documented.
We knew this assumption was misguided as almost as soon as the Broncos’ offense took the field Thursday night. It was backup receiver Andre Caldwell, not Tamme, who occupied the slot for Denver. Caldwell, not our guy Tamme, was targeted 10 times and nabbed six balls, including two touchdowns.
There were, of course, pregame reports saying Tamme wouldn’t be part of the Denver starting lineup. Those warnings came far too late for many fantasy owners who had plugged in Tamme expecting him to run around 30 pass routes in the NFL’s most lethal offense.
It’s terribly cold comfort today, but remember that fantasy footballers can only make decisions based on available information, and that information doesn’t include the inner-workings of an NFL team’s offensive game plan. Beat writers can give us some clue as to what coaches are thinking in the days leading up to game day, though we should accept that there will always be known unknowns in fantasy football.
There are also unknown unknowns, but let’s engage one messy reality at a time.
Here are your Week 16 fantasy championship streaming options.
Delanie Walker (TEN) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Walker was the lone tight end to deliver for us last week. Returning from a concussion that held him out of Week 14’s contest, Walker was as involved as ever in the Titans’ offense. He ran a spectacularly high 63 pass routes against Arizona — the most generous team to enemy tight ends — and racked up eight receptions for 59 yards and a score.
While we shouldn’t expect Walker to approach 60 routes again — that number was largely drive by Tennessee’s all-out comeback attack in the fourth quarter — it’s encouraging to see the Titans aren’t asking Walker to block all that much. He blocked a meager 14 times against Arizona.
Only three teams give up more schedule-adjusted fantasy points to tight ends than Jacksonville. Tight ends, in fact, are averaging 6.8 receptions against Jacksonville over the past five weeks.
Applying the fantasy points per route (FPPRR) metric to Walker (made possible through Pro Football Focus data), the big tight end should average about 6.2 standard fantasy points, or 10.3 points in point per reception (PPR) leagues.
Zach Miller and Luke Willson (SEA) vs. Arizona Cardinals
Seattle’s offense is anything but tight end friendly, as you might imagine. Both Willson and Miller are asked to block way more than fantasy owners would like to see. What else would you expect in such a run-heavy scheme?
Miller is the obvious choice if the streaming discussion revolved around which tight end is on the field more than the other. The story changes — ever so slightly — when the conversation turns to targets.
Wilson has seen seven targets over the Seahawks’ past two games. Miller has seen six since the team’s Week 13 demolition of the Saints. What’s more: Willson ran a season-high number of pass routes last week against the Giants, totaling 18 routes to Miller’s 27.
“Zach Miller is a tremendous football player too and Luke Willson. It puts pressure on the defense,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said Dec. 15 when asked about the team’s tight end usage. “They don’t know who to cover at the right time. I think the biggest thing is continue to trust your reads and trust what you are seeing.”
I supposed Miller is the safer, more reliable option against the Cardinals, who now give up 15.7 adjusted fantasy points per game to tight ends. Willson shouldn’t be ignored, however, as his role expands slowly but surely.
Tyler Eifert (CIN) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Eifert’s streaming viability hinges on Jermaine Gresham’s availability after sustaining what looked to be a fairly serious hip injury in Pittsburgh on Sunday night.
Eifert saw a spike in usage six weeks ago when Gresham was held out of the Bengals’ game in Baltimore. The rookie ran an astounding 55 pas routes, was targeted eight times, and grabbed three passes for 55 yards. Andy Dalton almost connected with Eifert twice in the end zone. One was a flat-out drop.
I was surprised to see the Vikings were the eighth most generous defense to opposing tight ends (9.1 points per game), but there they sat, one of the worst against the position. The Vikings, perhaps due to injuries in their secondary, have been particularly bad against tight ends over the past two weeks, giving up 29 points to the position.
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