1. Jimmy Graham vs. MIA
Under no non-injury related circumstances should Jimmy Graham ever be benched. It makes it even more confusing to me why we saw so much of Dave Thomas in goal line situations near the end of last season. Through three games Graham is averaging 8-119-1.3; those numbers would make Graham the number three ranked WR in terms of yards, and the number four ranked WR in terms of receptions. Of course he isn't a WR …he is a tight end making him that much more valuable. Only two teams gave up more yards to tight ends last year than Miami. Through three games Miami has given up an average of 7-75-1 to opposing tight ends including a 9-108-1 performance Week 1 versus Graham-clone, Jordan Cameron.
2. Jordan Cameron vs. CIN
So, everyone was a little concerned what affect Brian Hoyer would have on the Browns passing game and particularly breakout TE, Jordan Cameron. Well I think we can pack those worries away as Hoyer locked in on both Cameron and returning wide receiver Josh Gordon last week. Cameron got three more TDs last week giving him four on the season and when you combine that with his season averages of 10 targets, 7 catches, and 90 yards, it is safe to say that Cameron is now officially an every week starter and arguably a top three TE for the rest of the year. Cincinnati has allowed #1 TEs no more than three receptions in each of their first three games but they have not faced one with the athleticism of Cameron. The only thing that might bump Cameron down for me is if the Browns trade Gordon in which case Cameron could be triple-covered.
3. Julius Thomas vs. PHI
The last two weeks Philadelphia has proven that while the Chip Kelly offense is dynamite in its' nature, the Chip Kelly defense should just be blown up with dynamite. In fact that is pretty much what their opponents have done to them through the first three games as they are allowing the league's fourth-worst 323 YPG through the air, including a 6-72 average to tight ends. This 6-72 is so remarkable because they have allowed this many yards despite facing nothing better than Washington's "dynamic – cough, cough" duo of Fred Davis and Jordan Reed, the elderly Antonio Gates, and something called Sean McGrath (Who?) this week.
4. Jason Witten @ SD
Week 1 the Chargers allowed Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham to combine for 9-94-3. Week 2 the Chargers allowed rookie Zach Ertz to record only two catches but both were 25-yards +. Finally last week San Diego allowed Delanie Walker to haul in 5-49. Now I know all the touchdowns were scored Week 1, but when you do the math this trend works out to a weekly average line of 5-67-1. Jason Witten has scored twice already this year and he is averaging 5-50 through the first three so I foresee a solid week from Witten, especially if Miles Austin ends up missing the game with his annual hammy injury.
5. Heath Miller @ MIN @London
Last week I expected that Heath Miller would be forced to stay in the box to help block in his first game back especially considering the sorry state of the Pittsburgh O-Line. There is a good chance that Leveon Bell returns this week as well which should make opposing defenses respect the running game at least a pittance. Miller is a red zone beast and a PPR machine when healthy and he looked pretty healthy in his first game back hauling in 3-35. This week he gets to face the Vikings who have given up TE touchdowns three straight weeks including allowing TDs on the exact same play two weeks in a row on their final defensive drive of the game. I shouldn't have to remind you that last year Miller had 101 targets, 71 catches, 816 yards and 8 scores.
6. Owen Daniels vs. SEA
Seattle's cornerbacks are second to none and I expect them to completely black out the Andre & DeAndre show this week, leaving the Texans with only their TE as a legitimate receiving threat. Last week the Jaguars didn't throw a pass at any of their tight ends but that game can be discounted as arguably the best team in football making Swiss cheese of arguably the worst team in football. Over their first two games Seattle allowed a total of 252 passing yards and 38% of those yards went to tight ends, including Greg Olsen accounting for nearly 45% of the Carolina passing offense Week 1. When you combine this with the fact that Andre Johnson is dinged up and that Daniels has accounted for half of the Texans passing touchdowns so far and you can only assume that Daniels is the Texans best hope of establishing a passing presence this week.
7. Rob Gronkowski @ ATL
Only seven teams have given up more passing yards this year than Atlanta, and only three have given up more passing touchdowns. Atlanta has been solid against TEs this year neither allowing any of them to top four receptions nor greater than 45 yards, but they have allowed two touchdowns to this position this year. In his first week back I doubt that Gronk will get a full complement of snaps, but I guarantee that he will be in at the goal line presenting a security blanket target down in the trenches for Tom Brady to lean on. Brady will be ecstatic to see a familiar face down at the stripe as so far this year the Patriots rank last in red zone TD scoring percentage at 30.7%...compare that to last year when they finished with the third best red zone TD scoring percentage at 67.5%.
8. Tony Gonzalez vs. NE
I could easily point out to you that New England has allowed a total of eight receptions to opposing tight ends this season for a total of only 57 yards and you might assume that this is a auto-bench game for Tony Gonzalez. That wouldn't be fair though as I would be purposely misleading you…and we don't do that here at LeagueSafe Post. That 3-19 average for TEs was against the unholy trinity of Scott Chandler, Kellen Winslow, and Nate Byham. Gonzo could go 3-19 on the first series of the game especially if Roddy White is still dinged up. Considering his advanced age and his slow start I'm not counting on a dominant performance this week, but a return to TE1 relevancy is certainly possible against a team that allowed the fourth-most yards and eight touchdowns to the TE position last season.
9. Antonio Gates vs. DAL
Opposing tight ends are averaging 7-68 against Dallas this year as teams tend to throw away from their dynamic corner duo. Antonio Gates scored last week and he has averaged 5-76 through the first three games making him the TE with the third most yards in the league so far. With Malcolm Floyd likely remaining out of the lineup due to getting decapitated a couple weeks ago, Gates and the diminutive Danny Woodhead will continue to be the most targeted options in the Chargers' passing game. I'd like to see Gates get some more goal line love though.
10. Vernon Davis @ STL
The Niners desperately need to get Vernon Davis back healthy for this week as Vance McDonald proved to be a complete stiff last week filling in for him. It is also clear that not having an active Davis in the passing game has had both a physical and psychological affect on Colin Kaepernick. Through the first two games Davis had accounted for 23% of Kaepernick's completed passes and he is definitely the Niners first or second option on passing downs. I'm not exactly 100% ecstatic about this matchup but with Greg Olsen and Jermichael Finley on bye and with Jared Cook disappearing the last two weeks and Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Myers suffering from poor QB play the back end of the TE depth has been decimated this week. In addition, St. Louis has been good against TEs this year allowing only an average of 5-55 to the position including only one touchdown scored and last year they held to Davis to a chintzy 6-45 line over their two meetings.
1. Logan Paulsen @ OAK
In addition to looking like a short-haired version of me I have other reasons to cheer for Paulsen this week. First off both Jordan Reed and Fred Davis are hurt. Second off he is facing an Oakland team that gave up the fourth most TDs to tight ends last year and this year their secondary is even weaker. Third he hauled in 4-54 on six targets last week and lastly Washington has been actively utilizing their TEs this year averaging 7-65 on an average of ten targets through the first three games. If both Reed and Davis miss this game, then all those looks and yards will go to Paulsen.
2. Coby Fleener @ JAX
You would think that Pep Hamilton's play-calling presence combined with a season ending injury to Dwayne Allen would've meant more than TWO measly targets for Coby Fleener last week, especially after the Colts featured Fleener the week before going 4-69-1 on eight targets. Fleener did score a short yardage TD in that Week 2 game and Jacksonville just gave up two short yardage touchdowns to Zach Miller last week so I guess he has that going for him. That said I am still a little concerned that the addition of Trent Richardson will neutralize any looks Fleener may have gotten at the stripe.