The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers started the 2016 NFL season off with a bang. In what turned out to be an instant classic — the Broncos won by a score of 21-20 — fantasy football players were quickly reminded of just how important it is to find and exploit the right matchups on a weekly basis. For example, Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is widely considered to be one of the top wide receivers in the league, but his fantasy matchup against the Panthers on Thursday night just wasn’t promising. With a mere four catches for 48 yards and no touchdowns, fantasy owners who started Thomas are likely kicking themselves today.
Heading into the first weekend of NFL regular-season action, we already gave you the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers who have favorable fantasy matchups in Week 1, and today we are going to take a look at the tight end position. Here they are.
1. Clive Walford, Oakland Raiders
If you have followed our Week 1 fantasy projections at all, you’ve likely noticed by now that we believe the Oakland Raiders are in for a big game offensively against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints’ defense was epically bad in 2015, and it likely won’t be a whole lot better in 2016. Clive Walford, who is one of the best up-and-coming tight ends in the league, should be one of the biggest benefactors. Last year, New Orleans gave up 11.2 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, and we expect Walford to have a similar point total against them in Week 1.
2. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Jason Witten and the Cowboys will face a tough test right out of the gates against one of their biggest rivals, the New York Giants. While the Giants did go out and dramatically improve their personnel on the defensive side of the ball, they still don’t have a player who matches up well with premier tight ends in the passing game. In 2015, the Giants gave up 10.5 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, and we believe Witten will match or exceed that number in Week 1.
3. Coby Fleener, New Orleans Saints
We absolutely love Coby Fleener’s fantasy football potential in the Saints’ high-flying offense. In Week 1, the 27-year-old tight end will face an Oakland Raiders defense that gave up 9.5 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends in 2015. The Raiders have improved on the defensive side of the ball, but when it’s all said and done, we expect Fleener to score 15 or more fantasy points against them in Week 1.
4. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the National Football League. With the San Diego Chargers’ deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball — specifically the loss of safety Eric Weddle — we expect the 26-year-old tight end to have a huge game in Week 1. We envision 10 or more targets and up to 20 fantasy points for Kelce this Sunday.
5. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts
With Fleener now a member of the New Orleans Saints, Dwayne Allen is finally the Colts’ unquestioned No. 1 tight end. As a result, he now has the potential to be one of the best fantasy tight ends in the league. Heading into Week 1, Allen has been fighting through a nagging hip injury, but his return to the practice field this week is a good sign for fantasy owners.
On Sunday afternoon, the Colts will face the Detroit Lions, who gave up 9.1 fantasy points per game to tight ends in 2015, and we expect Andrew Luck to look Allen’s way early and often. Don’t be surprised if Allen ends up with 15 or more fantasy points as a result.