After what tight ends did in fantasy football in Week 10, it's hard to blame fantasy owners for being frustrated. Owners who had Julius Thomas and Jordan Reed -- two of the usual suspects among the tight end ranks -- probably won big. The rest of the fantasy football world could not necessarily call themselves as fortunate, due to the most unforeseen stacking of the ranks last week:
I'm speechless, really. If you had John Carlson topping the ranks last week against a putrid Washington Redskins pass defense, then well, great for you (we had him at No. 25). It was likely that owners in only the most desperate situations were the ones who thrived, as that would have been the only reason to start any one of Delanie Walker, Rob Housler or Brandon Bostick. But even then, I can't envision a league or a scenario in Week 10 where Bostick would have been started. Anyway, let's move on and examine a few breakout candidates for Week 11 who fantasy owners can actually count on.
WEEK 11 STUDS
It doesn't get much more obvious than Gronk this week, considering how starved fantasy owners are for a reliable option at the position. Though the Carolina Panthers present a tough matchup by averaging just 47 yards allowed to tight ends this season, it would be playing with fire to generalize from those numbers. The tight ends the Panthers have faced this season are Zach Miller, Scott Chandler, Brandon Myers, Rob Housler, Kyle Rudolph, Jared Cook, Tim Wright, Tony Gonzalez (who had success) and Vernon Davis, who left the game early with a concussion.
Not all of the aforementioned are slouches, but the Panthers have not been tested by a tight end of Gronkowski's caliber. Gonzalez, who is the closest thing the Panthers have faced, posted a line of 6/81/1. But with the Panthers defense as stingy and swarming as it is, expect Tom Brady to heavily favor his most reliable target in a game where he will need to be bailed out.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (vs. Philadelphia Eagles):
It has gotten to the point where Jordan Reed is a must-start every week. But because Reed was a likely waiver-wire add, it's possible that fantasy owners are now left with the advantageous position of having two quality tight ends. If that's the case, Reed or Quality Tight End X should have been traded long ago in exchange for upgrades at wide receiver or running back. Given how rare it is to find a reliable tight end each week, owners should be taking the bait.
But as far as this week is concerned, Reed and the Redskins will be in the fight of their life to keep their season alive, and are in a prime place to do so versus the Philadelphia Eagles. While the Eagles offense is taking the league by storm, their pass defense has been ripped to shreds all season. They are allowing 307 yards through the air per game, a mark that ranks 31st in the NFL. The Redskins aren't really a high-volume passing attack, but when they air it out, it's usually Reed or Pierre Garcon on the other end of the line. Reed has been such a steady option since emerging as the team's starter that it would be difficult to see that production wane in any fantasy format.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers):
It certainly isn't the 2012 Atlanta Falcons taking the field anymore, and though Gonzalez is not on pace with his line of 93/930/8 that he posted that season, he is still a threat despite his recent disappointing outputs. However, all fantasy owners should care about is what he can do going forward instead of the past, which is why it's good to know they could do far worse than having Gonzalez in the lineup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the schedule.
The Bucs are no slouches when it comes to pass defense, but they have allowed 17 touchdowns through the air. That's enough to give a sputtering passing game like the Falcons hope for production, and because teams are converting with regularity, a red-zone threat like Gonzalez could be in prime circumstances to add to his four touchdowns on the season. Despite the struggles since his monstrous two-game stretch versus the New England Patriots and New York Jets, Gonzalez is a sneaky bet to place in the top three this week at his position.
Let's take a look at the top 25 tight ends for Week 11: