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Fantasy football rankings, Week 15: Tight end features breakout candidates

Dan Ciarrocchi of Pro Football Focus breaks down the top 25 options for Week 14 and highlights three breakout candidates.

For the few fantasy football owners still in contention for their league trophies, congratulations are in order. But let's be honest, the reason they won in Week 14 probably isn't due to them starting their run-of-the-mill, stud tight end, given the list of unlikely players that topped the position's leaderboard in Week 14. As the semifinals approach, things look a little different than they did a week ago in terms of matchups and anticipated production. Let's take a look:


Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Washington Redskins):

Lots of fantasy owners who have made it to this point in the playoffs like to stream defenses from week to week, and in the first few weeks of the season, the rule was to start whichever defense played the Jacksonville Jaguars. At this point, the rule now applies to skill players facing the Washington Redskins' defense, which has allowed the sixth-most points to quarterbacks, fifth-most to tight ends and second-most to running backs.

Tony Gonzalez has a place in that formula, and when owners have a talented tight end capable of exploiting a terrible defense, it's more than worth the start given how unpredictable his position has been over the course of the season. As for Gonzelez himself, he has found the end zone twice over his last two games while the Falcons have remembered that including their tight end in their goal-line blueprint usually bodes well for them. They won't have much resistance this week from a team that has allowed nine touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season.

Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Detroit Lions):

He's back and he is making his mark. Dennis Pitta of the Baltimore Ravens was perceived as a tight end with top-five fantasy potential during training camps until he sustained a torn labrum in his hip and missed all game action until Week 14. But in a game where players would have been better suited wearing ice skates than cleats, Pitta returned to action with six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown.

The Ravens are still limiting Pitta, who played in just 36 of the team's 87 snaps on Sunday, but he led the team with 11 targets. Even in just passing scenarios, Pitta has presented value, and now that he is another week removed from his injury without any setback, it's fair to think that his workload will increase. That rings especially true with the team making a playoff push versus a formidable group of opponents to close out the season, and they will need to enlist the help of their chain-moving receiving weapon. Pitta can be counted on as a surefire TE1 down the stretch for fantasy owners, but it would be encouraging to see his overall snap count increase this week.

Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (vs. New York Jets):

Over the last four weeks, Greg Olsen has been something of a monster in PPR leagues. Though the yardage totals won't reflect that, he has caught 23 passes over his last month's worth of games and recorded no fewer than five in one contest. He is certainly hitting his stride at the right time for fantasy owners, and with a matchup looming versus the New York Jets, that ought to continue.

The Jets have allowed 70 catches and seven touchdowns to TEs this season despite rarely facing teams with an established pass-catching tight end in the lineup. The few times they have, they have been dismantled. For instance, Rob Gronkowski put up 114 yards on eight catches while Jimmy Graham put up 116 and two touchdowns. Granted, that duo performs well against everyone, but also consider Charles Clay catching seven passes for 80 yards and Tony Gonzalez erupting for 10 catches and 97 yards versus the Jets as well. Olsen has the chops to hold his own with the aforementioned and could be in for another big day for fantasy owners down the stretch. Start him with confidence.

Let's take a look at the top 25 tight ends for Week 15:

Rank Player Team Opponent
1 Jimmy Graham NO CLE
2 Julius Thomas DEN SD
3 Greg Olsen CAR NYJ
4 Tony Gonzalez ATL WAS
5 Jordan Cameron CLE CHI
6 Vernon Davis SF TAM
7 Dennis Pitta BAL DET
8 Jason Witten DAL GB
9 Charles Clay MIA NE
10 Martellus Bennett CHI CLE
11 Coby Fleener IND HOU
12 Delanie Walker TEN ARI
13 Jordan Reed WAS ATL
14 Garrett Graham HOU IND
15 Antonio Gates SD DEN
16 Jacob Tamme DEN SD
17 Tim Wright TAM SF
18 Heath Miller PIT CIN
19 John Carlson MIN PHI
20 Scott Chandler BUF JAC
21 Tyler Eifert CIN PIT
22 Ladarius Green SD DEN
23 Zach Ertz PHI MIN
24 Jared Cook STL NO
25 Andrew Quarless GB DAL

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