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Although Week 17 can be as unpredictable as global-warmed weather due to teams shutting players down either for the playoffs or to spare them from needless injury in meaningless games, there are still some fantasy leagues out there that use the last week of the NFL season as their fantasy Super Bowl.
If a fantasy owner made it to his/her league’s title game without a decent tight end, congratulations! While quarterbacks, running backs and receivers are more important to fantasy football success, winning consistently without at least an average tight end is difficult.
But if you are now in your league’s championship game and you think an upgrade at the tight end position this week could put your squad over the top, there are still some options available on most waiver wires. Here are three tight ends worthy of a look:
Week 17 Waiver Wire — Tight Ends (TE)
Zach Ertz (TE, PHI) — 40% Owned in Fleaflicker
Ertz’s 2015 campaign was rockier than Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. He went without a touchdown catch for the first 10 games and missed a week due to a concussion. But at least Ertz’s 2015 is ending on a much higher note than Perry’s. Ertz has been downright dominant over the past three games, catching 26 passes for 298 yards and one touchdown. That’s more receptions and yards than some starting tight ends have posted over the entire season.
More impressive is that Ertz has been targeted 30 times over the past two games, including an ungodly 17 times last Thursday against the Washington Redskins. Philly QB Sam Bradford is locked on to Ertz now. It may have taken 13 weeks for it to happen, but Ertz has finally become a focal point of Chip Kelly’s who-knows-where-this-is-going offense. Somewhere, DeMarco Murray must be crying even harder.
The New York Giants have proven this season that there is no offensive player that they cannot make look better. They are the lipstick and blush of the NFL. The Giants are dead last in pass defense, and they are by a wide, wide margin. So if you think this is the week that Ertz has one catch for seven yards and will torpedo the fantasy hopes of millions, guess again.
Ertz is the top tight end to pick up on waiver wires in my mind this week. Only Washington’s Jordan Reed has probably been hotter the past three weeks. Add Ertz to your fantasy roster and your chances of winning your league can only improve.
Vance McDonald (TE, SF ) — 5% Owned in Fleaflicker
McDonald has taken over as San Francisco’s starting tight end since Garrett Celek sprained an ankle and has quietly been solid. In three of his last five games he has racked up 60-plus yards along with a touchdown, including this past Sunday against the Detroit Lions. The man is legit.
McDonald is a former second-round pick who has never gotten a fair shot between Vernon Davis blocking him from starting and some injuries slowing him down. But with Davis and Celek now out of the way McDonald is proving that there was good reason why the 49ers spent a second-round pick on him.
San Francisco is hosting the St. Louis Rams this weekend in a battle of division rivals who have absolutely nothing to play for. The Rams are maddeningly inconsistent, including on defense, but chances are they are primed for a letdown after their shocking road win at Seattle this past weekend. McDonald will not be blanketed considering the Rams have the 21st-ranked pass defense in the league.
McDonald has a lot going for him these days. Surprisingly, one of them is quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who has shocked fantasy owners and the entire NFL by playing adequately the past month. I think McDonald is ready to have another game of 60 yards and a score this weekend, so pick him up if you need TE help.
Maxx Williams (TE, BAL) — 10% Owned in Fleaflicker
Most fantasy owners and pundits probably assumed that Baltimore’s pass offense would go down the drain faster than your mother-in-law’s cold onion soup once Joe Flacco suffered his season-ending injury. But journeymen backups Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Mallett have amazingly not allowed the offense to fall apart. Baltimore has averaged almost 275 passing yards per game over the last three weeks with those two running the show.
With Crockett Gillmore shelved for the season, Williams is Baltimore’s best tight end and has been targeted 11 times over the past two weeks by Clausen and Mallett. His big body is easy to find over the middle, and he can shield smaller defenders away from his hands and catch passes even when he is tightly covered.
Williams and his Ravens have to play at Cincinnati on Sunday, and while the Bengals defense does not take kindly to teams running the ball against them, they allow some leeway when offenses attempt to throw (19th in pass defense). So even though the game may be important for Cincinnati, that does not mean Williams will be locked down like there are six Josh Normans on the field against him.
Look for Williams to be thrown out more than almost any other Raven receiver except for Kamar Aiken this week. Also expect Baltimore to trail for most of the game and have its running game stuffed so the offense will be forced to throw a ton in the second half. Both of these things bode well for Williams ending up with decent numbers for fantasy owners desperate for a tight end.