Delanie Walker, and his fantasy owners, had a rough Sunday.
The Tennessee Titans tight end suffered a gruesome injury during the fourth quarter of his team’s 27-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. The Titans haven’t revealed an official diagnosis for Walker, but the 34-year-old was carted off the field with his right leg in an air cast — a sign that his 2018 season could be in jeopardy.
If Walker is forced to miss significant time, fantasy football players will be hard-pressed to replace one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Tight end is perhaps the thinnest position in fantasy, and most — if not all — of the above-average options are scooped up on draft day.
Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t serviceable fill-ins out there.
Here are the top tight ends to target if you need to replace Walker:
Eric Ebron — Indianapolis Colts
The 25-year-old had a good first game with the Colts, catching four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Ebron has been a fantasy tease his entire career, with his big games often being outnumbered by his no-shows. Furthermore, he has to fight for targets with teammate Jack Doyle, who is one of fantasy football’s more reliable tight ends.
All that being said, Ebron’s talent is legitimate, and quarterback Andrew Luck just might be the man to propel the former Detroit Lion to a breakout season.
O.J. Howard — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Much like Ebron, Howard finds himself in a tight end timeshare with teammate Cameron Brate. The 23-year-old is the better athlete of the two, however, and is capable of putting up huge numbers when the Bucs’ offense clicks. Howard is more of a big-play tight end than a high-volume option, but he’s worth taking a flier on.
The Alabama product had two catches for 54 yards in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints.
Jared Cook — Oakland Raiders
At this point in Cook’s career, we know what we’re getting: Some huge, TE1-type games, but more than enough no-shows to prevent him from being a weekly starter. He probably can’t be trusted, but he showed a decent connection with quarterback Derek Carr last season, and there’s a chance the two build on that rapport this year.
Furthermore, Cook’s numbers could see a spike if Raiders head coach Jon Gruden prioritizes tight ends in his new offense.
Benjamin Watson — New Orleans Saints
We told you tight end was a shallow position.
Despite being 37 years old, Watson remains a decent fantasy tight end, even though he rarely posts above-average numbers. If Watson can stay healthy, he should see enough action in the Saints’ high-flying offense to remain a serviceable fantasy option. He had four catches for 44 yards in the season-opening loss to the Bucs.
Austin Hooper — Atlanta Falcons
Hooper has enough talent to be a top-tier fantasy tight end, but he simply isn’t a priority in the Falcons’ offense. And that’s understandable, considering quarterback Matt Ryan has Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu to throw to. Still, Hooper should get some action in the red zone, and should see just enough targets to warrant the occasional start, if you don’t have a better option.
The 23-year-old had three catches for 24 yards in Atlanta’s Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images