Cover Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images


The next-man-up mantra is one that seems to come into play each and every week in the NFL. Two players that are the epitome of that are Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas and Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith.


Smith took over for starter Delanie Walker in Week 1, while Thomas will now be the next man up for the second time this season with Greg Olsen out for the year.  


With Smith and the Titans playing the Jacksonville Jaguars tonight, let's start there.

The second-year tight end has caught three touchdowns in the past five weeks, but he's topped out at 63 yards in Week 12 against the Texans and 6 catches in Week 11 against the Colts. The most fantasy points he's scored in a single week this season is 13.3 and he's already faced the Jags in Week 3, where he put up just one catch for 9 yards on two targets.

Players seem to repeat their previous performances as has been the case for the Jags, who give up the 15th most fantasy points to the TE position. Only one opposing tight end has dominated them this season, and he did it twice. The Colts' Eric Ebron put up big games against them in Week 10 (3 catches for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Week 13 (10 catches for 81 yards).

Smith has been consistent as well, but his fantasy value is entirely based on if he catches a touchdown or not. Thomas, on the other hand, is now a viable fantasy option whether he catches a touchdown or not.

There's a small sample size here, with just 16 catches on 22 targets for 133 yards this season, but last week after Olsen went down Thomas caught five passes for 46 yards, both season highs.

Facing a Browns team that gives up the seventh most fantasy points to the TE position, Thomas will resume the team's starting tight end duties and should be in line to repeat his season-high performances from last week. The Browns have allowed more than 14 points to the tight end position in five of their 12 games this season, so there's a boom chance here in a crucial Week 14 fantasy matchup.

Despite both tight ends having favorable fantasy matchups in Week 14, there's only one that should start for your fantasy team in this week's playoffs -- that player is Thomas.


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