March 26, 2019

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Pyro Gold Diggers - FF Outlook Nuggets for Tight Ends Vol. 1

Pyro Gold Diggers - FF Outlook Nuggets for Tight Ends Vol. 1

Posted by d-Rx on 08/05/17

by   The Archer


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“In The NFL, you earn or lose respect on ever play: I’ve seen players go from dominating to dominated in a heartbeat.” Tony Gonzalez, the greatest Tight End in NFL history clearly stated the importance of making an impact on every single play. In this version of the ‘Pyro Gold Diggers‘ The Hartbeat is going to provide the knowledge needed to dominate your fantasy football competition!

Rob Gronkowski – Gronk has now been unable to stay active for a full season since 2011 (in which he required offseason surgery). That being said no TE has a higher upside than Gronk. Over the past decade, no pass catcher has yielded a higher passer rating than the Brady to Gronk connection. Gronk also has the highest yards per game and touchdowns per game since the NFL merger in 1970. He also has a great impact on the other players around him as DC’s focus in on stopping Gronk. Brady’s passer rating when Gronk plays sees an increase of 15 along with completion percentage up 6%, yards per attempt up 0.8 and TD per game increases by half of a score. When you take Gronk you have to expect inactive weeks, but when he plays, there’s no one better.

Travis Kelce – Kelce who has been dubbed the nickname ‘baby Gronk’ is on the other end of the spectrum. Since he fractured his patella in 2013 and missed his entire rookie campaign, Kelce has not missed a game. Kelce led all TEs last season in fantasy points, but he also thrived under advanced metrics, also leading the league in Success Rate on 65% of his plays. He also topped TEs in Defense-adjusted yards above replacement. Kelce was also super productive when Maclin did not play averaging 6.5 catches for 95 yards on 9.5 targets per game compared to 5 catches for 62 yards when he did play. The glaring hole in Kelce’s game is his lack of TD production, never having more than 5 in a season. This is largely due to Alex Smith and his game manager style, I expect touchdowns to sky rocket once Mahomes is handed the reins.

Jordan Reed – Jay Gruden has made it very clear that the offense runs through Jordan Reed, this was never more prominent than when the Redskins let their two best WRs based on production walk this offseason. Reed has obviously red flags when it comes to injuries, as he is currently on the PUP list for a toe/ankle and he is one dirty hit away from a career ending concussion. When he is healthy, there is no TE that I would rather have, Reed has averaged the most fantasy points per game over the past two seasons and is targeted on a minimum of 15% of his routes. Like Gronk, with Reed you have to assume that he will not play all 16 games, but don’t shy away from Reed because when he was active in 2016 he was a top 10 TE 75% of the time.

Greg Olsen – Olsen is an interesting play this season, as we have heard the Panthers want to dynamically change their style of play on offense, largely due to bringing in playmakers in the draft in McCaffrey and Samuel and the 32-year-old TE could lose a lot of volume. That being said, Olsen had the highest target share in 2016 at 23.4% which was actually a lower figure than his 25.1% target share in 2015. The Panthers and Cam Newton have shown how much they love Olsen by using him so many different ways. Olsen has always been very productive in the slot leading TEs in 2016 with 509 yards in the slot. He also ran routes from 18 different positions and was targeted from 16 of them. Despite the Panthers saying that they want to change the offense, Cam Newton is more of a play maker and I see him deviating from the script to target Olsen deep downfield, Olsen should provide value again in 2017 as one of the top TE options.


Jimmy Graham – I was surprised to see that Jimmy Graham is already over 30 years old and will turn 31 this season. This is because Jimmy is one of, if not the most athletic TE in the NFL. He ranks in the 93rd percentile or higher in raw 40 time, speed score and catch radius. He also surpassed just about everyone’s expectations of him in 2016 other than his own as he fully recovered from a gruesome ruptured patellar tendon in record time. This is the same injury that derailed Victor Cruz’s career. The Seahawks are likely shifting to a more run centric offense this year, so expect a slight decrease in targets. Thankfully, Graham will neutralize this with his strong yards after the catch figures that yielded the 5th most in the league along with recording the second best-contested catch rate. Graham is a matchup nightmare and he is on all systems go in 2017.


Tyler Eifert – Tyler Eifert burst onto the scene in 2015 as a third-year breakout, leading TE’s in touchdowns. Then Eifert experienced the heralded ankle injury in the Pro-Bowl. In 2015 Eifert had a crazy TD rate converting 25% of his catches into scores. Between natural regression and injury rehabilitation that number dropped only to 17% which is still crazy high. Eifert is a TD specialist and I expect a huge year as he has an injury free offseason. I expect this touchdown rate to drop significantly due to the offensive line is in line to experience a major downgrade after losing Whitworth and Zietler no longer on the roster. If we reference Bradford’s 2016 as an example for results with a bad offensive line we can see Eifert in line for a significant increase in targets on quick drop backs up from his 5.8 targets per game average over the past two seasons.


Hunter Henry – Many expect Hunter Henry to be the featured tight end in the Chargers offense this season, even Antonio Gates has come out and said that he is okay with not being the main option. In  2016 these two split snaps almost perfectly even Henry’s 574 were only 11 shy of Gates, but I’m not counting Gates out yet since Gates has been a TE1 in fantasy SINCE 2004! If we look at the two of them head to head Henry is clearly the better athlete, not debatable. Both played 13 games last year, but Gates saw 3.1 more targets per game, 5 more RZ targets and 1.3 more fantasy points per game. Henry was clearly the more efficient option though, with 2.2 more yards after the catch per target, 4 less drops, and 3 more yards per reception. Overall targeting Henry was 45% more productive than any other pass catcher on the Chargers and the 3rd best fantasy points per target. Expect Henry to have a larger role in the offense, but don’t expect Rivers who has shown that he doesn’t like change by not even relocating with the team, to stop depending on Gates on 3rd down and in the Red Zone.


Kyle Rudolph – Year in and year out we have expected a breakout season from Rudolph, and year in and year out we ended the season with our tails tucked between our legs walking away embarrassed. Well it finally happened in 2016! Here is a list of statistics that Rudolph finished in the top 5 in: targets (1st), target share (2nd), Red Zone target share (3rd), receptions (3rd), receiving yards (4th), yards after catch (4th), Red Zone receptions (1st), and receiving TDs (3rd). But did Rudolph really break out? My answer for this is no. Only two TE’s with 50+ targets had a lower success rate than Rudolph, he failed to crack the top 36 in yards per target, catch rate and he was 8.4% less productive than the other MIN pass catchers. Rudolph was targeted 90% more than his career average, and surpassed his best receiving yard season by a whopping 345 yards, this being the only time he has ever amassed over 500. Though I don’t expect Rudolph to regress all the way back to his career averages, I do expect sharp regression, especially if Diggs can stay healthier this season and LaQuan Treadwell starts to play like the first round draft pick that he was.


Zach Ertz – In Doug Pederson’s first season as head coach, he stayed tried and true to his offensive philosophy in which non WRs hold 3 of the top 5 spots on the team in total targets, Ertz leading the pack. Because of this, I am not worried about the additions of Alshon, Torrey Smith and the incapable at best pass catching RB LeGarrette Blount. Despite Jordan Matthew’s being the teams primarily slot WR, Ertz played 29.3% of his snaps in the slot which generated top 5 numbers in targets, catches, receiving yards, air yards and a very impressive 3rd best fantasy points per game figure at 13.1. I expect Ertz to maintain his 18-19% target share in the Eagles’ offense and for him to provide stellar value as many owners will over draft Alshon.


Martellus Bennett – Does anyone have it better than the ‘Black Unicorn’? He leaves Chicago to join the GOAT Tom Brady in New England for a Super Bowl run, and when his price tag increases in the offseason he gets paid and joins Aaron Rodgers this season. Despite being the second TE on the roster to Gronk, Bennett still manages to put up top ten numbers in receiving yards, yards after the catch, Red Zone receptions and TDs. However, the cause for concern here is that since 2009 the Packers have not targeted a TE more than 20% of the team’s target share. Based on this, Bennett is unlikely to see more than 90 targets this season which limits his upside.


Delanie Walker – Since coming to Tennessee in 2013, Walker has exploded on to the scene averaging 106 targets for 70 catches 837 yards and 5.75 TDs. However, Delanie has just turned 33 and we have to worry if these numbers are a product of Delanie being the only decent receiving option for the Titans. With Rishard Matthews joining the team last year, Walker saw his target share drop by 4% which equates to 31 total targets. Along with his age, the Titans also brought in the fifth over draft pick in Corey Davis and the renowned Red Zone target Eric Decker. What worries me the most about this is that Decker will own the slot this year and that is where Delanie worked out of more than 1/3rd of his snaps. Delanie also saw his production compared to the rest of the Titans pass catchers drop from 12% more productive per target to only 4% more productive in 2016. I expect these trends to continue in 2017 with Henry expected to have a bigger role in the offense, Mariota with the potential to run more, and DeMarco Murray still commanding a large share of the total offense. With all these mouths to feed Delanie’s days of being a top option at TE are likely over, and I’m fading Walker as much as possible this season.


Eric Ebron – Eric Ebron is maybe the most polarizing TE in the league, as many fantasy analysts across the industry have Ebron as their guy when it comes to TE sleepers. Storylines such as Ebron getting the Boldin role which led to 8 TDs vs his single score last season lead us to believe his TD rate should improve drastically. Scoring at a rate of only 1.6% of his catches shines light upon the ‘it can’t get any worse’ theory, but this is what led us to over value Nuk Hopkins last year and I worry that Ebron could be similar this season. Ebron’s 8% TD rate prior to this season would have yielded 4 or 5 scores, but with 66% of his professional seasons generating only 1 TD I think this low touchdown rate could be very sticky for Ebron. Overall Ebron was graded out by PFF as the 49th TE and this was largely due to his 29.6 run blocking grade which was the worst in the NFL. The Lions have invested in the offensive line and want to commit to being a more run balanced team, which should see natural regression as I will guarantee they do not amass 8 4th quarter comeback victories, which was the most by a QB in NFL history. Ebron’s inability to be a solid blocker means that he will be on the field less, and therefore we can’t assume his TDs will rise. I’m not going to deny the 24-year-old Ebron’s incredible upside, but as we say with Kyle Rudolph, these TEs can leave us waiting 3-4 years for their breakout season, I’d prefer to not depend heavily on Ebron as my main TE option this year, but see him as an ideal second option on a fantasy team.


O.J. Howard – Do not draft a rookie tight end is one of the few fantasy strategies that have stood the test of time. Only 8 rookie tight ends have surpassed the 500-yard marker and only 6 have scored more than 5 TDs, and only the two TEs in the Patriots 2010 draft class fall within both criteria. Howard also has to beat out Cameron Brate who has looked strong this pre-season and led TEs with 8 TDs last season. Athletically, no one is going to question that Howard is the superior option, finding himself in the 97th percentile or higher in his 40 time, Speed Score and Agility Score, and only DeSean Jackson can beat Howard in a straight ahead race. The biggest red flag is after Week 9 the Bucs pivoted to a more run heavy offense, cutting Winston’s pass attempts from 38 to 32 per game, the did this to cut down on turnovers, but despite this emphasis Winston’s interception rate remained unchanged at 1.125 per game and increased by a percentage point per target. With Mike Evans having over a 30% target share the past two season, and newcomer DeSean Watson commanding about an 18% target share, I’m betting on history repeating itself and staying away from Howard in redraft formats. However, I love Howard in dynasty and keeper formats as the Winston, Evans Howard combination will be one of the most intimidating matchups in the NFL for the next decade.


Jack Doyle – The Colts target the TE at the 3rd highest rate in the NFL at 26%. Over the past two years, the Colts have been in the top ten in pass volume and have averaged 641 pass plays. If you extrapolate that out it yields 166 TE targets. With Dwayne Allen on the team in 2016, Doyle still played on 75% of their offensive plays and had a strong catch rate of 78%. Based on this, Doyle would be in line for 93 catches on 124 targets, which puts Doyle in the discussion for TE1. While we can’t extrapolate these numbers out and expect the actual results to be correlated linearly, Jack Doyle could be in for a monster season. A lot of this is riding on the health of franchise QB Andrew Luck’s health, but with 13 TEs going before Doyle it is hard to see Doyle not providing spectacular return on your investment.


David Njoku – The Cleveland Browns have been wheeling and dealing, despite winning only one game the Browns have been seemingly making all of the right moves. One of these moves was to trade up into the 1st round to get the incredibly athletic Njoku out of ‘TE university’ Miami. They then immediately put all their chips in on Njoku as they cut their starter Gary Barnidge the very next day. I already advised you against rookie TEs and that still applies to Njoku, but his road to a high target share has significant less obstacles than his fellow round 1 TEs. Njoku fits the mold of a slot WR more than an inline TE and this could expedite his production curve. Njoku was a beast at Miami with 2.34 yards per route which was good for second among draft eligible TEs and he led the nation with 483 yards after the catch, and 15 forced missed tackles was only topped by one player. Njoku could make an immediate impact in the slot as 72% of his catches came out of the slot. I like Njoku as a late TE2 flier who could offer some big games his rookie year.


Austin Hooper – Although we expect the Falcons offense as a whole to regress, Hooper is one of the rare cases that we expect to take a big step forward. With Jacob Tamme out of the picture, Hooper has dibs on the starting TE position. Hooper finished the year very strong, with an average PFF grade just shy of 80, which would have projected out to make him the 10th rated TE on the season. In their limited work, Matt Ryan had a 150.2 passer rating when targeting Hooper, which is nearly perfect and undoubtedly the highest among TE options. After spending the offseason working out with Matt Ryan, Hooper should be an important aspect of the Falcons’ offense. Remember that Hooper is a gamer, he stepped up in the playoffs when it mattered most and he achieved something that no other man can say. He scored a receiving touchdown against a Bill Belichick led Patriots team, and he did so on the game’s biggest stage.


Evan Engram – Evan Engram truthers saw the light for a half hour on 8/2 when Sterling Shepard was carted off the field. Now that we know Shepard’s injury is just a sprained ankle, we feel slightly less excited about Engram’s outlook in his rookie season. Although Engram will remain behind Beckham Jr, Marshall and Shepard in the Giants pecking order, I think it’s important that Engram and Eli will bond over their Alma Matter. Engram may not be worth drafting in redraft leagues, but keep an eye on him as it is very possible that if the Giants have injuries among their pass catcher, Engram’s nation leading 685 yards out of the slot could provide some very high upside weeks if you are streaming the position as well as in DFS.


Coby Fleener – It’s hard to remember a time when the entire fantasy community has been as disappointed over a player as we have been with Coby Fleener over the past two seasons. Fleener was expected to do big things in Indianapolis with his college teammate Andrew Luck. After surpassing the 50-yard mark in only 3 games in 2015, the Colts decided it was in their best interest to let Fleener walk. Then we were enamored over Fleener’s potential in playing with Drew Brees, Fleener disappointed again with only 4 games over 50 yards! One has to wonder if Fleener will ever be able to put it together, but OMG the Saints traded Brandin Cooks, and like any good addict I am lining up for more. Scott Barrett at Pro Football Focus introduced us to Actual Opportunity, which calculated expected points based on where each play started in terms of down and distance and field position. Only Jared Cook and Marcedes Lewis were less effective than Fleener on their targets. Fleener yielded only an 83.9 passer rating, which was the worst in the league among TEs with 75+ targets and on the Saints, Drew Brees passer rating when targeting any other pass catcher did not drop below 104. This year, I have learned my lesson and I am staying away from Fleener, despite his 5th best Strength of Schedule and expected increase in targets sans Brandin Cooks. Actually, those numbers look pretty tasty, I’m back in on Fleener!


Julius Thomas – It’s hard to remember anything that Julius Thomas has done since his Denver days where Bleacher Report labeled him as ‘the NFL’s Ultimate Matchup Weapon’. Since leaving Denver in Free Agency in 2015, Thomas still has not provided us with only 1 game with over 100 yards and a TD. There are reasons to like Thomas as he reunites with his former Denver OC, Adam Gase, who has been talking Thomas up all offseason and looked like a prophet with his trade of now-retired OT Branden Albert to get Thomas. Peyton Manning threw for 94 TDs from 2013 to 2014 with Gase and Thomas, but we cannot even compare that to Tannehill as he has only thrown for 12 more TDs in his 5 year career than Peyton did in just those two years. With a very limited upside in Miami, and an injury history of 6 years in the NFL without a single 16 game season, I’m not going to count on Julius in a major way and consider him only an option for streaming and in deep best ball leagues.


C.J. Fiedorowicz – No team targeted the TE on a higher rate than the Texans did last year at 31% of the time. Whether this was by design or due to Brock Osweiler’s limitations at QB, we won’t know until we see how the Texans attack opposing defenses this year. Only three TEs had more games the CJF with 7+ targets, for which CJF had 7. It’s also important to note that CJF was not a part of the offense until week 4, as he amassed only 4 total targets in the first three weeks. After that point CJF was as steady as they came at a largely TD dependent position, finishing as a top 24 TE in 11 of the 12 games played. CJF has a higher floor than his ADP represents and his 6th best PPR point per opportunity shows that he has an even higher ceiling. It would be foolish to not consider CJF at his current price in your 2017 drafts.


Jason Witten – Jason Witten is a sure-fire Hall of Famer when, or if, he decides to hang up the cleats. The 2017 season will be Witten’s age 35 season and he has put up some crazy numbers in his career. Witten is sitting pretty with the second most receptions and yards among TEs, both of them to the heralded Tony Gonzalez. Witten has the second best catch rate in his career as well at 71% behind only PIT’s Heath Miller. Despite seeing his production slowly trend downwards since his 110 catch 1,000 yards 2012 season, Witten is vastly overlooked as a solid fantasy option. Since targets have been recorded Witten has never seen below 89. Yeah, let that sink in, Jason Witten started playing for the Cowboys before targets were recorded. Like with Antonio Gates, I’m just not ready to say these old great TEs are done yet. Dallas targeted TEs on 23% of their plays, but with Dak and Zeke were dead last in total passing plays with 510. Still Witten was largely relied on, as he sustained a 20% target share which was 5th in the NFL and he had the 4th highest Red Zone target share at a whopping 30.5%. Witten showed that he can still ball despite losing a step or two with the second best contested catch rate at 85% and I expect the Cowboys to continue to rely on Witten as the young QB, Prescott develops. According to Mike Clay’s projections, no player offers a better return on investment given that Witten is basically free and is not going anywhere until he decided it’s time to call it quits. As long as Witten doesn’t call it quits, I’m not calling it quits on him either. Witten’s greatest selling point, is that despite playing with 4 different QBs in 2015 en route to a 4-12 season Witten caught 100% of his 77 catchable targets. Witten is a surefire low end TE1 and will continue to be probably until he dies.


Cameron Brate – As previously stated, Brate led all TEs with 8 TDs in 2016. Brate is almost certainly set up to see less targets in 2017 as the Bucs bring in their new toys in DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. Beat reporters haven’t been able to shut up about Brate this offseason though, noting his chemistry with Winston and strong play in drills and scrimmages. Brate’s counterpart at TE, O.J. Howard will be gunning for his job as he put together a rare combination of PFF rated #1 overall TE and #1 run-blocking grade. Even though the 8 TD season, more than likely is not repeatable, Brate is in the driver’s seat for starting TE. Targeting Brate yielded the fourth highest passer rating among TEs, as he boasted the 5th lowest drop rate. Brate also put up 57% of his overall yardage coming out of the slot. If the Bucs use a heavy dosage of 2 TE sets both could be effective in 2017, but until otherwise proven Brate is their guy in 2017.


Jesse James – If we were projecting players based on who has the best name in sports it doesn’t get much better than Jesse James. Unfortunately, this Jesse James isn’t stealing fantasy points left and right and what most people probably remember from James’ 2016 season was the end zone target that hit James square in the chest and ricocheted into the sure hands of Eli Rogers. With Martavis Bryant returning from suspension (if the NFL ever actually fully reinstates him) James likely missed his window of opportunity to carve out an extended role in the Steelers offense. With Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant the Steelers just won’t have the remaining targets to offer significant fantasy value. However, week 1 is infamous for fluke fantasy production, and there’s no better chance to score than the Steelers week 1 matchup against the Browns. If you commit to the TE stream, then James could be a sneaky pick, if you expect anything after week 1 though, he is not your ideal option.


Gerald Everett – Everett is an interesting case this year, he has the basketball background that NFL teams have turned to for TEs due to the recent success of converted basketball players from the likes of the Gates and Grahams. But his lack of football experience means his route running will be a work in progress. He is a gamer though, South Alabama is a college that no one would consider a power house, most would consider it to be a confidence builder game. Everett showed he can ball when he put South Alabama on his back as they targeted him again and again en route to a clutch 4 yard TD pass to put South Alabama up by 1 with less than a minute remaining. They would eventually hold off Mississippi State’s final efforts and beat the SEC power house. Unluckily for Everett, he is going into a Rams offense with a disappointing QB in Goff. Although Goff could turn it around in his career, it is unlikely to be as instantaneous as this year, and Everett doesn’t move the needle enough to greatly impact a Rams team that rated dead last in the NFL on success rate when targeting TEs. With the other options at TE, I’m staying far far away from a rookie TE on the worst offense for TEs in the NFL.


Jared Cook – The Green Bay Packers have Jared Cook to thank as he hauled in a last second Hail Mary from the Hail Mary king himself Aaron Rodgers effectively ending the Cowboys season (Sorry Cowboys fans, but the Falcons have it worse). Although we cannot count out the idea that the young QB Carr makes another step in his development and has the ability to sustain 3 fantasy targets, this is going to be the Cooper and Crabtree show with a side of Beast Mode. The Raiders targeted the TE only 16% of the time, that figure was second worst with only the Jets showing a lower percentage. Don’t expect Cook to be anything more than a streaming option this season as the 30 year old TE lands on his 4th team.


Adam Shaheen – Once Travis Kelce refused to allow the nickname ‘Baby Gronk’ to stick, it was then passed down to Shaheen. Another converted basketball player is still very raw, but burst on to the scene at Ashland setting D2 records in his first year as a football player. At 6’6” Shaheen is a beast and should have the physical traits to be able to box out any defender and make contested catches with ease. With Zach Miller on the team, I like Shaheen’s opportunity to work under him, and be able to build rapport with fellow second-teamer rookie Mitchell Trubisky. I think Shaheen could develop into a solid TE down the road, and is worth consideration in dynasty leagues. Shaheen likely won’t have an impact on the 2017 season as he will need to refine his football skills and develop alongside Trubisky.


Dwayne Allen – Dwayne Allen was traded to the Patriots this offseason, and is one of many trades that the Patriots made turning draft picks into veteran players. Allen is in the unique situation of being a backup TE that has more perceived value than many starters on other teams. As previously stated, in this role Martellus Bennett put up top ten numbers in receiving yards, yards after the catch, Red Zone receptions and TDs. But Bennett is a superior athlete to Allen and Bennett got to work as the TE1 on the Patriots in half of their games. Gronk is reportedly back to 100% health, and we expect him to be playing in more than 8 games. Allen, nonetheless is a smart backup plan in fantasy for Gronk owners, but is by no means a must have player.


Charles Clay – The former 6th round pick out of Tulsa had a sneaky season last year as he’s consistently seen a 20% target share in Buffalo. With Sammy Watkins coming back healthy and rookie Zay Jones coming in, the Bills could have a formidable passing attack this year which would certainly boost Clay’s stock. Despite chronic knee issues and his least productive season since 2012, Clay has continued to provide value in run blocking, being rated as the 4th best run-blocking TE by PFF. Clay’s run blocking abilities will keep him on the field for the Bills and if he improved on his drop rate of 10.94 he could be in line for a solid season as a back end TE2 fantasy option.


Antonio Gates – Let’s reiterate this from earlier: Gates has been a TE1 in fantasy SINCE 2004! The 37 year old future HOF Tight End was recently granted dismissal from practice to see his former teammate inducted into the Hall of Fame this offseason. Despite his age, and drop in production Gates is coming back for another season, but there is the chance he comes back only to get the final TD needed to become the sole TD leader among TEs in NFL history. I don’t think that will be the case. Gates is still one of Phillip Rivers favorite options as he finished with the 9th most targets among TEs despite missing 3 games. Gates continues to be used heavily in the Red Zone, as he received 27.5% of the teams Red Zone targets which yielded the 3rd most TDs among TEs in 2016. In fact, no TE was targeted on a higher percentage of their snaps than Gates in 2016, slightly under 17%. Gates production this season will likely rely on his health and how hard he wants to push himself as he has already stated that he is okay with not being the main TE option in the offense, but as long as Gates is on the roster and Rivers is the QB, Gates has a high TD upside.


Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Seferian-Jenkins has been in the news lately, and for the first time in his career it has been positive feedback. After being cut in Tampa Bay stemming from DUI and a consistently bad attitude, ASJ has been regarded by PFF’s Eliot Crist as the best player on the field for the Jets OTA’s. As mentioned before, the Jets targeted TEs only 5% of the time, this alarming number is likely to come up with McCown at the helms who has shown an affinity throughout his career to favor taller receiving targets. If we accept ASJ’s 2015 in Tampa Bay as his potential, we can note that only Jordan Reed had more yards per route run, finishing better than the likes of Gronk, Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen who are perennial top tier TEs. With many speculating that the Jets will be tanking this season for a high draft capital QB. The Jets negative projective game script through the 2017 season should bring about a lot of passing in garbage time, and although it’s not ideal to rely on garbage time it is undebatable that there is value in garbage time in the fantasy world. ASJ is a cheap flier for a TE with top 12 potential.


Jonnu Smith – At this point, you should know what I’m going to say. We don’t draft rookie TEs. You should be having nightmares about accidentally smashing draft on a rookie TE on your draft day. Okay, got that out of my system. Mike Mularkey has raved about Jonnu Smith as he is breeding him to be the heir apparent of Delanie Walker. Smith reflects what seems to be the overwhelming shift at TE for these hybrid slot WRs as he played more than half of his snaps at FIU from the slot. Mularkey wants to prepare Smith to be used in a variety of ways after Smith showed an affinity for producing from the slot, leading the nation with 48 catches in 2014 and putting up similar numbers thereafter. Currently, he is sitting behind Walker, Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, Tajae Sharpe, and Taywan Taylor on the Titans. Jonnu is worth a flier in dynasty but doesn’t have the upside that some other rookies may have with all of the other young weapons in TEN. But as we know the most constant aspect of the NFL is change and Smith has solid college production and the physical traits to be a good pro.


George Kittle – George Kittle is taking over the world one beat reporter at a time. It seems that everyone in the 49ers organization has been gushing over Kittle, many times saying he is in line to replace Vance McDonald immediately. Guess what, Kittle is still a rookie TE. At 6’4” and 247 pounds Kittle tested off the charts coming out of Iowa validating his 4.52 40 time with top end measurable in Speed Score, Burst Score, Agility Score, Catch Radius, SPARQx and every other imaginable athletic metric. The issue is that the 49ers have nothing else to gush about due to their overall lack of talent, there are even reports that one of their most effective players is a potential cut candidate in Carlos Hyde, so we have to take everything from their camp with a grain of salt. However, I like what the 49ers did granting Lynch and Shanahan time for failure with 6 year contracts. Kittle showed the ability and willingness to do the dirty work as he allowed only one QB pressure and no sacks on 47 snaps yielded a rating of 98.4 in pass blocking by PFF. Keep Kittle on your radar as we look for the 49ers to rebuild, and the starting TE on an up and coming roster is definitely a valuable fantasy commodity.


Erik Swoope – Erik Swoope is great for best ball leagues, he has the potential to vulture more TDs than anyone on this list. As previously stated, the Colts target the TE heavily and although Doyle rules, he still only has one season of decent production under his belt. Last year, Doyle saw 75% of the team’s snaps, Dwayne Allen was sitting slightly below him at 70%. It is conceivable that the Colts will for yet another season, use two TEs that cannibalize each other’s value drastically. The former Miami basketball player has already received the praise of GM Chris Ballard, and the Colt threw more TDs to the TE last season than every team that doesn’t have a TE who is tied for the most TDs ever. In his limited role, Swoope was second to only Gronk in yards per route run at 3.09. Swoope also conveyed that he could hold value with the third highest yards per target, the second highest production premium and a 29% increase of production when targeted compared to his fellow Colts pass catchers. Swoope also had the 5th highest fantasy points per target, although this figure doesn’t translate very well year over year, Swoope has shown that he has the ability to hold value, now let’s see if he can sustain those rates with extensive volume.


Vernon Davis – The 33 year old former 49er is a shell of his old self, but a shell of the highest draft player of a position group in NFL history is not a bad shell to have. The Redskins have the 8th heaviest pass offense, and with D-Jax and Garcon out Cousins could look for Davis as a familiar target. With Jordan Reed’s injury history and current situation on Washington’s pre-season PUP list, Vernon Davis becomes a show in TE1 in any week that Reed is inactive. Davis had an incredibly strong 4 game span from Week 6 to Week 10 where he found himself finishing as a top 10 TE in each contest despite never seeing more than 6 targets in a given game, and only 2 Red Zone targets. Davis is a clear handcuff for Jordan Reed and offers value as a streamer as well.


Seth DeValve – Brown’s beat reporter, Mary Kay Cabot has been in the news consistently hyping DeValve as one of the most pleasant surprises coming out of Browns camp this offseason. With Barnidge kicked to the curb, DeValve likely steps into sole possession of the starting TE job, with Njoku gradually being worked in. As a rookie DeValve played only 92 snaps, but hauled in all 10 of his catchable targets. He tied Hunter Henry for the most forced missed tackles among rookie TEs despite seeing significantly less volume. At a bare minimum we can expect to see the Brown’s replicate their 2 TE set usage of 20% of the time. Hue Jackson’s TE1 has seen 81, 72 and 79 targets in the last 3 years respectively and has finished anywhere from TE19 to TE6. If Kessler remains the Brown’s starter we can look to his connection with Barnidge that was good for 9.44 PPR points per game, and we can swap DeValve in Barnidge’s spot as Seth is the superior athlete and being 7 years younger, he could do more after the catch. DeValve is a sneaky TE option this year and if you sleep on him, it could come back to haunt you.






By The Hartbeat




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