Jordan Reed and the Factors You Must Consider Before Drafting Him in 2014

jordanreedJordan Reed is a very good football player. When he emerged, he was one of 2013’s biggest surprises. When his season ended prematurely, he was one of 2013’s biggest disappointments. Elite tight ends are a very rare and valuable asset in fantasy football, and Reed could turn out to be just that as soon as this year. I love having an elite TE on my roster, because I automatically know who I’m going to start and know that I’m almost certainly going to beat my opponent at the position.

Despite all that, as of right now, I own Reed in zero leagues. I’m not sure that will change.

Like a lot of the writers at RotoViz, I’m very price sensitive. Any time I’m evaluating a player, I’m really only interested in answering one question: Is he a good value? I think the numbers suggest that Reed is not a good value in 2014. Using the TE Similarity Score App I made two tables, one for standard scoring and one for PPR. In them I included the low, median, and high projections for all the TEs being drafted before Reed, as well as the next two TEs off the board.


TE Low Median High
Jimmy Graham 8.8 9.9 12.3
Julius Thomas 7 8.6 10.1
Rob Gronkowski 7.8 8.7 11.6
Jordan Cameron 7.1 7.7 8.6
Vernon Davis 5.8 7.9 10.3
Jordan Reed 5.6 7.1 7.9
Jason Witten 6 7.5 8.9
Greg Olsen 5.2 5.8 7.2


TE Low Median High
Jimmy Graham 13.4 15.4 19.5
Julius Thomas 12 13.1 15.7
Rob Gronkowski 12.4 14.4 18.3
Jordan Cameron 11 12.1 14.8
Vernon Davis 9.4 12.3 15.4
Jordan Reed 9.1 11.5 13.5
Jason Witten 10.7 11.6 13.8
Greg Olsen 9 10.6 11.5
  • The app seems to think Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski are in a class of their own. That shouldn’t surprise anyone who has ever seen them play.
  • Similarly, it thinks Julius Thomas and Vernon Davis are in a tier together in standard formats, with Jordan Cameron joining them in PPR. Based just on the projections, you have to like Davis as arbitrage for the other two regardless of format.
  • Here is the biggest takeaway for me, and the main reason I’m not really interested in Reed this year. The app seems to think Reed is in the same tier as Jason Witten. Not only that, it likes Witten better regardless of format and he’s being drafted later. I would probably only draft Reed in redraft leagues where I have already drafted Witten, Reed is available at my next pick, and I think Reed is the best available player. That is not a very likely scenario.
  • The app thinks Reed and Greg Olsen have similar floors, especially in PPR. ADP data suggests that Olsen is not only being drafted later on average, but is also falling further in drafts. Taken altogether, it’s not a stretch to suggest Olsen is the better value.
  • Basically, Reed is a third-tier TE, so if I want to draft an elite TE I’m going to draft someone before him. If I’m looking for value, I can draft Witten, who is better and cheaper. If I feel like being even cheaper than that, I can wait for Olsen. I think all the other TEs being drafted shortly before or after Reed are better values–it seems clear that Reed is a value trap.

Of course, the app’s projections don’t directly factor in certain things, like personnel changes, coaching changes, and injury information. Unfortunately, including those aspects makes Reed’s situation all the more dire.

The Broncos lost prolific TD scorer Eric Decker, which could be good news for Thomas, himself a prolific TD scorer. Cameron was far more productive in games without Josh Gordon, who happens to be facing a suspension. Olsen is the only starting Panthers receiver from 2013 returning this year. Witten’s situation is relatively unchanged. There’s bad news for Davis: Michael Crabtree should start this year healthy, and the team also added Stevie Johnson and Bruce Ellington. Davis’ situation is the most similar to Reed’s, as Washington added DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. Both project to be their team’s third receiving option.

One source of optimism is that Washington’s offensive coordinator is Sean McVay, who happened to be their TE coach last year. That seems to add a bit of security to Reed’s role in the offense. Another positive factor is that Robert Griffin III was far more efficient in 2012 than in 2013, because of his health. There have been no reported setbacks as far as his legs are concerned.

But if we’re going to talk about injuries, we have to talk about Reed’s concussions. Reed suffered two last year, after suffering two at the college level as well. If you only remember him sustaining one last year, that’s because he hid the first one after it happened. That’s not good. Reed’s symptoms were so bad and lasted for so long that he openly admitted that he had been worried they would never go away. That’s pretty scary stuff. There’s a chance that he becomes a less murdery Aaron Hernandez, but there’s also a very real chance he becomes the next Jahvid Best or Ryan Swope. If the last name isn’t immediately recognizable to you, it’s because he never got a chance to contribute at the NFL level because of recurring concussions. Compare that with Witten, who has only missed a single game in his NFL career, and the choice becomes even more skewed.

In dynasty, I think you should probably trade Reed if you can get fair value for him, as his risk doesn’t seem to be baked into his price currently. If he suffers another concussion, that will quickly change. If you have another elite TE option, I think you almost have to trade him. I know I was espousing the merits of having an elite TE earlier, and you probably feel the same way. But I also find myself agreeing with the sentiment that the advantage provided by elite TEs could diminish with time. There’s not only a very real chance that Reed’s personal value diminishes, but that the value of all TEs diminishes. That’s far more risk than I’m comfortable with. If you really want an elite TE, you should try to trade Reed as part of a package for Thomas or Cameron. You might be able to work something out for Gronkowski, who has his injury risks factored in his price, and is a better player anyway.

That all may sound very cynical. For the record, I hope that Reed enjoys a very healthy and productive life, even if that means giving up football before he sustains another concussion. I would be overjoyed to see him remain healthy and become an elite TE. I’m not so invested in being right that I would wish ill on a person, but I have to acknowledge the very real risk his concussions represent. I would rather miss out on a top-three TE than be heavily invested in a guy who ends up being out of the NFL by 2015.

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By Justin Winn | @TheHumanHuman | Archive

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