Best Ball Bargain Hunting: Tight Ends
The Best Ball Bargain Hunting series looks at the ADP differences for players across popular platforms in order to identify players who may be flying under the radar on specific sites. For an explanation of the methodology, check out the running back article that kicked off the series.
The only scoring note to make before getting into the analysis is a reminder that FFPC leagues use TE-premium scoring. With an extra half-point per reception, tight ends who are expected to see a high volume of targets get a slight bump over those who are more TD dependent. Obviously target volume correlates pretty well to TD upside anyway, but if you think a guy like Jimmy Graham might be more of a red-zone guy in Green Bay than a target hog, it might shift his value just a bit.1
|Player||FFPC - Average||FFPC - MFL10|
Drafters may still be processing the ramifications of Eric Ebron moving from the Lions to the Colts, and it’s likely his ADP will shift one way or the other as we get closer to the start of the season. Though Ebron has been one of the most productive young TEs in recent history, getting cut by the team that drafted you is usually a pretty negative indicator for future success. I’ll let Mike Braude make the case for why he’s a bargain here, and even his detractors probably have to admit that he could outperform his ADP if the Colts give him sufficient target volume.
Cameron Brate may be an example of a player that drafters are worried won’t see enough targets to score well even if he does have TD upside. It’s reasonable to believe O.J. Howard will earn a larger target share this year and that an emergent Chris Godwin and the potential addition of a stud running back in the draft could cut into Brate’s workload. Tampa Bay was willing to shell out a fairly lucrative contract to keep Brate though, so it’s unlikely he completely fades.
With RBs, it was often the case that if one member of a backfield was a bargain, the other came at a premium as drafters placed their bets on who would succeed. In this case, both Howard and Jack Doyle are also looking like bargains relative to other sites. It’s possible that’s the correct read and that these two TE pairs will cannibalize eachother’s opportunity, but at least it’s cheaper on FFPC to take a chance on one of them.
One battle that drafters do seem to have decided on though is Luke Willson beating out Michael Roberts in the Lions TE room. I don’t disagree with that assessment, but it’s a situation to monitor, especially if the Lions don’t add another TE through the draft. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is staying despite the change in head coaches, and Ebron’s vacated targets will have to go somewhere.2
If you’re not paying attention to Trey Burton yet, it might be time to start. Cort Smith has been trying, time and again, to convince drafters to take Burton higher. FFPC players have taken notice, but the other sites still seem to be lagging behind. Despite being at his most expensive on FFPC, it’s possible he’s still a bargain here if he can capitalize on the upside that Cort lays out for us.
Tyler Eifert has always had tantalizing upside, but his perpetual injuries have prevented him from reaching it. It seems to be a trend in FFPC league that risky, high-upside players are taken earlier, likely due to the deeper rosters that allow teams to build out more depth where they won’t worry as much about taking a weekly zero at a position if injuries strike.3 In a winner-take-all format, the risk may be worth it.
|Player||DRAFT - Average||DRAFT - MFL10|
If Burton might still be a worthwhile pick in FFPC drafts where he’s TE13, then he’s an absolute steal as the TE23 over at DRAFT. Heck, Burton was the TE26 last year despite only having two games as the primary TE for the Eagles when Zach Ertz was out. He’s a no-brainer at that price.
The Seahawks are claiming they view Ed Dickson as a pass-catching weapon, and the lack of other options on their current depth chart does support that. Seattle’s TE isn’t going to see a Jimmy Graham level of targets, but might get enough to be serviceable. It’s worth considering though whether it’s ever a good idea to chase low-upside TEs this late in the draft. RotoDoc has made the case for a two TE1 strategy, and there are probably better targets at other positions later in the draft.
Despite Evan Engram’s success last year, rookie TEs rarely produce good fantasy stats. Mike Gesicki wouldn’t have a high bar to clear at his TE25 ADP, but it’s hard to say what his odds of doing that are before knowing his landing spot. Still, last year’s top TEs — Engram, Howard, and David Njoku — all had earlier ADPs after the NFL draft, so this may be a bargain price for Gesicki right now if he ends up in a good situation.
Both Jesse James and Vance McDonald cost a premium on DRAFT. One is constantly injured, and the other has been called “not varsity enough” by his head coach and has now had two different athletic TEs brought in to take his job.4 It’s hard to be confident in either player, but if you have a thing for James he can be had much cheaper elsewhere.
|Player||TRAX - Average||TRAX - MFL10|
In fact, if you want exposure to McDonald, Fantrax is the place to get it. His aforementioned injury issues are obviously a problem, but the 16 targets that came his way in the playoffs versus Jacksonville shows his enormous upside if he can stay on the field. The Steelers have a ton of weapons, but in a format like best ball, all you need are a few big weeks to be a valuable asset, and McDonald has that potential. The discount here is significant enough to take a shot on him.
Gerald Everett is going into his second year on the high-octane Rams offense. Despite being out-snapped by Tyler Higbee for the entire season, Everett garnered just as many targets over the second half. TE wasn’t a big focus of the Rams offense, but Everett was a solid prospect, taken in the second round, and seemed to be the clear favorite as the pass-catching TE in the offense. Rookie TEs take time to produce, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see a step forward this year.
Everything I said about Gesicki above applies to Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews here. In the latest edition of the TE Scouting Index, Hurst and Andrews are currently just ahead of Gesicki.
Everyone has been counting out Jason Witten for years now, but he just keeps producing. After a TE9 finish last year, he’s at his most expensive on Fantrax, but still only being drafted as TE16. Witten may lack the upside of some of his younger counterparts, but if you’re waiting on the TE position, or drafting riskier, high-upside players, he may not be too much of a reach.
|Player||MFL10 - Average|
We’re getting the gang back together! Alex Smith will once again have an opportunity to throw to Vernon Davis over in Washington. Davis finished as the TE16 last year, but certainly benefited from Reed’s injury that kept him out for much of the season. With news that Reed underwent another offseason procedure and his return date is murky, as well as his long and storied history of injuries, it’s fair to assume Davis will get a few games as the primary TE at some point during the season. Even if Reed is healthy, the Redskins pass-catching corps isn’t exactly replete with large targets like Davis, and with Niles Paul departing for the Jaguars, there’s plenty of room for two TEs on the field. At a TE34 price, this seems like an easy choice for squads that need TE depth.
Eifert is also a bargain here, and probably has the highest upside of any TE this late in the draft. He may not be a player you want to go all-in on, but particularly in the Classic format where the goal is to place first, he makes for a hisk-risk/high-reward play.
Brate is being picked as the TE13 after finishing last year as TE10. While there’s a solid chance he can repeat that finish, there’s also not much room for upside barring a bump to his already-high TD rate or injuries to other Buccaneer pass-catchers.5 He’s not necessarily overpriced, but he can be had cheaper elsewhere.
Could Nick Vannett actually be the guy to own in Seattle? MFL10 drafters certainly believe so as he is being drafted ahead of Dickson. It seems likelier that neither Dickson nor Vannett are fantasy-relevant than that Vannett — a poor prospect who has done nothing in his career so far — has a major breakout. Vannett is currently being drafted one spot ahead of Vernon Davis. Don’t make that mistake.
I didn’t mention them in either of the above sections, because I wanted to call them all out here. The top rookies — Dallas Goedert, Gesicki, Andrews, and Hurst — are all being drafted much later in MFL10s than the other sites. I spent a lot of time last year preaching against overdrafting the rookie class of TEs, as rookies rarely are fantasy relevant at TE. However, they were being drafted in the top-15 at their position. The earliest drafted rookie in MFL10s is Andrews at TE41.
This class isn’t nearly as good as last year’s historic class, but there’s still probably the opportunity for value here. Gesicki and Goedert are my personal favorites based on what we know so far of their production and athleticism. Gesicki’s combine was ridiculous, and Goedert tested well at his pro day.6 I’m still a bigger fan of drafting TEs early, but both players make for interesting dart throws at the end of drafts for teams hoping to strike gold at TE. The upside for rookies is limited, but that’s true for pretty much all the TEs being drafted in this range.
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- That being said, it would take a full 12 receptions to make a six-point difference in scoring, the equivalent of just one TD. In reality, it shouldn’t have much effect on a TE’s ranking relative to his peers. The main effect is on a player’s overall ADP as TEs are much more flex-worthy in the FFPC format. (back)
- I’d bet on them going more to the WRs, but still worth considering (back)
- Jordan Reed is also going earlier in FFPC drafts (back)
- RIP Ladarius Green (back)
- Note that Tampa Bay did have a very healthy group at TE and WR last year though. (back)
- Though he didn’t run the 40 due to his recovery from an injury. (back)