Fantasy Equity Scores: The ‘Why Not’ Tight End Candidates
July 14, 2017 | C.D. Carter
Many tight ends taken in the waning rounds of a fantasy draft will fly off and on the waiver wire as tight end streamers devolve into climbing-on-the-walls tilt, desperate for a streamer, begging any deity to grant them sweet, sweet clarity.
That doesn’t mean that this tight end tier should be wholly ignored, as a few of the guys below sport high fantasy equity scores that would put them alongside tight ends drafted four, five, and six rounds earlier. You may utter the following words while hitting the “draft” button this summer and watching one of these tight ends climb onto your fantasy roster: Why not? Why not take a chance on a guy who’s being valued as a barely usable fantasy asset when he has a high equity score that would make him a TE1 in standard-sized leagues.
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Questioning why you should draft a player is best reserved for your high leverage rounds. This part of the draft calls for a more free wheeling approach — one that questions, why not?
Remove 2016 games in which Jack Doyle saw less than two targets and the Rotoviz sim score machine pumps out some favorable comps for the Indy tight end, including Dennis Pitta’s 2013, when the Baltimore tight end averaged 42.5 yards and five receptions (on 8.5 targets) per game before succumbing to injury. Doyle’s sim score comps also have Martellus Bennett’s 2014 campaign, when he finished as fantasy’s No. 4 tight end on the strength of 90 catches. Doyle is now the unquestioned TE1 for Andrew Luck, who doesn’t hate his tight ends. Colts tight ends last season drew 149 targets, with Doyle leading the way with 75 targets. Whatever you think of Doyle — who is off the charts in point per grit formats — I’m not sure how one doesn’t target a 100-target tight end going in the 10th or 11th round. His high equity score is based on a (reasonable) spike in targets. And if narrative is your thing, Doyle apparently has Luck’s trust and a solid role in the Colts’ pass-happy offensive scheme.
I don’t know what to make of the Tampa tight end situation. Neither Cameron Brate nor O.J. Howard pique my re-draft interest right now. That goes doubly for Howard, as those infected with rookie fever are logging on and drafting him ahead of tight ends with much more secure roles.
CJ Fiedorowicz, aka Fiedorogoatawicz, who will go undrafted in many fantasy leagues this summer, never saw fewer than seven targets once he inherited Houston’s TE1 role last year. The conservative nature of the Houston offense, Fiedorowicz’s meager 6.27 yards per target and his (very low) 12 red zone targets in 2016 suggest he’ll be more of a PPR asset than a set-it-and-forget it tight end in all formats, though it’s not often mentioned that Fiedorowicz out-targeted all but nine tight ends last season. Martellus Bennett’s aforementioned 2014 season is among his upper-end sim score comps, along with Kellen Winslow, Jr.’s 77-reception, 900-yard 2009 campaign. And with late-round tight ends, all we should care about is upside. Fiedorowicz’s median equity score isn’t hateful and his best-case prospects could be a major boon for those in 14 and 16-team leagues, when finding a viable tight end every week becomes the worst part of existing in this wretched computer simulation that desperately cries out for someone — anyone — to hit the reset button.
Your hatred for Coby Fleener keeps you alive. When the world has you down, you simply summon your expectations for Fleener from last August and you’re instantly energized, as a 10,000-volt charge of pure hatred pulses through you. You’re not alone. Fleener is going 60 picks after his 2016 average draft position. Missing on Fleener last year hurt. This year it won’t, which is why you should hold your damn nose and snag Drew Brees’ tight end, who saw 82 targets in 2016 despite being phased out of the offense for long stretches. Now for story time: some in the Saints’ organization and Fleener himself have said that learning the New Orleans playbook was a major detriment for Fleener in his first year with Brees. I’m going to say that it can’t possibly get worse for Fleener in 2017. He’s still listed as the team’s TE1, and he’s not going to sink your squad unless you’re in some hellish format that starts two tight ends. Fleener was the seventh highest scoring fantasy tight end two short years ago. Is his high equity score really that unbelievable? Stop hating, haters.
The offseason hype machine is working overtime on Julius Thomas, with Miami coaches and players talking up the injury-riddled large man as something of a centerpiece in Adam Gase’s offense. While his ADP isn’t hateful, his upside is firmly capped in an offense that longs for Ryan Tannehill to be nothing more than a game manager as Jay Ajayi is run into the ground unless game script goes sideways. The tight end was targeted 35 times in this offense a year ago. Thomas’ touchdown production would have to be otherworldly for him to become anything more than a spot fantasy starter in favorable matchups.
Jason Witten, the living god of dad runners, piled up a tidy 95 targets in Dak Prescott’s first year under center. The nicest part: Witten nabbed 69 receptions and just three touchdowns for a touchdown rate of 4.2 percent. His career touchdown rate is 5.8 percent, with a career high rate of 10.9 percent. Witten saw 20 red zone targets in 2016, more than all but two tight ends. Witten’s touchdown production has remained higher when Dez Bryant is on the field, so a healthy campaign from Bryant could mean Witten becomes a reliable tight end for the cost of a late-round flier pick. Get the dad runner. Be the dad runner.