Fantasy Remembrance (QB and TE Edition)
Every season, there are a handful of guys who get hurt, or simply end on a poor note, causing them to slip in ADP the following year. Many a time, people who pass on players simply because they missed part of/a whole year due to injury end up looking foolish once the season rolls around, realizing they could have taken that player at a discount. This discount is brought upon by a nasty epidemic known as recency bias, and I'm sad to say we have all fallen victim to it at one point or another. Sure, when a 36 year old ruptures his Achilles, maybe it's time to move on (pour one out for Steve Smith Sr.), but when a 24 year old sprains an ankle, that's no reason to shy away. There are a few names whose ADP's have suffered because of these reasons, all of which look to provide great value heading into 2019, so without further ado, let's get to it.
CARSON WENTZ - PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Carson Wentz is a peculiar fellow. These past two years, he has performed well when active, but then goes down with a freak injury, allowing BDN to take over and bring the Eagles where they never hoped they could under Wentz. I'm not sure if it's the injuries that cut his seasons short that make people shy away from Wentz in fantasy, or if it's because he's not the most well-endowed quarterback on his own team, but to me, it makes no sense. When #11 suits up, he's clearly a top 10 fantasy option, and he has proved that two years in a row.
Let's take a look at is 2017 campaign, shall we? In just 13 games, Wentz threw for 3,296 yards, 33 tuddies, 7 picks, and ran for just shy of 300 yards (299). On a 16 game pace, those numbers would project out to 4,057/41/9 and 368 yards on the ground. These numbers may not look all that great, as we just saw Patrick Mahomes nonchalantly drop a 50 burger, but other than him, no other QB this season topped 40 Tugs (Luck was 2nd with 39). Over his 13 game run in 2017, Wentz was the QB2, putting up 21.8 fantasy points per game, which would have made him the QB3 this season. Obviously, this could have been an outlier season. We've seen guys like Derek Carr explode one year, just to bust for the rest of his career. No matter how hard DC prays, he just won't reach that pinnacle he had once attained, and trust me, God is on his side. The difference between Carson and Derek, though, is the fact that Wentz has actually shown he isn't just a one year wonder.
This past season, he missed the first two games, but surprisingly made an early return in Week 3. He didn't make a big impact right away, finishing the week as the 23rd best quarterback in Week 3, but from there on out, he finished outside of the QB1 range in just 4/10 games. That may not sound promising, but looking deeper, you'll see he finished as the QB13 twice, meaning he was usable in 8/11 of the weeks he was active. Let's call a QB13 or better finish a "hit", meaning he was useable that week, for arguments sake. His 72.7% hit rate was comparable to many of the quarterbacks who ended the year inside the top 10. Let's look at Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck, the QB2 and QB5, respectively. Both of their hit rates amounted to 75% (14/16 games), which is awfully similar to Wentz. How do the QB3 and 4, Big Ben and Deshaun Watson, stack up? They hit on 56.25% and 68.75% of their games. This by no means points to Wentz being a better/comparable fantasy asset to these guys, since he only finished among the top 5 just once while the previous names all did it multiple times, but it does point to his elite consistency. He may not be a week-to-week top 5 threat, but he manages to get the job done and produce at a fairly high level on a regular basis, bringing to the table a high floor matched with upside due to his mobility.
Listen, Philly is a team that wants to, and has to, pass the ball. Last season, their pass percentage increased by 6%, from 56% in 2017 to 62% (7th highest) in 2018. They have no runningbacks of note, so barring any major pickups in the offseason, I wouldn't expect the Eagles to, in any way, become a run heavy team. In turn, Wentz will get all the volume he needs to produce at a high level, which we have seen he's capable of in the past. He has elite receiving weapons in Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz (I doubt Golden Tate plays for Philly in 2019), and even Nelson Agholor has shown flashes of brilliance. Keep in mind, Wentz was dealing with a back injury ALL season, yet he still managed to put up valuable numbers. If the Eagles move on from Foles after all he's done for the city, that will not only show the confidence they have in Wentz, but also serve as an indication that he's most likely healthy and this won't be a recurring injury.
Earlier this year, I ran a poll to see where people would rank the top quarterbacks heading into 2019, as as you can see:
he currently isn't even being valued as a QB1. If he manages to slip behind guys like Jameis Winston, or an AB-less Big Ben come draft day, there's no chance I'm not scooping him up in the later rounds. Where he sits right now (yes, it is extremely early) is a tremendous value, so if these rankings hold true, I'm going to be owning a lot of CW shares heading into 2019.
JIMMY GAROPPOLO - SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Before Jimmy G was spotted out with Kiara Mia last season, all talks concerning him were about how big of a fantasy contributor he would be in 2018. He was almost single-handedly responsible for making Marquise Goodwin a 4th round pick and propelling Jerick McKinnon into the RB1 conversation. Neither of these projections came into fruition, as JM missed the entire season with a torn ACL, and Goodwin wasn't able to produce either, playing only 11 games and having to catch passes from Rickety Cricket
and Nick Mullens. The entire offense looked like it was going to implode once Garroppolo's knee took a turn for the worse, yet they still managed to produce a few viable fantasy options in Matt Breida, George Kittle, and even Dante Pettis for a short stretch. What I'm getting at is if these guys were able to produce with shitheads manning the helm in 2018, then they must be pretty decent football players (great analysis), and if Jimmy has these 3 weapons surrounding him, as well as a healthy Jerick McKinnon and whoever else they decide to pursue in the draft/free agency, production is inevitable. Just look at 2017, when he joined the 9ers late in the season and started 5 games. Of those 5 games, he finished as a QB1 three times, while improving his weekly finish almost every game (QB26, 17, 12, 4, 9). What's even more impressive than becoming fantasy relevant despite being traded and thrown into the fire late in the season is how he did so well with limited weapons. His leading receivers in those 5 starts, outside of Goodwin and Kittle, were Kyle Juszczyk, Trent Taylor, and Garrett Celek. He had absolutely no help out of the backfield, as Carlos Hyde was the team's workhorse, spelled intermittently by Breida, Pierre Garcon was placed on I.R. earlier in the year, and Kittle wasn't as involved in the passing game in 2017 as he was in his record breaking 2018 campaign.
The offensive improvements don't just stop at the skill positions, either. In 2019, Jimmy will get to throw behind a fairly strong offensive line, one which profootballfocus ranked as the 15th best unit following this past season, up from #20 just a year ago. They invested in Mike McGlinchey in the draft, who played fairly well (grading out as the 25th best tackle), and the ageless Joe Staley graded out as PFF's #6 tackle. Their weakspot was at center, where Weston Richburg graded out as the 33rd best center (come on man, only 32 centers start in the league, you gotta be better than that), but with the 7th most capspace in the league, they may be able to pursue Matt Paradis, PFF's #2 center. If that doesn't happen, it won't be the end of the world, as their line is already middle of the pack.
Along with the weapons he's going to have at his disposal, another reason I'm high on Garoppolo is because of their defense. Why is that you may ask? Well, they kinda suck. They allowed the 5th most points in 2018, after allowing the 8th most in 2017, meaning they're typically playing from behind (as seen by their -4.35 gamescript, 6th worst in the league). Good QBs on teams with bad defenses have always provided fantasy value since they are forced to throw, in turn, increasing their volume. "Talent + Volume = x" is one of the most beautiful equations in the world, first discovered by Fibonacci. In his writings, he explained that if a player is good at throwing the ball, and he has the opportunity to throw it, then he will provide fantasy value (represented by "x" in the equation). His teachings stand the test of time, as in 2018, only 4 of the top 12 quarterbacks were on teams who finished inside the top 12 in least points allowed, meaning 67% of QB1s last year were on average to below average defenses (Rivers and Kirk were QB1s and their teams allowed the 11th and 10th most points, respectively), and just ONE QB1 was on a team that was inside the top 7 in least points allowed (Deshaun Watson).
As long as the 49ers are a doormat on the defensive side of the ball, Jimmy will be forced to throw, and with his improved supporting cast of George Kittle, Matt Breida, and a healthy Jerrick McKinnon, Dante Pettis, and Marquise Goodwin, he's gonna explode, much like what he did the night he was caught out with a certain Ms. Mia. As you can see in the Carson Wentz portion of this article, Jimmy G came in as the QB15 on the Twitter poll after being drafted as the QB11 in 2018, per fantasyfootballcalculator. What has changed to cause this fall in ADP? Nobody expected Kittle to be the weapon he was in 2018, and even Pettis surprised when healthy. Along with that, he'll actually have McKinnon on the field. I get that guys like Mayfield, Goff, and Mahomes are new additions to the QB1 class for 2019, but with Big Ben, Stafford, Brady, and Cousins falling out of that range, I don't see why JG dropped off so much. Even if the 9ers make absolutely ZERO offensive additions this offseason, I'd still take him as a back end QB1, similar to where he was last season. Now, if they do go out and draft a guy like N'Keal Harry or Kelvin Harmon, or GOD FORBID acquire Antonio Brown, I'll be owning all of the Garop in 2019. If you're still sleeping on JG, put on some Fort Minor to help you remember the name.
JACK DOYLE - INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Of the three tight ends on this list, I'll start off with the most uninteresting one. When you see the name Jack Doyle, what do you think of? To me, he's basically a right tackle with hands, and that analysis isn't all too far off. He's not athletic or flashy, but he's consistently on the field due to his blocking prowess and gets utilized in the passing game regularly. He struggled with injuries this season, missing weeks 3-7, playing in their next four, and then going out for the year with a lacerated kidney. They guy just couldn't catch a break. Despite this, he was able to produce in the games he was active, finishing as a TE1 twice, and just outside that range on two other occasions (TE14 both times). Only two weeks did he really disappoint, where he finished as the TE19 and TE36, but at a position with minimal options, that's almost expected (outside the top 3-4 guys). It's hard to make anything of last season, though, since he missed a total of 10 games, which is why he is being completely overlooked heading into 2019. When recency bias hits, it hits hard, and as of right now, he isn't even being drafted as a top 15 tight end per fantasyfootballcalculator. Other than his injury woes, this slip in draft position could be attributed to the emergence of Eric Ebron, who scored a position-leading 14 touchdowns; however, I'd look a little deeper.
***I'm not sure why it shows 15 total games. It may not count one where Doyle left early (Week 12), where Ebron put up 5/45/2 on 7 targets*** If you ignore Ebron's touchdowns (which isn't unfair since it's such a high-variance stat), you can see he was MUCH worse when Doyle was on the field. Not only did he catch less passes, he also saw half as many targets as he did when JD was active. This isn't because Luck wasn't looking his way, either, it was because he wasn't getting as many reps. The following were Ebron and Doyle's snap percentages in games where they were both active (Ebron's % listed first, Doyle's % listed second):
Week 1: 45%, 94%
Week 2: 28%, 97%
Week 8: 22%, 73%
Week 10: 38%, 87%
Week 11: 40%, 82%
Week 12: 71%, 55% (Doyle left early with a lacerated kidney)
If you want to make the argument that this was because it was Ebron's first season with the Colts, that's fine, but why would he still be losing snaps to Doyle eight weeks through the season, even after JD having missed five straight games with a hip injury? It's simple, really. O'Doyle (rules) is the Colts' #1 tight end, and outside of endzone/redzone situations, he will be used as such. His average stat line was (targets/receptions/yards/touchdowns) 5.5/4.3/40.8/0.33, which paces out to 88 targets, 69 (nice) receptions, 653 yards, and 5 touchdowns, not all too far off from his 2017 finish of 80/690/4, finishing as the TE8 in 1/2 PPR. If he's healthy heading into 2019, it isn't all too unreasonable he can replicate these numbers once again. Sure, Ebron will likely get more run, but the Colts have nothing in the receiving game outside of T.Y. Hilton (as of now), allowing them to use Ebron as more of a massive slot receiver while keeping Doyle in the traditional tight end role. He has a proven rapport with Luck, who looks to be 100% and one of the most dominant QBs in the league, and is a trusted weapon by the goal line, as he caught 6 balls in the redzone (10th most among tight ends despite missing 10 games), trailing Ebron's total by just 2 (x - 10 = 2, if you can figure this out you'll know how many RZ catches Ebron had).
Where Doyle sits right now (currently undrafted), there's no chance he doesn't return value. At worst he'll be a streaming option during bye weeks/favorable matchups. He's proven he could contribute in the past, despite looking like Paul Bunyan's understudy, and with an offense that wants to throw (62% pass percentage, 9th highest in 2018), tethered to an elite QB, in a role where he'll consistently see upwards of 80% of the team's snaps, I'm all in on (lumber)Jack Doyle being a potential post-hype sleeper in 2019.
O.J. HOWARD - TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Howard isn't on this list because he's being completely overlooked, as he's currently the TE9 according to fantasyfootballcalculator, rather, it's because when draft day rolls around, I'm not sure people will acknowledge just how strong of a season he was having before he suffered foot and ankles injuries in Week 11. In his limited sample (10 games), Howard managed to finish as a TE1 seven times, and just outside that range (TE13) on another occasion. Realistically, there were only two games in which he wasn't a viable contributor, both of which coming against teams who ranked inside the top 10 in least fantasy points allowed to the tight end position (Bears - 6th least, Redskins - 9th least). He proved he could put his athleticism to the test
despite being part of a fairly crowded receiving group (DJax, Evans, Godwin, Humphries, Brate). He was arguably the most efficient tight end in 2018, ranking first in fantasy points per target (2.51), fantasy points per pass route (0.66), yards per target (11.8), and yards per reception (16.6), which is pretty remarkable. Not many 6'6" 500 pound players are getting the ball thrown to them 10+ yards down the field a couple times a game, let alone averaging that mark. Obviously Kelce trailed him in that category, seeing as how Howard ranked #1, but in comparison, Travis' ADOT came in at 8.9, and in 2017 (before he fell off this season), Rob Gronkowski was second in the league at 10.3. Usually, the belief is that it takes tight ends at least three years to get accustomed to the league, but that certainly wasn't the case for O.J. Even during his rookie season he ranked first in both fantasy points per target (2.65) and per pass route (0.61) as well as yards per target (11.1), further proving 2018 wasn't just a fluke and deserves to be in the same conversation as the elite playmakers at his position.
Obviously his efficiency is bound to diminish as he gains more volume, but that's not necessarily a negative. We've seen the same things happen with guys like Alvin Kamara and JuJu Smith-Schuster, both of which had ridiculously efficient rookie campaigns, leading to people worrying about a steep decline in their 2nd season. Well, two things were learned from this since both topped their previous season's production: #1 - If you're good at football, you'll be good at football, and #2 - If efficiency decreases, and volume increases, they balance eachother out. As we all know, volume is king in fantasy football (which is why we all chase Lamar Miller year after year in 5th round), so if you can find a player who has shown to be efficient, and is in line to get more work in the future, you buy in. With DJax and Adam Humphries seemingly heading out of town, the Bucs are left with 179 targets to fill. I'd expect Godwin to take a pretty good chunk of these looks, as he'll figure to be the team's #2 option. He finished with 95 targets this season, so it wouldn't be too outlandish to say he'll see somewhere in the range of 115 looks (about 7.2/game, similar to what Golladay and Brandin Cooks finished with), which still leaves 159 left over. The Bucs will make a few offseason additions at receiver if both Humphries and DJax leave, but that player likely won't be anything more than their 4th option behind Evans, Godwin, and Howard. What I'm getting at is O.J. will have the volume to produce next season since the Bucs are potentially losing two of their more reliable receiving weapons and still remain one of the pass heaviest team's in the NFL (3rd most pass attempts/game in 2018), even if his efficiency dips. Let's say worst case scenario Tampa goes out and makes a move for a receiver and also invest in a pass catching back, leaving Howard with the same volume as last season, would that even worry me? Not in the slightest. He was still on pace to see 77 targets, finish with a 54/904/8 line, and was putting up the 5th most points per game at the position. He's a stud, which is a rarity at tight end. He's going to make a killing in 2018, similar to another O.J. I know (allegedly), and with the hands he has, he doesn't even have to worry if his gloves fit.
That's not all, folks. I'm here to warn you about the impending offseason talk regarding Howard 6 months before it comes to fruition. I bet $100 to everyone reading this (hopefully not many of you because I'm dead broke) that there will be big names in the industry that bring up the fact that Bruce Arians being the coach will limit Howard's upside since he NEVER utilized his tight end. I'm not gonna lie, that is completely true, and many other uninformed people would look at the fantasy finishes of the TE position under Arians, stop there, and say "that shit's nasty". Yes, it was disgusting, but what was even worse was what Bruce had to work with. His best tight end over his tenure with the Cards was Jermaine Gresham. I pray his middle name starts with an "A", because then his initials would be a perfect acronym to describe him...Just A Guy. Putting him in the same sentence as O.J. Howard is illegal in 49 states, and being that I reside in Connecticut, I could be tried for doing so. There's a reason for this law, and there's also a reason why Arians never had a fantasy relevant tight end, both of which aren't O.J.'s fault. He's never had someone with the talent or skillset Howard possesses, and he'd be foolish not to utilize him. Even though I've never seen Arians without a hat on, I know he's not afraid to take the top off, so pairing his scheme with O.J.'s ability to make plays downfield should be a match made in Heaven.
If O.J. slips down draft boards come August, don't cave with the public. That isn't the BDGE way. He's a locked in TE1, of which there are few, and should be a steal if he lands anywhere near the latter half of that range.
HUNTER HENRY - LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
So we meet again, Hunter. In my first ever blog post I wrote about him, and strangely enough, much of my analysis is going to stay the same. Why, you may ask? Well, this time last year, it had been established Antonio Gates was retiring, the Bolts brought in Virgil Green, and they had a solid weapon in Tyrell Williams and an unknown commodity in Mike Williams. Heading into 2019, they still have Virgil Green, but he's primarily used as a run blocker, so there's no issues there. As far as Antonio Gates goes, he's built like Bowser, so he's not going to do anything this year, but they might keep him around in hopes of getting him a ring. Lastly, the Williams brothers. Mike came into his own this season, scoring an ungodly 11 touchdowns on 50 touches and proved to be one of the better red zone threats in the league due to his height and jumping ability. Tyrell, however, is an impending free agent, and with many teams needing WR help in a fairly shallow market, I doubt the Chargers match what other teams are willing to pay. So, although MW looks to be deserving of a larger market share in comparison to what one would have thought heading into 2018, the (potential) departure of TWill will certainly make up for the additional targets heading #81's way.
Another thing to consider how efficient Henry has been during his short stint in the league. Similar to O.J. Howard, HH is one of the league's best concerning yards per target, coming in at 9.1 in 2016 and 9.3 in 2017, the 9th and 4th best marks among the position those years, respectively. He won't kill you after the catch, but that comes with the territory of being a 6'5" 250 pound not-so-athletic tight end. He's very similar to Zach Ertz in that way, a player who has cemented himself as an elite player at his position despite not blowing anybody away with a blistering 40 time or unbelievable vertical leap. He's simply good at football, has great hands, and has built a rapport with his quarterback. Although you may think that last point remains to be seen with Henry due to his lack of playing time, it's apparent that in the games he was active, Phil was looking his way. In 2016, his rookie season, Henry totaled 8 touchdowns and saw 17 red zone targets in just 13 games. This may have come down to Keenan Allen missing the entire year, but even in 2017 his RZ target total came in at 12 despite playing only 12 games. If Tyrell does in fact leave, and Gates vanishes, that will open up 16 unaccounted for RZ looks, 10 of which coming from inside the 10 yard line. Tight ends make their money from inside that area, so when these two Bolts sail away like Dennis DeYoung, Henry should be checkin cheddar like a food inspector.
I must admit, though, that it's hard to analyze Hunter much further simply because he missed all of 2018, 4 games in 2017, and was a rookie in 2016. His sample size is small, yet he has shown he can produce, which is why he makes it onto this list. When people see his name on draft sheets come August, all they're going to remember is how he missed an entire season with a blown out knee, not the fact that he was the TE7 (points per game) just two years ago. It's easy to have recent injuries cloud your judgement on players, and there are two major examples of why they shouldn't. In 2015, Jordy Nelson ripped his knee to smitherines and didn't play a single game. A year later, heading into his age-31 season, nobody was touching him, not even his wife. What did he do to prove the haters wrong? He only went out and dropped a 97/1,257/14 line, good enough to chair the #1 WR spot that season. The other example: Julian Edelman. He, as well, missed an entire season due to a knee injury (one ACL tear, everybody knows the rules), and in 2018, was heading into his age-32 season. I myself thought he was washed up, but he proved me wrong, amassing a 74/850/6 line in just 12 games, finishing outside the WR2 range on just two occasions, along with winning the Super Bowl MVP. I say all this to say, when a player misses an entire season, people will fall out of love with them. Henry was everyone's potential break out star heading into 2018, and now, he's an afterthought. At this point, he doesn't need to finish as the top-3 tight end we had hoped he would be heading into 2018 to return value. According to fantasyfootballcalculator, he's currently the TE12, sitting behind the likes of Jimmy Graham, Jared Cook, and Trey Burton. I get it, it's still early and these ADP's are less likely to stick than a magnet to a window, but it depicts a major flaw, namely recency bias. I mean, Jared Cook had his first ever reliable season for fantasy football and will be 32 come next year, Jimmy Graham just has name recognition, and Trey Burton finished as the TE6 mostly because there was such little depth at the position (posted a pedestrian 54/569/6 line).
I'm not petitioning for Henry to be taken as a top 5 tight end this season - he falls outside of that range for me - but there's no way a guy with his talent and proven production should be sitting at TE12. In that range, he's a complete steal that will provide a solid blend of floor and upside, which isn't all that common at the position.