Key to the table below:
0-4% - This column represents the
percentage of games in which a receiver/tight end received no
more than four targets.
0-4 - This column represents the
actual number of games in which a receiver/tight end received
no more than four targets.
Note: You may sort
the table by clicking on the column headers.
I did not set a games played or target-average limit at wide
receiver or tight end as I wanted to focus more on relevant players
for the 2012 season as opposed to include 25-50 more players that
may have little to no impact . Players in the next two tables
with “****” after their names in the next two tables
will be receivers/tight ends who failed to average five targets
per game last season.
A d v e r t i s e m e n t
With his record-breaking season in 2011, it’d be foolish
of me to not discuss Gronkowski first. As incredible as he was
last season, he wasn’t a consistent high-volume target when
compared to some of the other top tight ends. Four tight ends
had a higher percentage of eight-plus targets last season –
including teammate Aaron Hernandez – and two others tied
Gronkowski at 43.8%. Unlike their receiver brethren, though, an
elite level of targets (percentage-wise) did a relatively good
job at identifying a fantasy TE1 as the nine tight ends that saw
eight-plus targets in 37.5% of their games or more secured a top
12 finish in fantasy. Once again, it isn’t hard to figure
out why the other three – Antonio Gates (missed three games
and struggled with injuries all season long), Jermichael Finley
(had an uncharacteristically high drop rate) and Brent Celek (didn’t
emerge as a consistent option in the passing game until about
halfway through the season) – were not able to collect a
higher percentage of eight-plus target games.
There are many in the fantasy community who dubbed 2011 “the
year of the tight end”. You will get no argument here: 20
tight ends saw at least five targets in a game half of the time
in 2011. Of that group, only Dallas Clark finished outside
the top 20 fantasy tight ends! Not surprisingly, he played
only 11 games. Obviously, if Clark failed to crack the top 20,
it means another player that lacked a lot of opportunities did
and that player was Heath Miller, who finished 19th despite seeing
four targets or less in 56.3% of his games last year. Another
tight end who was on the outside looking in was Scott Chandler,
who finished 21st. Miller benefited from a career-high 12.4 YPC
while Chandler’s TD rate was 15.79%, almost double the rate
of the top 50 fantasy tight ends (8.83%).
Some more notable percentages to point out as we close this week:
Vernon Davis’ 37.5% in the 0-4% column and Jimmy Graham’s
otherworldly 81.3% in the 8+% column. I believe we can chalk up
Davis’ rather high low-target percentage number to the fact
that it took a while for the Niners to get adjusted to the new
offense that HC Jim Harbaugh and OC Greg Roman installed last
summer following the lockout. Consider how impressive Davis was
from Week 15 on and it isn’t a stretch to say he could rival
Gronkowski and Graham this season. As for Graham, his aforementioned
percentage tied that of Fitzgerald, Roddy White and Wes Welker.
In the entire NFL last season, only Fitzgerald and Graham did
not register a single game with fewer than seven targets, which
probably goes a long way in explaining why I like Graham a bit
more long-term in PPR leagues than Gronkowski (although I’d
be thrilled with either player).
Fantasy impact: While 2011
was the latest “year of the tight end”, obviously
not every team has a weapon like Graham or Gronkowski. Since there
are still relatively few “big-play” tight ends, more
opportunities will generally mean more production when so many
similarly-talented players are fighting for fantasy relevancy
at the position. Even though I often warn about jumping to a conclusion
based on a small sample size, I’m reasonably certain this
trend isn’t going away anytime soon at tight end as the
draft is unlikely to produce more than 2-3 Graham-like tight end
prospects over the next five years with the S-S-W (size-speed-weight)
dimensions necessary to become instant matchup nightmares. And
even if that somehow happens, the odds of them landing in a high-octane
passing offense led by an elite quarterback are equally slim.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you a foolproof rule of using
an elite QB to find your potentially elite fantasy TE, but I will
say that is a good start.
musings about the article or fantasy football in general? E-mail
me or follow me on Twitter.
Doug Orth has written for FF Today
since 2006, appeared in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview
magazine in each of the last two seasons and served as a weekly
fantasy football analyst for 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington,
D.C). He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.