Imagine if, in one year in the near future, candy wasn't handed
out on Halloween, turkey wasn't served on Thanksgiving or gifts
weren't placed under the tree for Christmas. Pick one. Now imagine
thinking "this is the new normal" because of that one
singular incident in one year. In a nutshell, this is how owners
tend to react after Week 1.
Thankfully, my loyal readers either know better than to overreact
after Week 1 or simply don't bother to reach out to me to panic.
That's good. (Thank you.) As hard as it is for most people in
a compressed season, each week is little more than a series of
data points that we hope tell a more complete story by season's
end. Sometimes we know 30 minutes into a movie or a couple of
episodes into a TV series that it is time to bail. How many times
have you not bailed and glad you stuck it out? This is the fine
line owners walk sometimes in this hobby.
It is my intention to spend the first four weeks trying to lay
the foundation for this season. Snap counts and targets are a
nice starting point, but I want to go a bit deeper. In particular,
I think it will be helpful for owners to know how much of the
backfield pie their backs are getting, their receivers' target
shares and how often their tight end is getting the ball when
he is on the field, etc.
Snap % - The percentage of plays the player was
on the field
Target Share - The percentage of team targets
Activity - How often the receiver was targeted when he
was on the field
Note: Tight ends who failed to play at least
30 snaps were not included.
The tight ends that played 90 percent of their team's
snaps: Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Zach
Ertz, Tyler Higbee, Jack Doyle, Ricky Seals-Jones, Geoff Swaim,
Jared Cook, Evan Engram
Notable tight ends that did not play more than 75 percent
of their team's snaps: O.J. Howard, Jordan Reed, Eric
Ebron, Antonio Gates
Significant playing time doesn't always translate into heavy
fantasy production at tight end, making it unlike any other position
on the typical fantasy roster. Look no further than Tyler Higbee
and Geoff Swaim above. Both players are widely known as the best
blockers at their position on their respective teams. If either
of them come into significant fantasy production down the road,
consider it a fluke. I mention that in part because Will Dissly
is going to be a popular add this week. Barring a complete change
of role, however, he may need four games to accomplish what he
did against a Denver defense that has given up a ton of fantasy
points to tight ends since HC Vance Joseph took over last season.
Of the sub-75 percent group of tight ends, all of them are involved
in some kind of committee approach at the position - albeit for
different reasons. Howard simply needs a few things to break his
way - a process that may have started last weekend with DeSean Jackson suffering a shoulder injury and concussion. At some point,
Tampa Bay is going to understand how dangerous its offense can
be with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on the outside and Howard
stretching the seam. Buy low and hope that realization happens
this year. Reed surprisingly saw six fewer snaps then Vernon Davis
(47-41), although that could have been as much because Reed didn't
play at all in the preseason or the lopsided nature of the opener
as it was anything else. It's simply too early to know for sure.
The masses are likely going to take another bite of the Ebron
apple in hopes that Andrew Luck can make him into something Matthew
Stafford could not. It could happen, although I'm not going to
bet on it. Ebron played less than half of the snaps against Cincinnati
while Jack Doyle played on 94 percent of them. Anyone who believes
that Doyle is somehow on shaky ground as the Colts' top tight
end because he didn't score and Ebron did is exactly the type
of manager former Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen owners should
target. The case with Gates is pretty simple; he's a 38-year-old
veteran who rejoined the team just over a week ago. Consider it
a major accomplishment he played 40 percent of the snaps. Don't
be surprised if his role mirrors that of Reed and Virgil Green
assumes the bulk of blocking duties on early downs.
The term "funnel" (as in run funnel or pass funnel) has become
a vogue in fantasy circles in recent years. Although it is much
too early to draw concrete conclusions, I would be stunned if
the Rams, Bengals, Falcons and Chiefs aren't among the defenses
that funnel passing-game production to running backs and tight
end for the bulk of the season. Allow me to explain:
The Rams' top three cornerbacks (Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and
Nickell Robey-Coleman) are as good of a threesome as there is
in the league, while the defensive line (Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh) will probably shut down most running
games. Los Angeles isn't exactly weak at linebacker or safety,
but those are the two positions where the team doesn't boast All-Pro
level talent. When we consider how often the Rams figure to operate
in positive game scripts, the passing-game RB/TE funnel notion
makes even more sense. Expect several more performances like Jared Cook and Jalen Richard had in Week 1 this season against LA. For
DFS and streamer purposes, this should be a defense to target
at those positions. David Johnson and Ricky Seals-Jones are next
up in Week 2.
Although not to the degree of the Rams, Cincinnati gets solid
cornerback play as well, at least from William Jackson III. Much
like LA, the Bengals should be able to stop a lot of running games
and can get a formidable pass rush with their defensive line.
Unlike the Rams (who I believe will funnel production to satellite
backs and tight ends more because of game script), Cincinnati
lacks the kind of the elite size and athleticism at linebacker
and safety - and has for what seems like years. It would be stunning
to me if several of the following - Alex Collins, Javorius Allen,
Mark Andrews, Christian McCaffrey, Ian Thomas, Devonta Freeman,
Tevin Coleman, Austin Hooper, Kenyan Drake and even Mike Gesicki
- don't take advantage of the Bengals over the next four weeks.
Atlanta has acted as a funnel for running backs in the passing
game ever since HC Dan Quinn arrived in 2015, giving up at least
100 catches to the position in each of his first three seasons
on the sidelines. The Falcons were probably on the verge of getting
that solved in 2018 with linebackers Deion Jones and Duke Riley
working together, but the former - considered by some the best
cover linebacker in the league - landed on IR this week. It's
not like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara needed any help,
but they'll probably get it this week and next, respectively.
For what it's worth, enforcer S Keanu Neal is out for the season,
which should give opposing run games a boost as well.
The Chiefs used S Daniel Sorensen to fill in for Eric Berry last
season with mixed results. Kansas City was without both players
in the opener and it showed. Without either player near the line
of scrimmage, the Chargers relentlessly attacked the Chiefs' linebackers
through the air, targeting Gordon and Ekeler 18 times. Berry,
who is easily in Kansas City's best defender, may not play this
week either and Sorensen is out indefinitely. Even when Berry
returns, ILBs Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland - not to mention
OLBs Justin Houston and Dee Ford - do not excel in coverage. Expect
plenty of James Conner in the passing game this week and Phillip Lindsay in Week 4 as a result.
Call it a hunch, but I added Orleans Darkwa to some of my TFC
teams (20-man rosters) this week. It's a longshot for sure, but
he's arguably the best free-agent runner available. He tried out
for the Patriots on Tuesday, and it just so happens New England
could really use a bigger back to fill the role Jeremy Hill was
supposed to occupy. With Rex Burkhead's status questionable for
this week and only James White and Kenjon Barner cleared for action
at the moment, a signing could happen any day (although such moves
usually happen on Mondays and Tuesdays during the season). Nevertheless,
the Patriots still have a need for a healthy banger.
Another deep-league stash is Hayden Hurst, who is admittedly
much less of a shot-in-the-dark pick than Darkwa and one owners
in most leagues need to keep high on their watch lists. He's expected
back from a stress fracture in his foot around Week 3 or 4 and
was reportedly a big part of the Ravens' plans on offense prior
to undergoing surgery. Considering Week 1 robbed owners of Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker for the foreseeable future, owners may
need to take some chances to find upside at tight end. Most of
the tight ends tied to the hip with Joe Flacco in recent years
have stayed busy.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.