Jack Doyle's increased opportunties in
2017 came with a 22% market share of IND's redzone targets.
Unless your tight endís name is Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce and always crank out 1,000-yard seasons, what is the easiest
way to find a ďstart-worthyĒ fantasy tight end? Should
you look for yardage producers? Touchdown scorers?
How about if I show you a statistic that would give you an 85%
chance of having a top tight end?
Itís not total targets. That would only give you a 75%
chance of being correct.
Itís not red zone targets. You would think this statistic
would be accurate because thatís where tight ends do most
of their scoring. Sorry, only 9-of-14 tight ends with at least
a dozen red zone targets last season ranked in the top-12 overall
Itís not percentage of red zone targets caught for touchdowns.
Actually catching passes close to the goal line should be a good
indicator, but in reality it isnít. Only 10-of-16 tight
ends who caught at least 20% of their red zone passes for touchdowns
ranked in the top-12 (62.5%).
The most accurate way to find a start-worthy tight end is by
percentage of a teamís total red zone targets.
In 2017, those who saw at least 20% of their teamís red
zone targets (there were 11), 10 ranked as a top-12 tight end
last season (90.9%). Since 2015, 24-of-28 tight ends under this
parameter finished as a top-12 fantasy tight end. Thatís
End Ranking by Percentage of Team Red Zone Targets
Ok thatís nice you are saying to yourself, but how can I know
who will see a high percentage of his teamís red zone targets
Letís analyze our options for this upcoming season based
on who we think will see a 20% share of red zone targets.
Jimmy Graham (No. 4 in points, No. 1 in percentage of teamís
red zone targets while playing in Seattle) should be an open and
shut case, but surprisingly, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers havenít
used the tight end all that much. That will change in 2018. For
many seasons Rodgers used Jordy Nelson at the goal line, but Nelson
is now playing for Oakland after being released. Graham will get
many of those red zone looks and once again be an elite touchdown
Any coach from the Andy Reid coaching tree is a guarantee for
tight end usage. Travis Kelce (26.9%) and Zack Ertz (21.5%) are
obvious. The Colts Jack Doyle was a surprise in 2017 (22.2%),
but shouldnít surprise you in 2018. On top of last yearís
performance, his new head coach is Frank Reich, who was the OC
under Doug Pederson the past two seasons. Thatís the Reid
connection. He also gets Andrew Luck back under center (we hope)
and Luck has always utilized his tight ends.
Kyle Rudolph (25.8%) gets a new quarterback, but under Kirk Cousins
in Washington, Redskinsí tight ends always ranked top-10
in TE fantasy points scored (9th in 2017, 4th in 2016 and 3rd
Evan Engram was a surprising fifth in points among tight ends
last season, but I donít see that happening in 2018. Injuries
decimated the Giants wide receiving corps last season and Engram
(22.2%) ended up being the ďbest of the restĒ after
Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard were
sidelined. Beckham and Shepard will all be back in 2018. Add in
rookie Saquon Barkleyís expected usage and Iím staying
far away from Engram and his 65.9 ADP (courtesy of Fantasy Football
Calculator) as his opportunities should take a huge hit.
Delanie Walker (23.5%) is a quarterbackís best friend.
Heís posted at least 800 yards in four consecutive seasons
and in the conservative Tennessee run-first offense should once
against be a Marcus Mariota favorite.
The last three tight ends with 20% or more from 2017 were; Jason Witten, Tyler Kroft and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Witten has retired
and awaits the call from Canton, Kroft will be knocked down to
No. 2 on the depth chart by the return of Tyler Eifert and ASJ
will get lost with his new team, Jacksonville, amid a plethora
of receivers and a lot of run blocking.
Who could join the 20% group for 2018?
Greg Olsen is a solid choice. Heís been there frequently
(30% in 2014, 26.0% in 2015 and 23.5% in 2016) and could again,
if healthy, despite the fact his red zone target percentage has
been dropping each season.
Although Cameron Brate came closest to the 20-percent mark in
2017 (18.1%), second-year starter O.J. Howard should eat into
his opportunities this season. I expect Brateís production
to sink, not rise.
Second-year 49er George Kittle (43-515-2) could be the ďnewcomerĒ
for 2018. Jimmy Garoppolo comes from an organization that obviously
likes their tight end and head coach Kyle Shanahan has always
used his tight ends in all his stops as offensive coordinator.
Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.