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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

What's the Catch?: TEs
All Out Blitz: Volume 139
WRs | TEs

Like a good news channel, I try to remain fair and balanced. (OK, probably not a good time for political humor from someone who doesn't follow politics anymore.) Seriously though, after two weeks of focusing on running backs, I felt it was time to give receivers and tight ends some respect after focusing on running backs over the last two weeks. And so I shall …

Tracking real and fantasy efficiency is one of the best methods to not only see what is sustainable, but it is also a great way to find what players are potentially in line to break out (or identify candidates unable to continue producing at their current rate). This week, we'll utilize data from a number of sources to see how efficient receivers and tight ends have been a quarter of the way through the season.


Rts/Tar - The number of pass routes a player runs for every target (lower the number, the better)

Rts/Rec - The number of pass routes a player runs for every reception (lower the better)

FP/Rt - How many fantasy points a player averages for each route he runs (higher the better)

FP/Tar - How many fantasy points a player averages for each target he sees (higher the better)

Note: To qualify for each table below, a receiver must average at least four targets, while a tight end needed at least three.

 Tight Ends
Rk Player Tm G Tar Rec Rts/Tar Rts/Rec FP/Rt FP/Tar
1 Maxx Williams BAL 4 12 12 3.67 3.67 0.56 2.05
2 Zach Ertz PHI 4 46 31 3.74 5.55 0.37 1.38
3 George Kittle SF 4 28 18 3.93 6.11 0.51 1.99
4 Travis Kelce KC 4 32 22 4.06 5.91 0.55 2.24
5 Jared Cook OAK 4 34 26 4.24 5.54 0.52 2.21
6 Jordan Reed WAS 3 17 14 4.29 5.21 0.48 2.05
7 Eric Ebron IND 4 30 17 4.30 7.59 0.39 1.67
8 O.J. Howard TB 4 17 11 4.53 7.00 0.51 2.31
9 Nick Boyle BAL 4 13 9 4.77 6.89 0.31 1.49
10 Mark Andrews BAL 4 14 10 5.07 7.10 0.39 1.99
11 Rob Gronkowski NE 4 24 17 5.13 7.24 0.36 1.85
12 Dallas Goedert PHI 4 12 10 5.25 6.30 0.40 2.08
13 Antonio Gates LAC 4 12 7 5.33 9.14 0.34 1.82
14 Jack Doyle IND 2 14 9 5.79 9.00 0.19 1.07
15 Ricky Seals-Jones ARI 4 19 10 6.00 11.40 0.25 1.49
16 Jeff Heuerman DEN 4 13 9 6.08 8.78 0.23 1.38
17 Nick Vannett SEA 4 13 9 6.08 8.78 0.20 1.21
18 Jimmy Graham GB 4 24 16 6.21 9.31 0.26 1.62
19 David Njoku CLE 4 22 14 6.23 9.79 0.19 1.19
20 Ben Watson NO 4 17 13 6.24 8.15 0.27 1.69
21 Evan Engram NYG 3 13 10 6.46 8.40 0.31 2.03
22 Austin Seferian-Jenkins JAC 4 16 11 6.69 9.73 0.24 1.63
23 Vance McDonald PIT 3 12 11 7.25 7.91 0.41 3.00
24 Geoff Swaim DAL 4 14 11 7.64 9.73 0.26 1.96
25 Jesse James PIT 4 12 10 7.67 9.20 0.42 3.23
26 Trey Burton CHI 4 16 11 7.88 11.45 0.32 2.55
27 Kyle Rudolph MIN 4 21 18 8.29 9.67 0.28 2.32
28 Austin Hooper ATL 4 15 12 8.33 10.42 0.24 2.03
League Average 532 378 5.47 7.70 0.34 1.88

I traded Kyle Rudolph in one of the few leagues in which I owned him a couple of weeks ago. This list suggests I probably did the right thing. The Vikings will likely get things figured out on defense sooner than later. When they do, Rudolph will likely be the one to suffer the most. While his catch rate (85.7) is exceptional, any player seeing a target every 8.29 routes on a team with the kind of volume Minnesota is pumping out so far (47.3 pass attempts per game) is going to be hurt when things normalize a bit and the attempts fall below 40 per week. When Dalvin Cook is near full health again, Rudolph could become extremely hit-or-miss with Adam Thielen seeing a 29.9 percent target share and Stefon Diggs checking in at 23.5. Treadwell has one fewer target than Rudolph and Cooks is only 10 behind him even though he has played only 10 of 16 quarters so far (and a few of those were on a "pitch count.")

Atlanta may not be good on defense at any point again this season, but owners hoping for Austin Hooper to benefit due to "shootout mode" are probably going to be disappointed. Averaging one target for every 8.33 routes, Hooper has topped four targets and 24 yards receiving once in four tries this season. He has managed no more than 38 yards receiving in 12 of his last 13 games. While Trey Burton's routes per target average (7.88) is also concerning, Chicago lacks the target hogs Minnesota and Atlanta has. Suffice it to say I am less concerned about him going forward, although his position-worst 11.45 routes per reception are not what anyone had in mind when drafting him this summer. Given the role he was expected to fill in HC Matt Nagy's offense, I expect that to change quickly.

On the other end of the spectrum is a player that has been labeled a bust for what seems like several years. Maxx Williams (3.67) is being targeted more often on his routes than Antonio Brown (3.73) and Thielen (3.73). Obviously, there is more to the story. Williams has only run 44 routes, but his 0.56 points/route suggests he is making things happen when he gets the opportunity. While that is obviously very good, I think it is actually great news for Hayden Hurst. Assuming he takes over the full-time role he was expected to prior to his preseason foot injury, Hurst could easily take on the majority of the 10.1 targets being thrown in the direction of Baltimore tight ends through four games. Fellow rookie Mark Andrews probably isn't going away, but it is not unreasonable to believe Hurst absorbs the 6-7 targets per game that have been thrust upon Williams and Nick Boyle so far. Hurst is more of a playmaker than Williams or Boyle. At a position fantasy owners are desperate to find serviceable options the season, Hurst is a great bet to produce.

George Kittle and Jared Cook are probably the two most pleasant surprises at tight end this season. Cook is averaging .52 fantasy points every time he runs a route, which is right behind Travis Kelce (.55) for first place among full-time tight ends. Kittle (.51) is right behind Cook and really only needs more volume (a better quarterback wouldn't hurt either) to rival Zach Ertz as a fantasy tight end. Kittle trails Ertz by 11 yards despite seeing 18 fewer targets, 13 fewer catches and running 62 fewer routes. Each of the fantasy-point metrics (fantasy points per route and fantasy points per target) above favor Kittle.

For all the gruff Raiders HC Jon Gruden has received for trading Khalil Mack, he deserves credit (so far) for doing the one thing that no coach has managed to do since over the last nine years - find a way to make Jared Cook consistently productive. As recently as two weeks ago, I could not get a tight-end needy owner (in the King's Classic League I referenced in August) to give me anything for Cook. Now, he's the leading fantasy-point producer at his position through one-quarter of the season. Despite three straight massive target and fantasy-point performances from Kelce, Cook has only three fewer looks, three more receptions and 63 more yards. Cook's routes run per target (4.24) is very comparable to Kelce's (4.06), while his routes per reception are better (5.54 for Cook, 5.91 for Kelce). Most of us have been down the can-I-trust-him road with Cook and don't feel compelled to get there any faster than we have to, but the fact he has essentially crushed two favorable matchups and performed at a respectable level in the other two would seem to suggest the Raiders are serious about feeding him.

Of course, durability has generally been the other question mark when it comes to trusting Cook. Obviously, that is something we'll have to wait and see about. As for his 16-game pace stats, he's on track for 104 catches, 1,480 yards, eight touchdowns and, of course, 300 PPR fantasy points. He's also on pace to match or break his career highs in just about every meaningful receiving category by the end of this month. So, he is probably a sell-high in the general sense, but short of a trade in which he was included with perhaps a WR3 for a tight end with a better track record such as Kelce, I find myself wanting to see how this plays out. If all he does is continue doing what he's been doing (take full advantage of plus matchups and score about eight points against less desirable opponents), he's going to his owners an advantage at a position they could not have expected a month ago.

Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

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.