The Watch List 2021: Spring Scouting, TEs

Updated: May 25th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season. a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

In today’s installment of Spring Scouting, I will be focusing on the top three tight end prospects in the 2021 class: Kyle Pitts, Brevin Jordan and Pat Freiermuth. For the other entries in my Spring Scouting series I concentrated on under the radar players who deserved some attention, but I went in a different direction for the tight ends. I felt it was important to highlight these three standouts because they are less known to casual NFL Draft fans than the big names at other positions. Each player comes with an impressive pedigree (4-star recruits all around) and each has a shot at becoming the TE1 in the class.

(An honorable mention goes out to Matt Bushman of BYU. I was excited for Bushman heading into the 2019 season. He ended up meeting my expectations stats-wise but decided to skip the draft and come back for 2020. To read last year’s write-up on Bushman, click here.)

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

  • Measurables: 6060/239
  • 2018 Stats: 11 games, 3 receptions, 73 rec yards, 24.3 ypc, 1 rec TD
  • 2019 Stats: 13 games, 54 receptions, 649 rec yards, 12.0 ypc, 5 rec TDs

Pitts, a product of Philly and an Under Armour All-America game alumni, earned a starting role for the Gators in 2019. Throughout the 2018 season he played primarily on special teams but did score one long-distance touchdown against Idaho. I’m not sure what made me search for the highlight but I’m glad I did. The play itself was fine — Pitts was lined up outside, caught the post against an overmatched DB and ran 50 yards to the house — but it was the celebration afterward that caught my eye. The score put the Gators up 21-0 in a game that was in no doubt, and yet the players celebrated with Pitts like it was a game clinching score against Georgia. I love when I get to watch a player who is beloved by his teammates, especially when he was just a backup true freshman. A Gators fan blog called it “The Kyle Pitts Factor” in a 2019 post.

Put simply, Pitts is a first round talent. I checked out his game against LSU from last season to get a feel for his game against the nation’s best. I was impressed with how well-rounded Pitts’ game was for an underclassmen with only one season’s worth of starts. Pitts won’t be the best blocking tight end in the class but he lined up inline more than I anticipated and he acquitted himself well enough against LSU. He splits out often but he’s most dangerous lining up on the wing where he can get a free release and uses his speed to beat the linebacker tasked with covering him. In this play you see that the Tigers assigned All-American linebacker-safety hybrid Grant Delpit to cover Pitts. Pitts takes advantage of Delpit’s aggression to sell the underneath route before breaking upfield along the sideline. They hand fight and then Pitts uses his leverage to gain a modicum of separation to make the spectacular diving catch.

I’m excited to see Pitts pitted against SEC greats, and future NFL stars like Delpit, once again in 2020. With speed and a 6060/239 frame he’s an impossible matchup for most defenders. I would assume that Pitts declares early and becomes a hot NFL Draft commodity.

 

Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami (FL)

  • Measurables: 6030/235
  • 2018 Stats: 12 games, 32 receptions, 287 rec yards, 9.0 ypc, 4 rec TDs
  • 2019 Stats: 10 games 35 receptions, 495 rec yards, 14.1 ypc, 2 rec TDs

Brevin Jordan, a rising junior, joined the Hurricanes in 2018 as the top rated tight end recruit in the nation. He was held catchless in his first-ever game against LSU but went on to tally 12-119-3 in his next two games, not bad for a true freshman. His final totals in both 2018 and 2019 are about average for the position but more impressive considering he missed time both years. Before we move on, a word on Jordan’s past injuries. Jordan missed a game and a half at the end of 2018 with an ankle injury (he returned for the bowl game). He then bruised his knee in March 2019 during offseason workouts which some thought might have been a more serious injury. In November of 2019 he injured his left foot and missed two games. He returned for the regular season finale but was shutout and then sat out the bowl game. In early March of 2020, pre-coronavirus, the Miami Herald reported that Jordan would miss all of Spring due to that nagging foot injury.

Enough injury talk, let’s talk about what makes Jordan great on the field. Jordan showcases his versatility on nearly every play because he lines up all over the formation. He features as an inline blocker more frequently than his 6030/235 size would dictate. He is a willing blocker but to my untrained eye it looks like he is sometimes too quick to initiate contact and in turn, overextending himself or falling for an evasive move. Jordan is a security blanket for his (ever-changing) quarterback. He’s particularly adept at selling a block before breaking into the flat for a chunk play. When he does get down field he has enough speed to burst past linebackers and find openings in the defense. In this sample play you see Jordan run a simple post from an inline position. The ball is tipped at the line of scrimmage but he maintains focus and makes the catch by using his body to protect the ball from the safety. He breaks the safety’s tackle and gets into the endzone for a key score in a big bragging rights game.

Jordan is a talented prospect and will be in the running for TE1 next draft season. I hope that he’s able to fully recover from his foot injury so we can see him at full strength in 2020.

 

Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State

  • Measurables: 6050/256
  • 2018 Stats: 12 games, 26 receptions, 368 rec yards, 14.2 ypc, 8 rec TDs
  • 2019 Stats: 13 games, 43 receptions, 507 rec yards, 11.8 ypc, 7 rec TDs

Freiermuth, another highly touted junior tight end, is thisclose to Penn State history. He is currently tied with Mike Gesicki, the Nittany Lions’ last great tight end prospect, for career touchdown receptions at the position. If Freiermuth matches his previous touchdown output in 2020 he will vault to 2nd or 3rd on the Penn State career receiving touchdown list, ahead of familiar NFL names like WRs Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson. We are about to see, pending pandemic-related postponements, Freiermuth cement his place in Happy Valley lore.

I watched Freiermuth’s tape from Minnesota last season, arguably his best game of the season (7 receptions, 104 yards in a close loss). Interestingly, he seemed to line up on the line of scrimmage less frequently than either Pitts or Jordan did in their games that I watched. That, however, doesn’t mean he doesn’t feature as a key blocker. To the contrary, he is often used from the slot or the wing to seal the edge for his running back. He turns his blocks well, using leverage and angles to preserve running lanes, and does not rush. I loved this play where he patiently comes across the formation looking to help make an impact play. He ends up finding a DB who came up in run support and takes him out of the play to allow RB Journey Brown to cut back and turn a short gain into a big gain.

As a receiver, Freiermuth is a zone buster. He can find the soft spot and shows his numbers to the quarterback, making him an easy target. On this play you see his awareness as both the corner and linebacker sit on his short route. As the play breaks down, he releases down the field into an open area, putting his hand up to make sure he’s seen by his scrambling quarterback. He makes the catch and holds on through a crunching tackle.

I’ve always been honest that I grew up as a Michigan fan and now root for my nearby Scarlet Knights so I am pro-Big Ten. However, there’s no Big Ten bias here: Pat Freiermuth looks like a surefire NFL talent and will be a first rounder next April.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

Tight End Tiers & Contact Pricing

Updated: April 10th 2020

We all love our Player Rankings & Projections, but Draft Day Auctions and RSO Dynasty Leagues involving contracts require a bit more prepwork if you want to maximize value.  Implementing a Tiering system is a must.  Here is a breakdown of the Top 20 TEs I anticipate being on our radar in 2020.  I used 5 stats in particular to determine their grouping: Yard Per Catch Avg, TDs, Catch Rate, Target to Snap Ratio and First Down to Target Ratio.  The last 2 are less commonly used in the fantasy world, but I believe they paint a vivid picture of intent, trust and execution.  Quality over quantity type stuff.  I have also included recommended pricing for each player, operating on the assumption that this is Year 1 of your dyansty league to help avoid conflicts with Rookie contracts.

The Faves: This group will land the biggest contracts.  I strongly support spending here.  Securing a Top-5 TE gives you an even bigger edge in Dynasty than it does in Re-Draft leagues.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Travis Kelce
22-26 mil
254.3 981 97 136 13.9% 12.7 5 71.3% 47.8%
George Kittle 
18-22 mil
222.5 815 85 107 13.1% 12.4 5 79.4% 49.5%
Darren Waller
16-18 mil
221 940 90 117 12.4% 12.7 3 76.9% 45.3%
Zach Ertz 
16-18 mil
215.6 953 88 135 14.2% 10.4 6 65.2%

37.0%

Within this range, you are essentially playing a low-tier RB1 to high-tier RB2 at TE.  Nick Chubb scored 255 points, while Kenyan Drake and Le’Veon Bell finish with 215.  I like all 4 players, but I am somewhat hesitant about Zach Ertz.  Based off this table, we can clearly see he is trailing his counterparts in multiple categories.  If it weren’t for his massive Target to Snap Ratio, he wouldn’t even be included in this group.  Ask yourself this.  Was there ever a point last year where you mistook a Dallas Goedert TD for an Ertz one?  There’s a reason for that.  It isn’t just that there numbers (88 and 86) are so similar.  They are both 6’5 and 250 lbs.  Plus, look at this.  Goedert’s Avg., Catch Rate and First Down to Target Ratio are nearly identical to Ertz.  In fact, Goedert is slightly better in all 3.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec

Tgt

Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Dallas Goedert 
8-12 mil
144.7 781 58 87 11.1% 10.5 5 66.7% 37.9%

That is why I am planting my flag firmly in the Dallas Goedert stock this year.  If he and Ertz are essentially the same player, why not get the cheaper one.  The only thing that seperates the two is targets, and Ertz is one nagging hamstring injury away from that no longer being the case.

The Flag Plants:  I am targeting these players in all formats.  They provide the best combination of value and trust.  Landing these players on their low end as oppose to The Faves on their high end is a no brainer for me.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec

Tgt

Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Mark Andrews
16-18 mil
207.2 467 64 98 21.0% 13.3 10 65.3% 44.9%
Jared Cook 
10-14 mil
167.5 513 43 65 12.7% 16.4  9  66.2% 49.2%
Hunter Henry
12-16 mil
150.2 621 55 76 12.2% 11.9 5 72.4% 47.4%

Mark Andrews is my #3 TE after Kelce and Kittle.  Nobody does more with less, made evident by his 10 TDs, 13.3 yard per catch average, and league leading 21% Target to Snap Ratio.  His low snap count (41.2%) could leave just enough of an impression on owners to keep his bid price reasonable.  Believe it or not, Andrews was 3rd in TE snaps on his own team.  This should change dramatically with Hayden Hurst now in Atlanta.

Jared Cook is another extremely effiecnt option.  Of the Top-10 TEs last year, there were 60 instances in which a player saw 6 or less targets in a given week.  Jared Cook accounted for 11 of those games, and thanks to his wide receiver-esque 16.4 average and 9 TDs, 7 of those 11 games ended in double digit fantasy points (63.6%).  The remaining 9 TEs managed the feat only 14 times in 49 outings (28.6%).  The doubters will cite the Emmanuel Sanders addition as reason to downgrade Cook in 2020, but faithful RSO readers will know better and take advantage come Auction Day.

Hunter Henry’s Avg., Catch Rate and First Down to Target Ratio all fall in line with the likes of Travis Kelce.  The issue?  He was playing with a 38-year old, noodle-arm quarterback who still possesses the aggressive nature of a 25-year old.  Philip Rivers’ 2019 season can best be summed up with his week 10 performance against the Raiders.  Down 2 points, the Chargers received the ball on their own 25-yard line with 62 seconds left and all of their timeouts remaining.  With ample time and three chances to stop the clock, Rivers repeatedly threw deep rather than trying to steadily move the ball with easy completitons.  He went 0 for 8 with a game ending interception.  They failed to gain a single yard.  Whoever the Chargers turn to in 2020, odds are it will result in more targets for Henry.

On the Fence: Aka The “Too Many Mouths to Feed” Section.  This group proved in 2019 that under the right circumstances, they can be weekly staples in our lineups.  I’m not currently comfortable paying the auction prices these names will attract, but that could change in time.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Austin Hooper
8-12 mil
191.7 743 75 97 13.1% 10.5 6 77.3% 42.3%
Tyler Higbee 
6-8 mil
160.4 710 69 89 12.5% 10.6 3 77.5% 40.4%
Greg Olsen
4-6 mil
123.7 805 52 82 10.2% 11.5 2 63.4% 41.5%
Evan Engram 
8-12 mil
109.4 454 44 68 15.0% 10.6 3 64.7%  33.8%

Austin Hooper was the definition of a safety blanket in Atlanta.  Despite having the most dynamic RB and WR tandem in the league, the Browns finished 26th in 1st Downs and 20th in 3rd Down Conversions.  Aside from canning Freddie Kitchens, it is clear the Browns believe Hooper is their answer to sustaining drives in 2020 and beyond.  As impressive as his catch rate is (77.3%), I just don’t see him repeating his consistency in Cleveland.  Baker is not Ryan.  Freeman is neither Chubb nor Hunt.  Ridley is neither Beckham nor Landry.  Like all Jason Witten impersonators, Hooper needs volume to be relevant.  I am not comfortable spending the 10+ mil he’ll likely receive just to endure multiple 3 catch 30 yard games.

Tyler Higbee was phenomenal once Gerald Everett went down.  Before that?  He was useless.  Referring back to the 6 or less targets stat, Higbee accounted for 8 of those 60 games.  He only achieved double digit points in 1 of them (12.5%).  What goes for Hooper applies even more so for Higbee, which is fitting considering their numbers are near mirror images.  Unless the Rams deal Cooks, I will be avoiding this touchdown deprived, 5th wheel.

Greg Olsen is still doing his thing and the Seahawks have been clamoring for a Jimmy Graham replacement.  An 11.5 yard per catch avg at age 34-35 tells me Olsen will continue getting open until the day he hangs em up.  I’m just not sure how often Wilson will need to look his way with Lockett, Metcalf and Carson around.

Evan Engram played in 1 game last year in which the entire WR corp was available – Week 5.  It just so happened that Barkley was out that week, and his replacement, Wayne Gallman, lasted all of 6 snaps before leaving the game with an injury of his own.  In total, Golden Tate missed 4, Sterling Shepard missed 3, Darius Salyton missed 2, and Saquon Barkley missed 2 of the 7 full games Engram started and finished in 2019.  There simply is no way of knowing how the Colts will divvy up the target share once everyone is healthy.  Engram was also touted as this WR/TE hybrid.  His 10.6 avg would suggest more of a TE/FB hybrid.  Where are the explosive plays?

The Fliers: In the event that I miss out on both The Faves and Flag Plants due to cap restrictions, I believe a Flier/Engram or Flier/Hooper pairing is the ideal contigency plan.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Kyle Rudolph
4-6 mil
113.7 807 39 48 5.9% 11.5 2 81.3% 50.0%
Noah Fant 
6-8 mil
111 703 40 66 9.4% 14.1 3 60.6% 34.8%
Jonnu Smith
2-4 mil
104.7 718 35 44 6.1% 12.5 3 79.5% 36.4%
Eric Ebron
4-6 mil
86.5 328 31 52 15.9% 12.1 3 59.6% 38.5%

Kyle Rudolph snatched us Saints fans’ hearts out in Wildcard Weekend.  Well…not really.  They were on the 4-yard line in OT, and I am pretty sure the entire Who Dat Nation knew what was coming when we saw 6’0 195 lb Cornerback P.J. Williams lined up against the 6’6 260 lb TE.  That is, of course, excluding the actual players and coaches.  The ball did wind up going in the direction of the pitiful size mismatch, and the Vikings ended the Saints season for a 2nd time in 3 years with what might just be the easiest passing score of the entire NFL season.  Rudolph had the lowest Target to Snap Ratio (5.9%) in this entire pool, but he countered that with the #1 Catch Rate & the #1 First Down to Target Ratio.  50% of the time Cousins targeted him, the play resulted in a 1st down.  You’ve got to think the team is aware of this data, and now that Diggs is gone, they will exploit the obvious size mismatch more often in 2020.

Noah Fant averaged 14.1 yards a catch and topped 550 yards as a rookie.  The hell with all the other numbers.  Get this guy on your team.

Jonnu Smith is the biggest gamble of them all, and his recommended pricing reflects that notion.  He’s on an ultra conservative run-first team that could see Derrick Henry rush for 2,000 yards this season.  The good news is the Titans finished tied for 8th in Passing TDs with 29.  Jonnu scored twice in the fantasy playoffs and once in the actual playoffs.  Between his impressive catch rate (79.5%) and respectable avg (12.5), I could see him being used in a pinch or a juicy matchup.

Eric Ebron had about as lousy a follow up season as we have ever witnessed for a TE.  His yardage and receptions were literally cut in half, and his TDs plummeted from a league leading 13 to 3.  Him missing the final 5 games was actually a blessing in disguise, because it meant owners would not be tempted to start him.  All that being said, he is going from Jacoby Brissett to Ben Roethlisberger.  That 59.6% catch rate will need to improve to ensure playing time (Vance McDonald is still a factor), but he could easily reclaim his reputation as a redzone virtuoso.

Fading: Limited upside.  Regardless of contracts, I ultimately view this group as a wasted roster space.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Mike Gesicki 
4-6 mil
136 705 51 89 12.6% 11.2 5 57.3% 28.1%
Jack Doyle
4-6 mil
111.8 811 43 72 8.9% 10.4 4 59.7% 40.3%
O.J. Howard 
2-4 mil
83.9 793 34 53 6.7% 13.5 1 64.2% 43.4%
T.J. Hockenson
4-6 mil
80.7 539 32 59 10.9% 11.5 2 54.2% 32.2%

Mike Gesicki finished the season on a high note, scoring 5 times in his final 6 games.  As encouraging as that is, he only caught 23 of his 46 targets in that time frame.  He will more than likely be competing with Devante Parker, Preston Williams and a CeeDee Lamb/Jerry Jeudy for targets from a Rookie QB.  I’m not willing to predict a significant progression in catch rate for Mike.

T.J. Hockenson is a less athletic version of Mike Gesicki, playing with better weapons at the WR position.  There is no question T.J. will have to improve leaps and bounds in terms of finding soft spots in the coverage and his catch rate.  It’s hard to envision Matt Stafford forcing the ball his way at the expense of Golladay and Marvin Jones.

Jack Doyle and O.J. Howard both suffer from a case of low target share and old quarterbacks.  Howard is a downfield threat who performed quite well when called upon in 2019.  You cannot expect me to endorse the notion that Tom Brady, king of the screen pass, will be looking Howard’s way more than the 30 for 30 Gunslinger himself, Jameis Winston.  Jack Doyle looks like Kyle Rudolph, but catches like Eric Ebron.  I do not recommend investing in that combination.

More Analysis by Grant Viviano

Early 2019 RSO Contracts: TEs

Updated: August 26th 2019

My annual look at early RSO auction values finishes with the tight end group.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The number of auctions for any particular player may also be limited this early in the RSO season.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.

Average RSO Tight End Contracts

Tiers of One at the Top

The fantasy football realm tended to treat the top-3 tight ends (Kelce, Kittle, and Ertz) as a tier of their own early in the offseason.   There were very real reasons for this grouping.  Each earned at least 136 targets with two of the trio receiving at least 150.  Each caught at least 86 passes with two racking up 103 or more.  Each accumulated 1,163 yards with two breaking the 1,300 yard barrier.  In other words, 2018 was a historic season at the top of the tight end group.  Each tight should continue as a main piece of their respective offenses, while maybe not at the historic paces of 2018.  Each faces additional long or short –term concerns going forward.

RSO GMs made very clear price distinctions between the three, however.  Kelce heads the group at over $5 million more than the next tight end.  The Kansas City star should be locked in for another great year.  The only concerns center on the longer-term.  He is already 29 (The age Rob Gronkowski just retired at) and turns 30 in just a few months.  Kelce also dealt with injury issues recently including multiple concussions and “cleanup” procedures on his shoulder and knee.  Kittle faces much more target competition at both wide receiver and running back in 2019.  He also goes from a tight end friendly environment primarily with backup quarterbacks whom were among the league’s lowest depth of average target to a quarterback that targets deeper receivers more consistently.  Ertz is another high-end tight end facing new offensive options vying for receptions.   The addition of DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia brings a legitimate 3rd wide receiver option to Philadelphia and second tight end Dallas Goedert looks like a bigger piece of the offense in year two.

Hunter Henry also separated himself from the next tier in cost, receiving a sizeable premium in RSO auction prices.  He posted strong PFF grades his first two seasons in limited usage.   We still do not know how well  Henry integrates into the Chargers offensive game plan as a full time player and how far back he is after missing 2018 due to injury.

 

The Class of 2017

Three former 1st round picks from the 2017 draft class highlight the next tier of tight ends.  We start with Howard and Engram who saw huge 2nd year jumps in 2018.  Both finished as top-6 PFF-graded tight ends last year.  Howard is on a Tampa Bay offense many project as one of the top yardage-gainers for 2019.  Engram has been a top-5 fantasy tight end without Odell Beckham in the lineup during his first two years.  Each has dealt with injury issues the first two seasons of their careers.  Howard remains the likely third option in Tampa Bay.  Engram probably garners something near a co-number one type target share in New York but with some combination of Eli Manning and rookie Daniel Jones at the quarterback for the near future.  David Njoku is taking a little more time along the development curve.  That makes sense given he was only 20 years old when drafted.  The athletic specimen for Cleveland is attached to what many consider one of the top young quarterbacks in the league.  The question is whether Njoku can become a large enough part of the offense to justify his price.

We should keep an eye on a couple of veterans in this pricing tier.  Jared Cook set career highs in most categories last season at the age of 31.  He transfers to New Orleans adding a much needed target for Drew Brees on a team without much in the way of reliable receiving options outside of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.  Eric Ebron* also had a career season after signing with Indianapolis last year.  He scored 13 touchdowns after never scoring more than 5 in his career previously.  His role likely diminishes in 2019, along with the number of his touchdowns, after the additions of Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell to go along with the return of Jack Doyle.

*Andrew Luck’s retirement was just announced.  This news significantly downgrades the upside of Ebron for 2019.

 

Others to Watch

The Pittsburg Steelers traded Antonio Brown this offseason and that opens up a bunch of opportunity for Vance McDonald on a high-volume passing team without much in reliable receiving options outside of Juju Smith-Schuster.  Chris Herndon showed good chemistry with Sam Darnold and played well as a rookie, something rare.  He likely comes at a discount with a four-game suspension to start the season.  Greg Olsen, Jack Doyle, Delanie Walker, and Jordan Reed represent extremely cheap older veterans who, while not league winners, could potentially prop up your fantasy team on a weekly basis.  The talk of Raiders camp, outside of the Antonio Brown’s behavior, has been Darren Waller.  Linebackers and defensive backs consistently struggled covering the uber-athletic former wide receiver this offseason.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: TEs

Updated: August 2nd 2018

Our early RSO auction value examination moves to the tight end position.  The group is among the least valuable positions in most fantasy football leagues with very few reliable options.  What little value exists overwhelmingly resides in the top few options.  The combined duties of blocking and receiving for most tight ends make weekly fantasy consistency an issue.  The NFL has seen an injection of talent at the position in recent drafts, however, and we are left waiting to determine who will emerge.

The reader may find links to previous articles in the series below in preparation for upcoming auctions.

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: QBs

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: RBs

Average RSO Tight End Contracts

Set It and Forget It (TE1-3)

We have a new player atop tight end salaries for the first time in recent memory.  The dynamic Kelce finished each of the last two seasons as the overall TE1 accumulating 83+ receptions each year.  He carries more uncertainty going forward with brand new starting quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and increased target competition in the form of heavily paid Sammy Watkins.  No tight end provides the kind of advantage Gronkowski does on a weekly basis.  He possesses ridiculous yardage and touchdown upside from being tied to one of the best quarterbacks of all time and atypical usage with deep targets abound.  The entertaining “Gronk” has not closed a season outside the top-8 in points per game since his rookie season and only once during that time has he not ended as the overall TE1 or TE2 in PPG.  Health remains the primary concern for someone who has not played a full 16 games in the last 6 seasons.  The model of consistency award goes to Philadelphia Eagle Zach Ertz who comes at a discount compared to the top two tight ends but without their upside. His receptions ranged from 74 to 78 over the last three seasons while his yardage spanned from 816 to 853.  The touchdowns spiked in 2017 doubling his previous high to eight resulting in the TE3 scorer.  He is a candidate for negative touchdown regression correspondingly with his third year signal caller Carson Wentz.

Uncertainty Already (TE4-8)

Engram  produced one of the top fantasy seasons from a rookie tight end thanks in part to a rash of injuries to Giants’ receivers.  Volume likely drops significantly in 2018 with the return of Beckham and a more balanced offense including top pick Saquon Barkley.  Engram should see a spike in efficiency to counterbalance the reduced volume.  Offensive line deficiencies forced Engram to lineup as an inline tight end nearly 70% of the time and reduced his receiving usage to primarily low depth of target opportunities.  Offensive line upgrades this offseason should allow deeper routes and more usage at his natural move tight end spot where his ridiculous 4.4 forty speed and dynamic receiving skills can be better put to use.  Foot injuries doomed Olsen to his worst season as pro in 2017 but previously he posted three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.  A lot of changes occurred in the offseason with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the addition of 1st round wide receiver D.J. Moore plus the return of last year’s second round pick Curtis Samuel.  We have also seen time and time again how foot injuries linger contributing to other lower body problems and late-career (Olsen is 33) injuries are especially difficult to come back from.  Graham is not the same dynamic player he once was thanks to a serious knee injury but any receiver, particularly one with Graham’s receiving skill-set, holds massive touchdown upside in Green Bay.  The story for Reed never changes.  He remains one of the top options at the position when he plays finishing as the PPR TE1 on a per game basis in 2016 and 2015.  Unfortunately he never played a full season in the NFL.  Gesicki showed off an amazing athletic profile at the NFL combine and there are a lot of targets up for grabs in Miami.  Rookie tight ends rarely do much of anything.  Do not get sucked in.

 

Young Upside Plays and Low Upside Veterans (TE9-15)

The Browns hope last year’s athletic first round pick Njoku makes a big second year leap.  He must contend with another athletic player, Seth Devalve, for tight end targets with a low volume passer and a receiving group which added target-hog Jarvis Landry.  Rudolf exceeded 532 yards in a season just once while averaging less than 10 yards per reception over his career.  The huge tight end holds solid touchdown upside which keeps him the low end TE1 conversation.  An ACL tear already ended the season for Henry.  He is a strong long-term buy grading out very well his first two seasons in the league.  It is conceivable Burton, who Chicago paid a lot of money in free agency, becomes the focal point of an almost completely rebuilt Bears passing attack.  The undersized former undrafted free agent might also remain a limited-use niche weapon in the passing game.  Walker posted four consecutive 800+ yard seasons while never exceeding 7 touchdowns.  Look for mid to low TE1 numbers again on a team without much in receiving weapons.  The uber-athletic Kittle represents a cheap option for those looking to get a piece of the Garoppolo-led San Francisco offense on a team without much in redzone targets.  He ceded more work to running-mate Garrett Celek in the second half of the season, never seeing above 56% of the snaps in the last eight games.  The story of Eifert reads similarly to Reed.  He grades out as one of the top all-around tight ends when on the field and an unstoppable force near the endzone.  Unfortunately Eifert played just 39 games in his first five seasons and is not yet ready to go for training camp.

Cheap Flyers (TE16+)

The Indianapolis tight end battle will be fun to watch with Doyle and Ebron battling for targets and Andrew Luck seemingly set to return.  The Colts have practically zero proven receiving talent behind T.Y. Hilton and Luck has utilized multiple tight ends in the past so both could hold value.  Last year’s first tight end drafted, Howard, is likely blocked from big fantasy relevance this season with fellow tight end Brate in the picture and a strong receiving core for Tampa Bay but both tight ends could be stream-worthy.  Cook led the Raiders in receiving yards last season and Oakland lost target-hog Michael Crabtree.  The situation is murky with the addition of Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant to go along with a new Jon Gruden offense.  McDonald is easily the best receiving tight end in Pittsburgh and got more involved at the end of the year culminating with a 112 yard eruption in the playoffs.  Injuries and questionable hands have limited effectiveness over his career.  The best receiving option in Buffalo might be Clay who has over 500 yards in five consecutive seasons.  Buffalo could produce the most ineffective offense in the league with a rookie or backup level QB at the helm and Clay has not played a full season in five years.  Seals-Jones has a golden opportunity with the Arizona tight end spot up for grabs.   Jermaine Gresham is coming off an Achilles tear opening the door.  The former wide receiver found some limited receiving success last season but his prospects going forward will largely depend on if he can make himself into a competent blocker which would allow him to stay on the field for more snaps.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

 

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Best Values – Writers’ League

Updated: October 16th 2016

Values.  Even in a league comprised of the RSO founders and writers, there are plenty of players that sign for below their projected values.  Many factors contribute to this, including the timing of player nominations, each team’s roster construction, and each team’s remaining room under the salary cap.

As the auction progresses, owners throughout the league felt regret as several players slipped through the cracks for reasonable, team-friendly deals.  After the draft, several owners shared with me which players they felt were the best values in the auction.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (4 years, $72 million) Ice Cold Bruschis

“Didn’t realize it during the action, but after the fact this looks like a steal.  He’s still the 5th highest paid QB on a per year basis and the 6th highest in 2016, but he’s almost 9M/yr cheaper than the #1 QB Wilson and a solid 3-4M/yr lower than the other top tier QBs of Luck, Cam, and Brees.  Add in the fact that he’s the only QB locked in for 4 years in this superflex league and this buy looks great.  I personally went into the auction with the strategy of not wanting to target the top QBs, but in hindsight I should have gone after Rodgers at this value.” -Kyle English

“A-Rod also really good to have locked up for 4 years. He will probably have a huge year this year now that Nelson is back in the fold.” -Stephen Wendell

Ben Roethlisberger (2 years, $25 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Ben at 2/$25M was my favorite multi-year QB deal” -Matt Papson

Derek Carr (3 years, $21.5 million) Like The Language

“Derek Carr is a nice flyer at $7.2M per year for the next 3 years. I was already set at QB by the time he came available so I could not get involved.” -Matt Papson

“I am big on Carr and love that contract as well. He will be able to use or trade that at some point this year.” -Stephen Wendell

Blake Bortles (2 years, $18 million) Like The Language

Love the Blake Bortles contract. In a 2 QB league, he is going to be a valuable starter for Kyle’s squad for many many weeks.  -Stephen Wendell

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (3 years, $45.5 million) New York Knightmare

“Bell was unbelievably cheap, even with his recovery. I wasn’t prepared to absorb the risk that comes with him, but this has the chance to be the best overall deal signed at the end of the year.”  -Matt Papson

LeSean McCoy (2 years, $22 million) BallinOnABudget

“I fully expect McCoy to deliver big value on this contract.  He is the lead back in a run-heavy Buffalo offense and a dangerous receiving option out of the backfield on a team without many receiving weapons.  McCoy missed some time last year and was one of the first running backs nominated in the auction, which probably explains his low valuation in our league as owners  were waiting on the running back position.” -Bernard Faller

“Matt’s Shady contract could prove to be really good…in a PPR league, I just think he is so undervalued. I bowed out of that signing too early…as an Eagles fan, the whole Shady thing is tough to get through.” -Stephen Wendell

“I’m not a huge McCoy fan in general but given the turmoil his backups are going through, I think it’s safe to say McCoy is looking at 300+ touches this year if he can stay healthy (which he did in 2013 and 2014 don’t forget).  McCoy’s 2016 salary is lower than guys like Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Matt Forte – all three have their own injury histories and I would argue neither has as high a ceiling as McCoy.”  -Bob Cowper

Devonta Freeman (2 years, $26 million) New York Knightmare

“Freeman and Bell are both on solid contracts, though I like Freeman signing more than Bell. The discount was there for Bell for obvious reasons but 4 years is a lot to commit to him given his off the field issues and the age of Big Ben…he goes down and that offense really changes.” -Stephen Wendell

Jeremy Langford (1 year, $4.5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Jeremy Langford signing could prove to be a great bang for the buck this season at $4.5mm. Forte was not just a fluke catching dump off passes in the freezing cold all those years in Chicago. Langford will score a bunch of fantasy points…don’t get me wrong, I hate the Bears and Cutler, but this is a good singing I think.” -Stephen Wendell

Thomas Rawls (1 year, $5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Rawls at $5MM looks like great value in retrospect. I remember being upset he went for that little.” -Stephen Wendell

Wide Receivers

Josh Doctson (3 years, $3.5 million) Suck It Trebek

“My favorite contract in this league is Suck It Trebek’s (Bernard’s) signing of Josh Doctson for 3 years, $3.5m. Basically, even if Doctson sat out the entire season in 2016, he has the potential to be a superstar and runs the entire route tree. Doctson can win against all types of coverage, especially in the air on a Washington offense full of weapons. Bernard will benefit from this late-auction deal big time in the future years and potentially in OBJ type form if Doctson comes back to full health at some point this season. I personally would have bid higher and had the money to do it or even price enforce a bit, but I was saving my last multi-year deal (only had my 2 year deal left) for Sterling Shepard with OBJ already in tow and being fairly receiver heavy.” -Matt Goodwin

“At the point in the draft where he was selected, many of us were low on salary cap room and/or multi-year contracts. Still, this is incredible value given the contracts many of the other high-upside wide receivers and was a lesson in patience for my trigger-happy bidding style.” -Jaron Foster

Kelvin Benjamin (3 years, $50.5 million) Save Us Carson Wendtz & Kevin White (3 years, $34 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“The receivers got the bulk of the multi-year deals in this league, which is to be expected, but there was some craaaaaazy cash flying around in Free Agency. In the end, I think Kelvin Benjamin and Kevin White have a chance to be really special players for a while.” -Matt Papson

Jeremy Maclin (4 years, $24 million) BallinOnABudget

“I mean just look at this numbers last year to know how good this signing was by Papson – don’t love the length but it is an easy cut decision in 2 years if need be.” -Stephen Wendell

“My value pick has to go to Matt “Papi” Papson and his Jeremy Maclin $26M/4years contract. As his team name would suggest (BallinOnABudget) Matt seemed to be looking for value rather than bidding wars and he definitely found one here. Maclin was quietly one of the most consistent WRs last season and looks comfortable as Andy Reid’s number one option. We will see what his value holds in the fourth year of the contract, he’ll be 31, but at an average salary of just over $6 million he is a significant discount to some of his other WR2 brethren.” -Nick Andrews

Laquon Treadwell (2 years, $6 million) Like The Language

“Treadwell’s contract looks pretty good for that amount of time. He is going to be good.”  -Stephen Wendell

Marvin Jones (1 year, $3 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Jones at that value has a chance for a special year in a Megatronless Detroit.” -Stephen Wendell

Tight ends

Zach Ertz (2 years, $8 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“The Ertz contract was easily the TE value of the night. I must have been asleep at the controls for this one.”  -Matt Papson

Let us know on Twitter about some of the best/worst contracts in your RSO league.


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Best Values – Writers' League

Updated: September 7th 2016

Values.  Even in a league comprised of the RSO founders and writers, there are plenty of players that sign for below their projected values.  Many factors contribute to this, including the timing of player nominations, each team’s roster construction, and each team’s remaining room under the salary cap.

As the auction progresses, owners throughout the league felt regret as several players slipped through the cracks for reasonable, team-friendly deals.  After the draft, several owners shared with me which players they felt were the best values in the auction.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (4 years, $72 million) Ice Cold Bruschis

“Didn’t realize it during the action, but after the fact this looks like a steal.  He’s still the 5th highest paid QB on a per year basis and the 6th highest in 2016, but he’s almost 9M/yr cheaper than the #1 QB Wilson and a solid 3-4M/yr lower than the other top tier QBs of Luck, Cam, and Brees.  Add in the fact that he’s the only QB locked in for 4 years in this superflex league and this buy looks great.  I personally went into the auction with the strategy of not wanting to target the top QBs, but in hindsight I should have gone after Rodgers at this value.” -Kyle English

“A-Rod also really good to have locked up for 4 years. He will probably have a huge year this year now that Nelson is back in the fold.” -Stephen Wendell

Ben Roethlisberger (2 years, $25 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Ben at 2/$25M was my favorite multi-year QB deal” -Matt Papson

Derek Carr (3 years, $21.5 million) Like The Language

“Derek Carr is a nice flyer at $7.2M per year for the next 3 years. I was already set at QB by the time he came available so I could not get involved.” -Matt Papson

“I am big on Carr and love that contract as well. He will be able to use or trade that at some point this year.” -Stephen Wendell

Blake Bortles (2 years, $18 million) Like The Language

Love the Blake Bortles contract. In a 2 QB league, he is going to be a valuable starter for Kyle’s squad for many many weeks.  -Stephen Wendell

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (3 years, $45.5 million) New York Knightmare

“Bell was unbelievably cheap, even with his recovery. I wasn’t prepared to absorb the risk that comes with him, but this has the chance to be the best overall deal signed at the end of the year.”  -Matt Papson

LeSean McCoy (2 years, $22 million) BallinOnABudget

“I fully expect McCoy to deliver big value on this contract.  He is the lead back in a run-heavy Buffalo offense and a dangerous receiving option out of the backfield on a team without many receiving weapons.  McCoy missed some time last year and was one of the first running backs nominated in the auction, which probably explains his low valuation in our league as owners  were waiting on the running back position.” -Bernard Faller

“Matt’s Shady contract could prove to be really good…in a PPR league, I just think he is so undervalued. I bowed out of that signing too early…as an Eagles fan, the whole Shady thing is tough to get through.” -Stephen Wendell

“I’m not a huge McCoy fan in general but given the turmoil his backups are going through, I think it’s safe to say McCoy is looking at 300+ touches this year if he can stay healthy (which he did in 2013 and 2014 don’t forget).  McCoy’s 2016 salary is lower than guys like Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Matt Forte – all three have their own injury histories and I would argue neither has as high a ceiling as McCoy.”  -Bob Cowper

Devonta Freeman (2 years, $26 million) New York Knightmare

“Freeman and Bell are both on solid contracts, though I like Freeman signing more than Bell. The discount was there for Bell for obvious reasons but 4 years is a lot to commit to him given his off the field issues and the age of Big Ben…he goes down and that offense really changes.” -Stephen Wendell

Jeremy Langford (1 year, $4.5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Jeremy Langford signing could prove to be a great bang for the buck this season at $4.5mm. Forte was not just a fluke catching dump off passes in the freezing cold all those years in Chicago. Langford will score a bunch of fantasy points…don’t get me wrong, I hate the Bears and Cutler, but this is a good singing I think.” -Stephen Wendell

Thomas Rawls (1 year, $5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Rawls at $5MM looks like great value in retrospect. I remember being upset he went for that little.” -Stephen Wendell

Wide Receivers

Josh Doctson (3 years, $3.5 million) Suck It Trebek

“My favorite contract in this league is Suck It Trebek’s (Bernard’s) signing of Josh Doctson for 3 years, $3.5m. Basically, even if Doctson sat out the entire season in 2016, he has the potential to be a superstar and runs the entire route tree. Doctson can win against all types of coverage, especially in the air on a Washington offense full of weapons. Bernard will benefit from this late-auction deal big time in the future years and potentially in OBJ type form if Doctson comes back to full health at some point this season. I personally would have bid higher and had the money to do it or even price enforce a bit, but I was saving my last multi-year deal (only had my 2 year deal left) for Sterling Shepard with OBJ already in tow and being fairly receiver heavy.” -Matt Goodwin

“At the point in the draft where he was selected, many of us were low on salary cap room and/or multi-year contracts. Still, this is incredible value given the contracts many of the other high-upside wide receivers and was a lesson in patience for my trigger-happy bidding style.” -Jaron Foster

Kelvin Benjamin (3 years, $50.5 million) Save Us Carson Wendtz & Kevin White (3 years, $34 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“The receivers got the bulk of the multi-year deals in this league, which is to be expected, but there was some craaaaaazy cash flying around in Free Agency. In the end, I think Kelvin Benjamin and Kevin White have a chance to be really special players for a while.” -Matt Papson

Jeremy Maclin (4 years, $24 million) BallinOnABudget

“I mean just look at this numbers last year to know how good this signing was by Papson – don’t love the length but it is an easy cut decision in 2 years if need be.” -Stephen Wendell

“My value pick has to go to Matt “Papi” Papson and his Jeremy Maclin $26M/4years contract. As his team name would suggest (BallinOnABudget) Matt seemed to be looking for value rather than bidding wars and he definitely found one here. Maclin was quietly one of the most consistent WRs last season and looks comfortable as Andy Reid’s number one option. We will see what his value holds in the fourth year of the contract, he’ll be 31, but at an average salary of just over $6 million he is a significant discount to some of his other WR2 brethren.” -Nick Andrews

Laquon Treadwell (2 years, $6 million) Like The Language

“Treadwell’s contract looks pretty good for that amount of time. He is going to be good.”  -Stephen Wendell

Marvin Jones (1 year, $3 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Jones at that value has a chance for a special year in a Megatronless Detroit.” -Stephen Wendell

Tight ends

Zach Ertz (2 years, $8 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“The Ertz contract was easily the TE value of the night. I must have been asleep at the controls for this one.”  -Matt Papson

Let us know on Twitter about some of the best/worst contracts in your RSO league.


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

More Analysis by Dave Sanders