In The Trenches: State of the TE
Let's take a look at Week 13 performances from Week 13 to inform us what should be expected from the positino heading into the playoffs.
We tend to focus all our attention in fantasy football on quarterbacks. Pretty odd considering that the entire group, thanks to the pass happy nature of today's NFL, is full of options you can turn to each week. After the quarterback I'm consistently besiged with questions about who to start at running back and wide receiver. Totally get that given that those two spots are really the heart of your fantasy squad. However, what about the tight end position? If you've got one of the elites you're set. If you don't have one of a handful of guys, you know the names, you might be playing Russian Roulette with the position from week-to-week. In this piece I'll break down some tight end efforts from Week 13 as well as looking a bit deeper into the data to try accurately inform your view of tight end position as we gear up for the fantasy playoffs.
Jordan Cameron caught four balls for 43 yards in another somewhat disappointing effort for the young tight end. Let's be honest here though. Perhaps expectations have gotten a wee bit out of control? Cameron is on pace for more than 80 receptions, over 925 yards and eight scores. Do you know how many tight ends reached all three of those benchmarks last season? The answer is two (Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez). Perhaps you should cut him some slack? At the same time his effort this year is extremely front loaded and that's a real issue. From Week 5 on Cameron has but one score an only one game over 65 yards. OK, you can be upset.
Charles Clay caught seven balls for 80 yards in Week 13. Not many have taken note that he has 53 receptions through 12 games, a pace for 71 receptions this season. Not bad for a guy who wasn't even selected in re-draft leagues.
Jared Cook caught three balls for 49 yards in Week 13 and that's about what we've come to expect from the Rams' tight end. A physically gifted player, the Titans and now the Rams have failed to consistently bring out the best in Cook. It's understandable in St. Louis this season, after all Kellen Clemens is under center for the Rams, and not to bash a guy unfairly but – he stinks. Removing his Week 1 effort (7-141-2) causes Cook's weekly production to absolutely cave, but Cook is still on pace for about 50 receptions, 750 yards and five scores. He's failed to catch 50 passes or score five times in his first four seasons.
Vernon Davis is an absolute monster. People talk all the time about physical mismatches on the field when they talk about tight ends, and once you get past Gronk/Graham this Davis kid is a mistachee as it gets (yes, I made a word up). Davis can run past linebackers and defensive backs simply cannot match his physicality. All the Niners need to do is to get him the football. Davis scored for the 10th time this season in Week 13, his third straight games with a score. Moreover, only twice in his last nine games has he failed to score. In a rather pedestrian Niners offense... wow.
Anthony Fasano has no upside. He's also very boring and he catches passes from one of the most limited quarterbacks in the NFL in Alex Smith. I gotta give the guy some props though. Fasano hasn't hit 40 yards in any of his last three games but he has scored in each outing. I know, right? I don't know how you trust a guy who is averaging four catches for 25 yards in those three games, but the fact is the end zone boogies have saved the owners who used Fasano as a desperation play the last three weeks. Still, with a concussion clouding his Week 14 outlook, it's not the best of times to hope that the wave keeps on going.
Coby Fleener cannot be trusted. You should know that by now as the Colts offense just can't seem to get anything going consistently. Fleener caught eight balls for 107 yards a few weeks back against the Titans, the best effort of his young career. So much for carrying that over as Coby caught just three balls for 50 yards in Week 13 against the Titans. Fleener continues to frustrate his owners who expected so much more when Dwayne Allen's season ended with injury.
Nick Foles is performing at an elite level. In fact, over the last five games he's been as efficient as any quarterback who has ever lived. He's simply taking whatever the defense is giving him and expoliting that opening at a mind boggling level. In Week 13 against the Cardinals, the club who entered play as the worst defense in football against the tight end, the Eagles and Foles took full advantage of the opportunity to exploit that weakness. Brent Celek caught four balls for 29 yards an a score. Meanwhile Zach Ertz caught five balls for 68 yards and two scores. That's nine receptions, 97 yards and three scores for the tight ends of the Eagles. Both will receded to non-playing status in Week 14, the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Antonio Gates is dealing with a wonky hamstring, and he was clearly somewhat limited in Week 13. Still, Gates was targeted nine times and caught five balls for 41 yards, so it's not like he disappeared from the Chargers offense. Everyone is getting pumped up about Ladarius Green, and with good reason if you're in a keeper/dynasty league, but it's still pretty hard to trust him on a weekly basis at this point if you're in a 10-12 team re-draft league. “But Ray, Green has gone for 80 yards twice and scored two times in his last three games.” Totally get the excitement, don't get me wrong. But even with the production from Green, including scores in back-to-back games, Green is only averaging five targets a game the past three weeks (remember a “limited” Gates had nine targets in Week 13). With Gates around it's oh so hard to start a guy who is averaging three receptions and five targets the past three weeks in Green.
Garret Graham you stink. Owen Daniels went down with that significant leg injury and Graham was supposed to step up. He hasn't. At all. Graham has had one nice efforts since Week 5. One. Remove his Week 11 effort (7-136-1) and you find only two games with more than three catches and not a single effort over 46 yards. That's seven games of crapola.
Rob Gronkowski is a beast. No one can cover him one on one, and when there are two defenders on him he often drags them for 3-6 yards before they can bring him down after making the catch. Over his last four games here are his point totals in a PPR: 29.3, 16.9, 22.0 and 24.7. In those four games he's averaging 23.2 points. There is only one other tight end who has played at least four games in that time frame who has averaged 15 points – Jimmy Graham.
The Jaguars offense stinks. Entering Week 13 the Jags had thrown for, get this, five touchdowns all season. Five. No one on the team had more than one touchdown reception as five guys had scored once. Clay Harbor now leads the team with two scores after he reached the end zone in Week 13. He only caught two balls for 23 yards in his Week 13 effort. Marcedes Lewis caught three balls for 26 yards but he too scored. Remember back when Lewis scored 10 times in 2010? Yeah, it's hard to. Over his last 38 games Lewis has scored five times.
Heath Miller is finally back to the point of being an actual contributor on the field. Miller went for 8-67 in Week 11, 5-41 in Week 12 and 8-86 in Week 13. Those efforts leave him with a three week average of seven receptions for 65 yards. That will play. Too bad he's only scored once this season and that was back in Week 7.
Greg Olsen is boring. No one likes drafting Olsen. No one likes starting Olsen. Regardless all the guy does is produce. In each of his last three games Olsen has caught five balls, and he's scored four times in his last six games. Once you get past the elite at the position there aren't many better than Olsen... even if you never think that way when you're forced to draft, or start, him.
Everyone misled us about Jordan Reed in Week 13. The team suggested he would play, and multiple NFL reports, not people you've never heard of but big-time names (ESPN and Fox Sports said he would), agreed. Turns out they were wrong. With the Redskins playing Sunday Night Football folks were likely screwed. Talk about a guy pulling a head first dive into a two foot pool from the three meter spring board. Reed had 2.20 points in Week 11 before being inactive in Week 12 and Week 13.
What's the deal with the Buccaneers offense? They've become a totally run first team. In his first four starts Mike Glennon completed at least 24 passes in each game. Over his last five games he hasn't thrown 24 passes in a game. Not once. With that massive reduction in chucking the pigskin it goes without saying that Bucs' pass catchers are going to be hit or miss from week-to-week. Vincent Jackson is always going to get his, but a guy like Tim Wright may or may not. Look at Wright's fantasy point totals in his last six games (PPR): 15.8, 15.8, 2.9, 2.3, 15.3 and 3.70. Sorry, but I don't know if anyone can predict when he will be worth starting at this point.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT & Friday's at 9 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answers everyone's questions.