Fantasy Football TE Preview: Dynasty Tight Ends to Buy - Part Two
Published: Jun 25, 2020
“Seven years in purgatory for every sin”. I believe I read that in a book somewhere. And I’m fairly confident that what they were trying to say is, committing the fantasy sin of not turning over your roster is how you end up in fantasy purgatory for years and years. Or something like that.
(The poor souls who have held onto Kyle Rudolph all these years)
Fantasy purgatory is when your team in a dynasty league isn’t good enough to compete but it also isn’t bad enough to take so you essentially go 6-7 every year finishing outside the playoffs and with a mediocre draft pick (also known as “the Jeff Fisher”). In redraft, last place is last but, in dynasty, the worst place you can finish is like 7th. So we’re here to help you with that.
Last week we gave you two tight ends to buy in any scenario. This week we are going to give you tight ends to buy in specific scenarios – namely, guys to buy if you are competing now and guys to stash if you are looking to tank/reload and compete later. We did the same thing for selling first with two guys to sell no matter what and then a few guys to sell depending on your specific situation. We did those first because buying is way more fun. So lets get after it!
If you are in “win now” mode that means you are going for it with your main focus being on this year and next. Everyone in their mind thinks that they can build this young stuperstar team that not only wins now but just keeps winning forever and ever. If your team is competitive whatsoever though, that’s simply not realistic. You need to strike while the iron is hot and get your name engraved on that trophy, where it will remain forever. If your team sucks in two years then who cares – you’re a goddamn champion and no one can take that away.
Zach Ertz , PHI Eagles
As always, we’ll start this article talking about The Target Conundrum. If you haven’t read that section of the article I just linked please do so. We will wait.
(You don’t even have to read all of it ya lazy son of a gun)
All set? Alright so we know that the barriers to success for top five tight ends is essentially 100 targets and being a top two target on the team is absolutely necessary to getting 100 targets. It doesn’t mean you are guaranteed 100 but it means that you at least have a shot since being third means you have zero chance.
Take a look around the league? How many tight ends are locked into being a top two target on their team? Probably about five or fix. How many are locks to be the top target on their team? Probably just Kelce, Kittle, Andrews, and Ertz. How many have met that criteria for five straight years? Kelce and Ertz. How many are under 30? Just Ertz. A guy who has finished as tight end 9, 6, 3, 2, and 4 in PPR over the last five years. A guy who has 619 targets over five years which is only 9 less than Travis Kelce and it’s 203 more than the third most, Kyle Rudolph .
What are we missing? Well, with these “buys” we are looking for a perceived lull in value and that lull is mostly based on Dallas Goedert . Even though Ertz is a year younger than Travis Kelce , the fact that his “successor” is on the team makes you believe he’s older or that he’s almost done. But Ertz once again led the team in targets last year while Goedert blocked heavily and he’s under contract with an uncuttable contract this season. There are very few tight ends who have a chance to be THE tight end 1 and Ertz is in the mix every season. Kelce has inflated value as the top tight end overall. George Kittle and Darren Waller are still perceived as young despite being 26 and 27 respectively as late breakouts. And Even Engram and Mark Andrews are both younger guys who are heavily coveted. There is no better elite tight bargain out there than George Kittle so, if you plan to compete right away, he’s you guy.
Jimmy Graham , Chicago Bears
(Yes Jimmy Graham)
Let’s say you’ve put your team in a good spot. You have young stud wide outs, runningbacks, and tight ends and are looking to throw your hat in the ring and compete. You’ve got a couple younger tight ends like a TJ Hockenson or a Noah Fant that you don’t want to trade (though maybe you should consider trading Fant). So you are looking to beef up your tight end room with a cheap guy who could possibly make an impact, start a buy week, or even become your starter if the young guys don’t break out. Enter: Jimmy Graham .
People think Graham is washed but lets for one moment consider that perhaps the Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers were simply not the best scheme for him. What if there was an offensive coordinator who was part of creating a scheme that gave us one of the most prolific fantasy tight ends of all time? What if that coach went to a new team and was clearly trying to recreate that old scheme, going as far as trading away the starting runningback and trading up to draft a new one because the old runningback wasn’t versatile enough? What if that coach and GM paid Jimmy Graham $12 million including $9 million in guarantees to come try and replicate that old, successful offense?
Well that guy does exist – his name is Matt Nagy and pretty much all that stuff happened. He was pivotal in the offense where Travis Kelce thrives. He traded away Jordan Howard and traded up to get David Montgomery to replicate what Kareem Hunt did in that offense as an every down back. And he wanted Jimmy Graham . So right off the bat you have narrative on your side – this guy knows how to use the tight end and you don’t pay a tight end $9 million to ride pine. Jimmy Graham also hasn’t blocked a day in his life - so much so that another Chicago tight end once famously said this.
Per ProFootballFocus, he’s essentially hovered around blocking on 5% of pass plays, at times going as low as 2-3% for an entire season, which is ideal usage in the realm you would find Evan Engram and Mark Andrews . You want guys who are part of the attack, not the protection. Anyone concerned about Cole Kmet is not familiar with how the tight end room works. You have multiple guys and, if multiple guys can play, they will. If that’s the case you will obviously use them to their best strengths. Jack Doyle was good at blocking so he blocked, Eric Ebron was terrible at blocking and good at pass catching (sometimes) so he went out for passes. Even if Dallas Goedert is good at catching passes, Zach Ertz is better at it (and Goedert might be better at blocking) so Ertz (543 routes run) goes out for far more passes than Goedert (369 routes run). So, when the season starts, how do you think they are most likely to utilize these players? Rookie tight end with no training camp Cole Kmet is the every down tight end and Jimmy Graham just hangs out collecting $9 million guaranteed? Not a chance. The door is wide open for Graham to be the second target on that team behind Allen Robinson and he’s scored over 10 TDs four times in his career (including only two years ago) so he actually does have top five tight end upside as opposed to someone like Hooper who is locked behind OBJ and Jarvis Landy. In fact, there have only been two tight ends over the last five years to be a top five tight end without 100 targets and one of them is Jimmy Graham on the Seahawks.
And the best part? He’s free. He might even be on waivers in your league but, if not, he can’t cost much more than whatever the last round pick is in your league. So grab him, why not?
You went for it, it didn’t work out, now it’s time to blow it up. Or maybe you just read the first part of this article and realized you are basically the Jeff Fisher of your league. Either way, you decided to take a step back to take two forward. These are the guys that you want to grab now while you are losing because, in a couple years, they could be high end options.
Irv Smith Jr., MIN Vikings
This guy goes here because tight ends typically take a little bit to develop but he could honestly be viable as soon as this season. But, based on the target distributions and the timeline I have for him, he’ll likely hit his peak within the next couple years as the team moves on from a couple older pieces. The obvious one is Kyle Rudolph who is 30 and has been relegated to blocking tight end in recent years. Guys like Rudolph and Randall Cobb who have been in the league for 9 years have been around forever so you can’t help but think they should be on their way out the door soon. You know who has the same exact birthday of August 22, 1990 as Randall Cobb ? Adam Thielen .
Right now Thielen is the number one target on the team and the number two target, Stefon Diggs , was sent to Buffalo. That leaves potential holdout threat Dalvin Cook , rookie Justin Jefferson, seventh round pick OlaBisi Johnson, division two castoff Tajae Sharpe , and second round pick out of powerhouse Alabama Irv Smith Jr. competing for that second spot. And, soon enough, possibly competing for that first spot on the target totem pole.
The one silver lining for Irv is that the presence of Rudolph has filtered him down the pass catching side of the tight end tree. Rudolph lined up inline 790 times and only took 74 slot snaps while blocking on 16.7% of pass plays while Irv lined up in the slot 188 times and only blocked on 6.2% of his pass plays. His most similar comparable players on PlayerProfiler.com are Eric Ebron and Ben Watson. So, you have a young, athletic, pass catching tight end from a fantastic school with a great pedigree and solid draft capital. The door is already starting to crack open so get him know before he kicks them completely down and you can no longer get him for a second.
(Irv Smith Announcing Kyle Rudolph ’s Retirement)
Dawson Knox , BUF Bills
We just said all that stuff on Irv Smith Jr. Capitvating stuff. Rather than say it again lets just break down the important parts:
- You want tight ends on the passing side of the tight end tree
Here are the pass blocking percentages for the Buffalo Bills, per Pro Football Focus. Notice the guy who played the most pass plays and blocked the least?
If you are concerned about Tyler Kroft taking pass snaps from Dawson Knox please look at the stats above and then look at this tweet where I said Tyler Kroft was paid by the Bills to block AND HIS OWN WIFE LIKED IT.
If that doesn’t convince you that Tyler Kroft is the blocking tight end and Dawson Knox is the pass catching tight end then I honestly don’t know what will.
- You want guys who have a path to becoming a top two target on their team.
Stefon Diggs should be the top target on the team moving forward. John Brown is 30. Cole Beasley is 31. Opportunities will be opening up in the near future. This is a buy and stash.
- You want size, athleticism, and pedigree
Here’s Dawson Knox on PlayerProfiler.com.
We just talked about how Eric Ebron is a prototypical pass catching tight end in the Irv Smith section. Here’s his profile.
Here is Antonio Gates .
Am I saying Dawson Knox is going to be white Antonio Gates ? No. Could he be? I don’t know. Look at the numbers again. Look at Cole Beasley . Go get Dawson Knox and throw him on the bench or taxi squad. What do you have to lose?
Statistics for this article were provided by the author, Andrew Cooper, with help from ProFootballFocus.com, PlayerProfiler.com, ProFootballRefence.com, AirYards.com, and SharpFootballStats.com. Follow Coop on Twitter @CoopAFiasco.