Going Deep: Getting a Read on Jordan Reed

Nate Watt does a deep dive on Jordan Reed, and what fantasy owners should be doing with him in 2019.

Looking at what Jordan Reed has managed to do over his six-year NFL career, he has a pretty impressive fantasy resume. He finished in the Top 20 at TE his rookie year, before breaking out in his third season of 2015 and finishing as the #3 TE. A #9 TE finish in 2016 in just 12 games seemed to indicate that Jordan Reed may have been here to stay, but his last two seasons have been more of a bang than a whimper. Injuries have limited him to just 19 games, and he finished as the TE43 and TE17 in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The fantasy community has definitely voted on how they feel about Reed with their mock drafts, with his ADP sitting at TE20, going behind such luminaries as T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Rudolph, and just a single pick ahead of Noah Fant. It’s obvious that the injuries that have plagued him are the reason for this low price point, but does he deserve to be going this low? Let’s talk about that.

 


 

What Reed Has Going For Him

 

1. When he’s on the field, he’s still got it. 

If a guys main knock is that he’s hurt all the time, you at least want him to produce when he is on the field right? Reed’s got that covered. Here’s his rank over every span from 2016-2018 in which he strung together at least four games played:

Year Span Position Rank (PPR)
2016 Week 1-5 TE3
2016 Week 8-12 TE3
2017 Week 4-7 TE13
2018 Week 1-14 TE9

Aside from illustrating how much playtime he’s missed with injuries, it also shows that even with said injuries, he’s still a more than capable fantasy tight end. This is actually a trend we’ve seen throughout his whole career, outside of a sophomore slump in 2014.

Year Span Position Rank (PPR)
2015 Week 7-17 TE2
2015 Week 1-4 TE7
2014 Week 13-17 TE12
2014 Week 6-11 TE16
2013 Week 6-11 TE1

While these numbers are impressive, what’s even more impressive is how efficient Reed has been when he’s on the field. He’s not simply reaping the benefits of being force-fed targets, he’s among the best in the league at making use of said targets on a per snap basis.

Year Pts/Snap TE Rank (Min. 250 Snaps)
2014 5th
2015 1st
2016 1st
2017 4th
2018 10th

Healthy Jordan Reed is dominant in every sense of the word.

2. He’s a red-zone weapon; the Redskins know it. 

When you have a player as versatile as Jordan Reed, you’re going to find a way to use him as much as possible, and the Redskins have made sure to use Reed both between the 20’s and (more valuable) in the red zone plenty. Here’s Jordan Reed’s percentage of the Redskins’ red zone targets by season.

 

Year Games % of Team RZ Targets Team Rank
2013 9 12.3 3rd
2014 11 15.4 T-2nd
2015 14 27.1 1st
2016 12 17.3 T-2nd
2017 6 5.8 T-6th
2018 13 16.3 2nd

Reed’s managed over 15% of the Redskins’ red zone targets in every season he played at least 10 games, despite missing multiple games in every such season. What’s better than throws inside the 20 though? Throws inside the 10. And wouldn’t you know it, Jordan Reed dominates those as well.

 

Year Games % of Team 10Z Targets Team Rank
2013 9 9.4 T-3rd
2014 11 30 1st
2015 14 26.8 T-1st
2016 12 21.6 1st
2017 6 4 T-6th
2018 13 26.3 1st

In fact, he was even more dominant, leading the team in 10-zone targets in each season he played more than ten games. So, you’ve got a tight end who’s hyper-efficient, and get plenty of work on the most valuable part of the field. What more could you ask for? How about having no competition?

3. He’s by far the best option the Redskins have.

It’s no secret that the Redskins have issues at receiver, nor is it a secret that they’ve been about as lackadaisical as possible about fixing it. 2019 free agency gave us Golden Tate, Tyrell Williams, Adam Humphries, and John Brown; and 2018 free agency had Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins and Marqise Lee, none of whom the Redskins signed. They did sign Paul Richardson Jr. in 2018, but he responded by having the worst graded season of his career, per Pro Football Focus. They have drafted four wide receivers the last three drafts, but only of these was drafted prior to the 6th round. At WR, Reed’s main competition comes in the form of Josh Doctson (coming off an incredibly mediocre 2018 season), Trey Quinn (equally mediocre last year) and 3rd-round rookie Terry McLaurin, who to his credit has torn up training camp, if early reports are to be believed. The Redskins roster sports exactly one player on the roster to catch 50+ passes in a season as a Redskin; and his name is Jordan Reed. With the Redskins declining Josh Doctson’s fifth-year option they’ve made it clear that he is not a part of their future plans, giving them no motivation to increase usage for the player who currently represents the biggest “threat” to Jordan Reed’s target feast. This leaves Paul Richardson Jr. as the lone WR with any significant investment placed in him, and he showed last season that said the investment was gravely misplaced. Contrast this, then, with the 5-year, $46,750,000 contract that will keep Jordan Reed in Washington until 2022. So clearly, Jordan Reed should have absolutely no issue remaining the top dog in D.C. when he’s on the field.

 

4. He’s not hurt yet

Incredibly, this is the first time since 2016 that Jordan Reed has entered training camp without an injury. It’s a small thing, but the last time he did so he finished as the TE9, so take that for what you will.

 

All this is fine and dandy, but it wouldn’t be fair of me to only present the good things about Jordan Reed in 2019, which leads us to:

 


 

What Reed Has Going Against Him

 

1. Injuries

Do I even need to say it? Jordan Reed absolutely cannot stay healthy, but the extent to which he is absolutely broken might shock you. Per Sports Injury Predictor, since his freshman season at Florida in 2010, Jordan Reed has suffered (if you’re trying to read quickly and don’t care about the specifics, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. To summarize, he’s gotten hurt a lot):

-Six concussions

-A Grade 3 Separation of the A/C Joint in his Left Shoulder

-Chest Contusion that caused him to miss a game

-Sprained thumb

-5 Left Hamstring injuries, ranging from a Grade 3 Tear in 2017 to minor strains and pulls

-A Right MCL Strain

-A Right Knee Sprain

-Two Right Quad injuries, a contusion that forced him to miss a game and a strain

-A Grade 1 Right Ankle Sprain

-3 Right Foot Toe injuries, a sprain, and two fractures

 

Looking at that list, you might wonder how on earth Jordan Reed hasn’t completely broken at this point. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. The sad truth is that it’s a near certainty that Jordan Reed will once again injure himself at some point in 2019, with Sports Injury Predictor projecting him to miss a whopping six games with injury. This point honestly trumps just about all the positives for Reed that I’ve laid out in this article, because (believe it or not), injured players don’t score fantasy points. And to that point, players who don’t score you fantasy points aren’t worth rostering. Real groundbreaking information, I know.

 

2. Quarterback Questions

With uncertainty surrounding whether Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins will start for the Redskins in 2019, it’s easy to be hesitant to invest in the Redskins offense. Especially concerning is the news that star LT Trent Williams will not play for the team, greatly hurting the outlook for the offensive line. One of the biggest knocks on Haskins’ game coming out of college was his poor play under pressure, and he’ll see significantly more pressure with Donald Penn manning LT rather than Williams. Case Keenum has also been particularly awful when facing pressure in his NFL career (PFF Grade of just 41.9 in such situations in 2018 alone). Additionally, Reed’s two most historically used portions of the field (middle of the field and left of the field between 0 and 10 yards) happen to be the zones where Keenum performed rather poorly, posting just a 62.5 and 62.6 PFF Passing grade to those parts of the field, respectively in 2018. He was respectable passing to these zones in 2017 with the Vikings, but he was still noticeably worse than to other parts of the field. Reed has been rather efficient when targeted at short range on the right side of the field (he produced a 112.3 QBR on such receptions in 2018), but offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh needs to show us he’s willing to expand Reed’s horizons a bit. If Haskins starts Reed could provide a nice safety blanket for the raw rookie, but rookie QB performance varies wildly. Haskins could hit the ground running like Baker Mayfield last year (which would be amazing for Reed, obviously), or he could be more like Josh Rosen. Until we see him in the preseason, we really don’t know what Dwayne Haskins represents for Jordan Reed’s value.

 


 

What Do We Do With Him?

 

Now for the question of the hour: what do we do with this information? In my opinion, you should be buying. At the low price of free in most fantasy drafts, I see no reason not to take a late-round flier on a potential top option at the tight end position, especially if you miss out on the top tier players at the position. However, it’s true that he needs to play in order to return value, and we simply have no reason to believe he can do so this year. For you drafters who are thrill-seekers, snag him as a backup tight end and hope for the best. For the risk-averse though, it’s entirely justifiable to stay away. As much of a cop-out as it is, I simply don’t have a concrete answer for what we should do with him, as injuries are truly a trump card to any amount of statistics and metrics I throw at you saying he’s still got it. So do with him what you will, but he’ll be ending up on many, many of my teams in 2019.

 

(Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire)

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