Welcome to the QB List Staff Playbook Series. Every week throughout both the summer and season, we will conduct a staff survey, asking multiple fantasy analysts to share their insights on some of fantasy football’s most pressing questions. Essentially, we’re sharing our “playbook” with you, revealing the hard choices and strategic moves we would make to stay ahead of the competition.
This week, the QB List Staff was asked which tight ends are being overvalued on Draft Day based on FantasyPros ADP. Let’s open the playbook:
Paul Ghiglieri (@FantasyGhigs): Zach Ertz (ADP 33.0, TE3)
Reasoning: Zach Ertz had a monster year last year, catching a career-high 116 passes for 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns. Ertz had never caught more than 78 passes in five prior seasons. Ertz’target share (26%) was notably higher last year, which explains the uptick in receptions. The Eagles added J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the draft to soak up red-zones targets. Does this mean Ertz won’t be a factor near the end zone? Not when he’s capable of making catches like this:
That being said, Arcega-Whiteside will play a role when the Eagles are in scoring position, and DeSean Jackson returns to Philadelphia to stretch defenses deep, leaving Ertz to battle everyone else for targets in the middle of the field. Plus, the team has publicly stated a desire to get Dallas Goedert more involved, utilizing more “12” personnel to keep both tight ends on the field at the same time, forcing defenses to play an extra safety rather than bringing in another corner, and allowing the Eagles exploit mismatches. Keep in mind Ertz only averaged 10.0 yards per reception, meaning much of his production was tied to volume. The Eagles are committed to staying versatile on offense this season, and that means the entire offense won’t funnel through Ertz like it did last year.
Doug Pederson is lining up his receivers and tight ends everywhere. Alshon Jeffery in the slot sometimes. Desean Jackson in the slot sometimes. Mack Hollins on the outside. So many versatile weapons#Eagles pic.twitter.com/GdgNKWWgXM
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) August 19, 2019
If Ertz isn’t getting 156 targets again, 2018 likely goes down as a career year. For a player with a 3rd round ADP, Ertz doesn’t figure to receive the volume necessary to justify where he’s being taken in drafts.
Ben Davidowitz (@DavidowitzB): Eric Ebron (ADP 76, TE8)
Reasoning: Eric Ebron’s first season with the Colts couldn’t have gone much better. Playing with quarterback Andrew Luck, Ebron revitalized his career and set new personal highs in catches, yards, and touchdowns. His 13 touchdown catches were tops among tight ends and two more scores than his 11 touchdowns over four years playing for the Lions. In 2019, Ebron is in-store for a regression across the board. The Colts have a bunch of mouths to feed after signing Devin Funchess and drafting Parris Campbell. The return of Jack Doyle should also eat into Ebron’s production.
Last season, Eric Ebron was out-snapped (331 to 164) and out-targeted (32 to 22) by Jack Doyle in games both players were active.
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) August 21, 2019
Even without those players in the mix, Ebron’s touchdown production from 2018 would be hard to replicate. His 13 touchdown grabs are tied for the third-most scores from the TE position in a single season in NFL history. Only five tight ends have caught over ten touchdown passes in more than one season: Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham, and Julius Thomas. Ebron’s scoring is bound to fall back down to earth in the next NFL season.
Bryan Sweet (@FantasyFreakTN): Jared Cook (ADP 72, TE7)
Reasoning: Jared Cook is as tantalizing an athlete at TE as there has ever been. From his rookie profile to his arrival as a member of the then St. Louis Rams, to catching passes from Aaron Rodgers , and now his arrival in the Big Easy, Cook has always been seen as the answer for a team at tight end. Ironically, there wasn’t much fanfare for his arrival in Oakland in 2017 and he went on to have the best season of his career there in 2018. Cook set career highs in targets (101), receptions (68), yards (896), TDs (6), and catch percentage (67.3%).
The Saints signed Cook to a two-year $15M contract in the offseason and the fantasy community is once again salivating over the prospects of Cook catching passes from a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Recalling the glory days of the Jimmy Graham–Drew Brees era (2011 – 2014), expectations are once again through the roof for Cook as evidenced by his TE7 ADP.
However, Oakland’s situation is much better for a pass-catching tight end than New Orleans’, surprising as that may sound. New Orleans has moved away from the gun-slinging days of the early 2010’s as the team has steadily reduced Brees’s passing attempts over the last few seasons. In 2018, Derek Carr attempted 64 more passes than Brees.
In addition, New Orleans projects to field a much better offensive line than Oakland per Pro Football Focus. This means Brees will have more time for routes to develop down the field and fewer short passes to the tight end, a staple of the Oakland offense as Cook saw 18.26% of Carr’s targets — the highest percentage on the team. The last premier tight end signing for New Orleans was Coby Fleener in 2016, and he went on to post mostly pedestrian numbers on his way to a TE15 finish. Lastly, New Orleans’ schedule does Cook no favors.
— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) July 26, 2019
Maybe Cook has finally turned into an elite tight end at age 32, but I’d much rather take a chance on Vance McDonald, David Njoku, Austin Hooper, or Delanie Walker — all of which are going 20 to 50 picks later.
Tom Schweitzer (@QBLTom): TJ Hockenson (ADP 143, TE 13)
Reasoning: It seems every year the fantasy community gets conned into taking a rookie tight end in this range. It’s the same general area that rookies Mike Gesicki and Hayden Hurst went in 2018, guys who are barely being drafted in 2019. Tight end is just a tough position for rookies. They essentially have to learn to play offensive line and wide receiver at the same time, and that’s why we rarely see them break out in their first year.
In T.J. Hockenson’s case, I think people are excited that the Lions spent the 8th overall pick to acquire him, because that must mean he’s going to be a big part of their offense, right? Well sure, but maybe not in the way you think. The Lions have been very clear about their intentions to run the ball as much as possible, and Hockenson is an excellent blocker.
I think this is a case where the Lions see him as a guy who can contribute to the running game in 2019 and slowly develop as a receiver.
The Lions also spent money to bring in veterans Jesse James and Danny Amendola, two guys bound to claim targets in the red zone and over the middle. The time to take Hockenson is 2020 and beyond. If you want to take a flier on a high-upside tight end, I’d be much more inclined to take the 2nd year guys like Dallas Goedert or the aforementioned Gesicki, or maybe even a former stud like Jimmy Graham.
Caio Miari (@caioNFL18): George Kittle (ADP 30, TE2)
Reasoning: George Kittle took the league by storm in 2018, despite playing without his starting quarterback for most of the year. In his second pro season, the 25-year-old totaled 1,377 receiving yards, breaking the single-season record for that mark, along with 88 catches and five touchdowns. And Kittle’s 26.4% target share made him the No. 1 passing weapon for the San Francisco 49ers. His list of accomplishments is a long one: Among all wide receivers and tight ends in the NFL, Kittle topped the league in yards after the catch with 9.72 (min. 30 receptions). That explains why he had three 70-yard receptions by the end of the year, including two 80-yard TDs.
A lot of talk about regression for George Kittle. I don't think his targets are in jeopardy and believe he could see some RZ TD positive regression.
However, 25% of his fantasy points last year came on just five 40-yard+ receptions in 1/2 PPR.
Tough to sustain chunk plays.
— Stephen Andress ✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿 (@StephenBroke80) August 3, 2019
With Jimmy Garoppolo coming back after a torn ACL in 2018, the natural expectations towards Kittle point for another monster season. But Garoppolo isn’t the only 49er coming back in 2019. Along with the quarterback, there are Jerick McKinnon and Marquise Goodwin, who all missed part of last season to injury. Not to mention this year’s offseason acquisitions through Free Agency (Jordan Matthews, Tevin Coleman) and Draft (Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd). Oh, and emerging Dante Pettis enters his second season in the league surrounded by a lot of expectations. The problem, in this case, is not Kittle; he’s still a great player. My point is that it’s going to be tough for him to be the second-best tight end in fantasy for the second consecutive season after so many new acquisitions for the Kyle Shanahan-orchestrated offense.
(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)