Fantasy Football TE Preview: Dynasty Tight Ends to Sell - Part Two
Andrew Cooper examines the dynasty tight end landscape and tells you which players are worth selling.
Like any great piece of literature, I’m going to start this article off by bringing up a hackneyed and overused cliché: the “glass half full versus the glass half empty”. When you read these articles and a tight end that you own in your dynasty league comes up, you can obviously choose to feverishly search for surface level counting stats to blast at me on Twitter or Reddit before I calmly explain to you why Tyler Higbee ’s 21.44 PPR points per game over the last five games in 2019 doesn’t mean he’s going to score 343.04 points in 2020. Choosing to die on that hill because you own the guy is looking at the glass as half empty. But, the firing squad is waiting if that’s what you want to do.
(Go ahead, tell me “tight ends take longer to break out)
Rather than wallow in the seeds of fantasy doubt that have surely now been sown via actual statistical analysis, you could instead be pumped that you now have information that you didn’t have yesterday. Actionable fantasy data that your league-mates don’t have. Trading is fun and you just found out that you have a great sell high trade piece to go out and get rising value in exchange for value that is likely at it’s peak. Dynasty football hell is when you have an 6-7 team with a bunch of guys that you can’t drop but also no one wants to trade for. We are giving you the chance to sneak out of fantasy purgatory before the devil knows you’re dead.
(Take a nice, long sip from this tall glass of selling Ian Thomas to some shmuck in your league that doesn’t understand target distribution)
And with that we will continue to provide some dynasty sell candidates. The guys we mentioned last week were ones we feel strongly about selling in nearly every circumstance – whether you are competing now, tanking, or rebuilding, you should capitalize and sell them now. This week we are going to break it down by category since these aren’t necessarily guys that are “red alerts” in terms of potential value drop but are guys you should consider moving on from, depending on where you are now. We are going to skip teams that are flat out tanking because that’s too obvious – clearly if you are trying to come in dead last for one reason or another then you probably should move older stud tight ends like Kelce or Ertz who are good enough to prevent you from being the huge loser you strive to be but might be a little too old to be apart of your rebuild down the road. That’s too easy so we will look at guys to sell if you are in win now mode or guys to sell if you are rebuilding.
This advice is for a team that is trying to win right now. These guys haven’t necessarily hit their peak value for their career arc but, in our estimation, still have multiple years to wait before having top half tight end one upside. If you can stash them, great, but, if they are your starting tight end, you may want to consider moving them in a package for a tight end with immediate top five tight end upside.
Noah Fant, DEN Broncos
Let me preface this by saying I believe that Noah Fant is a good dynasty tight end. His workout metrics are pretty much off the damn charts – take a look at how he stacks up on PlayerProfiler.com
If you didn’t already surmise, high percentiles for the metrics on the right are good. Having your best comparable player be George Kittle , is good. So why would you sell this guy?
(I honestly don’t even know what this thing is but it’s mesmerizing)
By the nature of dynasty itself, the talent within your dynasty league is not distributed evenly. Karl Marx’s team that won seasonal snake draft league likely wouldn’t have beat Bill Gate’s dynasty team with Zeke, CMC, Michael Thomas , Chris Godwin , and Travis Kelce . So, if you are competing right now in a one tight end league, a back end tight end one isn’t going to cut it unless you really want to roll the dice with below average player starting for your team every single week.
Noah Fant last year had the opportunity to absorb a silly number of targets with essentially only Courtland Sutton for competitive pass catchers. But, he was a 21 year old tight end to start the season and he experienced some growing pains so, despite being the second target on the team behind Sutton’s 124, he only received 66 targets and was largely inefficient on them. Sure he flashed some skill and had some plays that “could have gone either way” but he largely didn’t do anything to blow you away and the Broncos told us as much in 2020 draft.
Because of the Target Distribution Conundrum we’ve discussed at length, the potential fantasy explosion for Noah Fant has likely been put on hold for a bit while we see how things play out. In an ideal world for Fant, the Broncos would have liked what he did last year and decided that they can look similar to the Kansas City Chiefs by maybe having a split end in Courtland Sutton , a field stretcher, and a tight end who is the focal point of the offense. Had they drafted just KJ Hamler as a field stretcher in the second round that would have been fine. But instead they drafted the most polished and NFL ready wide receiver in the first round AND THEN KJ Hamler in the second. And they added Melvin Gordon , a pass catching back.
So for the foreseeable future, Fant has an uphill battle to being a top two target on the team and getting to the 100 targets required to be a top five fantasy tight end. Sutton is on the books for 2020 and 2021 so you really have to just hope that Jeudy and Hamler struggle as rookies for Fant to remain relevant for 2020. Outside of that you will have to wait and see how the roster shakes out and if he goes elsewhere but you have to remember – he’s only 22 so breaking out three years from now would still put him on a similar timeline to guys like Zach Ertz or Austin Hooper . If you have a starting tight end that you like already and has top 5 upside for 2020, then I recommend stashing Fant since he certainly profiles as a guy who could be a good fantasy tight end down the road. But, if you planned on starting him as your tight end now and you are competing for a championship, you might want to look to find someone with higher upside. Many don’t realize how badly two premier WRs can restrict a tight end’s upside so Fant’s value is likely to dip for a couple years. You can capitalize on his value now in your bid to win then and then even get him back later when the planets a line. Guys like Austin Hooper , Darren Waller , Hayden Hurst – they all hit the wire at certain points.
Dallas Goedert , PHI Eagles
Right now there is a consensus among fantasy gamers that Dallas Goedert is the heir apparent to the tight end throne in Philly once it’s vacated by the dependable target monster Zach Ertz . And that very well might be true. But the important thing to us is that he’s currently being valued that way while he’s also currently the second tight end on the depth chart. No one knows when Ertz is going to retire. And even then, no one knows if Dallas Goedert is going to be Ertz. What we do know is that, barring injury, he’s not going to be a top five tight end this year. And here’s how we know that.
(With stats, not a crystal ball. Boring, I know)
We mention the possibility of injury propelling Goedert into top half fantasy tight end land but his situation isn’t like the ones we discussed two weeks ago. No, Goedert really only gets booted to top five tight end potential with an injury to Zach Ertz specifically. And we know that because we had the rare opportunity to see what this team looked like with pretty much every wide receiver hurt last season. During weeks 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17, the Eagles experienced the nightmare scenario where all three starting WRs in Alshon Jeffrey, DeSean Jackson , and Nelson Agholor were out. During that span, Dallas Goedert played well and was tight end 7 but it literally took everyone but Ertz being out just to get him there. During those 5 games he still blocked on 10.9 percent of his pass snaps while Zach Ertz blocked on 1.8 percent of his. However you want to slice it, he’s still the primary blocker of the duo and this year they will have Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson back healthy with the addition of Jalen Reagor to go with a second year JJ Arcega-Whiteside . The reason Goedert is a good sell if you are competing now is that people view him as a viable tight end now who will get a boost down the road when, in reality, everyone on the team got hurt but him and he was tight end 10. He’s less of a startable tight end with additional upside and more of a high-end tight end two which is not what you start on your championship dynasty team. So, until they move on from Ertz, you want someone else as your starting tight end and I’d have no qualms packaging Goedert up for someone who is a lock top 10 tight end with top 5 upside like an Evan Engram or a Hunter Henry . Both those dudes are the exact same age as Goedert.
Let’s be real, you almost certainly aren’t winning this year. You need to move your assets back and plan for the future. Start here.
Jared Cook , NO Saints
Jared Cook has been a tight end enigma for years. He’s a premier pass catching tight end in the sense that his workout metrics were all 97th percentile and above, he’s always had a healthy aDot, and he’s always been part of the attack rather than the protection (he played on 344 pass snaps and blocked on only eight of them last year). Not only that but he’s had opportunities in pass happy offenses with the Rams and Raiders while also playing with Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees . Up until recently he’s shown flashes of greatness but never quite was able to make it over the hump into a reliable fantasy tight end.
Last year he was able to finish as tight end 7 in PPR despite injurie to both himself and Drew Brees . He was third on the team in targets behind Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara which is fine for a back end tight end 1. But the reality of the situation is that, even with only Ted Ginn , Latavius Murray , Josh Hill , and Trequan Smith competing for targets, he only got 65 in 14 games which translates to 74 over 16. His season fantasy total was bolstered by 9 touchdowns which is only 1 less than Mark Andrews who led the league and two more than the next highest player (Darren Fells , surprisingly). Touchdowns can be sticky but it’s difficult to predict a guy will definitely match his career high when he’s never had more than 6 in 11 seasons. Not only is he definitely behind Michael Thomas and almost certainly behind Alvin Kamara in the target pecking order but they just added Emmanuel Sanders . If you aren’t competing for a championship right now, your very first priority should be to sell Jared Cook before the wheels completely fall off. Might be time to sell regardless of the situation your team is in since his path to top half tight end one status is pretty narrow.
Darren Waller , OAK Raiders
This might feel like blasphemy here because we believe Waller to be a good fantasy tight end for 2020. Like some other guys in here, he’s a converted wide receiver with high end workout metrics across the board. 6’6” 255 with a 4.46 40-yard dash makes him a physical freakazoid. And it’s essentially him, Tyrell Williams , and a bunch of rookies so, for 2020, he’s primed for a pretty good year. So what gives?
(There is no shortage of these “what the heck?” gifs available)
As JFK would have said about his fantasy team, we chose these tight ends to sell not because they are easy but because they are hard. Earlier in the Noah Fant section we talked about this notion of teams building around the tight end the way the Chiefs have. What you want to see is your team making some kind of indication that they are happy with what they have in the passing game whether that being the Ravens trading away Hayden Hurst or the Chargers not drafting any pass catchers in the first four rounds or even the Dolphins not drafting any at all once again. That tells you that they are content with the leading target getters of yesteryear leading in targets again. People will point at Waller’s contract as an indication that they like him but the Raiders draft tells us that they are not at all content with what they have.
Instead what the Raiders did was draft the very first wide receiver off the board in Henry Ruggs then draft two more pass catchers with back to back picks in Lynn Bowden and Bryan Edwards, both in the third round. They also re-signed Jalen Richard as a pass catching back then brought in Nelson Agholor and Jason Witten . Ruggs should take the field immediately as a flanker while Edwards will compete with Tyrell Williams for split end duties and Lynn Bowden will compete with Jalen Richard in the backfield as well as Hunter Renfrow and Agholor for the slot. Witten won’t be much of a threat to Waller as the second tight end but the mere notion they would attempt to bolster their receiving options so heavily makes you a little concerned that Waller’s 117 targets from last year could be coming down.
Now, as I said, if you are competing right now, you don’t want to move Darren Waller – these are rookies we are talking about. There is also the chance that Waller himself takes a lot of the split end duties opposite of Ruggs, Witten, and whoever is slot which is best case scenario for a tight end. But Waller also isn’t a young asset despite his recent breakout. He actually joined the league back in 2015 with the Ravens then battled substance abuse issues for years before re-emerging in what’s been a great story. But he just had his first season with more than 85 receiving yards and he turns 28 in September so there is a chance he could be a stud tight end for a few more years and there is the chance he could be Gary Barnidge . If you aren’t competing now, you might look at his age and what the Raiders are doing and decide that you need younger pieces that are actually going to be a part of your team when the rebuild is complete. If you do keep him, you need to ramp up that rebuild and start competing right away because the top target on a team one year might not be the top target on the team next year or when he’s thirty.
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.