Top Tight Ends that Gain & Lose Value in PPR Leagues
In my last article, I went into detail regarding wide receivers and their potential value in both the PPR format and the standard format. We looked at their change in ranking based on their 2014 fantasy numbers along with their reception to touchdown ratio. This would figure out a player’s value to their team outside of the end zone.
Those who touch the ball more are going to be more valuable for you in PPR, whether they score touchdowns or not. These players are extensions of the passing game and are receivers as much as they are tight ends. In a PPR league, they are another viable option as a scoring threat because of the amount of targets they are getting. Six catches is equivalent to a touchdown scoring-wise. Which is more likely to happen more often? This is why it’s important to see your TE as another WR in this format.
Those who find themselves more “boom or bust” types who are strictly touchdown dependent are less valuable in a PPR league. However, they are more valuable in standard leagues because their method of getting six points comes from one touchdown play, instead of 60 yards from scrimmage or six catches. The downside to that is the dependency on that particular play taking place often enough to merit a start for that player in your lineup. Otherwise, without the goal line touches and scores, that player is a “zero” in that slot more often than not.
Goal line touches and productivity will also be contingent on what the quarterback is more likely to do as they get closer to score. The same goes for the running back and their propensity to break the plane from close-range and how good a team’s wide receivers are in the end zone. A lot has to be aligned for the fourth or fifth option to be the guy who gets his number called when it’s time to score.
First, here is the list of tight ends who are must-starts, regardless of scoring format. They will get you points with receptions, yards and touchdowns, regardless of their situation. They are essentially another wide receiver in your lineup. They are either a QB security blanket or just very good. Yes, the recently suspended Antonio Gates is on this list. But when he’s active and healthy, he has shown he is a must start because he is not only a favorite in targets but also in the end zone.
PPR% = amount of fantasy points actually coming from receptions.
DIFF = difference in rank from PPR to STD.
Players Gaining Value (PPR Leagues)
To quote Alec Baldwin’s Captain Ellerby in The Departed, “Cui bono?” Who benefits from the PPR format? High-target, high-reception guys who don’t make it into the end zone benefit the most. They are usually on weaker offenses that rely on the tight end as their safety valve or have other options when closer to the end zone. Below is the list of tight ends who will see the biggest uptick in value when utilized in the PPR format.
As I mentioned, we want to explore this same methodology with tight ends, using the same thought process as the last two articles. However, talent and depth at the tight end position is scarce. After the top household names, it becomes a muddled list of players who are virtually interchangeable, with their numbers not varying enough to put that much stock into prior statistics. We also want to look at a player’s quarterback situation, tight end team depth and offensive scheme to determine if they are more valuable one way or the other.
PPR% = amount of fantasy points actually coming from receptions.
DIFF = difference in rank from PPR to STD.
Jordan Reed/Niles Paul – Washington Redskins
I paired these two tight ends together because of how much the Redskins threw to these two last season. Reed had 65 targets, and Paul had 52, combining for 89 catches and 972 yards, but only one touchdown. That’s right – on 117 targets, they scored one touchdown, making their value more reception-based than touchdown-based. Both were top 25 tight ends in PPR formats. One may end up emerging as a better option than the other, but both still will factor heavily in the Redskins offense as they try to get back on track in 2015.
Brent Celek/Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles
Same situation here with this pair of tight ends. Brent Celek and Zach Ertz combined for 140 targets in Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. This turned into 90 catches for 1042 yards, but only four touchdowns, or one every 22.5 catches or 35 targets. The two players moved the sticks and will factor into the offense in 2015. After losing Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson over the last two seasons, the Eagles have one of the youngest receiving corps in the NFL. With the QB situation up in the air as well, tight ends can become a struggling signal caller’s best friend, which bodes well for Ertz and Celek, and subsequently fantasy owners. The two combined for 42% of their fantasy points coming from receptions, which helps justify their PPR value.
Charles Clay – Buffalo Bills
Charles Clay moved from Miami to Buffalo during the offseason, replacing Scott Chandler, who went on to sign with New England. Clay totaled 186 targets over the last two seasons with the Dolphins, turning that into 127 catches and nine touchdowns before cashing in during free agency. He goes to a situation in Buffalo that could rely heavily on him to move the nickel and dime the ball down the field. Like with the aforementioned Eagles and Redskins, a tight end will be a struggling or young quarterback’s best friend. There currently is no starting quarterback in Buffalo, which tells you enough to know that Clay will be a valuable option for whoever wins that job. He replaces Chandler, who finished as the 20th ranked tight end in both formats. He scored only three touchdowns with his 58 catches, nearly going 20 catches between each score, so his value will not come from any work inside the end zone. It’ll come from running the underneath routes and being the safety valve for the Bills’ quarterback. With the acquisition of LeSean McCoy, and Sammy Watkins developing in his second season, there should be plenty of attention on them. This makes Clay a bye week fill-in or a TE2 play in PPR formats, at least when you’re in a bind.
Mychal Rivera – Oakland Raiders
Rivera became a favorite target of Derek Carr last season, finishing second on the team in targets (99), receptions (58), and touchdowns (four). He also finished third in receiving yards with 534. Rivera quietly finished the season as the 17th ranked tight end in PPR (19th in standard) and cemented himself as a legitimate weapon for Carr as he enters his second season. Regardless of whether or not he gets into the end zone (once every 14.5 catches) 99 targets is still 99 targets. That number was good enough for sixth in the NFL among tight ends last season, trailing only Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker. Not bad company.
Targets are the lifeblood of a valuable PPR option, and Rivera has this going for him. The selection of Amari Cooper may hurt his down field value, but underneath, Rivera should still see enough balls go his way to make him a low-end TE1 or high-end TE2 in your league.
Levine Toilolo – Atlanta Falcons
Levine Toilolo only caught 31 balls on 54 targets in 2014, but only two for touchdowns. His eight spot rise from TE41 to TE33 is the second biggest leap on this list and a new coaching regime that will look to run the ball may bode well for play-action and check-down targets such as the tight end. As long as Julio Jones and Roddy White continue to stretch the field, Toilolo, in his third season, and second as the starter replacing the legendary Tony Gonzalez, should see more targets. Gonzalez, in his last full season, saw 121 targets and made 83 catches. If the Falcons’ offense goes back to what it knows it should be, Toilolo should benefit from those same looks.
The end zone touches may not be there as Matt Ryan has two stud receivers along with the fact that they will look to establish more of a running game. Toilolo will have PPR value as a guy who could catch five to six balls a game and give you what you need out of a bye week replacement or last minute fill in. His value may change if he establishes himself more as the season progresses.
Heath Miller – Pittsburgh Steelers
Somewhere between Antonio Brown’s 181 targets, Le’Veon Bell’s 105 and Markus Wheaton’s 86, 32-year-old Heath Miller was able to get 91 of his own. He was able to turn them into 66 catches but only three touchdowns.
One touchdown every 22 catches and 30 targets could be alarming. However, Miller’s role in the offense is not to get the ball in the end zone. His role is to help move down the field for Ben Roethlisberger. In 2013, Miller had only one touchdown with 79 targets and 58 catches, so this is not exactly an anomaly. In fact in the last five seasons, four of them have REC/TD ratios of 20-to-1 or worse. The targets are there, averaging 74.4 and 53.2 per season during his ten-year career. That should not change this season as extra attention will be on the aforementioned Brown, Bell, and deep threat Martavis Bryant. Miller was the 11th ranked tight end in both formats and currently projects as the 17th TE off the board.
Players Losing Value (PPR Leagues)
Below is the list of tight ends who lose value in PPR leagues through various channels. These are the tight ends who relied heavily on touchdowns to get their fantasy points. They benefited the most from being big red zone targets. They also may be a part of a platoon or committee at tight end, making their touches sporadic and inconsistent. Starting the wrong guy on the wrong week will drive you insane if they are not part of the overall passing plan. They also may be part of a weak passing attack that will not feature them as prominently.
Coby Fleener/Dwayne Allen – Indianapolis Colts
Both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen caught eight touchdown passes from Andrew Luck last season but combined for only 80 catches, making it hard to trust one or the other as a mainstay in your starting lineup. The Colts offense is loaded with players on the outside and a revamped running game. Fleener and Allen are valuable in touchdown heavy leagues, but not in PPR leagues. Being the options behind T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, Donte Moncrief, Frank Gore and Dan Herron will back that notion up.
Richard Rodgers/Andrew Quarless – Green Bay Packers
Same situation in Green Bay as in Indianapolis. There are too many other weapons for Richard Rodgers and Andrew Quarless to provide any value in your lineup as a 10-12 point tight end in PPR. There may be the game where one of them goes off for two red-zone touchdowns, but which one is it? And when? Behind Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy and Davante Adams, Quarless and Rodgers will be lucky to capitalize on their sporadic touches. The two combined for five touchdowns in just 49 catches. Out of those five touchdowns, three were inside the four-yard line. Steer clear unless one emerges as the next Jermichael Finley or Bubba Franks.
Josh Hill – New Orleans Saints
For five years, Jimmy Graham was Drew Brees‘ favorite target in New Orleans. Graham is gone and Josh Hill is primed for this role. However, all we have seen from Josh Hill are low-target, low-reception outputs that have him scoring six touchdowns in just 20 catches (30 targets) in his first two seasons. Time will tell if Hill’s role will expand or if the ageless Benjamin Watson will be more of the pass catcher, with Hill seeing the goal line touches. Either way, with five of his six scores coming from inside the 15, his boom or bust skill set may not be worth taking a flier on in PPR formats just yet.
Scott Chandler – New England Patriots
Last season, Tim Wright caught six touchdowns in just 26 catches, five of which coming from inside the 10-yard line. Wright did this behind Rob Gronkowski. Wright is gone and Scott Chandler is in, bringing his 6-7 frame to New England after spending time in Buffalo. While Chandler brought in 47 passes, three of which went for scores, he will primarily serve as a decoy the way Wright did and will occasionally have his number called.
Julius Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars
Nothing said “quality over quantity” more than Julius Thomas’ 2014 season. Thomas hauled in 12 touchdown passes in just 43 catches last season, or one every 3.6 catches. In 2013 he also brought in 12 scores in 65 catches for a ratio of a touchdown every 4.5 catches in two seasons under Peyton Manning. That’s great until those numbers are broken down. Out of his 24 touchdowns, 17 were from inside the 20 (11 from inside the 10) going to show how red-zone dependent his fantasy relevance is. His 12 touchdowns in 2014 took place in seven games, meaning that he was shutout of the end zone more often than not. And if you’re not scoring touchdowns, you better be catching passes, except he was not doing that either.
In the six games he did not haul in a touchdown, he totaled 11 catches and 116 yards. In the seven he did score, he put up a slash line of 32/373/12. If he scores, he’s formidable in standard leagues. Taking away Peyton Manning and replacing him with Blake Bortles will give people who draft “Orange Julius” a glimpse of what Eric Decker owners saw last season post-Peyton. Thomas is not a PPR tight end. He may not be a standard tight end either in the Jaguars’ offense.
Now you know. Keep it in mind and remember your league format!