The Ricky Seals-Jones Awakening 2.0 (2018 Fantasy Football)
Tight ends are the ugly stepchildren of fantasy football. Some leagues eliminate kickers while others don’t draft defenses. But tight ends somehow remain. As a consequence, many often view them with either disdain or ambivalence.
Most fantasy owners do not want to address the position early and would instead stack their team with running backs and wide receivers. Truth be told, after Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz, the position becomes nebulous. After Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, and Evan Engram, it just starts to look uninspiring. And after Delanie Walker, Jack Doyle and Kyle Rudolph, it just gets downright ugly.
However, there are always a few tight ends who can escape the doldrums of the basement prison and turn out to be difference makers for fantasy championships. The problem is finding the ones that do. In November last year out of nowhere, we heard the name Ricky Seals-Jones.
He just so happened to accumulate a bunch of fantasy points by scoring two touchdowns for the Arizona Cardinals. He followed that up the next week with more receptions and yards while still managing to get into the end zone for a second consecutive week. Then he fizzled, and that was the last time we heard his name again. But with a new season comes new hope, and perhaps 2018 will put Seals-Jones back on the radar.
Broke the Seal
Seals-Jones was a wide receiver in college. At Texas A&M, he played with Johnny Manziel alongside Mike Evans in 2013 as a true freshman. He had three receptions, one for a 71-yard touchdown, but got injured and missed the rest of the season. In 2014, with the departure of Manziel and Evans, Seals-Jones was a redshirt freshman, playing with two new quarterbacks, Kenny Hill and Kyle Allen. He had a mediocre year, comprised of 49 receptions, 465 yards, and four touchdowns.
In his sophomore year, it was freshman phenom Christian Kirk who stole the show while Seals-Jones coasted to a 45-560-4 stat line. In his junior year, he regressed. He missed some time due to injury and in his nine games only managed to garner 26 receptions for 333 yards and one score. Many questioned his decision to enter the draft after such a disappointing campaign…and they were right. Consequently, Seals-Jones was never drafted.
Ricky Don’t Lose that Number
Luckily for him, Arizona scooped him up as an undrafted free agent before the 2017 season started. It was there he was converted into a tight end.
The main reason why he changed positions was his size and athleticism. He only ran a 4.69 40-yard dash during his pro day. As a wide receiver, that speed is incredibly slow, but that puts him in the 72nd-percentile among tight ends. He’s also 6’5″ and weighs 243 pounds — a frame associated with a tight end, not a wideout. Instead of getting him to trim down, they told him to stay the same but change positions.
His other workout metrics are not spectacular. He is below average in burst and agility. Therefore, he is a fast tight end that lacks explosiveness and wiggle. This does not mean he can’t flourish in the NFL as a tight end. Others before him have succeeded without the athletic “wow factor” — including Kyle Rudolph, Hunter Henry, Zach Ertz, and former Cowboy and future Hall of Famer Jason Witten.
Last year, Seals-Jones started on the reserve team, but emerged as a starter in Week 3. However, it wasn’t until November 19 when he caught his first pass. That game against the Houston Texans was his breakout. He had three receptions for 54 yards and found the end zone twice. At the end of the season, Seals-Jones had 12 receptions for 201 yards and three TDs, while playing 10 games in 2017.
What is most inspiring about Seals-Jones’ production is his 16.8 per reception. A lot of that had to do with how many yards after the catch (YAC) he was able to gain. Here is a table with how he fared compared to the top-10 tight ends of 2017:
YAC Per Reception Among Tight Ends in 2017
Vernon Davis was a YAC monster, averaging 7.12 YAC per reception. Most of the best tight ends in the game today average around five yards. Despite the small sample size, Seals-Jones proved in 2017 that he could do a lot with the ball once he got it in his hands. He is not simply a catch-and-fall type of tight end, but instead one that can turn a minimal gain into something significant. His 6.17 YAC per reception average was second best in the league last year.
The Sam Bradford Effect
It is fair assumption that Cardinals’ Bradford won’t play the entire season. However, if he can play significant time, he is a tight end’s best friend. During his eight-year career, he has played at least 14 games four times. During those four years, he has made every tight end he has played with fantasy relevant.
In his first year as a quarterback with the St. Louis Rams, Bradford had three below average tight ends that managed to combine for 68 receptions, 682 yards, and seven touchdowns. Two years later, Kendricks and Mulligan combined for 50 receptions, 603 yards, and five touchdowns. In 2015, Eagles’ tight end tallied 102 receptions, 1,251 yards, and five touchdowns. And in 2016, Bradford threw seven touchdowns to Kyle Rudolph while he amassed 840 yards on 83 receptions.
Every tight end on the list, except for Brent Celek, has never had a better season in terms of receptions or yards before or after their season with a healthy Bradford. This bodes well for Seals-Jones, as he enters his sophomore season hungry for targets. If for some reason Bradford does get injured, backup rookie Josh Rosen is also tight end-friendly. In his final year at UCLA, tight ends there combined for 65 receptions, 851 yards, and five touchdowns.
Seals the Deal
With Bradford at the helm and with Jermaine Gresham sidelined with an injury, the start of the season looks as though Seals-Jones can head out of the gate at full steam. If he can start off productive, then it could be a big season. As I was writing this article, he ran into a little bit of trouble in Scottsdale. It appears that he will most likely not miss any time for his misconduct, though his draft stock might fall more. If this is the case, this is encouraging news as his value will increase even more.
Let his big season be yours. He is currently ranked as the 21st tight end off the board according to FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings. If you are the type that likes to wait on the tight end position or feels the need to draft two tight ends for peace of mind, look no further than Seals-Jones. He’s a value at his current ADP and has the potential to erupt at any time. He could reward you for drafting a tight end late in 2018.