Trey Burton is a TE1 Lock (2018 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 16, 2018

Despite not playing a full-time starting role before, Trey Burton is set up for success

It’s often difficult to believe in something you’ve never seen before, but sometimes… you must have faith that the process is correct. There are many who don’t know how to treat Trey Burton as they head into 2018, as he’s never been a prominent fantasy football name, though those who play DFS can tell you that he’s likely won them some money.

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Burton may only have 95 career targets to his name, so why do most believe we should invest a top-10 tight end pick on him in 2018? He’s currently being taken as the No. 10 tight end off the board in PPR drafts, right behind some of the powerhouse names at the tight end position, like Delanie Walker, Kyle Rudolph, and Jordan Reed.

PLAYING IN RELIEF

Playing behind Zach Ertz is going to be difficult for anyone to produce, as he’s considered a top-five tight end in football and actually finished as the No. 3 tight end last year behind only Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce. But when given the opportunity, Burton answered the call in a big way over the last two years, as Ertz has missed four full games and chunks of others in that time. Looking at games where Burton played at least 30 snaps, here are his game logs:

Game Targets Rec Yards TD STD PPR
Week 9 – 2017 4 2 41 1 10.1 12.1
Week 14 – 2017 6 5 71 2 19.1 24.1
Week 2 – 2016 7 5 49 1 10.9 15.9
Week 3 – 2016 6 2 19 0 1.9 3.9
Week 13 – 2016 9 5 53 0 5.3 10.3
Week 14 – 2016 10 7 65 0 6.5 13.5
Week 17 – 2016 6 5 39 0 3.9 8.9
Totals – 7 games 48 31 337 4 57.7 88.7

 

While the totals are very respectable regardless, you have to remember that Burton was just a second- and third-year player in those years who wasn’t playing significant snaps on a week-to-week basis. Over a full 16-game season, those numbers would have amounted to 110 targets, 71 receptions, 770 yards, and 9 touchdowns, which would have been the exact amount of PPR points that Ertz scored in 2017 (202). Needless to say, Burton did a great job when asked to play a larger role in the offense when Ertz was nicked up or sidelined.

WHY SO CERTAIN?

Some will say that past success on a different team won’t automatically translate to future success on a new team, but is it really a new team? If you paid attention to free agency as closely as we did, you’d know that Burton was signed one day after the legal tampering period began, which shows just how much the Bears made him a priority. But why did they make him such a priority? Well, Burton comes from Doug Pederson’s Eagles, which run 90 percent of the same offense that the Bears will run under new head coach Matt Nagy. It was one of the first moves that they made under Nagy, and they’ve already said that he was going to bring some experience to the offense. Reports say that he’s helping sophomore quarterback Mitch Trubisky learn the offense.

Now that you understand why the Bears brought him in, let’s take a look at how the Andy Reid/Doug Pederson/Matt Nagy offenses have utilized the tight end position over the last seven years:

Team Pass Att RB Targets RB % WR Targets WR % TE Targets TE %
2017 Chiefs 541 114 21.1% 242 44.7% 170 31.4%
2017 Eagles 564 75 13.3% 316 56.0% 165 29.3%
2016 Chiefs 544 92 16.9% 288 52.9% 157 28.9%
2016 Eagles 556 102 18.3% 278 50.0% 176 31.7%
2015 Chiefs 472 78 16.5% 260 55.1% 125 26.5%
2014 Chiefs 492 106 21.5% 249 50.6% 129 26.2%
2013 Chiefs 546 153 28.0% 300 54.9% 83 15.2%
2012 Eagles 618 100 16.2% 367 59.4% 135 21.8%
2011 Eagles 553 79 14.3% 345 62.4% 116 21.0%

 

Some will say that Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz will make you target the tight end position more, which is why I made it a point to go back further than their time in the league. There was just one single season where the tight ends were targeted less than 116 times (2013), so you should probably know who the lead tight end was from that team – Sean McGrath. Yeah, he’s a guy who has less than 400 career receiving yards. The Bears and Nagy obviously felt like Burton was the next Kelce/Ertz by paying him $32 million over four years. And again, he’s got a leg-up on all the other wide receivers/tight ends due to his knowledge of the offense.

While doing research for the Allen Robinson profile (you can read that here), I looked at the target distribution numbers when Nagy took over the Chiefs play-calling duties with the starters in Weeks 13-16. This does nothing but help Burton’s case, as tight ends saw 36.8 percent of the targets over those four games. While it’s a small sample size, it shows that he definitely ran an offense that favored the tight end position.

2018 OUTLOOK

When looking at the Bears tight end depth chart behind Burton, you’ll find Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen. Sims has never seen more than 36 targets in a season and Shaheen is a very developmental product, though I believe he’d have fantasy value if something were to happen to Burton, simply because the offense creates high-upside tight ends. As of now, you should expect Burton to see 75-plus percent of the tight end targets, which would be a minimum of 95-100 targets in Nagy’s offense. Fun fact that I shared on the podcast recently: There have been 115 tight ends who have seen at least 85 targets since 2009. Of those 115 players, 90 of them finished as a top-12 fantasy tight end. It’s fair to say that Burton is being drafted where he should be considering his lack of experience, but that the upside is much higher than most want to admit. My 2018 projection: 96 targets, 63 receptions, 699 yards, 5 touchdowns


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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