Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between – Tight Ends (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 7, 2019

O.J. Howard just might be the next big-name tight end in fantasy football

They say the third time is a charm, right? Wouldn’t that make the first two less appealing? That definitely wasn’t the case, as the traction on this series has been greater than I could’ve ever hoped and that’s why we’re back with the third installment of “Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between.”

There are many articles out there that discuss situations changing, coaches changing, career arc, and everything else underneath the sun. What this series was meant to do is present pure, untainted, untarnished numbers that fantasy football players from every level could understand.

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When someone mentions to me that “Player X recorded five TE1 performances last year,” it kind of irks me. It’s close to the spectrum of saying that someone was a top-eight tight end because that’s what the year-end totals say. Ask anyone who owned Kyle Rudolph last year if he was the eighth-best tight end (where he finished). The answer would be an emphatic “no.” Stating where someone finished for a particular week doesn’t do us any good, either, because variance is a real thing.

To help you better understand what I’m talking about, the average top-12 tight end performance in 2018 was 10.2 PPR points. What you don’t know is that Rhett Ellison scored 11.7 PPR points in Week 11, yet wouldn’t have received a top-12 performance because it just happened to be a high-scoring week for tight ends. On the flipside, Kyle Rudolph scored 8.1 PPR points in Week 1 and received a top-12 performance because it was a low-scoring week for tight ends. The player’s performance should not be graded on a curve, because we have no control on predicting what that curve is for any particular week. Our goal as analysts is to predict who will have TE1 performances in any given week, which stood at 10.2 PPR points in 2018.

The numbers vary from year-to-year, which is where the research comes into play. While the TE1 number was 11.1 PPR points in 2017, it lowered to 10.2 PPR points in 2018. Every position is different, but know that I’ve gone through each year, each position, and each player, charting how many top-12, top-24, top-36 performances they’ve had according to that year’s stats. Not just that, though, as I’ve added boom and bust categories, which showcases their ceiling and floor on a week-to-week basis. This research is done on PPR leagues because it’s the format that presents the most consistency, which makes it the most predictable.

The number to achieve boom or bust status varies per position, as some have it harder than others. With tight ends, the number to “boom” wound up on 20.0 PPR points because it would have amounted to six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. That number can obviously be accomplished in a variety of different ways, but again, we just want them to reach that number. A “bust” on the other hand amounted to less than 7.0 PPR points. Below, you can find the chart with the parameters for each position.

Position Boom Bust
QB 26.0 13.9 or less
RB 25.0 6.9 or less
WR 25.0 7.9 or less
TE 20.0 6.9 or less

 

To give you an idea as to something you may find below, here’s an example: Jordan Reed performed as a TE1 in 38.5 percent of his games last year, higher than Austin Hooper, yet Hooper is being drafted in the 10th round, while Reed is going undrafted in many leagues.

For the third time, welcome to Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between. Here are the tight ends, while the other positions will be released throughout the rest of the week. You’ll be able to find the links below once they go live.

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Top-Six

ADP Player TOP 5 % TE1 % BOOM % BUST %
1 Travis Kelce 50.0% 93.8% 37.5% 6.3%
2 Zach Ertz 56.3% 68.8% 43.8% 18.8%
3 George Kittle 37.5% 81.3% 31.3% 6.3%
4 O.J. Howard 40.0% 70.0% 10.0% 20.0%
5 Evan Engram 27.3% 54.5% 9.1% 27.3%
6 Hunter Henry DNP DNP DNP DNP

 

There’s a clear top-tier for tight ends and you’ll see why very shortly. Travis Kelce is clearly in a tier of his own, though George Kittle wasn’t far behind. While Zach Ertz may have offered more top-five performances than both of them, he posted TE1-type numbers just 68.8 percent. While I shouldn’t say “only” 68.8 percent, it’s fair to wonder if he’s in a clear tier behind Kelce and even Kittle considering the additions of DeSean Jackson and Miles Sanders, not to mention the development of second-year tight end Dallas Goedert.

Many believe O.J. Howard has a chance to breakout in 2019, and judging from his 2018 sample, it’s absolutely in the range of outcomes where he’s talked about as a top-three round pick in 2020. Engram didn’t offer the upside that you’d want when taking a tight end in the top five rounds, but he’s still atop the next tier. While he seems like the safest bet to lock in for 100 targets (virtual lock for top-six tight end numbers), it’s worth noting that there’s been no running back/tight end tandem who have combined for more than 196 targets over the last three years. If Saquon Barkley is getting anywhere close to the 121 targets he got last year, it would absolutely limit Engram’s ceiling. Henry is the wildcard from this group, and it’s hard to judge his past because he was sharing duties with Antonio Gates, who is now gone.

7-12 Range

Once the top-tier tight ends are gone, is there much difference in the tight ends? If the top six tight ends come off the board in the first six rounds, should you be reaching for one of them in the immediate future?

ADP Player TOP 5 % TE1 % BOOM % BUST %
7 Eric Ebron 40.0% 73.3% 20.0% 20.0%
8 Jared Cook 31.3% 43.8% 18.8% 37.5%
9 David Njoku 20.0% 40.0% 0.0% 46.7%
10 Vance McDonald 6.7% 26.7% 6.7% 46.7%
11 Austin Hooper 25.0% 37.5% 12.5% 31.3%
12 Trey Burton 12.5% 37.5% 6.3% 37.5%

 

As you can see, you should not be reaching for one of these options. Just one of them produced TE1-type numbers more than 43.8 percent, and that was Eric Ebron who scored touchdowns at an abnormal rate, which essentially guarantees a TE1 performance. It was somewhat surprising to see his ‘boom’ rate at just 20 percent. With Jack Doyle back at full health and Devin Funchess adding another red zone option, Ebron is going to regress, it’s just a matter of how much.

You can also see that despite finishing as the No. 6 fantasy tight end in the 2018 season, Austin Hooper was a TE1 just 37.5 percent of the time. David Njoku lacked upside without Odell Beckham on the roster, though he’s still just 23 years old. Vance McDonald should walk into a much larger role with both Antonio Brown and Jesse James gone, explaining his rise in ADP.

13-18 Range

ADP Player TOP 5 % TE1 % BOOM % BUST %
13 Delanie Walker DNP DNP DNP DNP
14 T.J. Hockenson DNP DNP DNP DNP
15 Greg Olsen 22.2% 22.2% 0.0% 33.3%
16 Kyle Rudolph 12.5% 31.3% 6.3% 43.8%
17 Jimmy Graham 0.0% 37.5% 0.0% 56.3%
18 Mark Andrews 6.3% 12.5% 0.0% 43.8%

 

There’s not much difference in the charts from the 7-12 range to the 13-18 range. In fact, we can see that Jimmy Graham was a TE1 just as much as Austin Hooper, though he lacked top-five upside, likely coming down to the fact that Aaron Rodgers threw just 25 touchdowns with Graham catching just two of them. If we increase that to the 6-8 range this season, Graham is going to be a steal in drafts.

There are many talking about a potential breakout year for Mark Andrews, but looking at this chart, you may want to dial back expectations. Lamar Jackson isn’t going to develop into a guy who throws the ball 30-plus times per game and the Ravens just added multiple receivers in the draft. It’s puzzling to see Kyle Rudolph this high, as he was not only weak for most of the season, but he now has Irv Smith Jr. right next to him on the depth chart.

19-30 Range

ADP Player TOP 5 % TE1 % BOOM % BUST %
19 Noah Fant DNP DNP DNP DNP
20 Dallas Goedert 7.1% 28.6% 7.1% 71.4%
21 Chris Herndon 7.1% 35.7% 7.1% 50.0%
22 Jason Witten DNP DNP DNP DNP
23 Jordan Reed 7.7% 38.5% 7.7% 30.8%
24 Tyler Eifert 0.0% 50.0% 0.0% 25.0%
25 Irv Smith Jr. DNP DNP DNP DNP
26 Mike Gesicki 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 92.9%
27 Matt LaCosse 0.0% 7.7% 0.0% 76.9%
28 Jack Doyle 16.7% 50.0% 0.0% 33.3%
29 Ian Thomas 20.0% 30.0% 0.0% 60.0%
30 Ricky Seals-Jones 0.0% 13.3% 0.0% 73.3%

 

This is the streamer range for those who decide to punt the position and pick up new a new player every week. Is it surprising to see guys like Jack Doyle, Tyler Eifert, and Jordan Reed in this range, as they showed a halfway decent floor last year? In fact, all of them posted better TE1 percentages than any tight ends drafted 10-22 range. Crazy, right? It’s possible that you find a top-10 tight end in this range, and here’s something I’ll leave you with. Here’s Reed’s career versus consensus top-three pick Zach Ertz‘s career:

Player TOP 5 % TE1 % BOOM % BUST %
Jordan Reed 23.1% 49.2% 16.9% 27.7%
Zach Ertz 30.0% 48.9% 17.8% 36.7%

 

TAKEAWAYS

If you do want to select one of the top-six tight ends, it may be wise to have Kelce in the first tier, with Kittle, Ertz, and Howard in the next tier – though Howard is easily the cheapest one – then Engram and Henry in the final tier. If you don’t want to grab one of the top-six guys, my advice would be to wait until the double-digit rounds to select one.

Instead of looking at the charts the way you did with the names, I’ll explain why you should be waiting at the position with this simple chart that shows which percentages are associated with their current ADP:

Overall ADP TOP 5 % TE1 % BOOM % BUST %
80 31.3% 43.8% 18.8% 37.5%
85 20.0% 40.0% 0.0% 46.7%
208 7.7% 38.5% 7.7% 30.8%
215 0.0% 50.0% 0.0% 25.0%
242 16.7% 50.0% 0.0% 33.3%

 

If you can’t see why sacrificing a little upside for a little more consistency may be a good thing, maybe their overall ADP might help convince you. Guys like Jack Doyle, Jimmy Graham, and Jordan Reed might be the key to the late-round tight end approach.


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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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