Tyler Eifert: The Big Hurt to The Big Buy? (2020 Fantasy Football)
Do you like highly athletic tight ends? How about a tight end that has a TE6 season under his belt during a season that saw him average 14.7 points per game? What if I told you that you could get this tight end right now for the low, low cost of a rookie fourth-round draft pick? You may be skeptical of Tyler Eifert’s outlook, but the Jacksonville Jaguars did make him one of the higher paid tight ends in the league, handing him a two year, $15.5 million contract. Just in case you’ve forgotten the type of plays, Eifert can make the Jags put out a nice little hype Tweet to remind help your recall.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) March 25, 2020
I understand the trepidation of placing any trust in Eifert. This is a player who’s only played in 59 out of a possible 112 career games. A 53% catch rate would be embarrassing, but a 53% games played rate is astoundingly awful. Eifert has three seasons where he played four or fewer games. He’s played 13 or more games in a season just three times while he’s only played eight or fewer games in a season four times. Eifert’s injury history is extensive and extends back to the 2013 season, his rookie year in the NFL. He’s had surgery on his left shoulder, dislocated his right elbow, had multiple back surgeries, fractured an ankle as well as a stinger, and a concussion for good measure. “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” isn’t a children’s song to Eifert; it’s a directory of where on his body he’s been injured. Sports Injury Predictor gives him a 68.5% chance of injury during the 2020 season and projects him to miss four games. Though Eifert only started four games last season for the Cincinnati Bengals, he was healthy and active for all 16 games for the first time in his career.
Produces When He Plays
Because of his litany of injuries, Eifert has a limited history of producing while on the field. His 2015 season showed the potential of what he could do when he can play most weeks. He played in 13 games and set career highs in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. His 14.7 points per game were good enough for a TE6 finish, which was just 0.20 points off the pace of Gary Barnidge and Greg Olsen, who tied for the TE4 spot. His 2015 efforts earned Eifert a Pro-Bowl nod, and of course, he tore his ankle up and was forced to miss the first six games of the 2016 season. He came back with a vengeance though scoring 12.3 fantasy points per game, good enough for a TE5 per game average, from Week 7 through Week 15. Eifert’s injury delayed season also became an injury-shortened one after he injured his back in Week 15 and missed the final two games of the season.
Since that season and a half of elite production, Eifert has failed to match those levels scoring 7.0 fantasy points per game. Even though he scored a mediocre 6.7 fantasy points per game in 2019, he did have a few areas he fared well in. Befitting a player with a 6’6″ frame, his 50% contested catch rate tied for 13th at the tight end position and his eight Red Zone targets tied for fifth at the position. Flashing a bit of his big-play ability, his 5.4 air yards per target ranked sixth for tight ends.
Jaguars’ tight ends accounted for just under 14% of the available targets last season with James O’Shaughnessy setting the pace with 20. In total, that 14% share was split among six tight ends. Outside of second-year tight end Josh Oliver, none of the other tight ends on the roster should pose much competition to Eifert. And while Oliver is a player I covet in dynasty leagues, it often takes three or more years before tight-ends truly break out.
There is also reason to believe that additional targets could shake free. After entering the 2019 season with a career total of 74 targets through two years, Leonard Fournette was targeted an absurd 100 times last year. If Fournette were proficient with his receiving work, there would be more reason to believe that his target share would remain steady in 2020, but he was anything but efficient. Among running backs with 50 or more receptions, his 6.9 yards per reception ranked 14th out of 20th, and he was one of just five such running backs without a receiving touchdown. Perhaps if this somehow led to success for the Jaguars, I would feel more confident in Fournette’s newfound receiving role, but Jacksonville went 6-10, and their 18.8 points per game were the eighth-worst in football. Assuming Doug Marrone would like to keep his job as the head coach, I’d expect Fournette to see a significant reduction in targets in 2020.
|Potential Draft Pick||Value|
|EARLY 2ND ROUND||17|
|LATE 2ND ROUND||10|
|EARLY 3RD ROUND||6|
|LATE 3RD ROUND||2|
Mike Tagliere provides an updated “Dynasty Trade Value Chart” monthly, and I’ve shared the table he provides to help you gauge the value of a player. If he assigns a 42 to a player, then they are worth a Top-3 pick in a rookie draft, and so on down the line. Do you know what Eifert’s value was in the latest installment? It doesn’t exist. Mike assigned him nothing, which indicates the player has a value of 1. I’m sure you’ve noticed there is no corresponding rookie pick for a player with a value of 1, which means Eifert’s value is roughly a fourth-round rookie pick. The only thing that Eifert will truly cost you is a roster spot. If you play in FFPC leagues, then I can understand why you would pass on Eifert even if he is essentially free. But in any league where you roster 25 or more players, the upside that Eifert represents is worth a speculative add at the very least.