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4 Quarterback & Tight End Targets in Best Ball Leagues (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
May 19, 2020

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I’ve previously discussed my go-to targets at running back and wide receiver, and I’m wrapping this series up by combining the quarterback and tight end positions into one piece. As a refresher for those who’ve read the previous renditions and adding some context for those just now jumping into the series, I’ve conducted 18 best-ball drafts — 11 before the NFL Draft and seven since its conclusion — in 12-team leagues. The forthcoming table illustrates the number of times I’ve selected from each draft spot. Further, before discussing my targets at quarterback and tight end, respectively, you’ll find tables outlining all of my selections at each of those positions.

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Draft Slot # Times
1 3
2 0
3 0
4 1
5 2
6 0
7 2
8 2
9 2
10 1
11 4
12 1

 

Quarterback Ownership Table

Player Overall Best Ball Rosters Pre-Draft Best Ball Rosters Post-Draft Best Ball Rosters
Tom Brady 8 5 3
Drew Brees 7 3 4
Joe Burrow 4 3 1
Kyler Murray 3 2 1
Russell Wilson 3 2 1
Josh Allen 3 1 2
Jared Goff 2 2 0
Lamar Jackson 1 0 1
Patrick Mahomes 1 1 0
Deshaun Watson 1 1 0
Jimmy Garoppolo 1 0 1
Drew Lock 1 0 1
Philip Rivers 1 1 0
Nick Foles 1 1 0

 
Across 18 different best-ball rosters, I’ve selected only 14 different quarterbacks. As my selections in the table reflect, I value high-end dual-threat quarterbacks. Combined, I’ve drafted Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson 11 times. That said, a pair of traditional pocket passers easily headline the table. Collectively, I’ve drafted the duo of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks to 15 rosters.

Drew Brees (QB – NO): ADP — 81.5, QB8

Even with running quarterbacks pushing their way to the top of the fantasy quarterback heap, Brees has finished as a top-10 per-game fantasy scorer at quarterback each of the last two years, finishing as QB8 last year and QB7 in 2018, according to our Fantasy Football Leaders tool. He remains a top-shelf fantasy quarterback thanks in large part to his NFL-best accuracy. He’s led qualified passers in completion percentage each of the last three years, and, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, his 68.0 expected completion percentage was the best in 2019, too.

As good as Brees’ overall numbers are, I’m most drawn to his mouthwatering home splits. In 21 home games since 2017, Brees has completed 75.03% of his passes with per-game averages of 310.76 passing yards, 2.38 passing touchdowns, and 0.43 interceptions, per my manual calculations using Pro-Football-References’s statistics. Brees’ road numbers leave something to be desired, but waiting to select him at his affordable ADP and backing him with another top-15 signal-caller is a stellar move I’ve routinely made in best-ball drafts this year.

Tom Brady (QB – TB): ADP — 85.5, QB9
Brady hasn’t finished as a top-15 per-game fantasy scorer among quarterbacks each of the last two years. In 2017, he finished as the QB7 in per-game scoring, so you don’t have to go back too far to find a fantasy-starter caliber season. Further, he hasn’t had much in the way of weaponry to work with the last two years.

The cupboards are stocked full for Brady in his new home. In addition to the stud wideout pairing of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans who helped push Jameis Winston to a QB5 per-game fantasy scoring finish last year, Brady will be joined by returning long-time running mate Rob Gronkowski. Behind Gronk, the tight end position also includes O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. While Last year’s No. 3 receiver Breshad Perriman was a stud down the stretch, he is now a member of the Jets. That said, Tampa Bay sunk numerous draft picks into helping the offense, including selecting offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs in the first, running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third, receiver Tyler Johnson in the fifth, and running back Raymond Calais in the seventh.

Brady was thoroughly mediocre last year. Entering his age-43 season, it’s possible that Brady’s production slides from mediocre to bad. He’s not risk-free. Having said that, given who Brady had to work with in New England last year, a mediocre showing is somewhat impressive. A dice roll on Brady this season is largely a gamble on his level of play being elevated by playing with an elite collection of pass-catching options. Brady’s ADP is fair, and, as I mentioned doing with Brees, I’m often pairing him with another top-15 passer. In fact, I’ve paired the two greybeards on a handful of rosters.

Tight End Ownership Table

Player Overall Best Ball Rosters Pre-Draft Best Ball Rosters Post-Draft Best Ball Rosters
Hunter Henry 8 6 2
Hayden Hurst 5 1 4
Travis Kelce 4 3 1
Chris Herndon 4 4 0
Jace Sternberger 3 0 3
George Kittle 2 2 0
Tyler Higbee 2 1 1
Mike Gesicki 2 1 1
Blake Jarwin 2 1 1
Dawson Knox 2 1 1
Will Dissly 2 1 1
Mark Andrews 1 0 1
Darren Waller 1 1 0
T.J. Hockenson 1 0 1
Eric Ebron 1 1 0
Gerald Everett 1 1 0
Jimmy Graham 1 1 0

 
As is the case with the quarterback position, my tight end selections have been fairly tightly clustered. I’ve picked 17 tight ends across my 18 rosters. One notable difference is that I’ve selected two quarterbacks on 17 of 18 teams and picked three on one roster. Comparatively, I’ve selected two tight ends on 13 rosters and three tight ends on five rosters. Travis Kelce and George Kittle are excellent targets in best-ball drafts, and I’ve picked them six times combined. After that duo, though, I’ve mostly avoided the other tight ends who are top-five in ADP. I’ve yet to select Zach Ertz — and I will continue to avoid him. Darren Waller and Mark Andrews are the other top-five tight ends, and I selected the latter explicitly to stack him with Lamar Jackson. My preferred strategy when bypassing Kelce and Kittle is double or triple-dipping on breakout candidates.

Hunter Henry (TE – LAC): ADP — 66.5, TE7
After playing in 29 games through his first two years in the NFL, Henry missed the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL. Last year, he set new career-highs in multiple categories, but he missed four games as a result of a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee. Despite the injury hiccups in his young career, he’s blossoming into a receiving weapon. Among his new bests in 2019 were 76 targets, 55 receptions, 652 receiving yards, 4.6 receptions per game, and 54.3 receiving yards per game. He also checked in well from an efficiency standpoint.

Oddly, Pro-Football-Reference has Corey Davis’ position listed at tight end. After eliminating him from this table, Henry’s 8.58 yards per target is the seventh-highest mark out of 27 tight ends targeted at least 50 times last year. He also ranks well at Football Outsiders (FO), checking in fifth out of 48 tight ends targeted at least 25 times in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement and eighth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA).

The Chargers will likely be different on offense this year with a new quarterback. The team moved on from long-time starter Philip Rivers, and Tyrod Taylor will compete with rookie Justin Herbert for the starting job. Last year, the Chargers were the second-most pass-happy team when leading or trailing by six points, passing 65% of the time, per Sharp Football Stats. Back in 2016, current Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn took over play-calling duties and the offensive coordinator position for the Bills after Greg Roman was fired following an 0-2 start. Lynn’s starting quarterback that year was Taylor, and the Bills passed at the second-lowest percentage (49%) when leading or trailing by six points. It’s probable the Chargers will look to run more if Taylor wins the quarterback job, which isn’t ideal for Henry.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Henry if Taylor is starting, though. On the plus side, he should see an uptick in target share. The following table illustrates the target share from Sports Info Solutions (SIS) for Buffalo’s starting tight end Charles Clay during the three-year stretch from 2015-2017, in which Taylor started 43 games for the Bills. I’ll also include Henry’s target share during each of his three healthy seasons.

Player Year Targets Target Share Receiving Yards Receiving Yards/Game Receptions Receptions/Game Touchdowns Yards/Target
Clay 2015 77 19.8% 528 40.6 51 3.9 3 6.9
Clay 2016 87 20.6% 552 36.8 57 3.8 4 6.3
Clay 2017 74 18.6% 558 42.9 49 3.8 2 7.5
Henry 2016 53 10.0% 478 31.9 36 2.4 8 9.0
Henry 2017 62 12.5% 579 41.4 45 3.2 4 9.3
Henry 2019 76 18.2% 652 54.3 55 4.6 5 8.6

 
Henry is a talented tight end, and even a less pass-happy offense won’t dissuade me from loading up on shares of him in best-ball leagues. Good health is possibly all he needs to build on last year’s new highs.

Hayden Hurst (TE – ATL): ADP — 112.0, TE13

Hurst’s fantasy value gets a huge lift with his new team. The Ravens spent their first first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on Hurst before trading back into the first round to select Lamar Jackson and selecting more fantasy-relevant tight end Mark Andrews in the third round. The Falcons acquired Hurst for a second-round pick in this year’s NFL draft, and he’ll have a shot at filling the sizable vacancy created by Austin Hooper leaving as a free agent. Earlier this month, Hayden Winks of RotoWorld tweeted a Hurst highlight reel along with some eye-catching statistical nuggets.

Even as the second fiddle at tight end in Baltimore’s offense, Hurst flashed potential in the passing game. Out of 39 tight ends targeted a minimum of 35 times last year (after once again excluding Corey Davis), Hurst ranked sixth with 8.95 yards per target. He also ranked 10th in DYAR and fourth in DVOA out of 48 tight ends targeted at least 25 times, according to FO.

Hurst isn’t a sure thing to maintain his impressive efficiency on a higher volume of work, but he’s a good bet for a big uptick in volume. In addition to moving up to the top spot at tight end on his own team after being traded out from behind Andrews, he’ll move from a run-first squad to one that airs it out a bunch. When leading or trailing by six points last season, the Ravens passed at — by far — the lowest rate (44%). Using the same margin of score, the Falcons passed at the fourth-highest percentage (63%) in 2019. Hurst has top-10 tight end upside, and he’s a fantastic TE2 target or defensible best-ball gamble as a TE1.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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