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3 Tight End Busts (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Jim Colombo | @WideRightNBlue | Featured Writer
Aug 30, 2020

Darren Waller could be hard-pressed to repeat his success from last season with all the new weapons in town.

What makes a fantasy football bust?

The formula for me is simple.

1. You draft a player at or above his ADP.
2. He finishes the season with fewer points than other players (at the same position) who were drafted at lower ADPs.

That’s it. That’s the formula.

Since this is an article about tight end busts, let’s go out on a limb and use tight ends as an example. Here’s what a bust-worthy scenario would look like at the position in 2020:

1. You drafted Mark Andrews (ADP 35) in Round 3. He finishes the season with 62 catches for 820 yards and five touchdowns. Not terrible, but probably not what you were hoping for out of your third-round pick and top-tier tight end.

2. Your buddy drafted Hayden Hurst (ADP 113) in Round 9. He finishes the season with 75 catches for 778 yards and nine touchdowns.

3. It goes on like this. Tight ends like Hunter Henry (ADP 66), Evan Engram (ADP 78),  Jonnu Smith (ADP 148), and Blake Jarwin (ADP 155) all finish the season with more fantasy points than Mark Andrews. There was no way of knowing it on Draft Day, but it happened.

4. All of a sudden, your “top-three” tight end is a middle-of-the-pack player. And to think! You could’ve used that third-round pick on a high-end wide receiver like D.J. Moore or A.J. Brown. Tsk tsk.

That, my friends, is what makes a fantasy football bust. (And no, injuries are not a part of the equation.)

To avoid drafting a bust, then, the solution seems obvious, right? Don’t draft a player in Round 3 if you can draft his comparable counterpart in Round 7 (or later).

And just to be clear, drafting a bust doesn’t always mean you’ve drafted a “bad” player. It just means you could’ve drafted an equally good or more productive player later on in your draft—a winning value player if you will.

If we can agree on these principles, perhaps we can agree on these potential tight end busts in 2020.

Average Draft Position (ADP) references using our consensus half-PPR ADP

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1. Zach Ertz (PHI) ADP 41 Overall
This is not an indictment of Zach Ertz (ADP 41), who, according to the FantasyPros Fantasy Football Leaders research tool, has been a top-six fantasy tight end in half-PPR leagues every year since 2016. (In 2015, he finished ninth.) Since entering the league in 2013, Ertz has been one of the most dominant tight ends in football.

No, this is more about celebrating Ertz’s fellow tight end and teammate Dallas Goedert (ADP 152). Yes, I know he recently suffered a hairline fracture in his thumb, but the third-year tight end (6’5″, 256 lbs.) has an opportunity to build on the 87 targets he saw last season, which ranked ninth-most among tight ends.

Why so many looks last year? Not because Ertz was injured, no, he only missed one regular-season game. But because the Eagles love running 12-personnel sets (one running back, two tight ends).

According to PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Doug Pederson ran this offensive set 60% of the time last year. As a result, Goedert finished as the 10th best fantasy tight end in half-PPR leagues—as the second tight end on his own team. With a predictably consistent Doug Pederson running the schemes, and an aging or unproven receiver group in Philadelphia this season, there’s a good chance we could see the same TE-heavy trend continue.

When you consider the “bang for your buck” versus “bust” formula, are you really getting that much more from Ertz than you are from Goedert? No. Over a 16-game period last season (even though Ertz played in only 15 games), Ertz averaged just 3.5 more fantasy points per game than Goedert. But during fantasy drafts that year, Ertz was taken as a top-three tight end. As for Goedert, you could’ve drafted him for free.

Finally, let’s forget about the stats and get real for a second. You have to wonder if Ertz (29 years old) might start to cede some volume to Goedert (25 years old) based on the typical wear-and-tear of the game. For lumps like us, that age gap isn’t too significant. But in NFL years? It might as well be a lifetime.

2. Darren Waller (LV) ADP 54 Overall
Darren Waller was a fantasy football darling last year, and those of us who scooped him up after Antonio Brown’s pre-season meltdown were rewarded handsomely.

In half-point PPR leagues last season, Waller finished as the third-ranked tight end, totaling 176 fantasy points on 90 receptions, 1,145 yards, and three touchdowns. If he had only scored just one more touchdown, he would’ve ended up as the No. 2 tight end, right above George Kittle. Wow.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, there isn’t one. There are three (or four, or five).

Henry Ruggs was the first receiver drafted and the 12th overall pick to Las Vegas in the 2020 NFL Draft. Reports are saying he’s due to eat up plenty of targets out of the slot. The dude’s a freak, he’s going to see a ton of action, and he’s going to produce.

In Round 3 of the same draft, the Raiders selected back-to-back receivers in Lynn Bowden Jr. and Bryan Edwards. While Bowden figures to be an all-purpose utility weapon (primarily out of the backfield, maybe?), Edwards is already drawing comparisons to Davante Adams. That’s high praise for the 6’3″ rookie receiver.

And let’s not forget about living legend Jason Witten, who just. Won’t. Go. Away. What role will he have as a tight end on this team?

Compare this fresh crew of playmakers to last season’s receiving unit (Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Tyrell Williams, J.J. Nelson), and the new batch looks like first-ballot locks for Hall of Fame jackets. (Bonus points for readers who got that Gremlins reference.)

Here’s the point: Darren Waller was a target hog last year because he needed to be. This season, there’s too much love to spread around the offense, so Waller’s bound to see a smaller target share. Now, contrarians will tell you that these new players will open up more looks for Waller in other spaces, and that’s fair. I just have a hard time seeing the Raiders brass keeping their shiny new toys on the sidelines.

In re-draft leagues, I’m passing over Waller for late-round gems like Mike Gesicki (ADP 123), T.J. Hockenson (ADP 136), and Jack Doyle (ADP 179).

3. Rob Gronkowski (TB) ADP 81 Overall
Oh, man. As a proud Buffalo resident, Bills fan, and personal friend of the Gronkowski family (boom, name drop), it pains me to label Gronk as a tight end bust.

For what seems like a hundred years, I’ve seen Tom Brady connect with his favorite target for chunk plays and soul-crushing TDs more times than I can count. I could dig up the stats, but I don’t need to, because you all know the deal.

This is why I’m not even going to point to Gronkowski’s age, his time away from football, or even his raucous off-the-field romps.

I’m not going to mention that Tom Brady has acknowledged the difficulties of learning a new playbook on a new team for a new coach in a new city.

And I won’t even bother bringing up the presence of the other Tampa Bay tight ends: O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Meh.

Why? Because those things don’t matter. At all. Not to me, they don’t. The TB12 to 87 connection is simply too strong. It’s an unstoppable rebel force that flat-out rules the NFL and haunts my feeble dreams.

And yet here we are. Calling out Rob Gronkowski as a fantasy football bust.

Surely, by now, you know why I have forsaken him. Look at this man’s ADP! It’s 81, which also makes him the TE10 in half-PPR consensus rankings. Forget about drafting other tight ends for a second and look at other high-upside players that are coming off the board in the same range as his him:

Folks, please. Build your depth as deep as you can until the bitter end. I promise you will find a serviceable tight end—for close to nothing, practically—toward the end of your drafts.

Bottom line: Reduce your “bustability,” maximize upside value plays, and ride your team into the championship.

Thanks as always for reading. Feel free to call me out on Twitter, and don’t forget to follow FantasyPros if you’re not already. Peace!

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Jim Colombo is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Jim, check out his archive and follow him @WideRightNBlue.

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