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Charles Clay Can Help You Build a League Winner

Assuming you don’t go gaga for Rob Gronkowski this year, and if the asking price for Travis Kelce is just too high for you, you’ll probably find yourself waiting until late in your draft to address the tight end spot. This is no bad thing, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

TE is historically a volatile position in fantasy football, and investing too high a pick for someone who will frustrate you as often as bring you joy is not the best strategy. So if you’re in the market for a late round bargain who could provide upside, you could do worse than drafting Charles Clay.

For reasons best known to other people, Clay finds himself being ignored at present, an after thought in the eyes of MFL10 drafters. Indeed, according to the RotoViz Best Ball ADP app, Clay has a current ADP of TE26. It seems that some people have supped freely from the “Clay is a bum” Kool-Aid. This is quite unjustified when one considers how productive a career he has actually enjoyed.

Since entering the league in 2012, Charles Clay has seen 384 targets (the ninth most among TEs), has reeled in 253 receptions (again the ninth most) for 2656 Yards (good for 13th) with 18 TDs (15th). All told, this equates to 634.1 PPR points, which makes him the TE9 during the span of his career. Using the RotoViz Screener App, we can see that he has enjoyed a similar run to some notable TEs, none of whom seem to get the scorn that drafters are currently throwing at Clay.

clay comps

Well, maybe Coby Fleener gets it.

Clay has been a reliable target in what has been an incredibly low volume passing attack in Buffalo. Indeed, as we can see below only the oft injured Sammy Watkins has been a more efficient target for Tyrod Taylor than Clay over the last two seasons.

tyrod to clay

Last season alone the Bills attempted 474 passes, good for 32nd in the NFL. They were devoted to the ground game, with only the Cowboys exceeding their 492 rush attempts. But that was under an old regime. Sean McDermott has brought in Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator, and Dennison brings with him a fondness for using the TE. Here are the numbers for the TE1 on all teams that Dennison has coordinated since 2006.

SEASON TEAM TE1 TA RECS YARDS TDs
2006 Denver Tony Scheffler 37 18 286 4
2007 Denver Tony Scheffler 65 49 549 5
2008 Denver Tony Scheffler 61 40 645 3
2010 Houston Owen Daniels 68 38 471 2
2011 Houston Owen Daniels 85 54 677 3
2012 Houston Owen Daniels 104 62 716 6
2013 Houston Garrett Graham 89 49 545 5
2015 Denver Owen Daniels 77 46 517 3
2016 Denver Virgil Green 37 22 237 1
AVG 69.2 42.0 515.9 3.6

If one overlooks the 2006 season, in which Tony Scheffler was a rookie, and the 2016 season in which Virgil Green once again disappointed Jeremy Hardt by not breaking out, these averages are 78.4 targets, 48.3 receptions, 588.6 yards, and 3.9 TDs. In the last two seasons, Clay has seen 77 and 87 targets, caught 51 and 57 balls and has yardage tallies of 528 and 552. He also has three and four touchdowns over this span. In other words, he’s already an ideal Dennison TE.

The TE1 has seen an average of 14 percent of total team targets under Dennison. In my season’s projections for the Bills, I have Charles Clay seeing a 16 percent plurality. Only Watkins is projected to see more looks than Clay. But why, you ask. Well, here is the latest WR depth chart for the Bills, courtesy of Rotoworld.

Bills WR Depth

Sweet Jesus…

I have the Bills projected to be slightly more balanced in terms of running and passing this season, attempting 548 passes. This would still only be good for 25th last season, so it would not take a huge reinvention of the wheel to produce these numbers. But even that marginally bigger pie equates to more targets for Clay.

There are concerns regarding Clay’s long-term health among the Bills staff, particularly regarding his knees. As an arthritis sufferer myself, Clay has my sympathy entirely. He did still manage to play on 88 percent of all offensive snaps last season, though. Sensibly, the team is looking to better manage Clay during the week, with his practice snaps to be limited to enable him to stay fresh for Sunday. This seems sensible and hints at Buffalo’s desire to get more out of the position. Considering the lack of other options at TE this makes Clay a value pick up.

Charles Clay is, as I mentioned earlier, currently the 26th TE being taken in MFL10 drafts. Below, I have listed four TE’s who are finding Best Ball homes earlier than Clay. For comparison, I have included my projections for each of these players, as well as of those of Clay himself.

NAME MFL10 ADP Proj TA Proj RECS Proj YARDS Proj TDs PROJECTED RANK
Coby Fleener TE14 65 39 456 3 TE25
O.J. Howard TE15 58 39 438 4 TE23
Julius Thomas TE17 58 38 426 4 TE26
Evan Engram TE22 69 41 481 3 TE22
Charles Clay TE26 88 57 557 4 TE13

More targets, more yards, and the joint highest number of touchdowns…if you play with Clay, you could mold yourself something of a bargain.

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