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Ladarius Green and Zach Sudfeld Are Baby Graham and Gronk: Why You Should Go Late-Round TE in 2013

zachsudfeld

Ladonkulous Green and Zach Studfeld Are Baby Graham and Gronk: Why You Should Go Late-Round TE in 2013

I believe that a winning draft strategy in 2013 (in addition to going late-round QB and mid-round WR) is to draft TE late—partly because some good TEs can be found in that range and partly because you need to draft other players late in order to go RB/RB/RB.

In drafting TEs late, we should look for “realistically attainable upside,” which I believe is most easily found in young TEs with good size and speed who have serious receiving chops—basically, guys with the potential to function as glorified slot receivers.

In theory, I’m looking for something that’s like a combination of Graham and Gronk: A 6’6” beast who has a 120 Speed Score and a 0.48 last-year collegiate Dominator Rating.

Name

MSYds

MSTDs

TotMS

Ht

Wt

40T

Speed Score

Rob Gronkowski

0.29

0.67

0.48

78

258

4.68

107.56

Jimmy Graham

0.06

0.2

0.13

78

260

4.56

120.27

Since that doesn’t exist (not even Graham and Gronk individually have those characteristics), I have to find a diminished version of that.

So, in general, I’m looking for TEs that meet these criteria:

  1. 23-25 years in age.
  2. A Speed Score of at least 90.
  3. A last-year Dominator Rating of at least 0.25.

Additionally, in order to find a TE who hasn’t broken out—in order to find a guy who is cheap relative to his potential production—I will eliminate any TE who has already had a top-12 season. Using RotoViz’s TE Similarity App, here’s the list I came up with:

Name

Tgts

YPT

RZTDR

MSYds

MSTDs

TotMS

2013 Age

Ht

Wt

40T

Speed Score

Zach Ertz

107

8.39

0.25

0.32

0.32

0.32

23

77

249

4.76

97.01

Tyler Eifert

84

8.15

0.2

0.24

0.29

0.265

23

78

250

4.68

104.23

Ladarius Green

80

7.58

0.33

0.19

0.33

0.26

23

78

238

4.53

113.04

Zach Sudfeld

68

8.79

0.4

0.19

0.33

0.26

24

79

253

4.78

96.93

Notes: *msYDS = Player Receiving Yards/Team Passing Yards, msTD is like msYDS but for touchdowns, YPT = Yards/Target, TRGS = Total Targets on the Season, RZTDR = Red Zone Touchdowns/Red Zone Targets

Of the guys in this list, I think that Green and Sudfeld provide the best combination of upside and value. Ertz, though talented, has a low probability of having top-15 success this year because he is behind both Brent Celek and James Casey. Similarly, Eifert is on a team with Jermaine Gresham, who has averaged a top-12 positional ranking the last two years, and so a question exists as to how the Cincinnati offense will support both players, especially since it hasn’t supported two TEs before.

Green and Sudfeld, however, are in different situations—and they are basically representative of the two different paths to the exact same kind of productivity. They both captured as seniors MSYds of 0.19 and MSTds of 0.33 for a TotMS of 0.26. Sudfeld is bigger and a little better in the red zone, but Green is also solid in the red zone (better than Eifert was) and he has by far the best Speed Score of the bunch. In short, Green looks like Baby Graham, and Sudfeld looks like Baby Gronk.

Green is on a team that’s receivers corps has been thinned with injury—and it wasn’t all that great to begin with, because he might be a great route runner but I think Vincent Brown is the worst kind of sleeper. And Keenan Allen, while talented, is still a rookie who’s just as slow as Brown. Let’s just say that Ladarius will have opportunity. He’s not likely to bump to the bench Antonio Gates (the obvious beneficiary of the injury bug in San Diego), but he has the chance and physical skill to carve out some playing time for himself even if Gates does stay on the field—and if Gates should suffer an injury, as older guys in general sometimes do and Gates in particular often does, then Green could submit a high-end TE1-caliber performance, because he would basically be all the Chargers had.

Needless to say, RotoViz has been covering Green for a while. At first he was just a dynasty player to watchliterally—but, in July, Davis Mattek suggested that Green is a player to target in redraft leagues, and as Green has shown his ability in the preseason, proving himself to be the last (athletically capable) man standing in San Diego, now we realize that the lottery ticket that is his potential is getting closer to cashing in.

In redraft leagues, Ladarius is exactly the kind of high-upside, decent-probability TE you should want to roster, and according to MFL he currently has an ADP of 263.36. (He doesn’t have an ADP at FFC.) In other words, pick him with your last pick or off of waivers. You can get Baby Graham on your team for almost nothing, and the results could Ladonkulous.

Like Green, Zach Sudfeld is on a team with which he should find the opportunity to play. As early as June, Charles Kleinheksel was betting on Sudfeld over Ballard, and so he’s a guy we’ve all kept our eyes on. With the preseason he’s had so far, all of that attention seems to have been justified. Out of all the Patriots’ pass catchers likely to see significant action he’s one of the cheapest, and he’s a sleeper who’s starting to wake up.

Unfortunately, the rest of the market is starting to wake up to him too. At MFL he currently has an ADP of 170.11 (which is higher than it was a couple of weeks ago), but at FFC his ADP has snuck up to 134.6. That’s higher than I wish it were, but that’s still low enough to provide great value, and in some leagues he’ll undoubtedly go later than that.

My suggestion? In 12-team leagues, wait on TE till the double-digit rounds, and then draft Sudfeld shortly after the 12th TE goes off the board. With Sudfeld likely to capture some of Aaron Hernandez’s former production, and with Gronk likely to miss at least a few games, the rookie from Nevada could easily become a top-12 TE if he can continue to earn Tom Brady’s trust. If that happens, Studfeld will be Baby Gronk.

In some leagues, I anticipate that a winning strategy will simply be to roster both players. Take Sudfeld around the 12th or 13th rounds (although his rising ADP may make this suggestion obsolete), and then take Ladarius with your last pick. If one of them turns into a top-12 TE, or if you can successfully stream them, then the strategy will have been a success.

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