Recently, a friend asked me why I never go into depth on tight ends. He plays in a two TE league, with 12 teams, where 24 TEs start each week. I directed him to Pat Thorman’s excellent piece on mid-round TE value, but that wasn’t deep enough. Soon I realized that even in leagues that only require one TE to start, but feature 16 or more managers, finding the right TE can be a tough task.
So I decided to pinpoint five TEs who are being drafted as late TE2s, TE3s, or sometimes not drafted at all. The goal is to find several targets for these deeply structured leagues.
*All ADP data comes from Myfantasyleague.com dating back to drafts from August 1 through August 12.
Williams burst onto the main scene a few days ago when Rotoworld blurbed him, but beat writers have been writing about him since before the first preseason game. Williams hopes to join the ranks of former college basketball players turned NFL TEs, and at 6’4” and 250 lbs. with a 4.56 40-yard dash time, his impact could come sooner than later. After putting together a strong set of OTAs followed by a strong training camp, Williams broke out in Friday’s preseason opener to the tune of three receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown. Those of us who bought NFL preseason live had the opportunity to watch and re-watch his 31-yard TD catch. Williams showed off his speed by bursting down the seam and splitting the cover 2 defense—he ended up four steps away from the nearest defender when the pass was released.
Williams spent time in the offseason working with Greg Olsen who cited improvements in his fundamentals, route running, footwork, and technique. His hard work paid off in the first preseason game as Williams earned very positive marks as a run blocker according to Pro Football Focus. Williams’ blocking will be key to him seeing playing time this season. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula has already mentioned that the team will use more 12 personnel, featuring two TEs. If Williams wants to see the field in those personnel groupings, he will at times be asked to block with Olsen operating as that play’s move TE.
It’s clear that the Panthers see potential in the athletic freak as well. Through one game, Williams was on the field for more snaps (58) than any TE aside from Chris Gragg who has played in two exhibition games. It seems likely that we will get to see a lot more of Williams this preseason, and he is definitely someone to monitor.
The murky situation at TE in Green Bay has opened the door for several competitors to step through. Why do we care? The Packers offense is set to reach higher levels as they transition to a faster tempo, and any player who runs down the seam in an Aaron Rodgers offense is a player worth monitoring. Bostick put up seven TDs in 10 games in his senior year at Newberry College, but that’s not what puts him on our radar.
At 6’3” and 245 lbs., Bostick blazed a 4.49 40-yard-dash with a 36-inch vertical and a 10’1” broad jump at his 2012 pro day at Newberry. In his other pro day at Coastal Carolina, he ran a 4.59 40-yard-dash. After playing last season at 250 pounds, he has bulked up to 260 for the 2014 season. His measureables are exceptional, and he has started to pick up buzz for his training camp and preseason play. Bostick only had one catch for 24 yards in the preseason opener, but he showed great acceleration as he burst up field breaking multiple tackles and racking up 23 of those yards after the catch. During Monday’s practice, he saw more reps with the first-team offense, according to ESPN.
Bostick is a part of a full-fledged competition to start at TE, but the opportunity is certainly there for him take control. With his athletic upside, the offense’s overall upside, and Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, he is worth monitoring.
After losing Greg Schiano as head coach and president of his fan club, most have written off Wright for good. As a wide receiver turned TE, Wright’s transition into the NFL was expected to take some time. At 6′ and 220 lbs., Wright ran a 4.65 40-yard-dash with a 36-inch vertical and a 9’10” broad jump. Then Wright went on to rack up a 54/571/5 line—good for the most receptions and yards of any rookie TE.
Still, the two major concerns surrounding Wright in 2014 are tied to his role in the offense and his perceived negative standing with the coaching staff. While it’s true that the team drafted and signed two TEs, Wright has the opportunity to carve out a niche role within the offense because of his slender frame. That role is in the slot where Wright has been seeing first-team reps and will do battle with rookie Robert Herron among others to become the team’s primary slot receiver. Considering how little we still know about Jeff Tedford’s offensive scheme, there is no way to definitely say how much or how little the slot will be used.
However, we can address the second major concern, which in turn addresses Wright’s potential usage. This idea that the coaching staff is low on Wright is simply false. Lovie Smith praised Wright for the flexibility that he offers the offense. Smith mentioned that the team can use him split out wide in the slot, inline as a true TE, or even in the backfield. Wright also hinted that Tedford “has got a lot in mind” for the TEs.
I’m not advising you to go crazy, but even in two-TE and deeper leagues, you can draft Wright basically for free.
A month ago, Justin Winn wrote an excellent article gauging the ceilings of many young TEs. Based on Toilolo’s freak score, which Winn dives into, it would seem wise to shy away from him. I believe that his overall perception as a slow and poor receiver has been the motivating factor behind his ADP of TE30. But Toilolo makes my target list due to opportunity, situation, and a better skill set than he’s given credit for.
The Falcons addressed the retirement of Tony Gonzalez by bringing in Bear Pascoe, who was released from a Giants team that is currently trotting out Larry Donnell with the first-team offense at TE. With training camp in full swing, there’s a chance that the Falcons could add a veteran on a later date, but it seems as if Toilolo is locked in.
Toilolo also enters an interesting situation when it comes to targets. While it might not make sense to reference Matt Ryan’s TE target percentage, considering Toilolo is not the talent that Gonzalez was, it is important to reference the fact that the Falcons offense has the fourth-most pass attempts over the past three years. As a rookie, Toilolo hauled in 11 of his 14 targets including two TDs. Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus found that even in limited snaps, Toilolo was responsible for nine percent of the Falcons receiving OTD—a stat he created and discusses here—as he was targeted while inside the three-yard line four times.
Perhaps people are looking at the wrong mesaurables when it comes to Toilolo’s potential. Jon Moore’s research makes that argument as Toilolo posted solid numbers in Phenom Index score and weight-adjusted agility. At 6’8” and 265 lbs., Toilolo presents a massive target with surprising athleticism. I can get on board with that given his almost nonexistent ADP.
Kelce is not an example of someone you can wait until the final rounds for in these deeper league formats, but he is someone that has a great opportunity to outshine his ADP. Kelce is coming off the board as the TE22.
Davis Mattek put together a comprehensive argument for Kelce and it’s a must-read. Still, his ADP needle isn’t budging and it seems like there’s some recency bias in play regarding his October microfracture surgery. Kelce has looked completely healthy so far in training camp, and he is routinely making plays.
Mattek’s analysis above is thorough and spotless, so I won’t be adding much by restating his arguments. However, I felt that it was important to bring attention to Kelce again and to Mattek’s piece. Kelce’s combination of freak athleticism, potential role in the offense, and potential standing on Alex Smith’s totem pole, creates a very appealing target at his current price.