7 Takeaways for Week 11 – The TE Opportunity Report

In our series of Opportunity Reports, RotoViz will examine the weekly production of position groups through the lens of the Fantasy Efficiency App. A primer on how to use this app can be found in the Week 1 report.

We’re examining opportunity and efficiency using historical line of scrimmage data to establish the expected fantasy point value of targets (and comparing actual fantasy points to that expected value).

Here are the acronyms you’ll see in this article:

  • reEP – Receiving Expected Points
  • reFPOE – Receiving Fantasy Points Over Expectation
  • reFPOEPT – Receiving Fantasy Points Over Expectation Per Target

Week 11 was a down week for tight ends, with only two seeing more than eight targets and none seeing more than 10. Let’s look at some takeaways for Week 11.

Can Barnidge Keep It Up with JFF?

Gary Barnidge owners have surely kept a close eye on news out of Cleveland that Johnny Manziel will be the team’s starter for the remainder of the season. As we’ve mentioned a few times, Barnidge has looked great with Josh McCown under center this season.

Week 10 brought some good news, as Barnidge led all TEs with 14.47 reEP with Manziel taking the snaps. He also maintained plus efficiency, finishing with 4.03 reFPOE. That said, I’d try to sell my shares of Barnidge if possible. The Week 10 matchup was a plus one against Pittsburgh, and after Cleveland’s Week 11 bye they face the sixth most difficult TE schedule for the rest of the season, according to The Buy Low Machine.

Barnidge might still see decent volume now that he’s established himself as an important component in the Cleveland offense, but his efficiency1 has been a big part of his fantasy success. It’s hard to imagine he will keep that up with Manziel throwing him the ball against much more difficult defenses.

Julius Thomas’s Schedule

Hat tip to commenter Ginoooooobliii for a reminder in the comments of last week’s report that Julius Thomas looks like a sleeper for the rest of the season. I wrote him up back in Week 7, and had this to say:

Jacksonville plays the toughest TE schedule in the NFL over the next four weeks (including their bye), before seeing the third-easiest TE schedule from Weeks 11 to 16. Utilize him at your own necessity over the next month, and watch whether his opportunity stays high in tougher matchups. If so, there’s plenty of optimism for the stretch run.

First of all, since The Buy Low Machine evolves over the course of the season with more information, strength of matchups sometimes change. In this case, Jacksonville’s schedule now looks like the easiest in the league for TEs, and it’s not even close.

Secondly, Thomas saw five, eight, and five targets over those three difficult matchups, totaling weekly reEP of 6.68, 11.25, and 8.91 points. In each of those games, Thomas finished more than four points below expectation, but again, the defenses deserve some credit as they’ve been strong against TEs all year.

What’s important is that Thomas stayed healthy, stayed involved in the offense, and now gets this lovely stretch of games:

ChartJuliusThomas

Take Thomas’s inefficiency lately as a blessing, as he’s probably either free on your waiver wire or very acquirable via trade. With Jacksonville’s passing offense showing plenty of fantasy relevance this season, Thomas is a great TE option the rest of the way.

It Ertz So Bad

Zach Ertz led all TEs with 10 targets in Week 10, and finished second with 13.32 reEP. Unfortunately, his 0.48 reFPOE is what Ertz owners2 would consider a good day. On the season, Ertz is now at -9.03 reFPOE, fifth worst among TEs.

In large part, Ertz’s inability to hit expectations can be traced to his lack of TDs. For a guy with 58 targets on the season, it’s fairly shocking he has yet to find paydirt. Unfortunately, the Eagles’ switch to Mark Sanchez doesn’t generate any positive narratives like it does for Jordan Matthews apologists. In Ertz’s case, he only scored once last season in the nine games Sanchez played, and averaged more than two fewer fantasy points per game in those matchups.

Ertz has seen at least six targets in each of his last five games and has been putting up solid lines, but Sunday’s game was just the third time in 41 career games where he’s caught more than five passes. He’s not someone you should count on in fantasy.

Graham’s Workload

Over the last five weeks, Jimmy Graham is sixth in the NFL in market share — tops among TEs — at 31.8 percent. Unfortunately, with Seattle 29th in the league in pass attempts and an inefficient connection with QB Russell Wilson, Graham’s hefty market share has equated to fewer double-digit than single-digit games.

Week Market Share Targets reEP reFPOE PPR Points
1 0.195 8 15.33 1.77 17.1
2 0.069 2 2.67 -0.57 2.1
3 0.308 8 13.02 8.28 21.3
4 0.192 5 6.66 0.24 6.9
5 0.227 5 7.36 -1.36 6
6 0.4 12 16.59 5.41 22
7 0.208 5 7.09 -1.99 5.1
8 0.345 10 13.29 1.21 14.5
10 0.296 8 11.69 -4.59 7.1

On the season, Graham’s market share is second among TEs, but he’s ninth in reEP and averages less than one point above expectation per game. Obviously that’s not the type of production Graham owners hoped for.

That said, if you’ve stuck it out this long, there are a couple positive trends forming. First, his targets and market shares suggest he’s becoming a more established part of the offense. Second, up until last week he seemed to be more efficient when he was more involved.3

If you feel comfortable projecting him for 30 percent of the pass attempts going forward, you’re not asking for much in terms of efficiency to make him a usable TE. I’ve been down on Graham this year compared to expectations — and I still think if you’re looking for a league-winner you’re barking up the wrong tree — but he’s still a TE1, albeit a low-end one.

His Name is My Name, Too

This week’s surprise performance came from the other Zach Miller.4 Miller posted 18.18 reFPOE with his five catch day that included 107 yards and two TDs.

If you’re in need of TE help, though, I’d look elsewhere. Miller has been around since 2009, and is actually older than the more well-known (and currently unemployed) Zach Miller. It’s hard to imagine Miller can be Barnidge 2.0 when Martellus Bennett is still healthy, ahead of him on the depth chart, and one of the most heavily-targeted TEs in all of football. To that end, Miller came into Sunday’s game with just seven targets on the season, and put up his career day on just five more. He’s not involved enough to be fantasy relevant.

Can Ebron Exploit Oakland?

In Week 11, Eric Ebron gets the fantasy gold matchup for TEs – Oakland. Since a big Week 7, Ebron has posted negative efficiency in two straight matchups.5 Last week, he saw eight targets — good for 10.66 reEP — against Green Bay, but he turned in -3.86 reFPOE.

For Ebron, that’s more the exception than the rule. Despite those negative totals, he has still averaged the sixth most reFPOEPT on the season,6 at 0.46. He’s certainly capable of posting strong efficiency in a plus matchup.

In terms of his workload, Ebron has seen at least five targets in every game he’s played this season, save for Week 4 when he was injured against Seattle. Interestingly, he’s seen exactly five targets four times in those six games, while seeing eight and 10 in the other two games. There doesn’t seem to be a discernible pattern with his usage, but he did just see eight targets this past week, the matchup’s in his favor, and he’s played well when given opportunity. I’d guess Detroit looks to get him more involved this week. He’s a good Week 11 gamble.

Eifert’s Usage

Last week I looked at the trend of Tyler Eifert‘s matchup-based usage and projected usage for the remainder of the season based on matchup rating from The Buy Low Machine. I pointed out some major caveats there and cautioned that you should take that with some salt, but interestingly the regression analysis projected 9.83 reEP for Eifert in Week 10, and he finished with 9.93 reEP.

The degree to which this has correlated is almost certainly an anomaly, but it’s also hard to completely write it off. With Eifert facing the toughest TE matchup in football in Week 11 (Arizona), I’d look to another option if I had a good alternative. The trend so far would suggest Cincinnati will run their offense through other players this week and not utilize Eifert very much.

That’s all I have for this week’s report. Check out the Fantasy Efficiency App for more information.

  1. third most reFPOE among TEs on the season  (back)
  2. if there are any of you left out there  (back)
  3. In other words, none of his negative efficiency games came when he saw higher target numbers.  (back)
  4. No, not the former Pro Bowler for the Raiders and Super Bowl winner with the Seahawks.  (back)
  5. Also had his bye in that stretch.  (back)
  6. among TEs with at least 40 targets  (back)

Ben Gretch

Writer. Podcast host. Former and still occasional editor. Previous work at Rotoworld, Draft Sharks. Work cited at NFL.com, Washington Post. Probably a little too obsessed with fantasy football.
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