7 Takeaways for Week 15 – 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

With that said, here are my tight end takeaways for Week 14:

Delanie Walker

For the second straight week, Delanie Walker put up the highest reEP. Over the last two, his 36.2 percent target market share, 25 targets, and 35.9 reEP are all tops among TEs by a healthy margin.

We’ve been telling you to trust Delanie’s workload all season, but this is a new peak for him. Interestingly, this past week he wasn’t particularly efficient, finishing with 3.85 points fewer than expectation. For the season, he still has the fourth most reFPOE overall, so there is some positive regression to be expected from that. In other words, he had a great game last week, but his workload suggests it should have been even better.

Feel confident firing him up as your TE for the rest of the playoffs.

Barnidge in Seattle

Gary Barnidge had another nice day with Johnny Manziel under center, further suggesting his early season success wasn’t totally the result of his connection with Josh McCown. He legitimately looks to have taken a step forward as a TE.

Barnidge had 4.69 reFPOE on 14.71 reEP in Week 14, and has now posted more than 10 reEP in every game since Week 7, despite the quarterback turmoil. During that timeframe, he’s third in the league in both targets and reEP, despite having a Week 11 bye.1 Other than Greg Olsen, he’s the only TE with 100 targets at this point in the season.

Simply put, he’s the Browns’ best receiving option, and each of their three QBs has treated him as such. He has exhibited lower efficiency lately, as he’s only posted a cumulative 4.38 reFPOE over his last six games.2 That’s okay, though, as his current production actually looks a lot more sustainable than his early-season success, which was largely driven by otherworldly efficiency (on a less consistent workload).

This week, Barnidge heads to Seattle. The Seahawks have been better against weaker TEs over the last two weeks, but Barnidge is still a great play against a defense that has largely struggled against the position all season.

Fire Up Ben Watson

Ben Watson has seen four consecutive below average matchups for TEs, but his schedule is about to turn. To close out his season, he’ll have three straight above average matchups.

This is great news because from Weeks 12 to 14, Watson has seen the third most reEP among TEs (40.9), but his efficiency has been negative over that timeframe (-3.8 reFPOE). We highlighted a similar situation in calling Julius Thomas a great buy low about a month ago. The argument is essentially: a) difficult schedule lately; b) consistent usage despite the matchups; c) poor efficiency that could easily turn around in better matchups.

Watson fits this mold perfectly, and makes for a great option in your fantasy playoffs, or in DFS through Week 17.

Vernon’s Inflated Workload

Last week, Vernon Davis saw nine targets and 12.42 reEP. Though this may have you believing he is getting more work as he gets more comfortable in Denver, I would argue it’s mostly variance.

First of all, Owen Daniels saw four targets himself, so it’s not as if Davis completely dominated the position’s targets. Back in Week 11 Davis also saw more targets than Daniels,3 but in Weeks 12 and 13 Daniels totaled nine to Davis’s five. It looks like both TEs are involved.

More importantly, game script forced Brock Osweiler to throw 51 passes in this one, a week after he threw just 26 passes in a win. That was the biggest reason there were so many targets to go around. Going forward, Davis isn’t worth the gamble in your fantasy playoffs.

Zach Miller

Unlike Davis, Zach Miller is a tight end who is worth a look in your playoff matchups with Martellus Bennett out for the season. While he saw just one target in a Week 13 game where Bennett was active, he’s had at least 8.46 reEP in the other four of his last five games.

Isolating the two games Bennett missed, Miller saw seven targets (23 percent market share) in Week 12 and six targets (19 percent market share) in Week 14. He found the end zone in Week 14, posting 10.39 reFPOE.

His matchups aren’t ideal — Minnesota in Week 15 is pretty neutral against TEs while Tampa Bay in Week 16 is a below average matchup — but the targets should be there if you’re in need of a plug-and-play option.

Positive Trends for Gates

Antonio Gates had a very impressive Week 14. Kansas City is very good against TEs, and had just held Gates to a paltry 1.6 fantasy points on three targets back in Week 11.

In the rematch, Gates earned eight targets for 11.01 reEP, and turned in positive efficiency on those to boot. Gates’ market share fell off in the middle of the season after he posted otherworldly target numbers in his first few games back from suspension, but he’s now seen 17 targets over the last two weeks. One optimistic view could be that he’s more healthy now after an assortment of reported injuries have kept red letters next to his name most of the season.

Personally, I buy that. Gates has a neutral matchup with the Dolphins in Week 15 and a plus matchup with Oakland in Week 16, and I expect him to see strong workloads in both.

Reed’s Efficiency

Week 14’s efficiency leader was Jordan Reed, who posted 11.43 reFPOE on 15.57 reEP. This was all the more impressive when considering Chicago is generally strong against TEs. One theory I floated a few weeks ago was to look at wide receiver matchups for Reed:

There may be some hope in Reed’s playoff schedule, as all three games are better matchups for wide receivers, and Washington has been known to treat Reed like more of a receiver at times, lining him up out wide quite a bit.

While Chicago is difficult against TEs, they are more neutral against WRs. Reed’s next two matchups are against Buffalo and Philadelphia, both teams who are below average matchups for TEs but above average matchups for WRs. It’s an interesting consideration that Reed’s Week 14 efficiency could foretell strong Week 15 and 16 performances, despite the poor matchups on paper. Either way, his workload remains close-to-elite, and he will always have value for that.

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

  1. And therefore playing one less game than some TEs over that sample.  (back)
  2. The same sample I referenced above.  (back)
  3. Davis had six targets while Daniels had five.  (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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