7 Takeaways for Week 16 – The TE Opportunity Report
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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 16:

Reed’s Continued Emergence

Jordan Reed had a strong Week 15 against the Bills, leading all TEs in reFPOE for the second straight week. He scored two TDs on seven targets, surpassing his 12.59 reEP by a whopping 14.81 points.

Interestingly, both of Reed’s TDs came while split out wide. As I mentioned last week, Washington had a difficult playoff schedule for TEs but a relatively easy one for wide receivers, and the WR numbers might apply more to Reed given the team’s usage of him. In Week 16 Reed faces Philadelphia, the fourth best matchup for WRs according to The Buy Low Machine. There’s no reason to get off the Reed train.

Julius’s Great Matchup

Julius Thomas continues to see strong workloads, totaling nine targets for 12.41 reEP in Week 15 on 24.3 percent market share. Since his schedule turned, Thomas has seen the fourth most targets among TEs (39), the third most reEP (63.74), and has put up the fourth most points over expectation (16.46 reFPOE).

These are all very positive signs considering the Jaguars draw the Saints this week, who just allowed Eric Ebron to total 79 receiving yards on Monday Night Football after failing to go over 30 yards in any game since October. It wasn’t just last week, though, as the Saints continue to be the worst defense in the NFL at defending the position. Expect Thomas to be very highly owned in DFS this week, but he makes for a great option in all formats nonetheless.

The TE in the Highest-Value Offense

Week 15 was a down one for Heath Miller, as he totaled just 12 yards on three catches and five targets. So why am I writing him up? Well, for one, the Steelers threw the ball 55 times compared to just 14 rushing plays.1 And for the second straight week, just five players saw targets (the three wide receivers, DeAngelo Williams, and Miller). Despite the down game, look at what Miller has done this season with and without Ben Roethlisberger:

ChartHeathMiller2Averaging over five catches per game is very impressive, though it’s largely boosted by three games with eight or more. Note that while he hasn’t found the end zone much this season, that’s kind of been the norm for Miller in the last few years. He’s still probably due for some regression, but he only found the end zone four times on 170 targets from 2013-2014.

Still, Miller has quite a bit of pass-catching upside in his range of outcomes. Baltimore is one of those “funnel” defenses — the buzzword du jour in fantasy circles this season that refers to a defense that plays the run much better than the pass.2 While they are much better against TEs than WRs, I think Miller is worth a look as one of the few trusted pass-catching options in an offense that already likes to throw a ton, in a matchup that gives them even more of a reason to throw a ton.

Tye Keeps It Going

I mentioned two weeks ago that Will Tye‘s workload suggested he was being used in high-leverage situations, and that his lack of touchdowns since taking over for Larry Donnell was not a trend likely to continue. Tye hasn’t disappointed in the two weeks since, scoring touchdowns in each game.

More impressive, Tye has continued his consistent usage. He’s totaled 13 targets and the eighth-most reEP (21.75) among TEs over the last two weeks. With Odell Beckham Jr. expected to miss this week’s game (pending the appeal on his suspension), there might be even more work headed Tye’s way in a neutral matchup with Minnesota.

Primetime Workloads

On Sunday and Monday night this week we saw the two biggest workloads for TEs. Ben Watson and Zach Ertz saw 12 and 13 targets for 23.97 and 19.49 reEP, respectively. Of the two, Ertz was the one who went for plus efficiency, going over his expected total by 2.31 points. Over the last two weeks, he’s second only to Watson in reEP, while seeing 20 targets. However, in each of the two preceding games Ertz saw four targets and caught two passes. His workload is still difficult to trust week in and week out, though we haven’t seen a two-game stretch like this before. There doesn’t seem to be any discernible pattern with respect to his volume and matchups, so he’s definitely a volatile play going forward.

Watson, on the other hand, has exhibited extreme consistency lately. Over the last four games he has almost 10 more expected points than every other TE, and he’s gone over 11 reEP in each of those contests thanks to a whopping 40 targets in that timeframe. Interestingly, he’s been the second-most inefficient TE in the league over that stretch, totaling -10.86 reFPOE. That’s a prime regression candidate, especially when considering Watson was the fourth-most efficient TE prior to Week 12, with 34.2 reEP. Drew Brees‘s health throws a wrench in all of this, but keep an eye on Watson as he looks very underrated at present.

Is Gronk a Fade This Week?

Rob Gronkowski totaled 17.4 reEP in Week 15, though his reFPOE was actually negative for just the third time this season. He totaled just 54 yards on 11 targets, going under five yards per target for the first time this season.

In Week 16, Gronk faces off against the Jets. While he has seen at least nine targets in each of the Patriots’ last six meetings with the Jets, obviously just one of those games came against Todd Bowles. That matchup — in Week 7 of this season — featured 16 Gronk targets, 11 Gronk catches, 108 Gronk yards, and one Gronk Spike.3

While those are some impressive numbers, it’s worth noting the Jets were the only team to keep him under 10 yards per catch this year. It will be very interesting to see how Bowles plays it this week. Will they make a concerted effort to limit his involvement now that the Patriots have fewer weapons than earlier in the season? Were they okay with the 16 targets and 11 catches considering they did a pretty good job limiting his explosiveness? The degree to which Bowles makes Gronk a focus in this rematch is, to me, one of Week 16’s big questions.

You’re obviously starting Gronk in your championship matchups, but I do think he has added volatility (both up and down) in this one.

The Double-X

With Crockett Gillmore unlikely to play in Week 15, Maxx Williams will be the TE on the other side of the Pittsburgh-Baltimore tilt. It’s tough to know what to expect from Williams, though he caught five of six targets in Week 15 for 31 yards. Since Week 10, Williams has posted 0.36 reFPOEPT on 14 targets.

Presumably the Ravens would like to get an extended look what they have in their rookie TE, and expected game script certainly makes the Ravens a good bet to throw a lot of passes. Considering Pittsburgh is an above average matchup for TEs, Williams is worth a look in deep leagues if you’re low on options. He has the potential to chip in eight-to-10 points as a plug-and-play option.

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

  1. There were three kneel downs I’m ignoring.  (back)
  2. They are ninth in rush DVOA and 30th in pass DVOA, per Football-Outsiders.  (back)
  3. TM  (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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