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TE Targets for the Two TE1 Strategy

Recently I wrote an article explaining why grabbing two tight ends in the early-mid rounds is my preferred strategy for MFL10s. If we’re going to employ this strategy, then it also makes sense to combine it with player evaluation to get the most out of our picks.

To do so, I’m taking all the TEs who lie either in the top 12 in ADP, or the top 12 in our RotoViz staff projections using the Projection Machine. That yield the following list of players:

Player ADP TE.ADP PROJ.RNK PROJ.PTS
Gronkowski, Rob 12.85 1 1 254.3
Reed, Jordan 37.9 2 2 213.1
Olsen, Greg 52.68 3 4 206.4
Kelce, Travis 68.67 4 3 207.1
Fleener, Coby 72.97 5 5 194.8
Walker, Delanie 78.88 6 6 179.9
Eifert, Tyler 90.41 7 10 168
Ertz, Zach 95.25 8 9 168.2
Green, Ladarius 96.84 9 14 156.1
Barnidge, Gary 97.4 10 7 178.6
Thomas, Julius 101.32 11 16 154.1
Gates, Antonio 111.11 12 8 173.6
Ebron, Eric 112.9 13 12 166.1
Allen, Dwayne 115.62 14 11 166.6

Here’s who I like from that group.

Jordan Reed

I’m targeting Reed as much as I can in the fourth round. This is the round in which my two TE1 strategy starts to take hold, and if I can grab the best of the bunch here, I’m extremely happy about that. On a per-game basis last year, Reed actually outscored Rob Gronkowski. Yet he comes at a discount to Gronkowski, who will have four games without Tom Brady feeding him the ball.

If we compare their TE Sim Scores side-by-side, we see they have nearly identical weekly floors, medians, and ceilings. The image below shows Gronkowski’s sim scores on the left, with Reed’s on the right.

GronkReed

Our staff projections are more pessmistic, putting Reed at 213.1 points to Gronkowski’s 254.3 points. The regression the staff projections have built in for Reed relative to Gronkowski doesn’t make total sense to me. It’s a data point for sure, but it’s not the only data point.

To get one more, I used the RotoViz Screener to filter for TEs since 2010 who played at least eight games in a season, and looked at their PPR scoring on a per-game basis. It turns out PPR scoring in year N, along with draft position and age were statistically significant variables when fitting a linear regression to predict year N+1 PPR performance.

TEReg

Here are the results for our list of 14 players.

PLAYER DRAFT AGE PPR.2015 PPR.PRED DIFF
Jordan Reed 85 25 17.7 14.66 -3.04
Rob Gronkowski 42 26 17 14.29 -2.71
Tyler Eifert 21 25 14.7 12.93 -1.77
Delanie Walker 175 31 16.2 12.45 -3.75
Greg Olsen 31 30 14.3 12.02 -2.28
Gary Barnidge 141 30 14.8 11.78 -3.02
Zach Ertz 35 25 11.5 10.66 -0.84
Travis Kelce 63 26 11.8 10.6 -1.2
Eric Ebron 10 22 9.3 9.63 0.33
Antonio Gates 329 35 13.5 9.3 -4.2
Julius Thomas 129 27 10.1 8.96 -1.14
Coby Fleener 34 27 8.1 8.09 -0.01
Ladarius Green 110 25 8 7.85 -0.15
Dwayne Allen 64 25 2.8 4.52 1.72

Obviously some of the projections will be off for players who are in different situations, but that’s not the case for Gronkowski or Reed. Both are in stable situations, and Reed projects for more PPR points per game (PPR.PRED) than Gronkowski in 2016 using this simple model (they also fall neatly in line with the median projections from the sim scores).

I’ll gladly take a two round discount on a guy who projects nearly identical to Gronkowski on a weekly basis. And don’t give me the Reed injury bunk when comparing the two. Over his career Reed has played in 71 percent of all possible games, while Gronkowski has played in 75 percent over the last four years.

Jordan Reed really could be the most valuable guy in the MFL10 universe.

Coby Fleener

If you look at the results from the screener, it should strike you that Fleener’s predicted 2016 is nearly identical to his 2015 performance. That’s important because the screener projects regression to the mean for most of the players on the list, but Fleener is not one of them. And that’s not even accounting for his situational change.

Charles Kleinheksel highlights that Fleener’s QB play last year was awful. An ailing Andrew Luck struggled to get Fleener the ball, and there’s no doubt the aging Matt Hasselbeck didn’t help in that department.

fleeneraya

But, as Kleinheskel points out, prior to 2015 Fleener’s AYA with Luck was a respectable 7.4 while Drew Brees‘ AYA to veteran TE Ben Watson was 7.6.

In other words, we should be projecting even more progression than the screener even highlights. Then, if Fleener can improve upon Watson’s connection with Brees, he could be in line for some monster weeks. And upside is what I want to build into my MFL10 roster.

I do believe Fleener has possibly the widest range of outcomes of any of these 14 TEs listed. Ben Gretch does a great job of highlighting some of the concerns. But in an upside-driven format, I like picking Fleener, and stacking him with Brees at the 6/7 turn to increase variance even further.

Delanie Walker

Delanie is my favorite TE pick of them all; I just think so many signs point to the potential for a top three TE year, that his TE6 price tag is just a massive bargain. First, look at Walker’s sim scores based off his 2015 body of work:

DelanieSim

That’s in line with Reed and Gronkowski in both low and median projecitons, and a one point discount on the ceiling projection. Delanie’s weekly upside is incredible, as highlighted by his game log:

DelanieLog

The screener likes him as the the TE4, penalizing him a bit for his age, but still projecting him favorably to Greg OlsenTravis Kelce, and the aforementioned Fleener on a weekly basis. But the screener is blind to his QB situation. Take a look at what Marcus Mariota has done for Walker:

DelanieAYA

Mariota was a full two adjusted yards per attempt better when targeting Walker than any of his prior QBs were. And, barring injury to either, there’s no reason to expect the performance to be any worse. If anything, Mariota should improve in his second full season, which only stands to benefit Walker even further.

Walker was even the only TE to make it into our series of articles on which players could lead the league in targets. Sure, it might be a stretch, but the point is the upside is there – Best-Ball winning upside.

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