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Diary of High-Stakes Virgins: TE Premium Draft Strategy

In exactly one week, Fantasyland Host Peter Overzet and I will be drafting live in Vegas at the FFPC’s Main Event. If you missed our first article last week, we discussed the league format, our targets at the 1.06, and our nerves. Today, we’ll dive deeper into a specific element of our strategy: how to approach the tight end position in a TE Premium (1.5 PPR for TEs, PPR for non-TEs) league where you can have up to three TE starters.

In what will either be a fun exercise or what we’ll look back on as the moment when Pete and I first turned against each other, we’ve decided to take turns making the case for one of our favorite TE targets, while the other makes the case for a WR likely to be available at the same pick.

These are obviously TEs that we think highly of, but they’re also TEs that have a good chance of being available our our pick in the given round. Since we’ve already touched on the possibility of taking Rob Gronkowski at 1.06, and would have to reach to take Jordan Reed in the 2nd, let’s start in the 3rd round, with Greg Olsen.

Pick 3.06

Greg Olsen, ADP: 3.08

This could potentially be a very interesting juncture in the draft. There are a lot of WRs going slightly before our pick that we like, but if the draft goes true to ADP, we’ll have a tough decision.

Pat’s going to argue that we should take a WR like Randall Cobb here, and from a pure projection standpoint, Pat has Cobb at 16.3 PPG, slightly higher than Greg Olsen’s 15.8 projected PPG. And both of these guys check my simple box of wanting to target guys with good QBs and good offenses early in drafts. But considering there are players in similar situations to Cobb (a high powered offense’s second option) like Donte Moncrief and Julian Edelman a round later, I’m inclined to grab Olsen here because of both the consistency and ceiling he offers with 1.5 points per reception. – Peter

Randall Cobb, ADP: 3.09

I agree that Olsen seems safer given the format, but he’s coming off a career high in market share (25 percent) and yards per target (8.9), and his TD rate of 5.6 percent was the highest he’s had since 2011. I think it’s very likely we see a less efficient Olsen in 2016 who may also have trouble sustaining his target volume.

Olsen’s 25 percent market share isn’t just his career high, it’s the 16th highest market share we’ve seen for a TE since 2000. This year he’ll be fighting Kelvin Benjamin, a potentially emergent Devin Funchess, and simple regression to the mean to maintain his 2016 share. Cobb comes with risk, but prior to 2015 he had three straight seasons of 15+ PPG, and two straight of 17+. That type of WR production is going to be very difficult to find later on in the draft, while we could conceivably get 15 PPG out of someone like Antonio Gates four rounds later. – Pat

Pick 4.07

Delanie Walker, ADP: 4.10

Whenever I see the name Delanie Walker in a draft applet, I can’t say I’m running to the podium to select him. At first blush, a lot of his usage from last year seems unsustainable, especially when his 2016 stat line includes insanity like this. That said, when RotoDoc spills ink I pay attention, and he has Walker at TE2 in his projections.

With Dorial Green-Beckham on the move, Kendall Wright seemingly always on ice (please don’t be mad at me, Mocker), and a fifth-round rookie as the presumed WR1 in this offense, it’s not hard to envision a scenario where Walker absolutely crushes his positional ADP as TE6. If we hammer WRs with our first three picks, I have no problem pulling the trigger on Walker here as our TE1 and hoping Doc and Jacob Myers’ bullish forecasting comes to fruition. – Peter

Eric Decker, ADP: 4.07

What does Eric Decker have to do get drafted before the fourth round? The dude has three seasons of 16+ PPG to his name and is coming of a season where he finished WR13, yet is being drafted as WR23.

That said, I do like Walker for his upside. In our Titans Team Preview for RotoViz Radio, Ben Gretch was able to put together a realistic scenario where Walker he finishes with 21.9 PPG in this format. That kind of upside in the fourth round is absolutely insane.1

But in a more likely scenario, Walker is putting up something like 15 PPG while Decker is producing more like 16.5. And don’t forget that Walker also has a Week 13 bye, which could really hurt in the playoffs, assuming we get there.  -Pat

Pick 7.06

Antonio Gates, ADP: 8.01

On our Chargers 2016 Preview for RotoViz Radio, I argued that Gates has been performing at his upside for the last two seasons. But that doesn’t mean he’s not worth targeting. That’s because Gates is being drafted as TE11 after finishing as TE7 in PPG in 2015 and TE3 in 2014.

Sure, if we pass on a guy like DeVante Parker here we’re losing the upside of a potential 17+ PPG WR. But Parker could also be a tough start this year if he can’t manage better than the 16 percent market share he saw last season. And given that he’s currently fighting Kenny Stills for snaps with Leonte Carroo lurking behind him, we may be better off going with the known quantity here. -Pat

DeVante Parker, ADP: 7.08

Enthusiasm on Parker has cooled of late, but there is no chance in hell I’m going to let a few preseason Kenny Stills snaps and an article about Parker not eating breakfast move me off him at this price. Earlier in June, Ben Gretch outlined the reasons why drafting Parker is how you win the flex this year, and it still rings true for me. Sure, Gates offers a reliable floor, but I’d much rather pay up for a guy like Walker or Olsen or move down to guys like Zach Miller or Will Tye than pass-up on a potential league winner in Parker.

In our first article, we said we didn’t want our decisions to be driven by fear. Ignoring the preseason noise and pulling the trigger on a great prospect entering his first healthy season in the NFL seems like a great way to do that. – Peter

Conclusion

So, who’s the target? Pete and I both came away with the same conclusion: Delanie Walker. We’re trying to pack as much upside on our team as possible, and as the de facto WR1 on his team, Walker provides both a high floor and a huge TE Premium ceiling. His Week 13 bye certainly isn’t ideal, but his weekly upside at his price is too much to pass up. Hopefully his ADP of 4.10 means he’ll be there for us in the fourth round.

If not, I think we wait until the later rounds. The arguments for Olsen and Gates really boil down to safety over upside, and we’re #TeamUpside for this draft. So if we get sniped on Walker we’ll likely end up with guys like Miller or Tye as Pete mentioned, or perhaps even Vance McDonald and/or Jared Cook. That’s probably not the sexiest group of TE targets you’ve ever seen, but the target volume should be there, and un-sexy TEs get the 1.5 PPR bonus too.

  1. Actually, it’s insane anywhere in the draft. For context, I have Rob Gronkowski with a median projection of 19.1 PPG in TE Premium.  (back)

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