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The Buy Low Report: Don’t Doubt Gronk

Trading is one of the most enjoyable and difficult aspects of fantasy football. The Buy Low Report is here to help. Every Wednesday, this article will identify and analyze players who are ideal buy targets as well as players who are strong sell candidates.

The primary methodology for buying and selling players in fantasy football comes down to volume. Expect “buy volume, sell efficiency” to be a tenant of this column.

Where efficiency does play a key role in player valuation is that prolific efficiency can spur higher usage in the right situations – think of the career trajectories for players like Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara, or DeAndre Hopkins. Identifying circumstances where a player’s productivity gives him a shot at greater volume in the near future is a key aspect of playing the trade market.

The players discussed will predominantly be ones that are highly owned, as unowned players fall into the pickup market instead of the trade market.

Buy Low

Rob Gronkowski

Gronkowski has averaged nine PPR points in games he has played since Week 2. He is the TE10 in points per game on the season, a far cry from his TE1 second round ADP. New England’s receiving core has a wealth of desirable targets in Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, James White, and Chris Hogan. Tom Brady has been praising his new shiny target in Gordon via social media. Gronkowski retirement rumors that surfaced heading into the season seemed to hold more credibility than in previous years. Gronkowski again had his back injury flare up, causing him to miss a game. Fantasy owners of the elite tight end have the right to be nervous. Take advantage of all this noise.

Gronkowski is likely to go down in history as the best tight end ever and there is no evidence that he is done producing at his elite level. By almost every efficiency metric, Gronkowski is just as prolific in 2018 as he has been historically.

Gronk1Gronk2

The AYA App illustrates how the University of Arizona alumnus has always been Brady’s most efficient target. From an AYA standpoint, Gronkowski is still producing at his career clip.

Let’s examine other measures of efficiency.

Catch Rate

aDot

RACR

reFPOEPA

reTDRT

2014 – 2017

0.63

10.90

0.91

0.53

0.085

2018

0.67

13.10

0.80

0.57

0.029

The discrepancy in receiving air yards converted ratio (RACR) is a product of Gronkowski’s above career average aDOT1 and is in line with his career production relative to his aDOT. By all measures other than touchdown rate, Gronkowski is just as good as he always has been.

Touchdown rate is the metric which clearly stands out as well below Gronkowski’s norm. Translated to a per game basis, Gronkowski averaged 0.67 touchdowns per game from 2014 to 2017, but is averaging just 0.17 touchdowns per game this season.

It would be naïve to suggest that Gronkowski has lost his ability to score touchdowns this year when every other measure of efficiency suggests he is performing as well as he always has. Touchdown rate is one of the most variant forms of efficiency in football, so the concept of variance alone makes it a foolish argument to implicate Gronkowski as unable to still produce because he has scarcely found the end zone this year. Gronkowski has also proven that he is a rare breed of player who can consistently generate a prolific touchdown rate year over year.

Year

Gronkowski Touchdown Rate

2018

0.029

2017

0.076

2016

0.079

2015

0.092

2014

0.092

2013

0.061

2012

0.138

2011

0.137

2010

0.169

For reference, a “good” touchdown rate is in the 0.05 to 0.07 range, and from a projections standpoint, there are only a handful of players who can reasonably be projected to squash variance with a projected rate over 0.05. It is worth displaying the past nine years of data points above to illustrate just how consistently Gronkowski has eclipsed a “normal” rate.

The New England offense is still firing on all cylinders, so Gronkowski should return to a touchdown-scoring machine before the season ends. It should be noted that his touchdown rate has trended downward every year, but a regression to a rate that is in line with this trend would still be a massive jump from his 0.029 rate thus far.

A more legitimate cause for concern might be Gronkowski’s volume in a New England offense that has an embarrassment of pass-catching riches.

Year

Gronkowski Targets Per Game

2018

6.1

2017

8.1

2016

6.6

2015

8

2014

8.7

2013

9.4

Excluding his injury-marred 2016 campaign, Gronkowski has consistently garnered at least eight looks from Brady per game. In contrast, he has seen eight targets only twice in the seven games he has played this season – in Week 1 and in Week 8.  From a market share perspective, Gronkowski has seen a 17 percent market share this year, compared to a 20 to 25 percent share in prior years.2

A crowded receiving corps does not seem to be the cause for his downtick in volume, though, as his volume was low before Edelman’s return and Gordon’s arrival. Likewise, New England has been stacked with receiving options in prior years when Gronkowski still lead the team in target share. And, again, Brady is and always has been most efficient when throwing to Gronkowski.

There are two reasons to believe Gronkowski’s volume will increase in the second half of the season.

The first is the theory that Bill Belichick is conserving Gronkowski’s health for the home stretch. It is no secret that Gronkowski has been a glass-cannon his entire career, and Belichick is certainly cognizant of the nitrous Gronkowski injects into the New England when he is on the field – Brady’s splits with and without Gronkowski are enough to show that as truth.

Given his still lingering back injury, New England could prudently be intentionally limiting Gronkowski’s usage to start the year to increase the chance that he is healthy in the playoffs. If New England is, indeed, intentionally holding Gronkowski back, I expect them to unleash him as the playoffs draw nearer to acclimate him to his usual usage in advance of their elimination games, or to seal key victories to clinch home field advantage.

Belichick could also be electing to see what he has in fresher faces like Gordon and Phillip Dorsett in a pseudo “tryout” period for them, at Gronkowski’s expense.

There is also reason to believe that it has just been by chance that Gronkowski has ceded volume to other options on his team, thus far. Gronkowski has such a history of dominating targets from Brady that variance could be the reason for his target drop in this small six game sample.

Either way, it would be astonishing if the perennial TE1’s fantasy production does not increase as his touchdown rate or volume trend towards his career norms. As was shown, he has not lost any bit of his hall-of-fame worthy talent. He is a massively high-upside buy who has the potential to be a difference maker in winning a fantasy championship. I am sending offers to owners who have soured on him.

Jack Doyle

The fantasy community has been in a tizzy over Eric Ebron’s stretch of elite TE1 usage and production since Doyle got hurt in Week 2. It was a peculiar sight to see Ebron as the highest priced tight end on Draftkings in Week 6. There were questions about how Doyle and Ebron would split upon Doyle’s return.

The answer is that Doyle will dominate snaps and volume, as he did in Week 1, and that Ebron will be relegated to an ancillary role again.

Some thought Doyle would be limited in his return, but that was not the case. Doyle out-targeted Ebron seven to three (a 23 percent share versus a ten percent share) and out-snapped him 73 percent to 22 percent. This split mirrors that of Week 1 – the only other game in which both tight ends have been healthy.

Doyle has a clear-cut share of a high scoring, fast paced, pass happy, and tight end friendly offense.3 Doyle is an elite option at tight end but has been dropped in many leagues. Target him in trades and waiver pickups this week.

Kenny Golladay and Courtland Sutton

The news surrounding the situations of these two players has been widely recognized in the fantasy community, so these two might be tough to buy low from savvy league mates. Nevertheless, I still think there is value in letting readers know that I do foresee a spike in usage for both Golladay and Sutton.

Buzz has grown on the potential expansion of Kerryon Johnson or Theo Riddick’s roles as low aDOT options in Golden Tate’s absence. That buzz is warranted, but it should not displace the fact that Golladay – who I discussed on this week’s Fantasy Football Report as destined to return to his start-of-the-year volume split – absolutely has increased upside without Tate. Golladay should benefit more than Marvin Jones because Golladay’s aDOT of 12.3 suggests he will scoop up more of Tate’s work than will the 15.5 aDot receiver Jones.

The boost to Sutton is less debatable. Denver drafted Sutton to replace Demaryius Thomas. Obviously, Sutton is falling into an increased workload. His efficiency is still in question, though, so do not treat him as a proven asset yet.

Lower Owned / Waiver Wire Buys:

Keke Coutee

D.J. Moore

Tajae Sharpe

Elijah McGuire

Week 7 Buy Low Review:

Find last week’s Buy Low Report here.

Danny Amendola: Amendola produced quality starter numbers as predicted. See the Buy Low Machine graphic in last week’s article which illustrates Amendola’s soft upcoming schedule – he should remain a trustworthy low-ceiling start. Notably, the surprise emergence of DeVante Parker puts a damper on Amendola’s upside.

Stefon Diggs: As was forecast, Diggs was due for a blowup week. The window is likely closed now that he has rebounded from his down weeks, but the Thielen hype is undying so it is still worth it to inquire.

Doug Martin: Like Amendola, Martin should continue to provide low-upside starter production.

T.Y. Hilton: Hilton thoroughly disappointed with only a single catch in Week 8. He remains a Buy Low in the explosive Indianapolis offense. Check out this week’s Fantasy Football Report to hear us dive deeper.

  1. In general, RACR decreases as aDOT increases.  (back)
  2. Excluding 2016’s injury-riddled campaign.  (back)
  3. Nearly half of Andrew Luck’s touchdowns have gone to tight ends this year.  (back)

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