With the 2018 NFL season now seeming a long way in the past, we are continuing our look back at the performances of some of the players for whom 2018 was their first taste of NFL action. Here, we focus our attention on one of the two tight ends drafted by the Baltimore Ravens last spring — namely, Mark Andrews.
We’ll take a look back at the positives, and negatives, of Andrews’ first year in the NFL from a numbers point of view. We’ll also look at a few players who enjoyed a similar rookie season to Andrews. This is to see how they fared in the years afterward. Rookie TEs very rarely become superstars overnight. But it’ll be interesting to see a possible range of outcomes for Andrews moving forward after his first year. Then we’ll touch briefly on his outlook for 2019.
In order to find some comparisons for the first year from Andrews, I set the RotoViz Screener
to find rookies from 2008 to 2018, and selected some basic production and usage numbers as variables. I also included the draft pick. The influence of draft pick on a player’s opportunity declines over time, but it’s still relevant heading into a player’s second season. Then I asked the Screener to find seasons comparable to my target player.
So what players did Andrews first season compare with?
The sight of George Kittle on this list of comps could have some fantasy owners licking their chops, especially when one considers how good a season Kittle has just had. Kittle led all TEs with 1,377 receiving yards in 2018, his second season in the NFL.
Zach Ertz is another player who, after an encouraging start, has continued to produce at a high level. He has had at least 700 yards in each of his last five seasons. In 2018 he broke the all-time single-season record for receptions by a TE with 116.
Sadly, injuries meant that Tony Moeaki would never repeat or exceed the numbers he put up as a rookie. He only played another 33 games in his career and hasn’t played since 2015. Dwayne Allen is a similar story, although he hasn’t been quite so unlucky with injury. Allen has never come close to his rookie yardage total, although he has a six- and an eight-touchdown season on his resume. He has spent his last two seasons with the Patriots, for whom he has caught a grand total of 13 passes despite playing in 29 games.
After seeing the team select Hayden Hurst with the first of their two first-round selections, Andrews waited patiently until the 22nd pick of the third round before the Ravens selected him. But from a numbers point of view, Andrews enjoyed a much more successful rookie campaign out of the two players. Andrews finished his rookie season with 34 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns. Hurst played just 12 games, none of which he started. He amassed 13 grabs for 163 yards and a solitary score.
Andrews commanded at least three targets in ten of the 16 regular season games. He reeled in at least three receptions in six. Andrews had four grabs for 54 yards in the Ravens Week 17 victory over the Browns. He was second among all TEs with 16.2 yards per reception and 11 yards per target. But these numbers spiked after Lamar Jackson became the Ravens starting quarterback.
In the seven games that Jackson started, Andrews averaged 23.7 yards per yards per reception and 17.1 yards per targets. His fantasy output improved by almost a full point under Jackson from when Joe Flacco was running the offense. And this was despite seeing almost a full target less per game.
Andrews had the second-most receptions for the Ravens between Weeks 11 and 17 (13). No other player had more receiving yards than his 308. He commanded an 11.5 percent target share during this span. The Jackson-Andrews partnership, despite being limited in how often it was used, was certainly efficient when called upon.
Andrews amassed 188 yards after the catch, accounting for 34.06 percent of his total receiving yards. Only 14 TEs had more YAC than Andrews. He had three top-12 weeks in terms of fantasy points. The high point of which was a TE5 finish in Week 16. All in all, Andrews finished fourth among all TEs in fantasy points per target with 2.14.
Causes for Concern
As productive as Andrews was when he was called upon, he really wasn’t called upon very often. This was especially true after the Ravens made the switch to Jackson. Andrews never played on more than 44.4 percent of the Ravens’ snaps in a single game all season. He managed this twice. In the final two weeks of the season, he didn’t make it on the field for more than 33 percent of the snaps in either game. Andrews saw the second-most TE snaps for the Ravens. The plodding Nick Boyle was on the field for 54.75 percent of the plays.
Andrews was also not exactly a key piece of the Ravens red-zone offense. He saw only six red-zone targets all season. Two of them came in the same game (Week 9 versus the Steelers). Of course, like all Ravens’ pass catchers, volume became a huge concern down the stretch. The Ravens attempted only 164 passes from Week 11 onwards. Only the Dolphins attempted fewer. On the flip side, no team had more rushing attempts than the Ravens in the same period (316). The next highest was the Seahawks, way back with 246.
With the Ravens likely1 to move on Flacco this offseason, it is clear that this is Lamar Jackson’s offense now. The Ravens decision to rid themselves of Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator in favor of Greg Roman is a sign that they are fully committed to a run-based offense.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, off the hot seat for the time being after signing a new contract, expects Jackson to come back in 2019 a “better QB skill wise than when he left“, and expects him to throw a lot this offseason. But it is naïve, not to mention foolish, to think that the last seven games of 2018 are not a blueprint for the Ravens’ offense going forward.
This obviously puts a huge damper on all Ravens pass catchers, although there will be some serious change coming in that regard. Michael Crabtree is a player that some are speculating could be released. John Brown is an unrestricted free agent, as are Andrews’ fellow TEs Boyle and Maxx Williams. This should leave Andrews atop the TE totem pole in terms of catching passes. It would certainly increase his overall offensive snaps. Still, unless Jackson improves dramatically as a passer, Andrews is going to need to be hyper-efficient with his opportunities in 2019 to be consistently fantasy relevant.
Hardcore fantasy gamers seem to be in agreement with me. Andrews is not currently being selected in mock drafts according to Fantasy Football Calculator, while Noah Fant, who isn’t even on an NFL roster yet, is being rostered by dynasty drafters before Andrews.
- almost certainly (back)