We have come to my last article in this series. The tight end position is deep but also shallow at the same time. You have a few elite options, a couple of solid producers, and then a slew of guys that will finish fairly close to each other. That makes this article a little tougher because the difference in points per game can be very minimal but move a tight end down a few spots in the rankings.
If you missed my last tight end article, I talked about the points difference between 8-9 guys being so small last year. It won’t be the same this year. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of tight end options out there that can give you good weeks. The goal though is to find ones that will do it on a consistent basis. With that said, let’s take a look at a few guys whose ADP on Underdog is a little too high for me this year.
It’s 2021 so it’s another year we are expecting great things from Smith. I was once on board this train but I think this is the year I hop off. Smith finished last year as TE22 and is currently being taken as the TE13. Why the big jump? Rudolph left. That has to be it. It’s a good thing for Smith because he’s the starting tight end now. Rudolph, the starting tight end in 2020, only had 37 targets last year. I think these vacated targets benefit the backup tight end, Tyler Conklin, a little bit more.
Minnesota is one of the run heaviest teams in the league. They ran the ball almost 48% of the time. That translates to less passing, again for those who don’t like to do the math. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are going to take 50% of the teams’ targets. That’s not an exaggeration either. Dalvin Cook received over 13% of the teams’ targets last year, 3rd highest on the team.
For a team that may only throw the ball 30 times a game, that leaves very few opportunities for Smith. Among the teams’ tight ends last year, the ball was spread out fairly evenly. As mentioned earlier, Rudolph had 37, Smith had 43, and Conklin had 26 for a total of 106 targets. If you give Smith close to a 60% share, 63 targets, it’s hard to meet his ADP. Looking at the top 13 tight ends last year, 1 player had 59 targets and the next lowest, 76.
Don’t get too upset too fast. Kittle is the TE3 in drafts and it’s just a little too high for me. I have him finishing as the TE5. There’s a couple of factors that have me a little lower on him than most. I mentioned the Vikings run a lot, so do the 49ers. Last year they ran only 43% of the time compared to 51% in 2019. I think they will be in a happy median this year. Last year was tough for the 49ers as they had injuries, Kittle included, all over the place. This year we can only hope they are healthier. So, with even less passing projected in 2021, it limits Kittle’s ceiling.
Kittle isn’t a guy that will bring in 10 touchdowns. In fact, he only has 14 in his 4-year career. So his production comes from volume. In 2019, he had a 22% target share and it increased, while healthy, to 24% in 2020. This is a trend that I see diminishing in 2021. Again, injuries kept Deebo Samuel out of the lineup for 9 games. He’s guaranteed targets since he’s the check-down guy. Brandon Aiyuk had a nice rookie campaign in the 12 games he was able to suit up for. Provided these 3 guys are all healthy, they will see an equal amount of targets. Thus, bringing down Kittle’s.
Even though the situation is very similar to Minnesota’s, Kittle and Smith Jr, are not in the same tier. Kittle averages 13 yards per catch for his career. He catches over 76% of his targets over the last 2 seasons. He is a game-changer when on the field. I can be wrong on this if someone in the receiving group misses time but as of now, there’s a better value out there.
Tonyan had an incredible 2020 season. There is no disputing that. He finished as the TE4 in PPR formats. If you picked him up early enough, you were able to enjoy some big weeks. His success was driven by scoring 11 touchdowns. He clearly became one of Rodgers favorite targets in the red zone.
I’m all about what is most likely to happen. Tonyan scored a touchdown for every 5 targets. He only had 59 targets. As mentioned earlier, he was the only one in the top 13 to have under 76 targets. To go a step further, of course, if he scores a ton again this year, he could finish at or above his ADP but let’s be realistic.
It’s also worth mentioning that Tonyan caught 88% of his passes. Another number that is sure to go down. Only 1 tight end besides Tonyan had over an 80% catch rate and that was Mo Alie-Cox. He was targeted on only 11% of the teams’ passes. Everything just seemed to go right for Tonyan in 2020. There would have to be a significant increase in his usage. The Packers just don’t throw as much as you’d think. I’m staying away in 2021.
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