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Dynasty Tight Ends - Buy-Low Candidates for 2019


With the offseason in full swing, dynasty owners should be looking for any small way of upgrading their roster ahead of the NFL Draft, and one of those methods is to embrace the trade market and go after some guys who are lower in the rankings who could be available at a discount.

Of all the positions, tight end might be the most barren. That means that fantasy owners need to take some risks and grab some guys whose outlooks may be a little cloudy if they want to win in 2019. Let's talk about some players at the position and why you should be targeting them for next year.

Below, you'll find my thoughts on four buy-low tight end candidates for the 2019 season.

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Jack Doyle, IND - TE12

Everyone's going wild over Eric Ebron, who is coming off his best NFL season, and that has people really, really forgetting about Jack Doyle. (So much so that someone DROPPED him in one of my dynasty leagues!) But Doyle held his own when he was on the field this past season, and he's shown more consistency than Ebron has.

Doyle played just six games in 2018, but he had 26 receptions for 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns over those six games. Doyle finished 10th among tight ends in red zone receptions despite missing 10 games, and he had a 78.8 percent catch rate. Doyle put up 1.83 fantasy points per target; for comparison, that's lower than Ebron and Travis Kelce, but it puts him really close to George Kittle (1.9) and puts him ahead of Zach Ertz (1.8).

The Colts like to get their tight ends involved, and while they only ran a two tight end, two wide receiver lineup on 13 percent of pass plays last year, I'd expect with a healthy Doyle they'll look to get both guys on the field more often. In 2017, Doyle (without Andrew Luck at quarterback) had the fifth-highest catch rate of any tight end and provided a good option underneath for Jacoby Brissett. With Ebron finishing 2018 third among tight ends in air yards, it's not hard to picture a situation next season where Doyle operates in the short passing game and piles up the PPR points while Ebron gives Andrew Luck a downfield option. Ebron can line up in the slot and give the Colts some mismatches in coverage, and Luck's going to target both guys a good amount.

 

Mike Gesicki, MIA - TE17

I was pretty high on Gesicki heading into his rookie season, but he caught just 22 passes for 202 yards as the Dolphins just never really got their tight end involved. Gesicki topped out at an 83.7 percent snap count against New England in Week 4, and then played over half the team's offensive snaps just once the rest of the way. The Dolphins preferred to play Nick O'Leary in the second half of the season due to his blocking ability as well as employ more sets with three receivers; in fact, Miami used two tight ends on just 13 percent of their passing plays last season. That didn't leave a lot of time and opportunities for Gesicki.

The Dolphins will still have O'Leary under contract, but I think it's going to be Gesicki's time to shine in 2019. The Dolphins have a lot of question marks all along their offense heading into next season, from quarterback to wide receiver, but tight end is a spot where things are already solidified. Gesicki just needs to continue to show improvement as blocker and he'll earn himself more snaps. He's already got the offensive skill set to be a productive tight end at this level; he just has to make sure he's giving the team help in all phases of the game in order to ensure he's on the field, especially in the red zone where he can be a dangerous receiver.

There's one underrated element that makes me think the Dolphins are planning to make use of Gesicki: coaching -- specifically the addition of tight end coach George Godsey. Godsey has spent time as both a tight end coach and quarterback coach at the NFL level, and his experience as tight end coach with the Patriots can give this team a veteran coach to lean on the offensive side. Godsey also got good production out of Texans tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin while serving as the team's offensive coordinator. Miami also brought in former Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who has had his tight end finish in the top-15 in fantasy in six of his nine years as a head coach or offensive coordinator; while he technically holds neither of those roles in Miami, he is the team's assistant head coach.

 

Jordan Reed, WAS - TE20

Buying low on Jordan Reed only works if you play in a league where the Reed owner pays attention to the results on the field and isn't still insanely high on Reed because of vague concepts like "promise" and "eliteness" and all of those things. If your league's Reed owner is frustrated by Reed's play, you can be the one to buy low on him and hope that those vague concepts of "promise" and "eliteness" are still lingering somewhere inside of Reed!

To be fair, Reed scares me. A lot. Reed played in 13 games last year but was still limited by injuries and had a snap share of over 70 percent just twice. He had just three catches in the red zone and was targeted seven times in that part of the field. Reed has also never had a 1000 yard season, and he's never played 16 games.

So, why buy him?

Partially, it's because the tight end position is so shallow that having a player who's shown in the past that he's capable of big production is valuable just on the off-chance that he still can be capable of delivering those results. The chance that Reed returns to his old form is greater than the chance that a tight end who has never shown the ability to be the kind of weapon Reed was can suddenly play at that level.

But that's all really, really vague! I've got a few numbers-based reasons why I like Reed as well. Reed had a 20.1 percent target share last year, good for fourth among tight ends. His 54 receptions placed him 10th among the position, and he also was 10th among tight ends in yards after the catch. Opportunity is a key in fantasy football, and Reed gets opportunities...when he's on the field.

Washington's quarterback situation is unsettled heading into next season, which is going to act as a way of suppressing prices for all the players on this offense. Reed is a walking injury magnet, but he still has the per play numbers of a guy who can finish as a top-10 fantasy tight end. If you can get him on the cheap, you've given yourself a fun lottery ticket at a position where you need a little luck to find fantasy success.

 

Ian Thomas, CAR - TE21

With reports surfacing that Greg Olsen may be heading to the world of broadcasting as soon as the 2019 season and with his contract presenting an easy out after the 2019 season if he does stick around, it seems like Ian Thomas's time is coming, and this may be the last chance to grab Thomas on the cheap.

What we know about the Carolina Panthers is this: they target their tight end. Sure, that's been Greg Olsen for so long now that you'd be forgiven for thinking that they only do so because they have Olsen, but we've seen signs the last two years that they're willing and able to get the ball to their other options. In 2017, Olsen missed nine games, but Ed Dickson filled in admirably, catching 30 of his 48 targets for 437 yards and a score, and last year Thomas caught 36 of his 49 targets for 333 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Olsen missed seven games.

Thomas has strong hands, a good vertical, and is an above-average blocker. He has all the skills necessary to stick around Carolina for a long time as Olsen's replacement. I expect Thomas to be somewhere around the TE15 mark in next year's dynasty rankings, so grab him while his value is at its lowest.

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