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Finding Tight End Breakouts for Fantasy Football – 3 Burning Questions for Week 13

Last week's article of six burning questions received a lot of traction and seemed to be something a lot of readers enjoyed, so we're back for round two this week. Heading into Week 13, we'll be looking into three questions fantasy managers might be asking themselves.

We all know that fantasy football production tends to come and go as the season goes on. There are hot streaks and cold spells. It's the way of the world. Fantasy football is no different. The important thing is are you, as a fantasy manager, able to determine why these hot streaks and cold spells are happening? Identifying these changes and trends before they become common knowledge puts you ahead of your league mates.

As we are inching closer and closer to the fantasy football playoffs, it's important teams get every win they can, whether that's to lock up a playoff spot or to improve your seeding, every game matters. I am hopeful this tight end information can help lead you to victory. As always, if you're looking for any fantasy football input or have a burning question you have for tight ends that you want to be featured next week, don't be afraid to hit me up on Twitter, @RobFFSlayer.

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What is Going on with Evan Engram?

Over Evan Engram’s last three games, he has just seven targets, five receptions, and 26 scoreless yards. Over three games. Now, granted he left with an injury in one of those, but that doesn’t really change how ugly those statistics look, do they?

During that span, he’s recorded just 5.1 half-PPR points. Before these three-game disappearing acts, Engram had four games straight with 6-10 targets. In every one of those four games, he finished with between 4-6 receptions, 40-69 yards, and even came down with one touchdown. He averaged 9.65 half-PPR PPG during that streak compared to his last three-game spell, averaging just 1.7 half-PPR PPG. So, what gives?

Time Span Target Share Targets Per Game Receptions Per Game Yards Per Game Air Yards Per Game aDot Slot Route Run Rate Routes Run Per Game
Yards Per Route Run
Weeks 5–8 21.70% 7.5 4.8 57.8 67.5 9 41.40% 30 1.93
Weeks 9–12 6.60% 2.3 1.7 8.7 12.3 5.3 38.80% 29.3 0.3
Weeks 1–12 14.70% 5 3.4 32.4 35.7 7.1 41.10% 28.5 1.14

While it’s easy to look at the table above and see that his production has fallen off a cliff, his utilization really hasn’t changed. Despite having 3.1 fewer targets and 49.1 fewer yards per game between his best streak (Weeks 5-8) and his worst streak (Weeks 9-12), his routes run per game were almost identical (30 vs 29.3) and the amount of time he spent in the slot was very similar (41.4% vs 38.8%). These two indicators should give fantasy managers optimism that his three-game cold spell is just that: a cold spell.

If there’s one number that does stand out as a bit of a red flag, it’s Engram’s average depth of target. While his air yards per game are undoubtedly influenced by how many targets he has, the average depth of target indicator has no such outside influence. That number has almost been sliced in half compared to his best four-game streak and even compared to his season average, it still represents a 29.6% decrease.

Fantasy managers already knew Engram wasn’t going to rack up high yardage totals and that he drew most of his fantasy value from the number of receptions in PPR-scoring leagues. However, if his average depth of target remains as low as it is now, even an uptick in targets isn’t going to move the needle that much. Engram shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than a backend TE2.

David Njoku’s Return?

David Njoku played the first seven weeks of the season and during that time he was the TE7 in terms of half-PPR PPG. He averaged 8.9 PPG during that span and that was despite playing just 61.3% of the team’s snaps in the seventh game when he suffered the high-ankle sprain. Prior to that, Njoku was on pace for a career season.

As you can see below, he was on pace for 102 targets, 83 receptions, and 1,015 receiving yards. As far as late-round tight ends, Njoku was the one you wanted to draft. Unfortunately, that Week 7 high-ankle sprain put a damper on the true breakout campaign. He returned to action in Week 11, but was clearly on a snap count, playing just 37.7% of the team’s snaps. However, the training wheels got taken off for Week 12, so let’s look at how this one-game utilization looks compared to the beginning of the season when he was performing at a career rate.

Time Span Target Share Targets Per Game Receptions Per Game Yards Per Game Air Yards Per Game aDot Slot Route Run Rate Routes Run Per Game
Yards Per Route Run
Weeks 1–7 18.80% 6 4.9 59.7 38.7 6.5 34.80% 27.1 2.2
Week 12 17.10% 6 4 24 54.5 9 36.80% 32 0.75

His snap share was 81% in Week 12, which was still solidly lower than where he spent the first seven weeks of the season. In fact, from Weeks 1-6, looking at the only games he started and finished, Njoku’s snap count was at 87.6%, so there’s still some room for these numbers to increase.

What we see, however, is what we’d hope to see – the exact same utilization. The target share, targets per game, slot rate, and routes per game were all pretty much identical. With his playing time trending in the right direction and his Week 12 utilization so similar to the start of the season, fantasy managers can now feel confident putting Njoku back into their starting lineup. He should be valued as a mid-TE1 for the rest of the season.

Is Travis Kelce Having the Best Tight End Fantasy Season of All-Time?

Simply put, yes, Travis Kelce is having the best fantasy season of all time for any tight end. Some of the very best tight end seasons include Travis Kelce’s 2020 campaign, Rob Gronkowski’s 2011 season, Jimmy Graham’s 2013 season, and Mark Andrews’ 2021 season. Let’s break these contestants down. The following numbers are based on full PPR.

Player Total Points Scored Points Advantage on TE2 Points Advantage on TE3 Points Advantage on TE5 Points Advantage on TE10
Points Advantage on TE12
Travis Kelce, 2022 (on pace) 368.9 122.4 154.7 171.7 214.2 217.5
Travis Kelce, 2020 312.8 34.2 136.2 137.5 163.7 167.5
Rob Gronkowski, 2011 330.9 36.9 116.4 151.2 156.4 174.1
Jimmy Graham, 2013 303.5 84.6 87.7 90.5 134.6 157.4

To put this into perspective, last season when Cooper Kupp had the best receiver season of all time, he out-paced the WR2 by 95.2 points and the WR10 by 180.4. Kelce is beating those two respective positions by 122.4 and 214.2. Kelce is in the midst of the best tight end season fantasy football has ever seen, but there’s an argument to be made that he’s having the best fantasy football season ever too.

Yes, I agree, LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2006 season will always reign supreme, but after him, Kelce’s 2022 campaign is definitely in the running. The positional advantage Kelce has given to his fantasy managers this season has been almost completely unheard of.

During Lamar Jackson’s 2019 MVP season, he had the QB2 by 72.9 points and QB10 by 139.3. Kelce is just demolishing those numbers and we’ve already compared his positional advantage to Kupp’s 2021 season. With all due respect to Josh Jacobs and Jalen Hurts, this year’s 2022 fantasy football MVP award has got to go to Travis Kelce.


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