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Late-Round Tight Ends Who Will Outperform Their ADP

Show me a tight end, and I'll show you a dice. And most probably, one with way more than six faces. Fantasy football is not new. We are not new to fantasy football neither. Everybody goes by the strategy of drafting RB/WR, RB/WR, RB/WR (ad infinitum), QB, TE, rest of the bunch. There are owners who prefer to pick a QB early. There are others who bank on multiple elite WR and get a group of average RB in the middle rounds. And then, between all different gamblers, are the vibrant minds of those who choose to pick a tight end between the second and third rounds (or even in the first one, the crazy people!)

While top tier tight ends tend to be sure things, the rest of them can be considered high-risk fliers. Nobody truly knows who is going to overperform. Each and every year different running backs or wide receivers go and put on a show in an unexpected way, sure, but there are too many players from which we can expect a certain level of performance within preset boundaries. But with tight ends, randomness is overboard.

Even with that, I'm here to defy the odds. I'm here to give you three tight ends' names that will undoubtedly, surely, and definitely give you a ROI better than anyone at the position. Bear with me.

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Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

ADP 12.5 - TE17

When I was preparing to write this article I found something that caught my eye. Olsen is an NFL veteran, and lately a fragile one. In both 2017 and 2018, he only played in seven and nine games respectively. I have always valued him quite high (injuries or not), and he ranked 9th in DVOA when on the field last season. What is more impressive is that he was the 14th-best TE by DYAR, which instead of a rate stat is a counting one. Even missing seven games he was able to perform to a level most TE can only dream of!

So where am I going with this? Well, if Greg Olsen can overcome the injuries that have followed him for two years now and stay healthy for a full season, he should be right at the top of your league leaderboards. More often than not, ADP doesn't lie. If he's being drafted as late as the 13th round, it is for something. Injuries are there. There is also Cam Newton and his wobbly shoulder. This would be a high-risk move indeed.

Olsen finished the year with only a 12.6% usage, but Newton has always used him a safe option. He scored four touchdowns in a down season, surpassed by only eight other tight ends, who were targeted at least 10 more times than Olsen. He could double up his numbers next year. He could easily end the season with 80 targets for around 55 receptions and more than 700 yards to go with seven touchdowns. For a tight end picked in the 13th round and ranked 12th-best at the position (around 110 expected PPR points) that's a steal (if he doubles his 2018 mark he'd end at around 160 PPR points).


Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

ADP 13.8 - TE20

Not only is Andrews a tight end from a team that will feature a scrambling demon at the quarterback position,  a nice new running back in Mark Ingram, and that as a unit was the most run-heavy team during the second half of the last season. He's also a second-year tight end that could go either path in his development after a great rookie season.

There are a few reasons to believe in him beating his ADP expectations. Evan Engram posted 722 yards in his rookie season, 577 in his second. George Kittle 515 and then 1377 in 2018. Hunter Henry logged 478 and then 579. Normally, although second-year TE production is a little bit of a crapshoot, the ones who produce over the bar as rookies tend to sustain the production and mostly improve it during their second season and going forward.

Andrews finished his rookie campaign beating Hayden Hurst (Baltimore's first-round selection) by a mile with 552 yards on 50 targets and 34 receptions for three touchdowns. That amounted to a staggering 11.04 Yds/Tgt, only behind OJ Howard (TEs with min. 20 receptions). All in all, he finished the season as the TE17 in PPR points. If he can improve even a little on his rookie production he will become a way-under-the-radar value pick given how little attention he's receiving.


T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

ADP 14.11 - TE22

There is a chance you find Hockenson available for free at the end of your league's draft. He's currently at the verge of dropping to a consensus Round-15 ADP spot. The risk is obvious, and the ADP shows. Even as a rookie tight end, and if the projections hold, he's expected to rack up to 45 receptions for 500 yards to go with four touchdowns. For a TE22, that is not a bad return at all, much less considering how cheaply you can acquire him.

By drafting Hockenson early not only did Detroit show their plans, but they also vastly improved at the position. Hockenson has speed and proper hands, and even with the addition of Jesse James from Pittsburgh, he should take over as the starting tight end sooner rather than later. The fact that Detroit was the team to target tight ends with the least frequency of all of the league doesn't mean this will repeat itself this season, but it surely will keep your rival owners skeptical of picking Hockenson. Don't be fooled by this.

Hockenson comes boasting a 75% catch rate at Iowa. He barely misses the ball when thrown his way, and has the ability to gain more than a few yards after the catch. Even if he's paired with James on 12 personnel, the most probable outcome is that he's used as the target with James as a pure blocker. Hockenson is also a sure-thing in short-pass attempts, which can boost his value in PPR leagues.

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