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PPR Draft Targets - Undervalued Tight Ends

Tyler Higbee - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

For fantasy football GMs, draft season is gearing up. Preparing for what is waiting for us in our virtual war rooms is a key part of the process, and the first thing to know is the format of the league we're going to be part of. The difference between Standard and PPR (Point-Per-Reception) scoring systems is really simple, with the latter awarding one extra point to players that catch a pass. Standard scoring was a staple in the early days of fantasy football, but PPR has become the most played system lately.

It doesn't take a genius to know who this benefits the most: over-targeted receivers, pass-catching running backs, and reliable tight ends. While some players are good enough to put up numbers on their pure talent, others might fall a bit short on the ability leaderboard. Some of those, though, trump the most talented ones in fantasy leagues due to a heavier usage and racking up receptions that go for extra fantasy points.

Having the PPR scoring system in mind, it's time to discover which players are surefire bets to excel in point-per-reception leagues that are currently being undervalued in drafts by fantasy GMs. Today, I'm highlighting some tight ends who are primed to become studs in these leagues that have lower ADPs and prices than those they should be attached to.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!


Jordan Akins, Houston Texans

ADP of TE43, Projected to finish TE21

In order to write this series of articles (undervalued players in PPR leagues), I will be looking at PFF projections and ADP values from mid-July. With that in mind, I have found only 28 TEs projected to reach 100+ fantasy points in such format next season--always by PFF. The average ADP of those players comes out at a 123.7 overall mark, around the 10th/11th rounds in 12-team drafts.

No other tight end projects to a better ROI than Jordan Akins, with an ADP of TE43 and a projected finish of TE21, translated from a 118+ PPR tally over 17 games played. Let me repeat that: TE43. And an overall ADP of 265.9, which is to say that he's virtually available for free in every league out there as that would equal a 22nd+ round pick.

I get the concerns. Houston won't be led by Deshaun Watson for the time being and it's more than probable that he doesn't step onto the field at all until 2022. Even then, though, the 118 PPR projection isn't anything crazy for Akins considering he's the clear no. 1 tight end in Houston (Darren Fells went to Detroit), projects to rack up 71 targets and a 13% target share, and in the past five years, players at the position with similar usage profiles went on to average 125+ PPR on their seasons.

Akins is kind of a risky bet but that is all tied to his quarterback, and not his talent. Opportunity is key in fantasy football, and that has a lot to do with who's throwing the ball. Even then and given his availability, it'd make no sense not targeting Akins with a super-late-round pick or as your first WW addition.


Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

ADP of TE13, Projected to finish TE7

Higbee was labeled a WR back in his 2016 rookie campaign, but all he could do back then was finish with 25.5 PPR points over 16 games on just 11-of-29 receptions and 85 yards with a touchdown. It took him two more years, but when the time came in 2019, he surely paid his truthers back with a massive 160.4 PPR tally, good for a TE8 finish. The Rams' tight end posted career-high marks back then in targets, receptions, and yards, and although his scoring numbers were not gaudy (just three touchdowns), everything else pointed toward regression in 2020.

That is, in fact, what happened last year. Fantasy GMs bet on him with a TE9 ADP and 91.3 overall ADP that ended with Higbee dropping to the TE17 spot by the end of the year and 147th-best player overall in PPR leagues. Ugh. That is not necessarily a bad thing, though, as Higbee's ADP is down quite a bit this summer compared to last season, and it is more probable than not that he improves his fantasy numbers with fellow TE Gerald Everett now out of town.

The Rams have not added a quality tight end in the offseason, so Higbee is the clear-cut top TE on the team. Matthew Stafford is also the QB of the Rams entering 2021, which bodes well for Higbee's upside. There is not much between a top-12 season at the tight end position and Higbee's chances at accomplishing it. Even on a down year in 2020, Higbee's 11.8 YPR on 40 receptions to go with five touchdowns were only replicated by six other tight ends.


Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

ADP of TE23, Projected to finish TE14

Austin Hooper showed an impressive evolution in his Atlanta years. Other than in his rookie season (14 games, only 27 targets), Hooper was able to finish at least inside the top-17 players at the position in PPR leagues each of the next three years, getting 119.6, 163.0, and finally 191.7 fantasy points before moving to Cleveland. All things considered, the Browns had all of the reasons to be high on Hooper and acquire him.

The same happened with fantasy GMs around the nation, as Hooper's ADP went from 22 to 17, 24, 11, and 12 lastly, only to fall down to the TE23 spot this summer after he could only finish as the 2020 TE21. Hooper's downtick in performance last year has him as a potential league-changer entering 2021 and given his current ADP of 166th overall and projected low-end-TE1/high-end-TE2 finish.

While the Browns have a rather balanced lineup with two viable players at each position (Landry+Beckham, Hooper+Njoku, Hunt+Chubb), the truth is that an injury to any of the WR/TEs (and even the RBs if you push it a bit) will undoubtedly open at least a 6.5% target share. Hooper projects to get 13% of Cleveland's targets with Landry and Beckham the only two players above him (20%).

Even if it is Chubb who goes down, and some of his targets go Hooper's way, making that share go up to around 18%, the tight end would be one of the top-five players at the position in target share. Just imagine if it's a WR who goes down... for his cheap ADP and availability, he's one to definitely target with a 12th+ round draft pick if you punt on any of the true stud-TEs.


Honorable Mentions

Dawson Knox (TE32 -> TE23): The competition for targets will be fierce in Buffalo, obviously, but Knox has done enough to prove his worth as a late-round flier. Knox is pretty much the only viable option at the position in Buffalo and one of the clear go-to TEs with a low-enough ADP to make the cut as a sleeper while projecting to 115+ FP in 2021. As with Jordan Akins, we're looking at a potential top-24 tight end in Knox, which would be good for a borderline TE2 finish in 12-team leagues and an even better mid-to-high-end TE2 in 16-team formats.

Eric Ebron (TE25 -> TE16): A probable-TE1 getting off draft boards at TE3 price. Ebron's ADP is way below his expected production. PFF sees Ebron as a high-end TE2 with chances at a borderline TE1 finish over the year. Ebron's expected TE16 finish is by far the cheapest of all tight ends projected to 128+ PPR points in 2021. Only Austin Hooper (131) projects to more FP while getting drafted outside of the top-170 picks, though his ADP is still more expensive than Ebron's.

Gerald Everett (TE24 -> TE20): The Seahawks signed former Rams tight end Gerald Everett to a one-year deal in the offseason. Seattle has seen up and down play at tight end in recent seasons, and the Seahawks are likely hoping he can be more of a frequent contributor than he was in four seasons with the Rams. Although Everett has never been regarded as a fantasy asset in the past, that could be tied to an often-shared workload that shouldn't be there in 2021: Everett has the 18th-highest target share projection (12.5%) among TEs for next season and über-efficient QB Russell Wilson will certainly look to the tight end on key passing downs and near the goal line. Better QB, clearer (and higher down the pecking order) role, and a mid-end TE2 projection with upside for more are making Everett a more than good last-round flier to take in PPR-league drafts.

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