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The Deepest Dive - TE Sleepers in 16+ Team Leagues

Jonnu Smith - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Can you name every fantasy league you played in last season? Probably not. But can you think of their average structure? The most probable question is yes because most leagues are often comprised of eight to 12 teams with 15 roster spots each and use the now-standard PPR format of scoring. That is not always the case, though, and some fantasy GMs engage in way deeper leagues yearly in order to have a tougher challenge on their hands.

Fantasy leagues can be as large as the commish wants them to be, but for our purposes, we're going to define a deep league as one in which at least 16 teams take part. That means each draft round would consist of 16 picks and there would be 240 (15 rounds multiplied by 16 teams) players drafted overall. So for this exercise, I will be looking at players with ADP over 240 using a dataset comprised of drafts based on leagues with such structure. The data comes from PPR-format leagues, and whenever I mention stats, projections, and fantasy points, those would all be spoken of on the basis of that format.

Here is a look at a few tight ends that can be considered sleepers in super deep, 16+ team leagues. Keep an eye on them and track their presence on the draft board as they can become interesting pieces down the road during the development of the 2022 season!

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TE Sleepers Worth Drafting in Super Deep (+16 Teams) Leagues

Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 222) 

I know, I know. I'm cheating with that ADP, but there is just a tiny difference between Mo's ADP and the 240-threshold I set above, so you'll have to deal with this little detail and give me some room, folks. It's quite incredible that Alie-Cox just got into the NFL four years ago after going undrafted in the 2017 draft with the man about to turn 30 as soon as next calendar year. That probably limited his options (draft age is a hella important indicator of pro-football success) and performances, but he's still a more than capable player at his position in a very nice situation given Indy's offense.

MAC has had to deal with very tough competition at the TE position in his short career in Indianapolis. He's gone against a three-headed monster made out of Eric Ebron, Trey Burton, and Jack Doyle in the 2018-2021 span and he's often fallen to a TE2 role in the franchise's depth chart. That should change in 2022, if only on paper. With Ebron long gone, Burton a washed free agent, and Doyle retired for good, only second-year TE Kylen Granson poses a (meaningless, in principle) threat for MAC's upside.

Mo has definitely not been anything incredible in any of the four seasons he's been doing it as a pro. Combining his best fantasy-receiving stats in all categories, he would have posted a made-up career-best of 45/31/394/4, good for around 95 FP in PPR leagues. No bueno. But remember, that always happened while playing a secondary role. Alie-Cox's underlying numbers are intriguing at the very least. His 9.5-yard aDOT ranked fourth among 33 TEs with at least 500 snaps last season, making him a deep-field option. He was über-efficient at scoring touchdowns given his low target-tally (11.3 targets between TDs) and he was above-average in terms of getting YAC/Target, which is also a positive. Matt Ryan is a veteran and should know how to exploit MAC to his best talents. Under-the-radar starting TE for his team with upside for a high-end TE2 finish if he can stay healthy and get in sync with Matty-R from the get-go.

Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 250+) 

It will take a lot to turn you into a believer after four disappointing/uncomplete years of NFL football by Will Dissly, but here we are. Dissly, a fourth-round pick in 2018, is entering the final guaranteed season of his rookie deal with Seattle and it's probably a make-or-break campaign for the veteran tight end. Dissly has always been good on a per-game basis, but having to point out that point is precisely why his upside has never been quite high: the injuries and the missed time. Ugh.

Dissly scored 8.9 PPR points per game as a rookie and improved to a mighty 12.3 mark as a sophomore. Of course, that comes with the little caveat of playing just four and six games, respectively, while getting 14 and 27 targets in those two seasons. Of course, when he was fully healthy and playing 16 and 15 games in the past two seasons, those figures cratered to 3.8 and 3.3 FPPG, respectively. Not that good, I guess. Dissly had to fight with veteran free-agency acquisition Greg Olsen in 2020 and with another signee in Gerald Everett last year. That forced Dissly to the sidelines and to get fed only 29 and 26 balls by Russell Wilson the past two years.

While Russ won't be around anymore, Dissly has been a ridiculously efficient player throughout all of his career. He's got catch rates above 80% in the past three years catching 23, 24, and 21 passes for at least 10.5 YPR each season. He's scored at least one touchdown in all years he's played in the NFL, and his number looks much better (and paints a much-closer picture of his real talents) on a per-route basis than a per-game/per-season one. Dissly was the absolute best YAC/Target tight end last year (5.4 yards) while also having a top-six Contested Catch Rate (he hauled in half of those balls) and an extraordinary TE1 Red Zone Catch Rate on top of everything.

Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots (ADP: 258) 

Whatever HC Bill Bellichick was thinking about last season when he brought both Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry to New England didn't quite work out nicely for the Patriots. The two tight ends combined for just 13.9 PPR points per game, and that's barely a higher score than the 10.1 FPPG Rob Gronkowski scored in his last season with the Pats back in 2018 (Gronk's worst season since his rookie year). Henry, at least, got the bulk of the pass-play opportunities with 75 targets to Smith's 45 as the latter played more of a blocking-TE role.

Nothing of that might change next season as Henry and Jonnu will remain in the depth chart and sharing duties, but with the receiving corps rather slim, the Pats could benefit from deploying both TEs more often than not. I say that because Jonnu was an above-average performer--with the exception of scoring TDs though, again, he didn't get so many looks in the Red Zone--in all fronts and statistical categories and he already proved his worth in Tennessee just a couple of years ago culminating with a TE16 finish in 2020 with the Titans in which he averaged 9.3 FPPG.

Smith's numbers didn't get worse in New England compared to those he put up in Tennessee if looked at from the proper angle. He caught 62% of his targets compared to 63% in 2020 and averaged virtually the same YPR (10.5 to 10.9). For some reason, fantasy GMs went crazy drafting Jonnu as high as at an ADP of 121 overall, which never made sense considering Henry would share the field with him and most probably eat from the TE opportunity share pie. This summer, after a disappointing 2021 season more because of a lack of usage than anything else, Jonnu's ADP is hyper low (more than it should) and he should rebound a bit with upside for a great campaign if Henry can't stay on the field all season long--which happened as recently as in 2019-2020 when he missed four and two games, respectively... after skipping the 2018 season entirely.

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