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Mining for tight end values — yes, even in February — shouldn’t end with an exploration of efficiency, but it’s a good start.
After all, if you had judged Jordan Cameron last summer based entirely on how many fantasy points he scored for every pass route he ran in 2012, you would’ve crossed him off your draft day target list, posthaste.
You would’ve also pegged Tony Scheffler as a must-have tight end in 2012 if you had taken a peak at his weirdly high 2011 fake football efficiency. Context, as it often is, reigns supreme in our off-season analysis.
Knowing who excelled with relatively little opportunity can be more than a little useful in understanding which guys might thrive if given a real shot, meaning an increase in pass routes.
Below is a look at tight ends who were used sparingly during the 2013 season while posting high fantasy points per route run (FPPRR) totals, made possible by Pro Football Focus’s route-running data.
FPPRR is especially important in our study of tight end fantasy performance. The metric doesn’t focus on per-snap production — a decidedly tricky measurement of efficiency, as some tight ends are on the field primarily as a blocker, while others are rarely tasked with run and pass blocking assignments.
- Ladarius Green, as you may have guessed, is the crowning jewel of tight end fantasy efficiency. It’s weird that when the Chargers decided to deploy Green as a pass catcher, he excelled beyond all expectations. He’s a good blocker though, as San Diego coaches were wont to point out any time anyone asked why Green hadn’t become a central part of the team’s offense. The term “criminally underused” was created for the size-speed freak who was used as a pass catcher about half as much as 17-time Pro Bowler Jeff Cumberland. Just know that as soon as Green’s pass routes get to somewhere around 20 per game, he’s locked and loaded as a sure thing. Probably the hobbling old man, Antonio Gates, will keep a firm cap on Green’s fantasy potential for one more season. This should make you sad and/or nauseous.
- Jordan Reed, unless his role is dramatically reduced in Jay Gruden’s offensive scheme, is almost as sure a thing as Green. His 28.5 routes per game through eight contests is decidedly encouraging (top-end wide receivers run around 35 routes per game). Reed didn’t get buy on volume, even though Robert Griffin III peppered him with footballs to the tune of 7.5 targets per contest, including three games of more than nine targets. Oh, and in case you missed it, Washington’s new offensive coordinator is head over heels for the big, fast tight end who effortlessly creates space against outmatched defenders. Reed’s value was seen during the eight games he missed. Washington averaged 37 fewer passing yards during that stretch.
- Ertz, that 6-foot-5, 250-pound beast, was Ladarius-like in his tantalizing efficiency as a part-time player with massive upside. Ertz played about four out of every 10 Eagles snaps in 2013, though Philly beat writers fully expect him to take over as the team’s primary pass-catching tight end in 2014. One beat writer projected Ertz, 23, to double his 2013 stat line, which would give him 72 receptions for 938 yards and eight touchdowns. Those numbers would’ve made Ertz fantasy’s fifth highest scoring tight end last season. His routes per game will have to eclipse 20 before he’s high-end weekly fantasy option.
- Charles Clay posted a fine FPPRR and saw a hefty number of targets, even if the vast majority were underneath routes. His usage in Miami’s offense made Clay a superior play in point per reception (PPR) formats. Dustin Keller is considered unlikely to re-sign with the Dolphins after a nightmarish preseason knee injury put him on injured reserve and gave Clay a full season as the team’s starter. That could put Clay in line to be Ryan Tannehill’s safety blanket yet again in 2014. Multiplying Clay’s FPPRR with his average number of pass routes run per game shows an average of 11.7 PPR points per game in 2013 — not bad for a guy once seen as an ancillary part of a mediocre offense.