Fantasy Football: Larry Donnell And The Least Efficient Tight Ends of 2014

Larry Donnell

There’s certainly a reason to make careful note of which tight ends are doing a lot with a little — the Travis Kelce contingent, as it were — but there’s also good reason to document the tight ends doing precious little with ample opportunity.

Not every tight end listed below saw a ton of weekly opportunity. Still, many of their efficiency measurements should be alarming — a sort of yellow light — for fantasy footballers who might target these guys in dynasty leagues this offseason, and re-draft leagues next summer.

We XN Sports fantasy writers have long used fantasy points per route run (FPPRR) as a measure of efficiency, as point-per-target measurements have proven fluky and unreliable, while point per snap analysis gives us no clarity on tight ends (and running backs) who are asked to block more often than their peers.

A quick note about a formerly inefficient tight end: Coby Fleener, who finished 2014 as fantasy’s seventh highest scoring tight end, notched a healthy .37 FPPRR just one season after being one of fantasy’s least efficient players. Fleener’s 2013 FPPRR was an abysmal .28, right around the per-route efficiency of Brandon Myers.

Is Fleener’s efficiency epiphany the real deal? His catch rate actually dropped form 2013 to 2014, from 62 percent of 59 percent on almost an identical number of targets from Andrew Luck. Fleener’s average depth per aimed throw (aDOT), as measured by Pro Football Focus, jumped from 9 to 12 — a significant leap — and his touchdowns doubled, from four in 2013 to eight in 2014. Probably the aDOT increase is sustainable, while the touchdown production is less so.

We should note, however, that Fleener’s 2014 touchdown rate of 11.7 percent isn’t exactly unrepeatable. That’s far from Julius Thomas’ terrifying 20.1 percent touchdown rate.

Without further delay, here are 2014’s most inefficient tight ends on a per-route basis, with analysis below.

Player Pass routes per game Targets FPPRR
Charles Clay 27.6 81 .35
Delanie Walker 32.3 100 .35
Jared Cook 25.3 91 .33
Larry Donnell 34.2 87 .32
Owen Daniels 27.3 72 .30
Heath Miller 32.2 89 .30
Kyle Rudolph 34 31 .28
Austin Seferian-Jenkins 26.4 34 .23
Vernon Davis 32.1 47 .16


  • Let’s get this out of the way: Davis, fantasy’s No. 4 tight end in 2013, posted a FPPRR so low that I bark-laughed when I read it. He averaged .53 fantasy points per route that season, a remarkably high number that far exceeds his career FPPRR. Maybe it was the locker room dissension, maybe it was Davis simply not caring, maybe it was Colin Kaepernick’s erratic play. Whatever it was, that .16 FPPRR is downright disturbing. It is worth noting, however, that Davis’ targets dropped from 5.5 in 2013 to 3.6 in 2014. He saw saw 5.9 targets per contest in 2011.


  • Larry Donnell wasn’t terribly inefficient, and it’s encouraging to see that he ran 34.2 routes per game in an offense coached by tight end savant Ben McAdoo. Donnell served as the Giants’ lone red zone weapon until the emergence of Odell Beckham, Jr., showing us that McAdoo knows how to use his giant pass-catching tight end. Donnell, in fact, saw more red zone targets than any other tight end besides Martellus Bennett. Giants coaches believe their tight end will “make the leap” in 2015, whatever that means. I’m bullish on Big Blue’s aerial attack in 2015, so I’d likely be willing to invest a late-round pick in a potentially cheap and valuable part of that passing game. A red zone weapon with that sort of FPPRR give me serious pause though.


  • Jared Cook is who he is: a tight end who isn’t asked to block all that often, runs a lot of pass routes, catches a lot of short passes from terrible quarterbacks, and posts low FPPRRs. His per-route efficiency numbers since 2011 go like this: .29, .33, .37, .33. His 2014 catch rate of 57 percent is horribly low too. I suppose it’s nice to see Cook targeted 91 times — the seventh most among tight ends — but that he couldn’t finish as a top-10 option is disheartening for Cook apologists everywhere.


  • I would’ve liked to see what Walker could’ve done in 16 games with Zach Mettenberger at the helm. The strong-armed rookie had a nice connection with the veteran tight end, even if much of that was in garbage time. Seeing 100 targets and running more than 32 routes per game while posting a low FPPRR is certainly a red flag for fantasy owners. Walker is a streamer until further notice.


  • Rookie tight ends struggle, often mightily. Probably you read that once or twice or 77 times last summer. Seferian-Jenkins, or ASJ, as the kids call him, was no exception. Used as an ancillary part of a really bad, inefficient passing game headed by the elderly Josh McCown, ASJ didn’t do a whole lot on a per-route basis. New Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, as noted by Rotoworld’s Evan Silva, could be a big-time second-year boon for ASJ. Koetter, who made a fantasy force out of the Falcons’ offense, served as coordinator for Jacksonville during Marcedes Lewis’ breakout 2010 campaign (58 receptions, 700 yards, 10 touchdowns). Tony Gonzalez also had more than a little success in Koetter’s system. With 5-7 more pass routes per game, an upgrade at quarterback, Vincent Jackson’s (potential) departure, and red zone involvement for the hulking tight end, ASJ could be a late-round gem for fantasy footballers looking for a streamer who becomes an every-week play in 2015.
author avatar
C.D. Carter Fantasy Football Analyst
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.

Comments are closed.