Fantasy Football: Late Round TE Fliers in 2019
The TE position has been almost completely dismissed this year beyond the top-3 TEs. Your TE strategy is going to be tested in two places. The first test will be during the second and early third rounds where Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle have ADPs between 2.05 and 3.06. The next is during the TE run you’ll see around the fifth and sixth rounds with TEs O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, Eric Ebron, Hunter Henry, and David Njoku flying off the board. It seems impossible that the TEs beyond that point can return any value, but we see TEs that get drafted late (or undrafted) and manage to return great value year after year.
Vance McDonald – ADP 8.10
Vance McDonald was “My Guy” to begin the season last year and I may double-down on him this year. I thought he was well on his way to elite TE status when his ‘stiff-arm heard round the world’ resulted in a 75-yard TD reception in Week 3, but he only finished the season TE12 with a 50/610/4 line on a mostly healthy season. Despite the underwhelming performance, he’s heading into the 2019 season healthier and in an even better situation than 2018.
Whenever I think of Pittsburgh’s offense for 2019, this dialogue adapted from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation runs through my head:
“Who will get Antonio Brown’s targets in Pittsburgh and why is the carpet all wet Todd?!”
“I don’t know Margot!”
I don’t know either. The math isn’t easy since Ben Roethlisberger’s 2018 career-high 675 pass attempts will likely come down and JuJu Smith-Schuster’s target market share will likely increase. There will still be plenty of targets up for grabs in the wake of AB’s messy exit even if all of AB’s 168 targets don’t carry over into this season. Making the situation yet sweeter for McDonald is the departure of Jesse James who accounted for 30/423/2 last year. My bet is McDonald sees a significant increase from the 72 targets he saw last year. IF McDonald stays healthy(it’s a big IF), this situation could easily catapult him to a top-5 TE finish.
Kyle Rudolph – ADP 13.08
There is a huge disconnect between Kyle Rudolph‘s ADP and his TE7 fantasy finish last year. His 64 receptions for 634 yards were respectable, but he only managed 4 TDs. His season could have been significantly better if his TD rate(Rec/TDs) matched career norms. On the plus side, his catch rate and yards per target were easily career highs.
There are simply too many weapons in Minnesota to get Rudolph the targets needed for a top-3 TE type season, but he’s now had four straight 16-game seasons and three straight with 80+ targets. He’s not a glory pick, but he’ll return tons of value based on his double-digit ADP.
Jordan Reed – ADP 14.05
‘Rule 86’ basically states that if Jordan Reed is healthy, then you must start him. The problem is he’s had disappointing season after disappointing season since breaking out with almost 1,000 yards and 11 TDs in 2015, but I think it’s still worth giving him another shot.
This is one of those situations where a statistical justification is nearly impossible given how bad/unlucky the Washington offense has been and how often Reed has been either out or hobbled by injuries, but there are some narratives that work in his favor. For one thing, it’s a value proposition. He’s being drafted in the 14th round of fantasy drafts. That’s pretty close to free especially for a TE that has averaged over 40 yards/game in five of his six seasons including last year. His draft position is so late that any reasonable return will be a good value for those that take a shot on him. He’s relatively healthy coming into this season and he may easily be the best receiving option Washington has heading into the season. Rule 86 still stands.
Chris Herndon – ADP 13.06
A 39/502/4 line doesn’t seem like much to get excited about, but Chris Herndon was a rookie last year. TE rookies rarely return much of anything so even modest numbers are encouraging especially considering he only tallied 5 receptions for 47 yards through the first five weeks of the season. Like the rest of the New York Jets offense, his season started to show signs of life starting in Week 6 where he rattled off TDs in three straight games and became flex-worthy. Herndon seems like David Njoku lite in an offense that has sneaky upside.
Austin Hooper – ADP 13.09
Austin Hooper has a nearly identical ADP with Rudolph but actually edged him out as the TE6 last season. Despite the respectable season, Hooper tended to be boom or bust. He had five games with 10 or more points but 9 games with less than 6 fantasy points. What is more encouraging is the increase in targets, receptions, and yards in each of his three seasons. His 2019 season may have capped upside with all of the other targets in Atlanta, but Hooper does have a foothold in the offense.