By: Alexander Amir
To wrap up our Fool’s Gold series, we take a look at some tight ends who were fantasy stars last year but may not live up to the hype or their average draft position this season. Fans, analysts, and fantasy team owners alike fall prey to the impressions that these players made, and oftentimes let that past performance cloud their judgements. Granted, sometimes players made some sort of adjustment and will show lasting improvements. But far too often players are one year wonders or experience a significant drop off despite past success. Let’s take a list of 2018’s version of tight end fool’s gold.
1) Evan Engram, New York Giants
While the Giants had an abysmal 2017 season, Engram shone as one of the lone bright spots, accumulating 722 yards and 6 TDs on 64 receptions. His production primarily came on a heavy barrage of looks from Eli Manning, as his 115 targets ranked second in the league at the position behind just Travis Kelce. He’s extremely young but was still productive on a bad Giants team, and finished as fantasy’s #5 tight end despite missing 2 games with injury and with 3 games under 2 fantasy points. So what’s the issue?
The Giants underwent a major personnel change this offseason. In addition to revamping the offensive line and bringing in Saquon Barkley, one of the most highly touted running back prospects in NFL history, they signed Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur to be their new GM and Head Coach, respectively. Both of these men are strongly committed to the run game in their offensive philosophies. 2018 will also see the return of the electric Odell Beckham Jr., who is sure to garner the vast majority of offensive targets, and 3rd year slot man Sterling Shepard, who commanded almost 30% of red zone targets in 2017. Tight ends generally thrive in the endzone, but Engram is built more like a large wide receiver at 6’3” and 240 lbs. There is simply too much competition on the Giants in 2018 to expect the same kind of production from Engram as last season.
2) Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
Walker has seemingly been the model of consistency at the tight end position, as he’s finished in the top 10 of fantasy tight ends since 2018. However, his production has steadily declined since 2015, as he has posted 150, 123, and 100 points, respectively, in those three seasons since. He had only a 77% snap share in both 2016 and 2017, ranking 21st and 20th, respectively, amongst tight ends in that category, suggesting the team may be phasing him out of the offense.
The Titans are undoubtedly a run-first team. They signed Dion Lewis this offseason to close to a $20 million contract to pair with incumbent starter Derrick Henry, meaning they will use both of them quite often. Their #1 receiver, Corey Davis, struggled with injuries last season and was unable to see the field much. He’ll be healthy in 2018, and a lot of targets will be going his way. Similarly, third year wide receiver Tajae Sharpe will return from injury after a relatively promising 2016. And Rishard Matthews is still in the offense and will likely see a larger role in a Titans receiving corps that overall has lots of upside in 2018. Delanie Walker has seemed like he’s slowly becoming the odd man out over recent years, and it seems like this season he will see more competition than he ever has.
3) Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
Doyle has very quietly become a solid fantasy starter. In 2016 he surprised everyone with a TE13 finish, and last season rose to TE7 despite the star QB Andrew Luck’s injury. He played on 99.9% of the Colts’ snaps last season and garnered 25% of their targets, good for 2nd in the league amongst tight ends. The team’s wide receiver situation is almost as bad entering 2018 as it was last year, and Doyle had this great production with Jacoby Brissett at QB. With Luck’s likely return, Doyle should perform even better, right?
Nope. Doyle’s excellent finish is in fact due to Brissett’s presence, not in spite of it. In fact, in 2016, when Luck played almost every game, Doyle’s target share was a measly 13.1%, good for only 26th in the league at the position. Essentially, Luck’s excellence causes Doyle to suffer. Luck can get the ball downfield to T.Y. Hilton and newly drafted Deon Cain, and Brissett does not have the downfield ability that Luck does. On top of that, tight end Eric Ebron was brought in from the Lions. While the former first round pick is considered a bust to this point in his career, he still has some talent and will definitely compete with Doyle. All of these factors makes Doyle an unappealing candidate this season.