TE Post-Hype Candidates

published 07/31/19 9:12:59 AM EDT
by Tom Brolley

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It’s said that an eye on the past can help guide the future. In this article, I’ll look back at players who had high ADPs last season who’ve fallen out of favor in 2019 to see if there’s still reason for hope for these players. Every year, there are dozens of players who fail to deliver on high expectations and 2018 was no different. For each of these players, there were reasons why they were held in such high regard before last season and there were reasons why they failed to live up to the hype. I’m ultimately looking to see if there’s still reason to believe in these players even after the masses have turned their attention elsewhere.

NOTE:* PPR ADP courtesy of *Fantasy Football Calculator.

Post-Hype Candidates

Jimmy Graham (2018 TE4, 2019 TE17)

  • Reasons for the hype in 2018:** **Graham was coming off a 10-TD season with the Seahawks in 2017 and the Packers handed him a fat contract in free agency. He was going from one great QB in *Russell Wilson* to an even better QB in Aaron Rodgers who lost his favorite red-zone target, Jordy Nelson, during the 2018 off-season.

  • Why he failed to live up to expectations: Graham has lacked the same explosiveness since he tore his patellar tendon during the 2015 season. He’s looked notably sluggish the last two seasons, failing to average even 40 receiving yards per game in 2017 and 2018 after averaging 55+ yards/game in six straight seasons from 2011-16. Graham was also clearly due to regress off his 10-TD campaign with the Seahawks back in 2017, but his backslide went too far in the other direction with just 2 TDs in his first season with Green Bay.

  • Should we still be excited in 2019: Graham came into last season averaging 8.6 TDs per season in his first seven seasons, and I’d expect his TD total to settle somewhere in the middle of the extremes from the last two seasons. He’s still linked to Aaron Rodgers, who should have a little extra motivation off of last year’s disastrous campaign and in his first season without Mike McCarthy. The Packers still have an unproven WR depth chart behind Davante Adams, which could help to keep Graham involved. There’s a chance Graham may have bottomed out last year with just 2 TDs playing through his injuries, and he still finished third routes run at the position (per PFF). At his ADP, I’m betting on a small bounce-back campaign.

Greg Olsen (2018 TE5, 2019 TE14)

  • Reasons for the hype in 2018: Olsen missed nine games to a Jones’ fracture in 2017 but he ended the year with some momentum by posting 8/107/1 receiving in a playoff loss to the Saints. The Panthers then extended his contract through the 2020 season to quash some concerns about his ailing foot.

  • Why he failed to live up to expectations: Lingering right foot issues have derailed Olsen’s career in the last two seasons. He’s played in just 16-of-32 games in that span because of two right foot fractures and surgeries. Expecting him to stay on the field for all 16 games this season may be a reach considering his chronic foot issues of the past two seasons. Olsen also hasn’t been a major factor when he’s been on the field the last two seasons, averaging a measly 2.8/30.1/.31 receiving per game (44/482/5 in 16 games).

  • Should we still be excited in 2019: The Panthers have talented second-year TE Ian Thomas pushing for more playing time. It’s certainly possible that Thomas could pass him at some point this season if Olsen continues to slip. QB Cam Newton is also coming off shoulder surgery, and young WRs D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel will be asked to take on bigger roles in this passing attack. Olsen’s days as an elite fantasy TE are in the past, and his younger counterpart Thomas is a better draft day investment as a free pick compared to Olsen’s price.

Trey Burton (2018 TE6, 2019 TE15)

  • Reasons for the hype in 2018: Burton was set to become a starting TE for the first time in his career for an innovative new coach (Matt Nagy) who targeted him in free agency. Nagy helped Andy Reid to scheme up plays for Travis Kelce before 2018. Burton also had monster performances in two starts with Zach Ertz out of the lineup in 2017.

  • Why he failed to live up to expectations: Burton got off to a promising start in Chicago with 4 TDs in six games, but he had an unremarkable finish to the season. He failed to top 40 receiving yards in each of his final 10 games with just 2 TDs in that span. He then compounded his frustrating end to the season by missing the Wild Card Round with a mysterious groin injury the day before the game.

  • Should we still be excited in 2019: Burton’s situation hasn’t changed too much from last year with the top of this Bears’ receiving corps remaining untouched, but he’s now going off the board nine spots later at the position. It looks like a potential buy-low opportunity for a player that left his fantasy owners a bit scorned last season. We can’t forget that last year was the first time Burton worked as a full-time starting tight end at any point in his playing career. He also had to gain experience with inconsistent second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky, who contributed to Burton’s disappointing 2018 performance. A healthy Adam Shaheen could cut into Burton’s playing time as he did in the final couple games of last season, but it could also allow HC Matt Nagy to get a little more creative with Burton. Nagy targeted Burton in free agency last season, but they used him like an inline stiff with an average depth of target of just 7.7 yards. Both Trubisky and Nagy should improve with their usage of Burton, which gives him some post-hype potential.

Kyle Rudolph (2018 TE8, 2019 TE18)

  • Reasons for the hype in 2018: Rudolph received a huge upgrade at QB in Kirk Cousins and new OC John DeFilippo was bringing a pass-happy scheme from Philadelphia, which helped his TE corps to huge numbers in 2017.

  • Why he failed to live up to expectations: Rudolph quietly finished as the TE7 last season but 21.9% of his fantasy production game in a single game in Week 16 (9/122/2 receiving), which included a 44-yard Hail Mary TD. Rudolph has finished as a top-12 TE in each of the last three seasons, but he’s been trending downward since his career-best campaign in 2016.

  • Should we still be excited in 2019: Rudolph remains a distant third fiddle in this Vikings’ passing attack behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Rudolph finished fourth in TE routes run last season (per PFF), but he finished with just a 13% target share. HC Mike Zimmer also wants to get his offense back to pounding the rock after they finished sixth in pass attempts (37.9) last season. Rudolph’s ADP has taken a major hit from last summer, which could be a bit of an overcorrection. Still, he’s averaged fewer than 40 receiving yards per game and fewer than 6.0 targets per game in seven of his eight seasons. Rudolph is a low-volume option and his fantasy production will once again hinge on his ability to find the end zone.

Jordan Reed (2018 TE10, 2019 TE20)

  • Reasons for the hype in 2018: Reed came into the season in his best health in many years. He also looked like a great fit with a conservative passer like Alex Smith, who figured to favor Reed as a safe target in the middle of the field.

  • Why he failed to live up to expectations: Reed had a fairly healthy season for his standards last season, but he still managed to disappoint because of his deteriorating athleticism and because of a restrictive QB like Smith. Reed still managed to miss the final three games of the season when yet another toe/foot injury popped up. He’ll probably be dogged by foot and ankle issues for the rest of his career, and durability concerns need to be baked into his projection going forward.

  • Should we still be excited in 2019: It’s too early to tell if the combination of Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum will be an improvement for Reed, but it can’t get much worse than the Redskins’ bottom-five finish in passing yards per game (188.8) last season. At least the Redskins’ WR corps continues to be one of the worst in the league, which will help keep Reed involved. The problem is that Reed is no longer worth the injury risk because he no longer provides upside performances like he did in his first four seasons (2013-16). He has just two 15+ FP performances in his last 19 games. At least Reed is dirt cheap now, but I’m not expecting him to turn back time especially in this unsettled passing attack.

Jack Doyle (2018 TE12, 2019 TE19)

  • Reasons for the hype in 2018: QB Andrew Luck loves throwing to TEs and he was set to return to the lineup after missing the entire 2017 season. Even without Luck, Doyle managed career-best numbers in 2017 with 80/690/4 receiving. New HC Frank Reich was also coming from a TE-friendly offense in Philadelphia.

  • Why he failed to live up to expectations: A hip injury derailed Doyle’s season starting in Week 2 and he eventually ended the season on the IR after appearing in just six games. He needed surgery in February to correct his hip issues but he also needed a kidney procedure this off-season, which caused him to lose 25 pounds.

  • Should we still be excited in 2019: The Colts clearly viewed Doyle as the #1 TE in their six games together last season. Doyle saw a one-third more targets than Ebron (33 to 22) and he more than doubled up Ebron in snaps (332 to 165) in those contests. Ebron did establish himself as a critical weapon for Andrew Luck in some must-win spots down the stretch after Doyle went on the IR after Week 11. The Colts also added Devin Funchess and second-round pick Parris Campbell to bolster this once weak WR corps. Ebron is currently being overdrafted this summer, but I’m not about to say Doyle has become a major value coming off hip surgery in a more crowded passing attack.

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Tom Brolley
Tom Brolley

@TomBrolley

Tom Brolley is the better half of The Fantasy Free Agents Podcast with his partner Joe Dolan. Brolley owned a 53.8% winning percentage picking every game against the spread for his old site over the last two seasons.