News & Analysis

Dynasty dart throws: Tight ends

Aug 19, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the second half at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most appealing parts of playing in dynasty leagues is rebuilding a team from the bottom up. Taking a basement-dwelling roster and transforming it into a perennial powerhouse is one of the most rewarding accomplishments you can get out of dynasty leagues. Rostering the right type of players is a near-necessity if wanting to pull this move off successfully. Your end-of-bench players, or your “dart throws,” should be players that are poised to gain value in the near future. Deciding whether or not to let them keep gaining value or flipping them for future assets is your decision, but these “dynasty darts” should present some upside in the near future.

This series has gone position-by-position looking at these “dynasty darts.” We’ve already covered quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Now we’ll jump into the tight end position to wrap up our series. I’ll start with the player that’s likely available in the fewest leagues, then move down to the deeper dart throws. Out of all the positions I’ll cover in this series, quarterback is easily the position you should be throwing the fewest darts at due to the replaceability at the position.

George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

Coming off the heels of free agency, one of the most popular landing spots for big-name wide receiver free agents (Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins) was San Francisco. Many had anticipated Kyle Shanahan finding “his guy” to provide Jimmy Garoppolo a steady, traditional WR1 that he can count on. While that didn’t come to fruition, there is still a steady weapon that emerged for Garoppolo late last season that he can continue to rely on in 2018 — Kittle. Over the past decade, Kittle is just one of nine rookie tight ends to eclipse the 500-yard mark. That’s rather remarkable considering he spent the majority of the season with Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard under center. The uber-athletic Kittle was given a chance to shine with Garoppolo down the stretch — over the 49ers last three games, Kittle strung together a collective 11-194-1 stat line finishing as the fantasy TE5 during that span. Extrapolating a sample that small is a dangerous game, but it was noteworthy to see the rapport he and Garoppolo had found. Nine of his 11 receptions went for either a first down or touchdown. While the dynasty price of Garoppolo has skyrocketed over the past six months, there’s still an opportunity to invest in Kittle. 24 years old and bursting at the seams with athleticism, Kittle is a massive dynasty “buy” tethered to an ascending quarterback/head coach combination.

Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Falling under what we call “post-hype sleeper” status, McDonald’s tumultuous start to his career has left his accomplishments rather lackluster to date. McDonald was a popular breakout candidate in 2016 when he was with the 49ers, but inconsistent quarterback play and lack of steady volume meant that never came to fruition. Pittsburgh traded for McDonald mid-season last year, and while the results weren’t immediate, he put up a 10-112-0 stat line on 16 targets in his lone playoff game. McDonald also proved in his limited time with the Steelers that he was also a clear upgrade over Jesse James. McDonald should subsequently inherit more snaps and targets in 2018. Last year, McDonald was our No. 11-graded tight end averaging 13.4 yards per reception and 1.75 yards per route run. James was No. 50 on our list, sporting 8.7 YPR and 0.85 YPRR. With expectations for the Steelers offense remaining sky-high, McDonald could be an under-the-radar way to get a piece of the explosive Pittsburgh offense that’s proven to have high touchdown potential.

Gerald Everett, TE, Los Angeles Rams

Everett’s name shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone on this list — he’s been a well talked-about sleeper candidate for good reason. He’s on an ascending offense, loaded with rising stars at nearly every offensive skill position. His team led the league in points scored last year and ranked second in red zone trips per game (4.3). A second-round draft pick last year, Everett had a quiet rookie debut, but as the year wore on, it was evident that the team wanted to utilize him more as their receiving “move” tight end over the incumbent Tyler Higbee:

Tight End Snaps Routes Run RR % In-Line TE (R/L) Slot WR Outside WR
Tyler Higbee 746 254 34.0% 83.2% 5.8% 9.0%
Gerald Everett 304 195 64.1% 55.9% 10.9% 25.0%

Everett nearly doubled Higbee on his percentage of routes run per snap. He was also often asked to run routes outside the tackle box either in the slot or at outside receiver. It’s in these free release roles where I think we still have yet to see the best from Everett. At 6-3, 240 pounds with sublime athleticism, Everett has a chance to turn into Sean McVay’s next Jordan Reed.

Benjamin Watson, TE, New Orleans Saints

This is undoubtedly the least sexy pick on this list (apologies, Ben, if you’re reading this), but after we saw Watson sign with the New Orleans Saints this offseason, he immediately became fantasy-relevant once again. The 13-year veteran’s best fantasy season came in 2015 with New Orleans when he racked up a 74-825-6 stat line. That was good enough for a fantasy TE7 finish. Watson was a heavy red-zone weapon that year, leading the Saints in red-zone targets (18) while ranking fifth among all tight ends in that category. After seeing Josh Hill lead Saints tight ends with just six red-zone targets last year, acquiring help at the tight end position was a near-necessity for a Saints team with so much promise. New Orleans could very likely spend an early pick on a tight end in this year’s draft, but given the natural steep learning curve for rookies, we can probably sneak in one more surprisingly effective season from Watson in his age-37 season. I’d happily throw a late-third-round rookie pick at him if contending.

Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Arizona Cardinals

One final guy worth taking a flier on at the end of your bench is Arizona’s Seals-Jones. He emerged onto the scene last year as a small-sample efficiency stud. When Seals-Jones was given an opportunity last year, he took advantage of it:

He also finished the season first in yards per reception (16.8), second in yards per route run (2.96), and fifth in average depth of target (11.5) among all tight ends. Unlike our other dynasty darts, RSJ doesn’t come with incredibly appealing athleticism. It’s for this reason that I’d prefer to take him as a waiver claim or a throw in on another dynasty trade, and then proceed to flip him immediately once he gains any offseason buzz. Seals-Jones is currently our collective dynasty TE26 in PFF’s dynasty rankings. If the Cardinals draft an early quarterback like Lamar Jackson, I’d be looking to sell RSJ to the dynasty owner that selects Jackson in your rookie draft as a building block to pair the two. Remember, not all dynasty assets are for the long term. Shrewd owners are constantly wheeling and dealing the players on their rosters incrementally gaining value trade after trade until they’re in a prime position to compete. Buy RSJ now for pennies and flip later for a nickel.

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