Crystal Ball Week 4 2017

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano Desolate.

A barren wasteland.

Void of life or hope.

At first glance you may think that I was referring to the Sahara, but in reality I’m glancing through the tight end position through the first three weeks of the Fantasy football season.

In most magazines, articles and websites, owners were cautioned to not spend a high draft pick acquiring a tight end, since even the top-tier at the position was littered with question marks and injury risks. Sure, we all know the owner who is willing to gamble on Rob Gronkowski making it through a full season, but did you really want to be that guy?

Take Greg Olsen, they said. He always plays a full season and is as reliable as they come. Healthy as a horse. Whoops.

Take Travis Kelce, they said. He will put up consistent numbers and is one of Alex Smith’s “go-to” targets in the Kansas City Chiefs passing attack. Whoops.

Take Hunter Henry, they said. Antonio Gates will only be used as a red zone option and is a dinosaur. Henry is primed to take over that role. Whoops.

Take Tyler Eifert, they said. His prior injuries have been mainly due to bad luck, and he still has a world of talent. Whoops.

I even saw some websites (which shall remain nameless) suggest that O.J. Howard would break the streak of unproductive rookies, and post numbers similar to Tony Gonzalez in the aerial attack of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense. Not so much.

So, who can owners trust, are there any viable waiver wire options worth a pickup this week, and what is the status of the tight end position moving forward?

Simply put, no. I can’t inherently “trust” any tight end, because gameflow and defensive dominance have made it increasingly difficult to suggest that any given player has a comfortable floor in any given week to rely upon. The few players that possess enough talent to truly be “game changers” at the position are major injury risks, in Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed. In the second tier, outside of Zach Ertz and Delanie Walker, it is nigh impossible to project consistent targets.

Owners flocked to the waiver wire after week one to pick up Austin Hooper, figuring that he would be the missing cog that the Atlanta Falcons have been looking to fill at the position since the departure of Alge Crumpler. In the two games since, Hooper has caught three passes for 16 yards. Other players who were mentioned as upside pickups failed to produce last weekend, including Zach Miller (one reception for 17 yards) and Coby Fleener (one reception for 21 yards).

I’m not willing to put my hopes on Benjamin Watson, Jared Cook or Martellus Bennett becoming anything more than an occasional producer in their respective offenses – especially Bennett, since the Green Bay Packers have such a deep wide receiver core.

If another owner in your league wants to go chasing the next “big thing” at tight end, let them. As I like to put it, the position is “consistently inconsistent”. I’d prefer to save my FAAB or high waiver wire claim for a backup running back or wideout who may inherit a bigger workload, over a flier at tight end.

If you are new to this column and would like to have your questions answered in the future, please make sure to give me a follow on Twitter (@Roto_Wizard) and submit all inquiries on Tuesday afternoons. In addition to providing answers here, I also host a weekly “Q&A” video chat over on the Football Diehards Facebook page, which you can find here:

Q: Is it just me, or does this week seem really thin for relevant waiver-wire pickups?
A: It isn’t just you at all, and this entire season has been short of players worth placing bids on. Wendell Smallwood is perhaps the lone exception this week, after the news about Darren Sproles suffering a torn ACL and broken arm Week 3 against the New York Giants. A second year speedster out of West Virginia, Smallwood led the Philadelphia Eagles backfield in snaps last week, a full 21 more than LeGarrette Blount. He possesses above-average hands, and his 5-10 208 lbs. frame give him enough size to run between the tackles if need be. At minimum, he is a FLEX option moving forward in PPR formats, with the upside to become the feature back on the Eagles. I’m fine placing a moderate bid on him (maybe 10-15 percent of FAAB or so), but he isn’t a game-changer.

Q: Is Tyler Eifert droppable? I’m sick of this guy. Jack Doyle and Benjamin Watson are out there on the waiver wire.
A: Eifert fits within that middling group of tight ends that may have a big week or two for the remainder of the season, but predicting when they will occur is impossible. One thing is for certain – owners won’t see him on the field anytime soon, as a back injury will reportedly cost him “multiple weeks”. His absence means that A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell will see a spike in targets, while John Ross continues to recover from a knee injury. If you participate in a league that doesn’t have an IR slot, or are in a shallower format where other options are available, I wouldn’t fault you for dropping him. In 14-team leagues or larger, I’d still hold onto him in the hopes that he recovers and becomes useful down the stretch.

Q: How much longer will Ben McAdoo be the Giants head coach?
A: One can at least hope he relinquishes play calling duties, at a minimum. His reluctance to bench Erick Flowers in favor of others, or at least provide him additional protection with another fullback or tight end chipping the defensive ends, is puzzling.

Q: Cam Newton is awful. I have Andrew Luck on my bench, should I drop Newton to pick up Carson Palmer or Eli Manning?
A: The most recent news on Luck is that he wouldn’t participate in team practices at all this week, and remains at least 2-3 weeks away from getting on the field. Why the Indianapolis Colts refused to put him on the PUP to start the season is still a mystery to many, but it is what it is. Of the quarterbacks that you mentioned, Palmer is at the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following. Manning faces the Los Angeles Chargers this weekend, and the Denver Broncos after that. The schedule favors Palmer of the two. Both quarterbacks face similar issues in playing behind weak offensive lines and having a non-existent running game, so it is a coinflip. Palmer if you had to choose.

Q: Moving forward for the rest of the season, would you rather have Joe Mixon or Tarik Cohen in a .5 PPR format?
A: As with Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffery and Kareem Hunt, the hype entering the season for Joe Mixon was borderline out of control. Sadly, unlike the other backs that were mentioned, Mixon has struggled out of the gate, due to both competition at the position with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, and his offensive line doing a poor job of creating running room. His total touches have increased each week, and it seems that the coaching staff is finally ready to phase Hill out completely in the future. In the cask of Cohen, he will have less touches each week than Mixon, but he only needs a few to break a big play and score a touchdown. I’ve compared Cohen to the second-coming of Tyreek Hill, as they fill similar roles. Mixon will have the higher weekly floor of the two due to volume, but Cohen may have a higher ceiling. I’m a sucker for consistency, so I’ll stick with Mixon. Couldn’t fault people more risk-adverse to taking Cohen though.

Q: Cameron Brate or Charles Clay for the rest of 2017?
A: Prefer Clay since the Bills have fewer receiving threats than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but as I mentioned in my introduction, predicting tight end production on a weekly basis is nigh impossible.

Q: Is Lamar Miller’s job in jeopardy at this point? He isn’t playing particularly well and D’Onta Foreman has been good when given a chance.
A: Bill O’Brien did say that Foreman would be more involved after his one touch the first week of the season, and he has thusfar stuck to his word. In the two weeks since, Foreman has 20 carries for 65 yards, and two receptions for 65 yards. His 3.2 YPA isn’t particularly impressive, and in my opinion, he hasn’t done enough to earn more of a share than he currently has. I’ll agree that Miller hasn’t been flashy either – he is also averaging just 3.7 YPA this season, and has failed to reach the end zone through the first three weeks. Miller is still the superior receiver of the two players, and has the trust of the coaching staff. He has never been a major touchdown threat, even after his major uptick in carries upon arriving to Houston last year. Miller is fine as an upside RB2, and I’d hold onto Foreman as a pure handcuff.

Q: Crowell or Duke Johnson moving forward in a .5 PPR?
A: Given the format, I’d prefer Johnson over Crowell. For whatever reason, Crowell is having a very difficult time building upon 2016’s breakout campaign, and is averaging less than three yards per carry through the first three weeks. His workload has remained steady, but the upcoming schedule for the Cleveland Browns is brutal (New York Jets, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars). Johnson is more of a receiving threat of the two backs, and only has two rushing attempts per game. One actually has to wonder if some sites will start giving him the wide receiver tag in the future if this usage keeps up. I view Johnson as an upside FLEX in PPR formats, and Crowell a middling FLEX at best.

Q: Was offered Ezekiel Elliott for my Jordan Howard and Doug Baldwin. Do I bite?
A: Nope. I believe in Howard’s talent, and still have him as a top five running back. Elliott is right there as well, but the difference between the two isn’t Doug Baldwin. If you are itching to do this deal, request another piece back.

Q: Why do the Lions keep getting screwed by the refs? This is unbelieveable!!
A: I’m sure every team feels that the refs are out to get them each week, but the Lions have experienced several brutal losses on close calls. Even Golden Tate still can’t believe that his reception at the end of last week wasn’t a touchdown. Luck of the draw, unfortunately.