In this article, I will be diving into the tight end position to see what can be gathered from yards per target (YPT) in a tight end’s rookie year and if it has any predictive value. Since the threshold of 8 YPT worked very well for predicting future receiver success, I wanted to see if that carried over for tight ends.
My goal is to be able to identify the future “elite” tight ends in fantasy and help us improve our process when it comes to picking these players. I’m setting a threshold for “hits” at 171 PPR points since that is the average finish of the TE6 since 2000.
Tight ends generally take longer to develop so we’ll give them five seasons to determine whether they are a “success” or failure. Let’s see what we can find on ProFootballReference with their excellent tools.
Filtering For Efficient Rookie Seasons
Naturally, tight ends don’t get as many targets so I set the threshold pretty low at 30 targets to see what kind of list we could gather and then start to break it down from there.
Surprisingly we find a very small and exclusive list.
- Eight of 10 players have had multiple top six seasons at TE (80%)
- Nine of 10 players have had one top-six season at TE (90%)
- Only Doug Jolley failed to hit this mark in his career
We see the one who missed a top-six season had the fewest targets of the group. If we raise the threshold to a minimum of 40 targets, he is removed from the group.
Raising the Target Minimum
- Eight of nine players hit multiple top-six fantasy seasons (89%)
- Nine of nine players hit one top-six fantasy season (100%)
Aaron Hernandez was the only player to miss out on multiple seasons and if he wasn’t arrested for murder at the young age of 23, it’s very likely that this list would have a 100 percent success rate.
This is an incredible hit rate when it comes to any study. Obviously, the sample size is small but it gives us an excellent target for tight ends in their rookie year.
The Last Four Draft Classes
Let’s start to integrate the last four draft classes to see what we find. Using our original thresholds, these are the players who qualify.
An impressive six players have joined this list in the past four years.
OJ Howard is the only player added to not hit the 40-target minimum group for the 100 percent success rate, but he is only one target off. This should be a great reminder that he is a buy-low candidate heading into Year 4 as he finishes off his third straight season with a YPT over eight. An efficient and talented player, the coaching staff allocating Howard targets remains the principal concern.
After an impressive rookie season, George Kittle exploded – catching 173 passes for 2,430 yards and 10 touchdowns in his past 30 games.
Also a second-year breakout, Mark Andrews led all tight ends in touchdowns this season. Entering his age-24 season, Andrews looks poised to enter the elite tight end group with another big year.
Hunter Henry was on pace to score 200 PPR fantasy points but failed to hit the 171-point mark in just 12 games. Henry’s history of efficient production makes him a solid candidate to do so next year.
Chris Herndon was a fun breakout candidate this year, but ultimately a suspension and injuries kept him from playing on the field. His production and efficiency as a 22-year-old rookie make him an under the radar target heading into 2020.
Lastly, there is the newest member of this list: Noah Fant. He had an incredible rookie season and puts himself into some elite company. Fant should be a premier target in drafts next year as all signs point towards him becoming a stud TE in fantasy leagues.
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