It’s that time of year again, folks. Fantasy TFA Throwdown time. We take two players with similar ADP and pose arguments for why you should draft one over the other. In this edition, we have two strong tight end candidates: Jack Doyle of the Colts and Eric Ebron of the Lions. Who would you draft? Well, grab a beer (or another beverage of your choosing), sit back, and let Ben Howell and I duke it out for your benefit.
So, Twitter says most of you are leaning towards Ebron. Let’s see if I can change that. First up, Mr. Jack Doyle.
— Jen Smith (@FF_female920) June 23, 2017
Jack Doyle, TE Colts
This is Jack Doyle’s year. Previously stuck behind the likes of Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, Doyle looks to improve on his #12 fantasy TE finish on 59 catches for 584 yards and 5 TDS last season. He managed these stats even though Allen saw 48 targets and snagged 35 catches for 406 yards and 6 TDs. Those targets are now up for grabs since the Colts traded Allen to the Patriots in March. Indianapolis invested heavily in their 27-year-old TE1 this off-season, shelling out a 3-year, $19 million contract with $2.5 million in incentives. Does that sound like someone who is going to take a backseat anymore? Let’s hope not.
Doyle boasted the second highest catch rate percentage amongst tight ends in 2016 (82% per ProFootballFocus.com) and hauled in more catches than either Fleener or Allen in ANY season they played for Indianapolis. To bring the focus back to the throwdown and gain perspective, Ebron’s career high is only a couple higher (61 catches). This being the #2 TE, keep in mind! Allen did miss some time (weeks 7-8), during which Doyle posted 114 yards on 11 catches and 1 TD. Not too shabby.
Doyle’s health is another positive factor that should convince fantasy owners to favor him over Ebron. He has not missed a game since 2013 (rookie season), whereas Ebron hasn’t completed a 16 game season in his NFL career. Last season, Doyle proved to the Colts that he can step up when his team needs him, as Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen, and Phillip Dorsett all missed time with injuries. Though the Colts look to have their weapons healthy, Doyle showed his consistency and reliability by having four or more catches in nine games and averaging 10 yards or more per catch in 7 games.
Doyle is also a downfield threat. He posted the 3rd highest catch rate amongst tight ends on targets of 20 yards or more in 2016. That is a lot better than Ebron’s finish at 13th. Hearing a pattern here? Jack Doyle catches the passes thrown to him, so with more targets, I fully expect his fantasy impact to increase and land him in the top 8-10 tight ends this season.
Love from Luck
I’m probably not the first analyst to point out Andrew Luck’s affinity for tight ends, so I keep this to the point. He historically trusts his TEs, gives them targets, and looks for them in the red zone. Over the past three seasons, tight ends received AT LEAST 20% of the overall target share (155 targets in 2016, 133 in 2015, and 170 in 2014). Concerning the red zone, TEs received a whopping 33% of the target share in 2016(Doyle got 18% of that), 26% in 2015, and 34% in 2014. Just to give perspective, TY Hilton received 21% of the red zone target share in 2016. It doesn’t look like Luck’s love for TEs is going anywhere in 2017.
After reviewing the Colts’ tendency to look for TEs in the red zone, it is important to draw a stark comparison to Stafford’s lack of doing so. In 2016, Stafford targeted Ebron in the red zone a mere nine percent of the time, fifth on the team behind Anquan Boldin, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Theo Riddick. If you think this might be a fluke because of Boldin’s beast mode in the red zone, let’s look back a couple more years. Ebron (or any TE) also did not receive more than 10% of the red zone target share in either 2014 or 2015, so I wouldn’t have a ton of confidence that Stafford would drastically change this target share in 2017.
Swoope, there it is?
One argument I’ve confronted regarding Doyle’s fantasy potential is the #2 TE, Erik Swoope and his likelihood to vulture targets and TDs. Now, I’m not saying I’m not impressed with his converted-basketball-player-working-hard-on-the-practice-squad story. I’m also not ignoring the Colts’ love of 2 TE sets. However, I don’t think an unproven player that has caught 15 total receptions for 297 yards in his NFL career is going to knock Doyle’s potential. No doubt, he has playmaking ability. Standing 6’5″ and 257 lbs, Swoope is a big, athletic player. Guess who is bigger? Doyle at 6’6″ and weighing in at 267 lbs. Swoope will get a chance and some targets, don’t get me wrong, but this is not a reason to sway you away from the TE1 in Indianapolis. If anything, it should excite you to see the Colts’ offensive weapons this season.
ADP on the Rise
Depending on the site you frequent, Doyle and Ebron’s ADP fluctuates some. FantasyFootballCalculator.com estimates an ADP of a late 11th round pick for Doyle and late 13th round for Ebron currently. Someone must have hacked us and read my draft of this piece (jk jk), because Doyle’s ADP rose from early 13th round at the end of May to 11th round currently. Other sites (FantasyPros.com) have the two much closer in ADP, with Doyle going in mid 12th and Ebron in early 13th. This is why we picked these players. You will be confronted during your draft with the decision. For a potential top 10 TE with plenty of upside, my money is on Doyle. This Indianapolis native finally has his chance to shine and he’s going to take advantage, so you should too.
Listen to Coach Pagano when he says, “I don’t ever have to worry about Jack Doyle. I know exactly where he’s going to be. I know he’s going to be prepared mentally and physically.” Sounds like confidence to me.
Eric Ebron, TE Lions
Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, Kellen Winslow, and Tony Gonzalez all have a couple of things in common. They all are (were) elite TEs and likely Hall of Famers and they all produced 700+ yard seasons at 23 years old. Impressive production at an early age, especially at the slow developing TE position. These studs aren’t alone in their early production though. Another 23-year-old TE reached that 700-yard benchmark in 2016. In fact, this TE was a top 10 pick in 2014 and is among the fastest and most athletic players at his position. That’s right, Eric Ebron is on an extreme upswing.
Ebron Ready for TD Boom
Ebron was extremely young and raw coming out of North Carolina. He turned 21 at the time of the 2014 draft. No one expected anything from his first or even his second year in the NFL, but common sense said to wait for ‘the third year breakout’. Most people did wait that long, except Ebron, finished the 2016 season as the TE 14 in PPR scoring with playing in just 13 games. Many fantasy owners saw that seasonal finish combined with 2 measly TDs and assumed Ebron busted. Except the breakout did happen, but the TD volume wasn’t there. One of the greatest WRs ever, Anquan Boldin, hogged all the RZ targets and took Ebron’s place in the RZ.
Eric Ebron’s 2 TDs were pure bad luck. He scored once in Week 1 and again in Week 11, which was a rushing score. It all came down to his RZ opportunity. Ebron saw 5 RZ targets in 2016 and never saw more than one in a game. Anquan Boldin however, had 15 RZ receptions on 23 RZ targets, or 5 times the targets Ebron had. This led to Boldin scoring 6 TDs in the red zone last year. With Boldin gone, why can’t Eric Ebron vacuum up Boldin’s vacated RZ targets.
The Case Against Doyle
Outside of the red zone, Ebron was extremely efficient. On the 14th most TE targets (85), he had the 10th most receptions (61) and 8th most yards (711). The receptions and yards boosted his PPR rank, but he still finished as TE 14, which happens to be one spot behind Jack Doyle. Whereas Ebron should see positive TD regression next season, Doyle is probably headed in the other direction. Sure, the Colts traded Dwayne Allen to the Patriots, but Andrew Luck still has a plethora of passing weapons.
Luck has the 2016 leader in receiving yards, TY Hilton. He also has Donte Moncrief who literally just catches TDs, as well as former 1st rounder Phillip Dorsett. Don’t forget about Frank Gore or their shiny new RB, Marlon Mack who is a very good receiving back. Oh, and perhaps the biggest threat to Doyle’s role, Erik Swoope. A former basketball player from TE U, Miami (FL), Swoope is faster, younger, and a better downfield threat than Doyle. We don’t have a huge sample size to work with for Swoope (22 targets in 2016), but it should work. Swoope amassed nearly 300 yards on 15 receptions in 2016, giving him the third-best Yards per Target among TEs in 2016. The efficiency didn’t stop there. Out of the slot, Swoope averaged 16 Yards per Reception, #6 in the NFL. This gave Swoope an absurd 2.3 Fantasy Points/Target entirely out of yards and receptions. Andrew Luck’s love for the TE has been well documented, but assuming Doyle will be the biggest benefactor of Luck’s attention doesn’t account for the next player in line. Doyle’s ceiling is the Colts’ third receiving option, but his floor is being their 2nd best TE.
Ebron’s situation isn’t nearly as desolate. Golden Tate is a virtual lock for 90 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 5 TDs. That leaves Marvin Jones and 3rd round rookie Kenny Golladay as Ebron’s main competition. Jones posted one of the best individual receiving games in the NFL last year, 6/205/2 against Green Bay, but failed to crack 100 yards after that. Golladay is athletic and a Twitter dynasty darling, but he’s still a big, old rookie from Northern Illinois. That combo doesn’t always bode well, just ask former (and current) darlings like Keyarris Garrett. Fun fact: Kenny Golladay is just 5 months younger than Eric Ebron. At 23 years old, Ebron had a 700 yard NFL season and Golladay had a 1,150 yard college season. Ebron is on the right track to be a mainstay among the top 8 TEs for the next 6-8 years.
Ebron’s consistency, 60+ yards in 6 of 13 games, 7 top 10 scoring weeks, and his upside on TD regression provide a floor and a high ceiling Doyle cannot reach. Doyle is extremely up and down, with only 3 of 16 games with 60+yards, and just 5 of 16 top 10 scoring weeks to warrant his TE 12 ADP in MFL 10s.
This, my friends, is up to you. Will you go with Doyle or Ebron? We hope we’ve shed some light on the situation for you. Don’t forget to check out other great content at TFA and the other TFA FantasyThrowdowns coming out soon!