Late Round TE Best Ball Targets

By: Andrew Metcalfe (@drewmet_FF)

Best Ball Mania

Best ball is one of the fastest-growing formats for Fantasy football. People love to draft, especially during the off-season. You can get yourself in trouble though if you commit to too many leagues and end up overwhelming yourself once you have to manage your teams in-season. Best ball eliminates all week-to-week transactions and lineup decisions by automatically starting your best performers for every week and only counting their scores. You can draft as much as you want, with no extra work during the season.

There’s plenty of different ways to approach a best ball draft. One of my favorite strategies is taking all of my tight ends late. It’s great having Kelce, Waller, or Kittle on your roster, but I prefer to go after a top running back in that range since the position dries up very quickly in the mid-rounds and you usually have to start a minimum of two running backs each week, versus just one tight end. These are a few of my favorite tight end targets that are almost certain to be available in the last two rounds of any best ball draft.

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay

Going into 2019, O.J. Howard had an ADP (Average Draft Position) of TE4. He was coming off two of the most efficient seasons that we’ve ever seen from a tight end, averaging over eleven yards-per-target and exactly 16.62 yards-per-reception in each of his first two years with the Buccaneers. Unfortunately, newly-appointed head coach Bruce Arians decided to crush Fantasy Manager’s hopes by allowing Cameron Brate and Breshad Perriman to out-target Howard. While most tight ends break out in Year 3, Howard had his worst performance to date, putting up just 459 yards on 53 targets. Good for just TE29 on the season, he was one of the biggest busts of 2019.

For 2020, the disappointment of Howard’s previous season was still fresh in the minds of Fantasy managers. That, along with Tampa’s acquisition of Rob Gronkowski, caused Howard’s ADP to plummet and he often went undrafted in best ball leagues. He saw six targets in Week 1, which was twice as many as Gronk despite playing fewer snaps. Week 2 was an easy win against Carolina in which neither tight end was involved much–Howard out-targeted Gronk 3 to 1. Gronkowski saw seven targets compared to Howard’s four in Week 3, but Howard still gained more yards (only one more). In Week 4, Howard once again doubled up Gronkowski in targets (6 to 3) and was having his best game of the season when he suffered a devastating achilles tear that ended his campaign.

An achilles tear is one of, if not the worst injury an NFL player can experience. We have seen them end the careers of young players, but it’s more difficult for running backs to return compared to other positions. Emmanuel Sanders is a recent, positive case study on Achilles rupture recovery. He tore his in December of 2018 and ended up playing 17 games the following year (due to a mid-season trade that occurred before Denver’s bye week and after San Francisco’s), putting up a respectable 869 yards. He was also 33-years-old, which is nearly eight years older than Howard, plus suffered his injury at a much later point in the season. With the additional recovery time and age advantage, I have high hopes that Howard can make a full recovery for 2020 and be the top Fantasy TE in Tampa.

Dawson Knox, Buffalo

Dawson Knox was the Bills’ 2019 third-round pick. Even though he only saw more than five targets once during his rookie season, his 13.86 yards per reception is the 12th-best by any rookie tight end since 1992. The only active players with higher YPR marks as rookies are O.J. Howard, Mark Andrews, Gerald Everett, Noah Fant, and Austin Hooper. His second season was derailed by multiple injuries throughout the year, so it was tough for him to find his place in the booming Buffalo offense. His participation picked up at the end of the season though, seeing four or more targets in weeks 13-17 and scoring a touchdown in three out of the last six regular-season games.

Knox has never been a high-volume pass catcher, but he will have his moments which makes him the perfect best ball target in the late rounds. Josh Allen likes to look his way in the redzone. In only 12 games, Knox was fourth on the team in targets from within the 20-yard line and tied for third in receiving touchdowns. That might not seem too exciting on the surface, but for a team that was Top 5 in both pass attempts and scoring last season, I’m happy to grab any piece of the offense I can get my hands on. Especially when the player is going near the very end of the draft.

Drew Sample, Cincinnati

In case you haven’t noticed a common theme here, I’m targeting TEs that are in high-volume pass offenses. Through the first ten weeks of 2020 (before Burrow’s ACL injury), Cincinnati averaged 41.2 pass attempts per game. That was the second most, only behind Dallas at the time. Drew Sample was a second-round pick by the Bengals in 2019, which is solid draft capital for a tight end. He began the 2020 season behind C.J. Uzomah but was quickly promoted to the starting role when Uzomah ruptured his achilles in Week 2 and saw nine targets in that game. His involvement throughout the rest of the season was inconsistent, but that’s expected for young tight ends.

Entering his third season, which is often the year that tight ends breakout, he’s definitely worth the dart throw of your final best ball draft pick. Burrow is expected to be fully healthy for Week 1 and that offense should be near the top of the NFL in pass attempts once again. With defenses focused on the multiple high-caliber wide receiver weapons, Sample will often be overlooked by opponents, giving him a great opportunity to take advantage of defensive mismatches and have the occasional big game.

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