Fantasy Football: Greg Olsen, Zach Ertz And Tight End Equity Scores

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Greg Olsen

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Measuring the fantasy football draft equity of tight ends — potential discounts we can find in average draft positions (ADPs) — is slightly less exciting than diving headfirst into wide receiver equity scores.

But that won’t stop us.

Using median and high-end projections for the 2014 season, we can see who might outperform or under-perform their current ADPs. Equity scores give us an idea of who is being over-drafted and who has sneaky value, using the more realistic median projections and the optimistic — but ever important — high projections.

Major red flags include players drafted in the top-10 at their position whose high equity score doesn’t exceed their current ADP. Median equity scores that are well below a guy’s ADP should also serve as big, neon warnings for fantasy owners. These glaring warnings aren’t nearly as common with tight ends as they are with receivers.

Read more about fantasy equity scores…
A comprehensive list of wide receiver equity scores
Equity score analysis: Cecil Shorts, Brian Hartline, and Golden Tate
Equity score analysis: Josh Gordon, A.J. Green, and Dez Bryant
Equity score analysis: Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker, and Pierre Garcon

As a quick refresher: In the table below, Jason Witten‘s median equity score is set at -4, which means his median projection would put him at TE11 for the season, or four spots below where he’s being drafted among tight ends. Witten would achieve top-5 tight end status if he hits his high projection, resulting in an equity score of two.

Why, you ask, are tight end equity scores less intriguing than receiver equity scores? For one, there are many more receivers to consider because, well, we use upwards of three (or four) receivers every week. That leads to guys like Brian Hartline, who could outperform his ADP by more than 40 spots in 2014.

If you find a tight end who posts an equity score in excess of five, you’ve done well. It’s not quite the same. Below you’ll find equity scores for the top-12 tight ends being drafted in too-early mock drafts, according to MyFantasyLeague data.

Tight end ADP Median equity score High equity score
Jimmy Graham TE1 0 0
Rob Gronkowski TE2 0 1
Julius Thomas TE3 -2 1
Jordan Cameron TE4 -3 2
Vernon Davis TE5 -1 3
Jordan Reed TE6 -1 4
Jason Witten TE7 -4 2
Dennis Pitta TE8 0 4
Ladarius Green TE9 -13 -3
Kyle Rudolph TE10 -1 2
Zach Ertz TE11 0 5
Greg Olsen TE12 4 8

 

  • Graham and Gronk also make this exercise less than exciting. If they’re upright and breathing, you’re going to get what you pay for. Health, as per usual, is a major concern for Gronkowski, who finished 14th among all tight ends in 2013 after playing a mere seven games. Gronk averaged 17.4 fantasy points per game, which would’ve put him 22 points behind Graham on the season. Neither dominant force will offer equity though.
  • I’d rather take my chances on Reed than Thomas, Cameron, or Davis this season. He’s cheaper — if only slightly — and his high score would put him at TE2. Washington’s coaching staff has said time and again that the big, fast red zone beast will be a focal point of their new offensive scheme, and fantasy owners should take note. Reed was targeted 6.8 times per contest during his nine games in his rookie season — a number that will likely remain stable, at worst. Reed ran 25.6 pass routes per game, an encouraging average for any tight end.
  • I tweaked Rudolph’s projections a bit to reflect the Norval Turner bump that most tight ends see when the journeyman offensive coordinator comes to town. Even that tweak didn’t send Rudy’s equity score skyrocketing. He seems like a nice, stable, safe pick as the 10th tight end off the draft board, and one who should be faded early and often if summertime hype sends his ADP climbing.
  • Pitta is as safe as safe can be, with a jolt of upside should be thrive in Gary Kubiak‘s tight end-friendly offense. The Ravens may talk about newly-signed Owen Daniels as the unquestioned centerpiece of the team’s offensive attack (not really), but remember that Baltimore just dished out big bucks to retain Pitta as Joe Flacco‘s security blanket. His floor remains very high.
  • Stop drafting Ladarius Green as a top-end tight end. He’s great, no doubt, and perhaps he’ll take over for senior citizen Antonio Gates if Gates struggles mightily out of the gate. But here’s the thing: Green is a beastly blocker and he ran less than 12 pass routes per game in 2013, even after he showed what he could do against too-small safeties and too-slow linebackers. Green’s equity scores — both median and high — spell disaster for anyone who drafts him among the top-12 tight ends off the board.
  • Ertz, during his rookie campaign, played just 400 snaps while Brent Celek played more than 800 in Chip Kelly’s offense. Philadelphia beat writers fully expect Ertz to be utilized as a giant slot receiver in 2014. Ertz caught 20 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns from the slot in 2013, and in a recent interview, he trumpeted the advantages he’ll have as the slot guy in Kelly’s offense. Posting .46 fantasy points for every route run in 2013, Ertz displayed efficiency that should seize our attention. His equity score should be cause for celebration, and salivation, among fantasy owners.
  • And then there’s Olsen: the most boring 100-target tight end candidate in fantasy football. Only five tight ends saw more targets than Olsen in 2013, while six tight ends out-targeted Olsen in 2012. With no Steve Smith and an island of misfit toys catching passes from Cam Newton, Olsen comes with one of this season’s highest fantasy floors, as reflected in his sky-high median equity score. He ran 30.1 routes per game — a hearty number. Olsen and Ertz, unless and until their ADPs jump, should be primary targets for anyone unwilling to go all in on Graham and Gronkowski.
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.