Finding Tight End Fantasy Equity: Antonio Gates Edition

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Antonio Gates

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Gates is an old, slow tight end blocking more than ever in an ultra-conservative offense with a bona fide size-speed freak nipping at his proverbial heels. Besides that, he has a lot going for him.

Gates, even if his average draft position (ADP) rises in the coming months (it will), will represent a not-inconsiderable value play for owners who don’t invest heavily in the tight end position. The Ancient One will be a case study in fantasy equity this season.

I took an introductory look at which tight ends with top-12 ADPs might offer the most fantasy football equity in 2014, with guys like Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen, and Zach Ertz jumping off the page as prime targets for owners who don’t go all in on Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

Read more about fantasy equity scores…
Greg Olsen, Zach Ertz, and tight end fantasy equity scores
A comprehensive list of wide receiver fantasy equity scores

Fantasy equity scores, for the uninitiated, quantify the potential discount we can secure according to a player’s ADP and his median and high seasonal projections. In the table below, for example, Martellus Bennett — the 16th tight end off the draft board — would achieve top-9 numbers if he hits his high projection. That gives the Unicorn a high equity score of seven.

It’s important to remember that even if a tight end posts a high median or high equity score, it hardly means he’s going to be an every-week fantasy option. While there were a record 56 tight ends who posted top-12 weekly numbers at least once in 2013, even those who finished as season-long top-12 fantasy scorers were something close to useless for swaths of the season.

Jordan Cameron, fantasy’s No. 5 tight end in 2013, had six single-digit fantasy performances. Vernon Davis, last year’s fourth highest scoring tight end, had four performances of less than 10 points.

Below is a look at the most fantasy relevant tight ends in the TE12-24 range at the moment. These ADPs will swing, some dramatically, and I’ll provide updates in the coming months.

Player Current ADP Median equity score High equity score
Tyler Eifert TE13 2 6
Charles Clay TE15 4 8
Martellus Bennett TE16 3 7
Coby Fleener TE19 0 7
Delanie Walker TE21 8 11
Antonio Gates TE24 11 16

 

  • And there’s our guy, Gates, with absurdly high median and high equity scores. He’ll surely creep into the top-20 tight ends off the board — perhaps even the top-15 — by August, though that won’t matter all that much. Unless and until it becomes clear that the San Diego coaching staff is keen on phasing in fantasy points per route run (FPPRR) monster Ladarius Green as the starting tight end, we shouldn’t fight city hall here. Embrace Gates at his deep discount. Tom Krasovic, a writer for UTSanDiego.com, wrote last month that the Chargers “ought to find more rest for the veteran, who will turn 34 in June. His long speed isn’t what it was. He is too savvy not to strengthen the passing game, however, if he remains quick off the ball and in his cuts. The protege Green, who was raw in several aspects entering 2013, can repay his mentor by earning him some rest this year.”
  • Eifert intrigues me. It worries me that the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Gronkian beast of a pass catcher remains the No. 2 tight end on the Bengals’ depth chart, and that he didn’t exactly set the world aflame when Jermaine Gresham missed a couple games last year, but he could present a big-time equity opportunity for fantasy owners. Eifert posted an abysmal FPPRR of .32 during his rookie campaign that saw the big man net a measly 56 targets from Andy Dalton. His projections, using the rotoViz similarity score app, discard the 2013 games in which he saw less than four targets. I did that because Cincinnati beat writers seem to believe Eifert could — or should — take on a more prominent role in the Bengals’ new offense. Gresham has shown his ceiling, and it ain’t pretty. Keep an eye on Eifert, who some believe is versatile enough to play on the outside of the formation. Eifert squaring off against a cornerback? Yes, please.
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.