All hail the new king and savior of fantasy tight ends: Mark Andrews.
Someone who leaped off the screen to me as a rookie, the major question mark coming into 2019 was volume. If the Ravers were going to run the ball 50 bajillion times, would there be enough targets to go around to make Andrews a viable fantasy tight end?
The general consensus was no, as Andrews was consistently ranked outside the top 10 by darn near every fantasy analyst you could find.
And hoooo boy, were we all wrong.
Andrews has gone full psycho-mode on the league to start 2019 and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up anytime soon. His 16 receptions are tied for the fourth-most in the league and his 220 yards receiving is the sixth-most in the NFL.
He leads the team in total targets and is second on the team in air yards. In fact, Andrews has more total air yards (169) than Tyler Lockett (149), Amari Cooper (147), and T.Y. Hilton (138)! This is a long way of saying the volume is bonkers.
And I know there’s some salty Jimmy Graham manager who passed on Andrews and is crying into their beer, exclaiming that we’ve seen flashes in the pan like this before.
Watch these highlights and tell me this isn’t sustainable:
He’s not as smooth or as quick-twitch as Travis Kelce, but take note of the route running. He’s not a guy flaring out into the flats or running check-down hitch routes. Andrews is running big boy routes and looking as crisp as a brand new $100 bill.
And can we talk about the hands? Big, burly, powerful men are not supposed to have hands this buttery soft as is shown in his 94% catch rate.
Go back and watch those highlights again, watch Lamar Jackson. On multiple third-and-long situations, Andrews is the clear primary option. Their timing and chemistry are obvious.
Will the Ravens slow down? Well, yeah, obviously, but Andrews is one of the focal points of this offense and will continue to pile up the fantasy points. And given his late-round draft price, he is one of the early candidates as a potential league-winning pick.
YEAH, YEAH ANDREWS IS GREAT — WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US?
If you’re looking for streamer advice, the easiest advice right now is to follow the Cardinals. Whoever is going against them — stream that tight end.
The Cardinals are giving up a comical 31 fantasy points per game to tight ends this year and my god, Arizona linebacker Jordan Hicks is getting absolutely destroyed in coverage right now. In two consecutive weeks versus T.J. Hockenson and the aforementioned Andrews, there have been multiple times where there was just busted coverage or zone gaps so large you could parallel park a 747.
And if you don’t have a premium brand name at the position, you’re next best options are Darren Waller and ... welp … that’s about it.
Look, it’s going to go week-to-week, but if you’re streaming the position you know what this game entails. Playing matchups and hoping your guy gets a red-zone look. Most weeks I’ll drop my favorite TE sleeper on the ole Twitter machine if you guys are so inclined to give me a follow.
IS O.J. HOWARD A DROP?
Currently 94% rostered in Yahoo leagues, Howard was supposed to be a potential breakout candidate under Bruce Arians there in Tampa Bay.
Instead, what we’ve gotten is the exact opposite of growth.
Despite playing on 92% of the team’s offensive snaps in Week 2, Howard did not record a single target. Read that again: ZERO TARGETS.
Cameron Brate only saw a 27% snap share but still was able to haul in his two targets for 10 yards.
Given Jameis Winston’s penchant for throwing Brate’s way, his mere existence was always going cap what Howard’s ceiling was but, man, this is rough.
I’d hate to drop this guy only to see him go off, but between Mike Evans, the emergence of Chris Godwin, and again with Brate continuing to lurk, I’m not sure how much meat is left on this bone.
Final verdict: Howard isn’t a straight drop per se but should be downgraded and viewed as just another streaming option moving forward.
TE STOCK REPORT:
Evan Engram: STOCK UP
Oh baby, it is Danny Dimes time there in New York, as the Giants announced that rookie signal caller Daniel Jones will get his first start of the season this weekend against a surprisingly feisty Tampa Bay defense.
After seeing 14 targets in Week 1, most thought we would see similar usage in Week 2 considering the Giants saw Sterling Shepard out with a concussion.
Engram’s ridiculous 11-catch, 116 yard performance Week 1 was followed up by a six-catch, 48-yard performance and to be honest with you, he was lucky to get even that.
Engram had all of 4 yards halfway through the fourth quarter before catching a 33-yarder to salvage his day somewhat.
If the preseason is any indication whatsoever, adding Jones to the mix could raise the offensive tide somewhat, and that is good for a weapon like Engram.
Zach Ertz: STOCK UP
Ertz managers were accustomed to a certain lifestyle after 2018. Carson Wentz was legally obligated to throw to Ertz at a bare minimum 4,000 times per game.
Then, in Week 1, he “only” saw seven targets and zero red-zone looks (gasp!).
All joking aside, there was real hand-wringing as DeSean Jackson looked unstoppable and saw 10 targets in that game. Plus, Dallas Goedert was reportedly going to be a thing, plus Darren Sproles was back, plus Alshon Jeffery, plus Nelson Agholor, plus maybe possible J.J. Arcega-Whiteside ...
Then Week 2 hit, and so did the injuries. Both “Seans” — De- and Al(shon) — got hurt and Ertz was back to his usual insane-o target totals, collecting 16 looks. He averaged about 10 targets per game in 2018.
With DeSean reportedly out a couple of weeks and Alshon looking very iffy for Week 3, Ertz should again see double-digit target totals this week at home versus the Lions.
George Kittle: STOCK UP
In back-to-back weeks, George Kittle has recorded exactly 54 receiving yards.
But how he got to those totals was totally different. A 10-target, eight-reception game in Week 1 versus a three-target, three-reception game in Week 2.
In a game where Kittle was supposed to smash the hapless Bengals pass defense, we ended up with a meh/disappointing game that has fantasy managers starting to get a little edgy.
One of the major differences this year is that Kittle is being targeted on much shallower routes.
Taking a look at the route chart provided by Next Gen Stats, on the left is the route chart from Week 1 of this year. On the right is the route chart from Week 17 of last year. It’s similar volume in terms of targets but what should pop out visually is how much deeper his routes were in 2018.
If you want Exhibit A, B, and C on why air yards matter, just take a look above. Again, similar target totals but because he was seeing so many more air yards per target, he was able to produce significantly bigger plays. Last year he averaged 7.3 air yards per target, this year he’s averaging just 4.6.
So why stock up? Well, Jimmy Garoppolo seems to be knocking some rust off. After a rough opening weekend, his first real game action since his ACL tear, Gucci looked a lot more comfortable last week. If he can continue to trend in that direction, I would expect to see deeper looks for Kittle and this entire Niners offense.
James Koh is a fantasy football analyst and an award-winning journalist. He’s probably wrong, but you never know. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDKoh.