Jonathan Bales is the founder of TheDCTimes.com
and writes for the New York Times and Dallas Cowboys. He’s
the author of Fantasy
Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.
In my first article here,
I discussed how to use regression toward the mean to project wide
receivers’ yards-per-catch. From that article:
To regress wide receiver YPC toward the mean,
we need to figure out exactly how a player’s stats in the
previous season match up with his “true” talent. If
we were to simulate 1,000 seasons, for example, how many times would
Victor Cruz repeat his 18.7 YPC from 2011?
One of the most effective ways to determine a receiver’s “true”
YPC is to average his YPC from previous seasons. Over a larger sample
size, a receiver’s YPC is more likely to be representative
of his true value than the number he posted in 2011 alone.
For us stat geeks, large sample sizes are the holy grail of fantasy
football. You can have Cruz and his 18.7 YPC from 2011 all day.
I’ll take DeSean Jackson. His career 17.8 YPC, although lower
than Cruz’s, is more representative of big-play ability because
it has come over a sample size of 230 receptions (compared to just
82 for Cruz).
And even in non-PPR leagues, Jackson’s average draft position
sure looks a lot more enticing than that of Cruz. . .
Currently being drafted nearly two rounds later than Cruz, Jackson
offers good value in 2012. He won’t haul in a ton of passes,
but his YPC is set to rebound in a major way. Even with 65 receptions,
Jackson should be in the top five in yards this season. Regression
toward the mean, in the case of Jackson, helps identify hidden value.
But I’ve digressed. And now it’s time to regress. Regress
tight end YPC, that is. A few notes:
2012 Tight End Projections
- The players below are the tight ends who finished in the
top 15 in receiving yards in 2011. I added Jermaine Gresham
and Ed Dickson in there for no good reason except that I wanted
to see their projections.
- You can project receptions however you like, and your results
will obviously change your projection of yards. I will touch
on how to project receptions in future posts.
- I used a tight ends’ YPC from the three previous full
seasons to obtain an accurate YPC projection for 2012. In the
case of players that don’t have three such seasons under
their belts—Gresham, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, etc—I
simply used a subjective projection.
- The number in parentheses is the player’s 2011 yardage
rank among tight ends.
- Finally, note that these aren’t final rankings. Other
factors need to be included (the most obvious of them being
touchdowns), but the point is to give you a foundation from
which to tweak your tight end rankings.
(1) Rob Gronkowski
85 receptions, 13.8 YPC = 1,173 yards
It’s unlikely Gronk will average nearly 15.0 YPC again.
(2) Jimmy Graham
90 receptions, 12.5 YPC = 1,125 yards
Even with a decline in receptions and YPC, Graham will undoubtedly
be a top two tight end.
(11) Brandon Pettigrew
90 receptions, 10.4 YPC = 936 yards
The biggest winner in these projections, Pettigrew will
improve upon his 9.4 YPC from 2011.
(10) Antonio Gates
65 receptions, 14.1 YPC = 917 yards
As always, the key is health.
(8) Fred Davis
70 receptions, 13.0 YPC = 910 yards
Another tight end with outstanding upside, Davis could be RGIII’s
(9) Vernon Davis
67 receptions, 13.5 YPC = 905 yards
Davis’ 11.8 YPC from 2011 was well below his career mark, and Alex
Smith will look for him often.
(4) Aaron Hernandez
75 receptions, 12.0 YPC = 900 yards
The upside here is limited with Gronkowski on the field, although
Hernandez could receive more vertical targets in 2012.
(3) Jason Witten
75 receptions, 11.2 YPC = 840 yards
Witten’s decline has been evident the past couple of years,
and he’s really a low risk/low reward player this season.
(14) Jared Cook
60 receptions, 13.6 YPC = 816 yards
Cook will go only as far as Jake Locker takes him.
(12) Jermichael Finley
60 receptions, 13.5 YPC = 810 yards
Finley talks a big game, but I don’t see him putting up top
five fantasy numbers anytime soon.
(6) Dustin Keller
65 receptions, 12.2 YPC = 793 yards
Keller has the physical tools, but not the quarterback.
(13) Kellen Winslow
70 receptions, 11.3 YPC = 791 yards
Winslow will be difficult to project in Seattle.
(7) Brent Celek
60 receptions, 12.7 YPC = 762 yards
Celek won’t get enough targets to be a No. 1 tight end option.
(18) Jermaine Gresham
65 receptions, 11.0 YPC = 715 yards
Gresham has some upside but the Bengals don’t send him down
the field often.
(5) Tony Gonzalez
70 receptions, 10.2 YPC = 714 yards
His time has come. Unless it hasn’t, because I’m wrong about Gonzalez
(15) Owen Daniels
50 receptions, 12.6 YPC = 630 yards
Daniels doesn’t offer the low risk you’d prefer in someone
without much upside.
(20) Ed Dickson
60 receptions, 11.0 YPC = 600 yards
Dickson’s 9.8 YPC from 2011 will improve this season.
You can see the big winners in these projections are Pettigrew,
Gates, and Cook. The losers are Witten, Keller, Celek, and Gonzalez.
Of the top 10 tight ends, Fred Davis has the most upside, in my
view. He’s the top receiving threat in Washington but has
some talent outside to help take some of the pressure off him. His
final rank will depend on how often the Redskins can reach the red