On the eve of the 2018 Fantasy Season, Antonio Gates has returned to the Chargers. Despite being 38-year olds and a shell of his former self, the move gives owners who punted TE an immediate No.1 option, and creates enormous late-round value for those still to draft. The scheme familiarity and Philip Rivers love for targeting his TEs, especially in the Red Zone, gives Gates immense 2018 upside — especially with Hunter Henry unfortunately done for the season.
In two games without Henry last year (Weeks 16-17), Gates caught 10 balls for 127 yards a score — good enough for the most FPs among TEs in that span. Moreover, in his last season without Henry (2015 – 11 GP), Gates was on pace for 81 catches, 916 yards, and 7 TDs. This would’ve produced 174.1 FPs (1/2 PPR) and trailed only Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce in 2017, while ranking 4th in PPG (11.0) behind those two + Zach Ertz.
Though his own Individual Ability may be sapped, the opportunity remains ripe for fantasy production. Henry and Gates combined would have been the TE3 last year. Meanwhile, per ESPN, Rivers ranks 2nd in targets, 2nd in TDs, and 4th in yards when targeting tight ends the last three years. Last year, Gates and Henry combined for 51.4% of Rivers’ looks inside the 10, and now Gates should see the vast majority of looks in here.
Simply put, though he himself is marginal, Gates is now in the TE Goldmine he’s always benefited from. This creates very ripe Top-12 Upside, which is exactly where Gates lands on my latest Big Board.