Unraveling the Ever-Important Colts’ Tight End Fantasy Value

Andrew Luck has a knack for peppering the tight end position.

Following four underwhelming seasons in Detroit, Eric Ebron, the 2014 10th-overall pick, racked up 14 total touchdowns in his debut season with the Colts, two more than he had collected in 56 games as a Lion.

In fact, his touchdown total was the most any tight end has accumulated over the course of a season since 2013, when Jimmy Graham notched 16 scores in while in the prime of his career with the Saints.

So what does Ebron expect of himself for his encore season in Indianapolis?

“I believe Gronk still holds the record for the most touchdowns (by a tight end), which is 17. So if I want to do anything that is going to be real spectacular . . . I’ve got to go get 17. And if I go get 17, then what do I do? I help my team win games,” Ebron told Indianapolis media in May.

Winning games may get in the way of the 26-year-old’s lofty individual goals. In an effort to win more games, the Colts signed the 6’4″ Devin Funchess during the offseason, who will inevitably steal invaluable redzone targets. Another weapon who aims to jack some of Ebron’s shine is second-round rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell.

But the most substantial roadblock to Ebron’s statistical upside is Jack Doyle. The 2017 Pro Bowl tight end missed 10 games last season dealing with kidney and hip injuries.

Ebron, who finished as 2018’s fourth highest scoring fantasy tight end, saw his targets skyrocket from 3.6 per game when Doyle suited up, to a whopping 8.8 per games during contests in which Doyle missed.

In correlation, Ebron averaged 3 catches and 38 receiving yards per games in the 5 and 3/4 games (Doyle left late in the third quarter of week 12’s game vs. Miami with injury) he played with Doyle and 4.8 catches for 49.2 yards per outing in the 10 games without Doyle.

It’s important to note that two of Ebron’s top three highest yardage totals in 2018 (105 yards in week five & 71 yards in week six) came during weeks in which both Doyle and T.Y. Hilton missed.

What’s interesting is Ebron actually scored more touchdowns with Doyle than without. The former Tar Heel scored eight of his 14 scores during the 5 & 3/4 games he tag teamed with Doyle.

That’s key because in a fantasy landscape where there’s Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz and then everybody else, Ebron still provides tight end one value thanks to his redzone prowess.

What you can expect from Ebron in 2019 is three to five catches per game, 35 to 45 yards, and about eight touchdowns. Those numbers (56-640-8) would have finished as TE6 last season, just ahead of Austin Hooper.

The Wolf of Roto Street has Ebron slotted eighth in his rankings, behind the big three and higher upside options like O.J. Howard, Hunter Henry, Evan Engram and Jared Cook.

As for Doyle, the 29-year-old is coming off hip surgery, but looked good during the first week of training camp before suffering a minor oblique injury.

“The hip feels great. I haven’t thought about it while I’ve been out there, so that’s a good sign for me. I’m working through the oblique thing right now, but feeling good and getting better every day,” said Doyle.

What’s more concerning is the lack of redzone attention Andrew Luck paid him with Ebron on the field. While Doyle hauled in an average of 4.3 receptions for 40.8 yards on 5.5 targets per game last season, he caught just two touchdowns.

It appears Doyle and Ebron will split the tight end receiving work, both averaging roughly four catches for 40 yards per game. However, Ebron’s quickness and jump-ball ability make him more of an asset in the redzone, leaving Doyle with the scraps.

Though Doyle may be more well-rounded of a tight end than Ebron, the later is by far the superior fantasy play in 2019. Doyle’s value resides only in deeper leagues, as his touchdown upside and receiving averages don’t meet the threshold of a fantasy tight end one.

In addition, I’d be ashamed of myself if I didn’t mention Mo Alie-Cox, a former basketball player who flashed elite play-making ability in 2018. He will undoubtedly have a role in an offense that scored 20 touchdowns via tight ends in 2018. Should Ebron or Doyle succumb to injury, the player left standing would of course see their value catapult, but Alie-Cox would undoubtedly step into a semi-starter role in an offense that loves to utilize two tight ends.

To wrap this article up with a nice little bow, target Ebron as a mid-to-back end TE1, Doyle should be regarded as a low-ceiling option in deeper leagues, and keep Alie-Cox on your radar.


Related Posts