Among all the byes this week and injuries that have occurred, the fantasy landscape has been set ablaze with little hope on the horizon. However, a rookie has emerged at the tight end position to offer some hope for those in dire need. Raiders tight end Michael Mayer had a breakout game in Week 6 against the Patriots, finally showing some signs of life in his rookie season.
We previously touched on the tight end position with some Week 7 streamer options to utilize, but Mayer is showing long-term potential in the Raiders offense.
Coming out of Notre Dame, Mayer was the highest-graded tight end in Dane Brugler’s The Beast draft guide. His ability to line up on the line of scrimmage and be physical, or line up out wide and be a mismatch made him extremely versatile and a tough matchup for opposing defenses.
The Fighting Irish have a great history of producing tight ends, and Mayer was arguably the most prolific in school history. He set school records for tight ends in catches (180), receiving yards (2,099), and receiving touchdowns (18).
Despite being the highest-graded tight end with a first-round grade he was selected 35th overall in the second round by the Raiders — behind Dalton Kincaid and Sam LaPorta.
USAGE AND OPPORTUNITY
As it is with most rookie tight ends, it’s been a slow start to his NFL career. He didn’t surpass 50% of played snaps until Week 4 and finished the first quarter of the season with one catch for two yards on two targets. If it weren’t for a two-point conversion, he would have racked up 1.2 fantasy points through four games. The Raiders ignored the tight end position for the first month of the year.
In Week 5, things started to shift. Mayer finally out-snapped starting tight end Austin Hooper with 66% of the snap share. But, it wasn’t until Week 6 that Mayer really broke through with 81% of the snaps and ran a route on 67% of the dropbacks. He turned that into five catches for 75 yards on six targets, firmly supplanting Hooper as the TE1 in Las Vegas. This last game could mark the turning point in Mayer’s season and fantasy landscape.
So far this season, the Raiders have had a very condensed offense. Nearly all production has come from Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, and Josh Jacobs. Nobody else has been able to put up any numbers for this Raiders offense until Mayer’s Week 6 breakout game.
The lack of impact from others is key for Mayer as he should be able to give this offense another weapon to utilize, especially coming from Jimmy Garoppolo, who has a history of favoring tight ends.
“We’re just trying to teach him the intricacies,” Garoppolo said about the tight end. “I think the tight end in this offense, there’s a lot of little nuances that go unnoticed. Going back to Rob Gronkowski — Gronk was awesome at it. He knew the plays, he knew what we were trying to do.”
Garoppolo did land in the hospital this past week after coming out of the game against New England and hasn’t practiced since. Whether it be Brian Hoyer or rookie Aidan O’Connell, I’d imagine Mayer can be utilized as a safety valve rather than a downfield option outside of the numbers.
To sum it up, few tight ends are trending up as much as Mayer is now. He’s a super-talented rookie with high draft capital, which won’t entirely factor into his playing time but should play a minor role. Mayer has leapfrogged ahead of Hooper on the depth chart and is now approaching a high-end number of routes run for his position. With the Raiders struggling to find other weapons in their offense, Mayer represents a breath of fresh air.
He currently ranks as the TE15 in The Wolf’s Rest of Season Rankings and should continue to climb up that ladder. Plus, he’s still out there on 81% of waiver wires.