REWIND – Reviewing My Very Deep Sleeper Series from 2018 (S3, E12 Tyler Kroft)
My wildly popular ‘Very Deep Sleeper’ series was brought back by FantasyPros for its fourth season. In celebration, and preparation, and review – I’m going to post last year’s series, 17 articles in all, daily with new commentary for 2019.
My concept of the VDS series was to take a look at a dozen or so players who were way off the grid (like way off the grid/very deep ADPs or not even showing in top 100-150+ positionally on FantasyPros) for the upcoming fantasy season and try and make a case for them as shocking breakouts that year. I hoped if just one panned out each year that would be pretty amazing…these are like taking half court shots in basketball.
Well, we have had that one-a-season success and then some. The VDS series gave birth to Tyrell Williams eons before most people knew who he was. Given-up-for-dead Tyler Boyd was a sweet hit from our VDS series last preseason. A number of players have emerged from the VDS series…even if it was a year or two later. My goal is to educate on the player, at a minimum, and then hope 1-2 of them really pop at some point.
Let’s look back at the 2018 season, in the order they were published…and I’ll add some commentary from ‘the now’ as I’ve re-read it.
Tyler Kroft ended up getting beaten out/worked into a split with C.J. Uzomah right off the bat and then was hurt a few games into the season and he was done for the year. Uzomah went on to be a TE2, then Andy Dalton got hurt, and then the Bengals collapsed…end of story for Cincy.
Kroft’s performance caught one team’s attention – he got a nice deal to join the Buffalo Bills this offseason. He got more money than he’s worth. He’s not a sleeper in Buffalo because no receiver is…and Kroft is already hurt and may miss the entire preseason.
It was a one-time long shot at a TE1 hopeful in non-PPR last season…it crashed and burned. Moving on…
What I pitched around this time last year:
Did you know Tyler Kroft was sixth in the NFL among tight ends last season in receiving TDs (with 7)? More receiving TDs than Evan Engram last season (6). More than Jason Witten (5). More than Hunter Henry (4)…and as many as Henry and Antonio Gates combined. Twice+ as many as Delanie Walker (3). More than Jordan Reed, George Kittle, and Jared Cook combined in 2017. You get the point…
I know you’re already trying to undermine my attempted premise, thinking – “So what? He got lucky with some TDs for a spell in 2017. Big deal!” I can’t fool you. Hear me out on why Tyler Kroft + the TD story is a little more relevant here.
Let’s begin with the real reason why Tyler Kroft is a ‘sleeper’ at some level, and it has nothing to do with him, per se – it’s really because you don’t believe current listed starter, Tyler Eifert, will play or play much this season. It’s in the back of your mind – Eifert will either get hurt when he does get back on the field or he may not be ready/cleared Week 1 from his current injury…or just simply out for all of 2018 today, and we just don’t know it yet.
Eifert has been a constant injury problem. In the past four seasons, his ‘games played’ tally per season (starting with 2014 season) is: 1-13-8-2. He’s averaging 6.0 games played per season since 2014. He’s hurt AGAIN this offseason and was a free agent nobody touched this year, and Bengals took the plunge with him again on a cheaper one-year deal.
Here’s the thing: in his past 25 games played, Eifert has more TDs than any tight end in football in their last 25 games played. Eifert has 18 TDs in his past 25 games played – a receiving TD every 1.4 games, a pace for 10+ TDs in a full 16-game season. A healthy Eifert is a TD machine.
Is Eifert a TD machine…or does Andy Dalton love the tight end in the red zone? Tyler Kroft took over for a once-again-hurt (and then gone for the season) Eifert in Week 3 last season. From Week 4 on, in his final 13 games as the starter, Kroft caught 7 TD passes – a TD every 1.86 games, a pace for 8+ TDs in a 16-game season. Only one tight end scored more than 8 TDs last season…that was Jimmy Graham.
Is it the talent of the tight end or the Cincy situation with Kroft (or Eifert)?
In the past five seasons, Andy Dalton has thrown the following TD totals to his tight ends in a season: 7-5-14-6-8 (8.0 avg. per season).
You’d like a ‘super talent’ tight end for fantasy…you’re OK with having one the quarterback loves throwing to in the red zone. One of the primo spots in the NFL for tight end TDs has been working with the Bengals/Andy Dalton. All that matters now for fantasy is – who will their Week 1 starting tight end be in 2018?
Eifert is the listed/hoped-for starter, but the coaches have already batted away/dodged questions of Eifert being ready Week 1. They speak as if the odds are against it. Eifert’s history says the odds are against it, and also the odds are that if/when he comes back – he’ll slip on a banana peel going out for the Week 1 coin toss and his season will be over.
Tyler Kroft has at least a 50-50 shot to be the Bengals’ Week 1 starting tight end. He also has…what?…like a 20-30% (some would say 99%) chance to be the starter all season because of the likelihood Eifert gets hurt seriously and is gone-gone.
Last season, from Week 4 on, Kroft was a low-end TE1 in non-PPR (TE2 in PPR). In Weeks 4-13, he was a top 8 scoring TE1 in PPR and non-PPR before a few dud games at season’s end pulled him into a back-end TE1 in non-PPR PPG for 2017 — Kroft showed he can be a plausible fantasy tight end for those in need if he’s starting without Eifert.
In 2018, Kroft will likely be working with the first team all preseason (assuming Eifert not cleared or taking it easy/put in bubble wrap, per usual) after being the Cincy starter from Week 3 on last season. If Eifert isn’t ready or goes on the PUP list – Kroft has at least 6-8 games where he’ll be ‘the guy’ to start 2018. Kroft is in a very fertile situation in Cincinnati for tight ends and TDs. Kroft is a solid NFL talent – a solid ‘C’ tight end in a B+/A- fantasy situation IF Tyler Eifert is out (and we all default mode believe Eifert likely to be out). And the talent level argument isn’t a big component here – the situation is the lead punch.
Kroft may be an interesting second or third tight end (depending on your roster configurations) to make a cheap investment in…or a combo of Eifert-Kroft, because one of them will be starting and racking up those juicy TD totals. Kroft is ranked #29 among tight ends on the FantasyPros non-PPR consensus ranks, one spot behind retired Antonio Gates, so the price is definitely ‘cheap’ today.
There’s a potential fantasy bargain here with Kroft with almost no cost to take a look.
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