Down the stretch of the 2015 season, NY Giants starting tight end Larry Donnell got hurt, and ultimately had his season cut short. Little-known UDFA prospect out of Stony Brook Will Tye was suddenly elevated into a key role in Donnell’s place, and eventually became the starter for the rest of the season. Not only was Tye forced into action, but he actually produced…and he produced pretty well the more playing time and targets he saw.
Using an old-school mindset to evaluate Tye, I initially wrote him off as insignificant last year. Who cares about a 6′2″ tight end for the NFL? I want those 6′5″+ guys. I want the next Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. I don’t have time for 6′2″ tight ends…because NFL teams have overlooked/discounted them for years. Not only was the 2015 NFL season the rise of the RB as quasi-WR weapons in several offenses, but it also marked the early phases in the rise of the shorter but quicker tight end. Jordan Reed’s 2015 proved we need to start taking tight ends like Will Tye more seriously – a 6′2″/250+ who runs a 4.57 40-time (Tye’s measurables) is now a coveted NFL asset at tight end, where it was a ‘move him to (ignored) H-back‘ prospect a few years ago.
I went back through and watched every target involving Will Tye in 2015, and I have to say I walked away mostly impressed. Tye’s not the best Jordan Reed-esque tight end prospect I see hidden on NFL rosters, but he’ll do. The first time he got into a game in 2015, he ran a very short drag off the O-Line and had a simple soft toss from Eli, and he completely butchered it. When I saw that, I rolled my eyes a little bit. It looked like Eric Ebron trying to catch a wet bar of soap (which is every Ebron catch attempt in the NFL)…not good.
What happened after his initial dropped target in 2015 was encouraging – with every game, with every target you could see Tye’s confidence growing a little bit more. You could also see Eli Manning’s trust in him growing right along with it. Will Tye is not the most natural catcher of the football, but he’s at least an average receiver…if not a little bit above. I counted three ‘true’ drops among his 62 targets last year, but I also noted all the throws/routes that were tough to catch/reach/haul in under duress – and Tye caught 70% of them. For a guy who’s not always incredibly graceful catching the ball, he made many more ‘tough grabs’ last season than botched targets. The more the season went on, the higher his target counts went…the more Eli trusted him, and the more output Tye registered.
1.6 FF PPG (3.3 PPR) on 1.7 rec./3.0 targets for 16.0 yards and 0.00 TDs per game = Tye’s first six games in 2015
7.8 FF PPG (12.4 PPR) on 4.6 rec./6.3 targets for 52.3 yards and 0.43 TDs per game = Tye’s final seven games of 2015
*Our ever-evolving, updating throughout the preseason Fantasy Football Draft Guide is projected to be available around June 7-10th. We’ll keep you posted on the ‘drop date’ on FFM.*
To me, this Fantasy evaluation is not about whether Tye can ‘make all the catches’. He’s not the NFL’s next great tight end. However, what he might be is the clear-cut starting tight end for the New York Giants in 2016, and a guy who has earned the respect of his quarterback. He’s also a guy with above-average athleticism, and is a brick wall to tackle in the open field. All the Giants have to do is release Tye off the line of scrimmage, and connect with him on a simple throw. Once he grabs the ball, he has an excellent first step after the catch, and takes off like a bat out of hell…a very sturdy, hard to tackle, 4.5+ running bat out of hell.
Tye will not become Eli’s top target by any means, but he’s an excellent alternative to mix things up within a high-functioning passing game working with a good/great WR corps. Tye can be a guy who catches 3–6 simple passes per game, racks up 40–60+ yards per game, and scores 5–8 TDs in a season… and all of a sudden you have a fringe PPR TE1 on your hands with those numbers.
I suspect when/if Larry Donnell is fully cleared to play in 2016, it will either be as a backup/blocking TE…or it wouldn’t surprise me if the Giants released him before opening day. The Giants drafted South Carolina tight end prospect Jerell Adams, but he is very raw, and not ready to walk in and take over at tight end now…or ever, possibly. Will Tye already proved himself with Eli Manning last year, so I assume the job is Tye’s to lose in 2016. He is clearly the Giants best option at this stage. Eli usually doles out decent FF numbers to his main tight end, regardless of their overall skill set. Hell, Larry Donnell got people FF-excited for a moment. Kevin Boss mattered for Fantasy on and off for years.
Again, I don’t think Tye has any superstar abilities, but given the rise of smaller quicker tight ends in the passing game, and the lack of pressure from the other tight ends on the Giants’ current depth chart – I think Tye could work as a fringe TE1 play in 2016. I wouldn’t want to start my season banking on Tye as my TE1, but he’d make a nice TE2 to provide depth and maybe a trade chip later.
For a tight end not among the top 20 in ADP at his own position in early redrafts, he’s a potential steal for Dynasty owners this offseason, and redrafters looking for a TE2 late in the draft.
*Our Dynasty Rookie Draft (+IDP) top-100+ prospects with thousands of words of commentary and draft strategy discussion is now posted at College Football Metrics.com. We’ll post 10-15+ versions of our Dynasty Rookie Draft rankings throughout the preseason, as well as adding in a few of the bigger names from 2017 for a preview into the future.
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