Players to Avoid: Tyler Higbee
In 2020, Tyler Higbee had one game with 3 TDs in week 2, and that was the ONLY value that he provided to your fantasy football team. Apart from that, from weeks 1-8, he scored: 7.0, 8.0, 5.0, 3.2, 8.6, and 3.4 points. By then, you dropped him from your redraft roster and never thought about him again.
So WHY is Higbee’s ADP creeping into the 8th round, and why is he being treated as a top 10 TE. What is there to cling to that possibly indicates that Tyler Higbee is anything close to a fantasy football relevant player?
Well, let me take you back in time to December of 2019. It was a completely different time. There was no Covid-19, Todd Gurley was still scoring fantasy points, and Tyler Higbee was the TE1 in FPPG for 5 games.
Apart from a single month in 2019, Tyler Higbee has never been a viable fantasy football asset. So what’s the argument for Higbee in 2021? Let’s examine a couple of arguments.
‘Stafford targets TEs a lot; just look at Hockenson last year.’
The second half of the statement is, in fact, true. Hockenson was 5th in the NFL among TEs with 101 targets. Stafford targeted the TE position at a 23.86% rate, the highest rate of his career since 2012 when he targeted the position at a rate of 29.31%. However, was that a result of Stafford’s love of TEs or a result of other factors?
Let’s take a look at 2018; however, when Stafford targeted TEs 11.48% of the time, the lowest rate of his career. In that season, the TE room was made up of Levine Toilolo and Luke Willson. But how could this be? If Stafford loved to target his TE a lot, why did the TEs not see many targets? It is, of course, because targets are earned -not given. If the TEs that Stafford had weren’t playing well, he would have no reason to target them.
Revisiting that 2012 season where Stafford targeted his TEs at the highest rate of his career, we see that apart from Calvin Johnson, his two highest targeted receivers were former 1st round pick Brandon Pettigrew and former 2nd round pick Tony Scheffler. While they were no prime Greg Olsen or Jimmy Graham, they were undoubtedly serviceable, solid TEs. They EARNED their targets.
‘Gerald Everett is gone, and Higbee will see all of the TE targets now.’
This argument is a branch of one of my least favorite arguments in favor of a player: vacated targets. It shouldn’t be assumed that just because there are “TE targets for the taking,” Higbee will now see an increase in volume. It also stems back to the previous argument and how false it is: targets are earned, not given.
If Higbee couldn’t earn as many targets with Gerald Everett (a TE who has maxed out at 400 yards in his career) holding him back, then I’m not sure that he’ll be able to earn enough targets to be anything more than average in 2020.
‘No, you don’t understand; it was when Everett was out that Higbee was good for 5 weeks in 2019.’
It’s true, during Higbee’s terrific 2019 stretch, Gerald Everett was out, and Higbee racked up 56 targets, 43 receptions, 522 yards, and 2 TDs for an incredible 21.4 PPR PPG. But after that terrific stretch, he went back to a below-average fantasy football TE, finishing as TE23 in PPG.
While the entire Rams’ offense did regress in 2020, no one regressed quite as much as Tyler Higbee. Despite his terrific 2019 end-of-year stretch, Tyler Higbee was unable to replicate even close to the same production at all in 2020, and in addition, Sean McVay did not get the ball into the hands of the player he had seen explode down the stretch.
Furthermore, looking at the opponent that Higbee faced during that 2019 historic stretch reveals a lot more. Higbee’s matchups (rank against TEs) were Arizona (32nd), Seattle (30th), Dallas (26th), San Francisco (6th), and Arizona (32nd)
This indicates that Higbee’s 2019 explosion was more of a fluke than a sign of things to come without Gerald Everett in the lineup.
Not only is Higbee unlikely to live up to top 10 TE status, but the opportunity cost to draft him is also part of a more significant problem with TEs.
I’ll just go ahead and say it, apart from the 3 elite TEs, they matter very little in fantasy football. I’ve spoken extensively about the replaceability of all non-elite TEs. For example, last year, all TEs from TE3 to TE16 were around 2-3 PPG apart from each other. Because of this, I am not only advocating for not drafting Tyler Higbee in the 8th; I am advocating for drafting zero TEs until the very last rounds.
However, Higbee not only has a good chance of never rising above the other serviceable fantasy football TEs. He also has a chance to fall below that level to droppable, as he showed in 2020 when he only saw 3 games with double-digit points and finished as the TE23 in PPG.
Instead, in the 8th round, you can target a much more useful position such as WR and RB. Since 2014, 8th round WRs hit a top 24 season 18% of the time, and 8th round RBs hit a top 24 season 28% of the time.
So not only is Higbee overrated amongst TEs, but he is also overrated in total ADP. Instead, you can pivot to several other TEs drafted much later, such as Logan Thomas, Robert Tonyan, Mike Gesicki, etc., and pivot to different positions in the 8th round, such as Brandin Cooks, Ronald Jones, and others.
Don’t be fooled again by Tyler Higbee in 2021; wait on the position and draft other players in the 8th round. Your fantasy team will thank you.
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