Now that free agency, the NFL Draft, and the schedule release have all passed, we have our initial layout in place in team depth charts and strength of schedule. With that, we want to take a look at some players across the fantasy landscape that are either polarizing, over or undervalued, or just interesting topics of discussion and walk through some of the pros and cons of where those players are regarded in fantasy circles. 

This week, we have taken a dive into Kenyan Drake, Austin Ekeler, and Marquise Brown. Today, we are jumping into Tyler Higbee.

For more fantasy content, check out our offseason fantasy football hub with rankings, strategy, and more.

Week 1 Age: 27.7
Contract: Signed through 2023 (potential out year after 2021)

Using the Dynasty ADP app available at RotoViz, Higbee is now the richest he has ever been in his career thanks to a league-winning, end-of-season flurry of fantasy points to close the 2019 season. 

Through 10 weeks, the season was going par for the course for Higbee. Over his first nine games during those weeks, Higbee had corralled 21-of-27 targets for 192 yards and a touchdown while running just 95 pass routes total. The primary blocking tight end for the Rams, Higbee served counter to his teammate Gerald Everett, who had reeled in 34-of-57 targets for 365 yards and two scores while running 228 pass routes over that same span.

Then two things completely flipped the season heading into Week 11. Everett entered that week questionable with a wrist injury and the Rams completely altered their offensive game plan and philosophy. With a struggling offensive line and Everett banged up, the Rams went to a heavier personnel base, using 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, and two wide receivers) on 32 (76%) of their offensive snaps. Up until that point of the season, the Rams were primarily an offense with three wide receivers on the field at all times, running just 58 plays total (12%) in 12 personnel through 10 weeks. For the remainder of the season, it was a larger component of their offense. 

Rams Offensive Personnel Usage Weeks 11-17 of 2019

Week11 (3WR)12 (2 TE)

The following week, the Rams were waxed by the Ravens 45-6, so the shift in approach had not taken root since the Rams were never in a neutral game script in that game. In Week 15, they lost 44-21 to Dallas, a game that was 28-7 at halftime and 31-7 through three quarters. But when in neutral game scripts and ahead on the scoreboard, the Rams desired to play heavier. 

Everett himself played in Week 11, but logged just 14 offensive snaps. The next week in that Ravens blowout, he suffered a knee injury that forced him out for the next three games Weeks 13-15, then managed to find the field for just four snaps total while active Weeks 16-17. It was over that stretch where Higbee went bonkers.

Tyler Higbee 2019 Game Log

WeekSnap %RoutesOppTargetsRecYdsTDPPRTE Rank

From Weeks 13-17, Higbee accounted for 43 receptions for 522 yards and two touchdowns over that span. That included a four-game stretch in which he became the first tight end in league history to have at least seven receptions and 100 receiving yards in four consecutive games played. He closed the year as the highest scoring fantasy tight end over that five-week span with 23.2 more PPR fantasy points scored than the next highest tight end, Travis Kelce. It was also the second-most PPR points a tight end has scored Weeks 13-17 in any individual season, trailing only Rob Gronkowski in 2011.

It was a small sample and the Rams did face the 10th-easiest passing efficiency schedule over that span, but the team averaged 29.0 points per game and scoring a touchdown on 31.5% of their possessions after averaging 22.6 points per game and scoring a touchdown on 19.7% of their possessions prior. 

So the questions at hand for Higbee are: how much do the Rams stay in 12 personnel moving forward into the 2020 season? And if so, does Gerald Everett reassume his role as the primary pass catcher in those sets?

General manager Les Snead has hinted that the team would like to have more offensive diversity than the strict 11 personnel-based philosophy they carried through the first two and half seasons under Sean McVay. Given their offensive success to close the season, the current state of their offensive line being a question mark, and the added transactions in releasing Todd Gurley, trading Brandin Cooks and then drafting another young running back and another tight end, that signal has support. 

McVay himself has already talked up Everett and the desire to put him in better spots offensively. The interesting part with Everett is that the Rams actually have already extended Higbee long term, with Everett now entering 2020 in the final season of his rookie contract.

With that contract extension for Higbee and the selection of Brycen Hopkins in the fourth round of the draft, there’s smart money to be wagered on Everett being with another team in 2021. I doubt that Everett’s expiring contract will play a major role in his 2020 involvement, but given the team’s longer commitment to Higbee and his end of the season performance being so strong, they also should not just revert him to the one dimensional, blocking-centric option he was prior, either. 

So that all places Higbee and his fantasy owners in a tricky spot. On one hand, you can use this small sample spike to move a tight end that you never would have thought would carry this cost and on the other, you have an opportunity to stand pat and see if that production was not a fluke at an inherently thin fantasy position with very few difference makers.

I do not believe there is any way we will see Higbee average double-digit targets per game in 2020 like he did to close 2019, but that is already being priced in. Higbee’s current Dynasty ADP is at TE12, two spots ahead of where I have him. With him already being a little older than some of the fringe TE1/TE2 options, I am a little more pessimistic in Dynasty than I am for his 2020 standalone value. Although Higbee has spiked to the highest cost of his career, he still isn’t being selected in a bucket of other clear gems, which makes his potential trade market equally as tough.

As usual in closing here, in dynasty, every player has the potential to be both a buy and sell at the same time. You just have to find the proper context in your league on which he is valued per owner. Startup ADP and cost is not going to be an exact market for you with team context a driving force in established leagues, but here are the buy and sell point suggestions using that as guideline pending which side you fall on. And with the tight end position carrying “premium scoring” in some leagues, that market could be altered in a more positive return.

2020 Rookie Pick Value: Mid to lower Second (2.05-2.10)
RB Value Targets: Rashaad Penny, Matt Breida, James White, Tarik Cohen, Ronald Jones
WR Value Targets: Sterling Shepard, Preston Williams, Anthony Miller, James Washington