Dynasty Mythbusters: Delanie Walker and Niles Paul

Jacob Feldman


Week two is now in the rearview mirror. The injuries and off the field headlines are getting all of the attention, but there were a few great on the field performances as well, a few of them from some very unlikely sources – that is where I come in! For those of you unfamiliar with the Dynasty Mythbusters series, the goal of the article is to analyze certain trends, potential breakouts or just downright bad play in an attempt to predict what we can expect in the future.

Am I always right? Definitely not. But I did suggest that you sell, sell, sell on Trent Richardson very early in the season last year (before it was a trendy thing to say!) and ignore the week one “breakouts” of Jerome Simpson and Leonard Hankerson just to name a few.

The fantasy community as a whole tends to have a very strong tendency to overreact to small sample sizes. This is especially true when it comes to early season production. After all, it is only natural after months and months of buildup, thinking your team is great, to get disappointed when your stud disappoints. Don’t go trading them for pennies on the dollar. They will be back. It works in the opposite direction as well. We all like the feeling of grabbing that virtual unknown and watching them turn into the next Jimmy Graham. The problem is the vast majority of the time they don’t pan out and trading your first round pick or an every week starter away for him would be a major mistake.

Through this series, I’ll do my best to focus on guys who are likely to be talked up as potential waiver additions or who are end of the bench guys on most rosters who you might be able to snag with a reasonable trade offer. After all, it is a little late for me to be telling you to go after Bernard Pierce since Ray Rice is gone.

Niles Paul, TE WAS
Week Two Statline: 11 targets were turned into eight catches for 99 yards and one touchdown.

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The fourth year converted wide receiver has always been on the very fringe of the fantasy radar. We’ve liked his athleticism even if he didn’t have the ideal frame for a tight end. His situation has always been questionable as well as he has been stuck behind what seemed to be better fits either from a size or athletic stand point. With Jordan Reed on the sidelines, he was forced into a starting role and definitely responded. Of course the question is what can we expect from this point forward?

The Good: If you watched Paul play over the last two weeks, you immediately notice the chemistry he has developed with his quarterbacks, especially Kirk Cousins since they have both been practicing together with the second team. That chemistry immediately gave him a leg up when Cousins came into the game early in week two. The trust between the two was clear and Paul made some nice plays to help out the young backup.

When it comes to athleticism, you need to make sure you’re using the right perspective. If we are talking about wide receivers, Paul is just average but for a 240 pound tight end he’s pretty quick on his feet and shows good, but not great burst. He also has above average hands and very good straight line speed and acceleration for a tight end. No one is going to confuse him with a young Antonio Gates or Vernon Davis, but he has enough skills in those areas to get the job done at an NFL level. One of the biggest knocks on him early was his route running, which he has improved over the four years.

The Bad: The very first question that came to my mind about Paul is where was he in 2013 and earlier? Reed missed basically half the season and the guy who stepped up at the tight end position was Logan Paulsen. Why didn’t Paul seize the opportunity then like he did this past weekend?

One of the other knocks against Paul comes down to his physical attributes. I already covered his athleticism as being good but not great for the position, but his overall size is a little bit under what most teams like. At 6’1” and 240 pounds, he doesn’t have the super big frame teams tend to like in-line and going over the middle. His catch radius is smaller than most other tight ends in the league and at 240 pounds he’s going to be limited mostly to a move tight end type of role while Washington has traditionally preferred in-line tight ends who can be an asset blocking.

The Ugly Truth: When looking at Paul, it is important to keep the scheme change that came with the coaching switch in mind. In the Shanahan system, once Reed went down, having the big bodied tight end to help run the ball seemed to be a priority – that is a large reason why you saw Paulsen earn the starting role over Paul when Reed went down in 2013. Paulsen has the more traditional size at 6’5” and 265 pounds and is the better blocker. Gruden has shown to be very willing to adapt his scheme to fit the talents available and seems to realize what Paul can bring to the table as a move tight end. While Paul is plenty strong and can block when needed, he just doesn’t have the frame to hold up to defensive linemen one on one like some of the bigger tight ends in the league.

One item I didn’t address yet is opportunity. Paul is faster, but overall probably not as athletic as Reed. They fill the exact same role in the offense, so when Reed is around Paul’s role is almost non-existent. However, Paul doesn’t have is the major injury history. Of course Paul hasn’t been on the field that much over his first three years in the league so it might not be entirely fair to compare them, but it is time to realize Reed just can’t stay healthy. Between the multitude of concussions and soft tissue injuries, counting on Reed is becoming a touchy proposition. With Paul’s productivity, Washington has no reason to rush him back into action. With that said, when Reed is healthy, I fully expect him to get his job back because he is the superior option to Paul.

Final Verdict: Paul has the ability to be a low end TE1 anytime he is starting. With Reed’s injury history, that could be a fairly common occurrence. He’s definitely worth going after, especially in TE premium leagues.

Delanie Walker, TE TEN
Week Two Statline: 14 targets turned into ten catches for 142 yards and one score

Walker spent the first seven years of his career playing second fiddle at the tight end position in San Francisco. While he was a success in that role, he wasn’t going to push Vernon Davis to the bench – this forced him to take his talents elsewhere if he wanted a starting job. He turned his first starting role into 60 catches, 571 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. If you compare last week to last year he managed to post 17% of his catches, 25% of his yards and 17% of his touchdowns. Is this the start of a breakout season or was this a random fluke?

The Good: The best thing about Walker just might be the team he has around him. While there is definitely some talent with Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, there isn’t much depth at either the wide receiver or tight end position outside of Nate Washington – this ensures Walker has a chance to be involved at least a little bit in the passing game. With Jake Locker at the helm, the deep ball is always an option, but the questionable accuracy makes it a little more hit and miss than most coaches would like. This results in a lot of short to intermediate routes which are where most tight ends flourish.

Athletically, Walker has some skills as well. At the combine (which in the interest of full disclosure was back in 2006), Walker run a sub 4.5 second time. While age has probably sapped a little bit of that speed, he still has quite a bit to burn making him very dangerous after the catch on a shorter route or going deep over the middle. Over the years he has turned into a decent route runner as well, allowing him to gain separation on the shorter routes.

The Bad: The biggest item that should make potential suitors a little bit leery is the fact he’s already 30 years old. While it has happened, it is extremely rare for a player to suddenly become a fantasy star at age 30 during his ninth season in the league. Given most tight ends, outside of the exceptional future Hall of Famers, start to enter their period of rapid decline in their very early 30s, even if it was a breakout year the long term value would be pretty limited.

Outside of his age, the other major question mark is the quarterback position. As I mentioned, Locker has a gifted arm but accuracy is a little spotty. Because of this, Locker isn’t going to have too many 300 yard passing games. In fact, Locker has more than double the number of games under 150 passing yards than he does games over 300 yards. Production like that, or rather the lack there of, makes it very difficult for the likely third target in the offense to be a reliable fantasy asset.

The Ugly Truth: History is working against Walker. We just don’t see breakout seasons from any NFL position during their ninth season, especially when it is such a departure from what has been done over the past seasons. This was Walker’s first career game over 100 yards receiving and only his third game with more than six receptions. When you consider he’s been in the league since 2006, that doesn’t bode well for sustained production. He has had single game blow ups before like the ten catches for 91 yards and a score in mid-November last year. The majority of the time we get 3-5 catches for 30-50 yards with a chance at a score – this was the peak of Walker’s season.

His age combined with the point Locker is in his career also makes the long term outlook a little bleak. Locker isn’t ready to be a big time passing quarterback just yet and might not ever be one. With Walker already being 30 years old, I think he’ll be past his prime by the time Locker or someone else is ready to unleash the passing game. In the meantime, the passing attack will be very inconsistent and not something I would want to count on in real life or on my fantasy league.

At season’s end, I would expect Walker to be somewhere in the low TE1 to high TE2 range, which is right in the middle with a bunch of other tight ends. If I’m going with one of those tight ends, I would much prefer one of the younger guys who have some long term upside.

Final Verdict: If you have him, this is the week to move him. You likely have a starter already and in a lot of leagues there will be backup tight ends of near equal value on the waiver wire. He isn’t worth chasing and I’m moving him for any reasonable offer.


jacob feldman