Welcome back to the DLF Mailbag, the preeminent mailbag in all the dynasty fantasy football land. This year I’ll be answering questions from you via Twitter, Discord, or the old-fashioned way (via email). Free agency is now far behind us. The 2023 NFL Draft has now come and gone. It’s the quiet season until training camps open, but that doesn’t mean the questions ever stop. Most of us have rookie drafts that are kicking off or have already kicked off this week, so let’s get to your questions.
I need questions for this week's @DLFootball mailbag! Was there an event this weekend that may have left you with some questions? Let me know.
— Shanesays (@ShaneIsTheWorst) April 29, 2023
Should we be concerned with Kyle Pitts?
are we worried about kyle pitts now?
— Gavin Robulock (@gvnRoblox) April 29, 2023
My gut reaction when the Falcons drafted Bijan Robinson eighth overall on Thursday was to dread the future of Pitts’ production.
I remember seeing discussions in the past on how tight ends and running backs often compete for targets. There seemed to be a negative correlation between the two positions. Besides the article from Andrew Erickson I’ve already linked, I remember the late great Mike Tagliere doing some work on this topic in the past, and if anyone can locate that article please share it with me (if for no other reason to assure me I didn’t imagine it and am not going senile). Anyway, the data I’m referencing is somewhat dated, so I decided just to take a look at the past two seasons to see how running back and tight end targets on the same team correlate.
Looking at the 2021 season, of the top six tight end scorers (points per game), four finished in the top six in target share for the position, while five finished in the top six in targets per game. The running back target leaders on their team varied widely in targets per game rankings.
For example, Rob Gronkowski ranked third in scoring, fourth in targets per game, and 12th in target share at the position, while sharing the field with the most (tied) targeted running back (per game) in the NFL in 2021, Leonard Fournette. TJ Hockenson also shared the field with a running back who saw six targets per game (tied for the league lead per game) in D’Andre Swift. Mark Andrews and George Kittle were on the opposite end of the spectrum, while Dalton Schultz and Kelce fell in the middle.
The 2022 season doesn’t show any negative correlation between tight end and running back targets either. Of the top six scoring tight ends (PPG), they shared the field with four running backs who ranked in the top 14 of targets per game at the running back position.
With Christian McCaffrey joining the 49ers for their final 11 weeks, and TJ Hockenson moving to Minnesota for the final ten weeks, the above table isn’t perfect. To get a view of how these two elite tight ends performed with elite running backs on the same roster I decided to use the DLF Player Splits App. First up let’s take a look at how Kittle fared with McCaffrey last season.
There are other factors baked into the above table… but Kittle saw a significant spike in scoring and a negligible drop in target share with McCaffrey last year.
Next, let’s take a look at Hockenson and Dalvin Cook.
Hockenson’s scoring increase wasn’t as stark as Kittle’s though his target share did see a pretty significant increase while playing with Cook. Though I do have to note that Hockenson’s stats looked much worse when paired with D’Andre Swift.
Keep in mind this is an extremely small sample size, I only wanted to look at the “elite” tight end scoring, and I only went back two seasons, but it’s hard for me to say that Pitts should see a negative impact just because Bijan Robinson was added to the roster. I’m not forgetting about Drake London either, but even last year there were several situations with high-performing wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs all on the same roster, Philadelphia and San Francisco for example.
What will probably be of more importance for Pitts’ outlook is that the Falcons continue to throw as much as they did last year with Desmond Ridder under center (28.8 attempts per game) vs. when Marcus Mariota was starting (23.1 pass attempts per game).
Get the Gibbs?
What's your thoughts on RB Jahmyr Gibbs in Detroit?
— HollywoodVols (@HollywoodTitan) April 30, 2023
Does Gibbs draft capital put him ahead of any of the top QB’s?
— Ribsilicious (@Ribsilish) April 30, 2023
There were a couple of Jahmyr Gibbs questions, which should be expected since he was overdrafted at 12th(!) overall to the Detroit Lions, who then dealt away D’Andre Swift to the Eagles. First, under no circumstances should Gibbs be drafted over Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, or Anthony Richardson in superflex rookie drafts. If you don’t need a quarterback, what you should look to do is trade out of 1.02 through 1.04. In a rookie draft I had over the weekend I moved the 1.03 for the 1.06 and 1.10, and that is a deal you could probably make (if not a better one), in most of your superflex leagues. If you want to draft Gibbs then you shouldn’t look to move back further than the 1.05, but if like me you are mostly agnostic between Gibbs and Jaxon Smith-Njigba then the 1.06 is fine.
I can’t pretend to not be concerned about Gibbs’ size, as I noted on Twitter this weekend. I did receive pushback (rightly so) on this take, and as people pointed out to me, Gibbs just being drafted at 12th overall means he is an outlier already. Additionally, he falls into a select cohort of players.
Like truly, an elite select cohort of players. It’s almost kismet that a player Gibbs compares so favorably to – Swift – just so happens to be the player he’ll be replacing. Swift was able to rank third amongst running backs with 1.13 fantasy points per opportunity, and 15th in PPG despite his 36.9% opportunity share ranking 51st among running backs. I think it’s more than fair to be bullish on Gibbs, considering his skill set, his high draft capital, and his landing spot.
Down on Downs
How mad should I be about Josh Downs' draft capital
— Toronto Dave (@torontoFF8) April 29, 2023
Well if you want to feel better about Josh Downs, you can find solace in the fact that he’s still the WR5 in DLFs latest rookie rankings. So, you’ve got that going for you. If you’ve already had your rookie drafts, and selected Downs it might behoove you to move off of him. Using Stathead to take a look at the list of round three wide receivers drafted since 2018 doesn’t give me much confidence in Downs ever being fantasy-relevant.
But it’s not completely barren, you can hang your hat on Diontae Johnson and Terry McLaurin. Michael Gallup had one good season as well. But largely this is a list of players who have done little to nothing as fantasy assets. So don’t get mad, or down even, just stay away from Downs.
Keep on Walking
How will Zach Charbonnet cut into Ken Walker's production? Anything to be worried about?
— Jesse Kirkendall (@JayKirkendall) April 29, 2023
The short answer is yes. I’m still not fully over this draft selection by the Seahawks. Though Kenneth Walker was by no means a receiving back last year, he did average 1.8 receptions per game and had at least two receptions in seven of 15 games last year. Considering he averaged 0.59 receptions per game during his college career, Walker’s 2022 usage provided some hope for him being a 35-40 reception guy someday. And despite sharing the backfield to start the season, Walker ended the year with a 65.3% opportunity share of backfield work, which ranked 13th for running backs.
Adding Zach Charbonnet to the mix is going to severely curtail Walker’s workload. Charbonnet averaged well over 200 + touches his final two seasons in college, and was much more involved as a receiver, averaging 2.77 receptions per game during the same period. And it’s not as if Charbonnet was some late-round, small school shot in the dark, he’s coming in from a career in the Big and Pac 10’s, and as a second-round pick. Walker can still be a bottom-end RB1/high-end RB2, but it’s hard to see him ever being elite sharing a backfield with Charbonnet.
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Mailbag: Pivoting Away from Jonathan Taylor - August 29, 2023
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Mailbag: Kyle Pitts, Brock Purdy and Roster Construction - August 22, 2023
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Mailbag: Late-Round Stashes and More - August 15, 2023