Tyler Higbee had a mini-breakout towards the end of last season, ranking as the highest scoring tight end in fantasy from Week 13 to Week 17. He played on 62% of the Rams‘ offensive snaps throughout the season, but that number jumped to at least 85% over those five weeks. The Rams have had a shift in offensive philosophy as they have opted to play with more “12” personnel – two tight ends and two receivers. Should we expect that to continue this season, and what does that mean for Higbee’s fantasy prospects?
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Higbee averaged 21.4 fantasy points per game over the final five games of the season, capping what was overall an excellent season for him. After going undrafted in the majority of leagues, Higbee finished as the TE8 in PPR leagues on the year and helped his fantasy owners win championships. With the Rams forced to attempt the 3rd-most passes in the league last year and a lack of clear defensive improvement over the offseason, Higbee should be heavily involved in the offense again in 2020.
Tyler Higbee ➡️ 77.5%
Austin Hooper ➡️ 77.3%
Darren Waller ➡️ 76.9%
Travis Kelce ➡️ 71.3% pic.twitter.com/5FH8HkG4AA
— Michael Hauff (@TheFFRealist) May 24, 2020
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There is a large number of vacated targets from the LA offense this season, which means Higbee could be even more involved in the passing game. Brandin Cooks (72) and Todd Gurley (49) left behind a combined 121 targets, which will have to go to other players on the roster. I’m projecting an uptick of about 12 targets for Higbee, which is honestly a conservative estimate as he picked up an average of 11.2 targets during that large 5-week stretch to close the season – that would have been a 16-game pace of 179 targets, the second-highest mark in the NFL.
ADP: 138.2, TE20
Auction Value: $14
Tyler Higbee’s ADP is shockingly low in my opinion – after finishing as the TE8 in PPR scoring last season, I find it hard to believe that he does worse this season, much less finish 12 spots lower among tight ends. I have him solidly in the second tier of tight ends, along with Evan Engram and Mark Andrews, just behind the elite level of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz. If I can draft Higbee anywhere after the 8th round, I’ll be thrilled.
These are the 8 TEs who really matter in 2020
The Smash Tier:
The Rocked Up Tier:
The Every-Week Tier:
6. Evan Engram
8. Tyler Higbee
After this, you’re really just throwing a dart and hoping to hit on upside.
— Troy FF (@TroyTerrific) May 18, 2020
The Rams did draft Van Jefferson to help fill the void left behind by Brandin Cooks and Cam Akers to help fill the running back touches left behind by Todd Gurley, so there’s a chance an uptick in work isn’t there for Higbee. The Rams also have Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods entrenched as their top two targets in the passing game. It’s also worth noting that a full season of Jalen Ramsey, as well as the additions of Terrell Lewis and Leonard Floyd, should help the Rams improve defensively next year. A slight defensive improvement would reduce the need for a large number of pass attempts. Higbee also had never had more than 300 yards receiving before last season, despite playing a full 16-game slate in each season before his breakout campaign. Gerald Everett should also be involved in the passing game as a tight end. Tyler Higbee isn’t an elite athlete, but given the general lack of consistency at the tight end position, he should have a solid floor for this season.
During the last five games of last season, Higbee’s stretch as the number one tight end in fantasy coincided with a 16-game pace of 137 catches for 1,670 yards and 6.5 touchdowns. I doubt he’ll be able to hit that mark throughout a full season, but Sean McVay has had high praise for his starting tight end, recently saying, “we’ve got big plans for him. That’s something that I thought was great for him to be able to maximize those opportunities, and we think he’s got a very bright future.” Higbee was also tied with Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce for the most red-zone targets by tight ends last season, each of whom had more touchdowns than him last year. His production last year was still good for the best season ever by a Rams’ tight end, and he certainly has the opportunity to build on those numbers further in 2020.
Los Angeles Rams Offense
The Rams ranked third in the NFL last season in pass attempts per game with 39.5, although Jared Goff did not have his best season with 22 touchdowns to 16 interceptions and just an 86.5 quarterback rate. However, Sean McVay is one of the best offensive minds in football – in 2017 (1st) and 2018 (2nd), the Rams were one of the highest-scoring teams in football. Last year they ranked 11th in points per game, which was a slight dip in production; they should be expected to improve on that this season. The Rams also don’t have a clear-cut workhorse running back after cutting Todd Gurley, and we’ll see much more of an RBBC between Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers, and Malcolm Brown. With the offensive line declining and running game unreliable, the passing game will be incredibly valuable. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are the most critical pass-catchers on the roster – I have each of them surpassing 150 targets this year – but there should still be plenty of work for Tyler Higbee to pick up.
Rams used 2-TE on the field on 59% of their run plays over their final 7 games last year (17% in first nine games). McVay completely changed his scheme and they’ll stick with it
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) May 20, 2020
Strength of Schedule
The NFC West features the 49ers’ elite defense – they ranked 2nd in total fantasy points allowed last season and 6th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. However, the Cardinals and Seahawks were the two worst defenses in the NFL in defending tight ends. The Cardinals should improve somewhat with the addition of Isaiah Simmons, but Seattle is deadset on running base defense more than any other team in football, and that doesn’t seem likely to change this year. In addition to the Seahawks and Cardinals, the Rams face the Cowboys and Redskins, who round out the bottom four teams in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. They do face the Bills (2nd), Eagles (5th), Jets (3rd), and Patriots (9th) who were top ten defenses against tight ends last year, but the Giants (20th), Dolphins (14th), Buccaneers (26th), and Bears (24th) should offer a reprieve. Overall, this looks like one of the easier schedules in the league for tight end fantasy scoring.
Tyler Higbee may not have a large sample size of high-level production for fantasy football, but after the way he ended the season, it seems like he’s ready to break out and be an every-game weapon for one of the best passing offenses in the league. Sean McVay is adept at utilizing his weapons in the most effective ways, and Higbee figures to be even more involved in the offense this year. With his incredibly low ADP, he’s one of my favorite sleepers at the tight end position this year.
— DOWNTOWN RAMS [DTR] (@DowntownRams) May 19, 2020
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