Are We Overlooking Fred Davis?
We love to look at lists in fantasy football. They’re quick, easy to absorb, and usually give us the information we want.
Fantasy results – post-season rankings – are often read in list form. Who was the 22nd-ranked running back last year? Check the list. It was Darren Sproles.
These lists are helpful, but they clearly don’t tell us the entire story. Final rankings, for many reasons, aren’t everything. Not only do they fail to show us weekly volatility, but they also miss out on one huge, vital fantasy football factor: Injury.
A player who plays just 12 games isn’t worthless. LeSean McCoy, for instance, missed four games last year, but he still finished in the weekly running back top 24 more times than Stevan Ridley. In terms of final rankings, however, McCoy was 12 spots below the Patriots running back.
Because we look at these lists, injury-ridden players are often devalued entering the next season. Perhaps it’s Recency Bias; we’re diminishing player values based on what we remember most about them. But previously hurt NFLers can usually be had at a discount the following season.
Fred Davis may be one of those guys. He’s never in the stud discussion at tight end, but he’s put up underrated numbers throughout his career. And actually, Davis may be even better than you think.
Fred Davis’ Numbers
Davis has been serviceable - not phenomenal - in fantasy football over the duration of his professional playing time. Statistically, Davis peaked in 2011, four years after being drafted out of USC. That year, the Skins tight end caught 59 passes for almost 800 yards and three scores. He played in just 12 games.
Freddy has never been a huge touchdown guy, scoring three or more times in just three of his five NFL seasons. He’s also never scored more than six. But again, the guy just can’t stay healthy, so totals aren’t going to be very appealing. He’s played in just over 12 games on average per season, forcing obvious risk to anyone drafting him.
But although he’s oft-injured and hasn't been a fantastic fantasy play, Davis has provided very solid efficiency scores over his career. In 2009, he ranked 16th out of 32 40-plus target tight ends in terms of receiving net expected points per target (.64), a metric that measures how well a player contributed towards his team’s real output. As I’ve mentioned many times, this number looks at real football effectiveness. It shows us, in essence, how valuable a player was to his team’s offense.
Davis’ number rose to .86 per target in 2010, a value greater than all but two of the top-10 fantasy tight ends. Unfortunately, he was playing behind Chris Cooley, who caught 77 passes for 849 yards that year. Given more opportunity, Davis may have been better than Cooley that season.
In 2011, Davis had a receiving NEP per target of .66. That was on par with Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who broke through with 79 receptions, 910 yards and 7 scores that year. Davis finished with 59 catches and 796 yards of his own, but again, was hampered by injury.
And last year, the Skins tight end played in just seven games, but still ended the year as the third-best tight end in terms of receiving NEP per target. Keep in mind, his injury forced fewer targets his way, but the fact that only Heath Miller and Rob Gronkowski were more effective for their team is at least a little telling.
Seriously people, a healthy Fred Davis may truthfully be a perennial TE1.
Fred Davis in 2013
Before Fred Davis went down last season, he had at least 38 yards in all but one of the full games he played. The reason he wasn’t as fantasy relevant was because of his lack of touchdowns, which may come with a more experienced quarterback under center this season.
But the biggest reason to look Davis’ way in 2013? He’s basically free. His 13th-round ADP lists him as the 17th tight end off the board, which could be a steal if he does end up staying healthy this season. His efficiency scores show us what he's capable of.
The USC tight end is pain-free after tearing his Achilles last season, and already scored a touchdown in the preseason (he was also fined after celebrating way too much for it). He’s been one of the highlight players in Redskins camp thus far.
Davis is our 16th-ranked tight end this season, but has a higher ceiling than many of the tight ends ranked around him. He’s worth the risk given his cost, and if he ends up not panning out, finding a replacement shouldn’t be difficult to do considering the upside at the position.