Trey Burton Is a Fantasy Football Post-Hype Sleeper in 2019
With Trey Burton's move from Philadelphia to Chicago last offseason, the hype for Burton's fantasy potential was through the roof. He had finally escaped the Eagles' depth chart behind Zach Ertz and landed himself a starting role that he had a chance to thrive in.
The fantasy community was on board with a Burton breakout. Entering the 2018 season, Trey Burton was being drafted as the TE6 in half-PPR leagues, costing drafters a sixth-round pick (per FantasyFootballCalculator). However, despite finishing as TE7 in 2018, Burton is now being drafted as the TE11 at a 10th-round cost.
While Burton's bottom-line numbers from last season were more than fine, a major reason for the feeling of disappointment regarding Burton's 2018 campaign is that he started so well only to fade down the stretch. Burton's production from Week 4 through Week 7 accounted for nearly 40 percent of his total fantasy points on the season.
But the lack of hype around him this season may be going too far, which makes him a great post-hype sleeper candidate in 2019.
Personnel Changes (Or Lack Thereof)
The only significant personnel change that the Bears made on offense this offseason was switching out Jordan Howard for Mike Davis and David Montgomery. While they did spend a fourth-round pick on Riley Ridley, he is currently the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart and probably won't be regularly competing for targets this fall. The expected development of second-year wideout Anthony Miller may take some attention away from Burton, but Miller's growth is no guarantee.
The only potential new threat to challenge Burton for targets is the return of a healthy Adam Shaheen. However, in the six games that Shaheen played last year, he recorded only a total of six targets while Burton averaged just over four targets per game in those same contests.
Chicago had a bit more turnover on the defense (no pun intended), losing starters Adrian Amos to the Packers and Bryce Callahan to the Broncos. Not to mention, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is now the head coach of the Denver Broncos. If the Bears' defense regresses from their top-tier performance last year, it could put the offense into more play-from-behind scenarios, forcing them to throw the ball more than they had to in 2018.
Red Zone Usage
Burton's red zone usage in 2018 was better than most would think based on his inconsistent production throughout the year. Not only was he seventh among tight ends with 14 red zone targets (tied for first on the Bears with Tarik Cohen), but he was also tied for fifth in red zone snap percentage among tight ends (80%).
Furthermore, he was fifth in tight end scoring in the red zone with 44.9 (37.4%) of his fantasy points coming inside the 20 (per Fantasy Data). As a comparison, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz scored 31.2 and 27.8 percent of their fantasy points in the red zone, respectively.
Mitchell Trubisky would be smart to continue targeting Burton in the red zone -- Trubisky's 131.3 passer rating when targeting Burton in the red-zone was at the top of the league. This efficiency can also be attributed to Burton recording the fourth-best red zone grade among tight ends (per PFF).
The threat Burton poses in the red zone is enough to make him a valuable fantasy football asset at a thin position. Since the Bears are largely returning the same offensive personnel, Burton's red zone production shouldn't change too much going into 2019.
2019 Fantasy Outlook
Our projections have Burton finishing as the TE16 with 42 receptions, 463 yards, and 4.9 touchdowns. Those numbers would certainly disappoint owners taking him as the TE11, but I'm much more optimistic than our algorithm as these projections would mean he finishes with fewer receptions, yards, and touchdowns than he had in 2018. I expect him to take a step forward in his second year as a starting tight end and his second year under Matt Nagy.
One concern to look out for with Burton is his health. He missed the Bears' lone playoff game against the Eagles due to a groin issue. Burton has also dealt with documented cases of anxiety in the past. Provided he's physically and mentally healthy, don't expect a drastic shift in production.
Drafting Burton outside top 10 tight ends could provide immense value come draft day, but one can only hope that his targets get dispersed over more games this season to provide more consistency on a week-to-week basis.