Tim Wright to New England: Should You Add Him in Fantasy Football?
Any sort of movement in the NFL around this time of year makes for a massive story. Today, Tim Wright and Logan Mankins were at the center of a trade, as the New England Patriots received a fourth-round pick and the tight end for their veteran Pro Bowl guard.
Naturally, fantasy football Twitter went a little bonkers, proclaiming that this move makes Wright an instant fantasy football sleeper with Tom Brady throwing him the rock. I, too, joined in on the hot takes fun.
But we need to be realistic about situations like this one before we go all-in on a waiver wire add in fantasy football. Is Tim Wright ownable? Should you be dropping depth for him? Is he even good?
Let’s take a look.
Wright’s Underrated Rookie Campaign
I’d boldly say that no rookie was as underrated on the offensive side of the ball as Tim Wright was last year. His final stat line saw 54 receptions, 571 yards and 5 touchdowns, and he finished as the 11th-best tight end according to our Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. Considering it was his first year in the league, the dude did work.
What many don’t realize is that Tim Wright was actually historically good last season. In fact, we’ve only seen five other rookie tight ends in the history of the NFL catch 50 passes for 500 yards and 5 touchdowns.
And he did this without seeing a single target during Weeks 1 and 2 last year. Wright compiled 76 targets on the season, which ranked 16th in the NFL among tight ends. But as noted, his Reception NEP – a cumulative metric – ranked 11th, showing he was efficient with his looks. This is true, too, as he ranked 5th among the 21 tight ends last year with 40 or more receptions in Reception NEP per target.
Prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, things were looking up for Wright. But the new regime in Tampa selected Austin Seferian-Jenkins out of Washington, and hope began to dwindle.
But as our own Leo Howell pointed out in July, Wright’s opportunity really wasn’t as bad as most would think given the new competition. Not only do rookie tight ends rarely produce in the passing game – Wright was obviously an exception – but the Bucs lacked a true slot receiver, a position Wright was capable of playing. New head coach Lovie Smith was even quoted saying that the team was planning on using two-tight-end sets with Wright, but he wasn’t doing a sound job blocking. To some, that meant he may split out wide more often than not. That's music to fantasy football owners' ears.
Clearly that’s no longer the case, as the 6’4’’, 220-pound freak athlete is now a Patriot. Is there opportunity with Brady and company?
Will He Produce as a Patriot?
Another undervalued part of Wright’s rookie season is the fact that the Bucs ranked 27th in Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points – a metric that looks at the number of points added through the air by a team over the course of a season, adjusted for strength of schedule. And among all pass-catchers on Tampa Bay's roster last year, Wright ranked first – by far – in Target NEP, which measures the number of points added by a player on all passes thrown his way.
Considering the quarterbacks throwing him the ball, that’s pretty impressive for a rookie. He now makes a shift to last year’s sixth-best schedule-adjusted passing team, so, naturally, we’ve got some intrigue.
Wright’s size made him a tight end at the NFL level – he actually played receiver while attending Rutgers. And the truth is, anytime you can mix a great athlete with wide receiver experience and fantasy football tight end eligibility, you have to be interested.
The problem with Wright in New England is their already-existing monster tight end, Rob Gronkowski. It shouldn’t be a given that the Patriots will shift Tim Wright to some sort of Aaron Hernandez role, as many have assumed, because that would mean a change to an offense that’s been using the 263-pound, plodding Michael Hoomanawanui as their number-two tight end over the past year-plus.
What Tim Wright does for New England, and potentially your fantasy football team, is give them a versatile piece to an always-interesting offense. Perhaps this is some sort of sign that Rob Gronkowski won’t be ready Week 1 after tearing up his knee, which is a fair assumption considering the typical timeline for such an injury. If that’s the case, Wright could be in store for decent early-season numbers.
The other thing to remember is that New England isn’t strong at wide receiver. In fact, despite these receivers playing with Tom Brady last year, only Julian Edelman had a better Target NEP score than Tim Wright compiled during his rookie season in Tampa Bay. Moreover, there are question marks still surrounding Aaron Dobson’s health, and Danny Amendola is a constant risk.
This is kind of why the move made sense for New England: Tim Wright is a versatile pass-catcher, and the Patriots have a lot of moving, uncertain parts. Adding him for depth purposes strengthens many weak areas of the team. In essence, he's killing two birds with one stone for New England.
What Should You Do?
With all of this said, the fact remains that Tim Wright was a hell of a pass-catcher last year, putting up numbers that very few tight ends have accomplished during their first years in the league. And because of that, he certainly has a lot of upside.
But so do a lot of other tight ends in fantasy football this year. Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz, Jordan Reed – plenty of young, sophomore tight ends are being selected relatively late in fantasy drafts already, and have clearer paths to playing time.
The move here would be to pick up Wright if you have a deep bench or are in need of tight end help, but beware that his presence on New England’s roster could amount to nothing but a solid week here and there. Tim Wright is good, especially for a team like New England. But that doesn’t always translate to fantasy football, and in this case, it could cause a weekly headache in your tight end slot.