Can You Trust Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener in Fantasy Football?
The fantasy playoffs are here, and unless you have Rob Gronkowski as your tight end, you are most likely entering your playoffs with some kind of uncertainty at the tight end position. That uncertainty is probably caused by events such as injuries or last week's infamous Jimmy Graham 0-fer at Pittsburgh. Last month, I surmised that the elite tight end gap may be closing. The results since this article seem to be mixed.
However, what if I were to tell you that if you combined the statistics of the tight ends for the Indianapolis Colts, you'd have the equivalent of a "Super Tight End?" Well, as surprising as it may sound, if you combine the 2014 performances of both Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, you are staring at a beastly fantasy tight end according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics.
|Player||Targets||Rec NEP||Target NEP||Rec NEP/Target||Success Rate|
|Fleener||63 (12th)||54.64 (7th)||31.51 (7th)||0.87 (6th)||91.4% (8th)|
|Allen||40 (26th)||42.87 (12th)||32.09 (5th)||1.07 (1st)||92.3% (3rd)|
|Combined||103 (1st)||97.51 (1st)||63.60 (1st)||0.95 (5th)||91.8% (6th)|
|Gronkowski||102 (2nd)||94.88 (2nd)||61.75 (2nd)||0.93 (6th)||93.8% (2nd)|
The dynamic duo of Allen and Fleener, while performing well in our Reception and Target NEP metrics individually (both are top-12 performers in all major categories), together essentially form the number-one tight end in fantasy football, narrowly besting Gronkowski in targets, Reception NEP, Target NEP, and Reception NEP per target. The combined statistics of these two big targets for stud quarterback Andrew Luck include 61 receptions for 968 yards and a whopping 13 touchdowns in 12 games.
Trustworthy in the Fantasy Playoffs?
Now that Allen is returning in week 14 from a high ankle injury with Fleener having performed very well in his absence (13 receptions on 18 targets for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns), the question is whether or not these two can share the fantasy spotlight. My thought on this is why not?
Assuming two things - first, the lack of other tight end options you can trust in your fantasy playoffs or daily games and, second, the high usage of the tight end position in the Colts high-octane offense - both Fleener and Allen can perform well for you down the stretch, whether you own either one of these guys, or both. Outdoing Gronk's stats above should be proof positive that you can rely on the 6'3" Allen and the 6'6" Fleener down the stretch.
Additionally, in games where Allen was not injured and both tight ends played, both players scored touchdowns in the Jacksonville, Tennessee, and New York Giants contests. If you were trying to predict which one of these guys is more likely to score a touchdown in a given week, it may be tough, but the edge would probably go to Allen who is utilized in the red zone more than Fleener, especially when Luck uses play fakes or rollouts, like in this two-yard touchdown versus the Giants.
While Allen is more likely to score a touchdown and would be considered more "touchdown-dependent" for fake football value, he's scored in seven of nine games and typically has a stat line that resembles 3 to 4 receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown. Allen basically represents a high floor with a low ceiling.
On the other hand, Fleener's 2014 statistics boast some more yardage and more long yardage touchdowns, including a 73-yard touchdown on some horrendous tackling by the Redskins and significant blown coverage. These plays represent Fleener's lack of athleticism in that he almost fell while not being touched on his 31 yard touchdown and then alligator-armed and dropped a wide open huge play.
The knock on Fleener, who has been with Luck since their days at Stanford, is simply that he's afraid to get hit and has inconsistent hands, and as a result, he's not a very good football player. However, as a fantasy owner, do you really care about how he gets his production so long as he produces? I mean, it isn't his fault that he slipped behind blown coverages and broke weak tackles to score from 73 yards out, is it?
Since Week 7, Fleener has had four games of 64 or more yards receiving, including two 100-yard games in Allen's absence. This and his five touchdowns demonstrate that while he may have a lower floor than Allen (six games in 2014 with two or fewer receptions), his ceiling is certainly way higher than Allen's, and given the uncertainty of the tight end position right now, that upside could be a piece of the winning your fantasy league playoffs puzzle if you are willing to trot Fleener into your lineup.
Week 14 and Beyond
Our Week 14 projections peg Allen and Fleener as the 8th and 10th ranked options at tight end this week, with expected outputs of approximately 3 receptions and 40-or-so yards receiving, with Allen projected at 0.48 touchdowns to Fleener's 0.39 touchdowns. With the tight end position being a crapshoot and the possibility of Allen having a setback or reinjuring his ankle, Fleener may be the better call of the two this week, but stay posted on Allen's practice schedule and note that Browns have been mostly solid against the tight end position.
Beyond week 14, our remaining year projections have Allen and Fleener ranked 8th and 10th, respectively, with Allen's expected output of 12 receptions for 152 yards and 1.89 touchdowns slightly higher than Fleener again on the expectation that he's more likely to find the end zone than Fleener (12 receptions for 159 yards and 1.65 touchdowns).
Whether you prefer Allen or Fleener at this point with a weak and unpredictable tight end pool, both of the Colts tight ends deserve starting fantasy lineup consideration based on their statistics thus far, the Colts' prolific passing offense, and a quarterback who looks their way frequently.