Dwayne Allen Is Being Undervalued in Fantasy Football

Drafted as backup tight end in most fantasy football leagues, is Dwayne Allen being undervalued going into the 2015 season?

The Colts have had quite a busy offseason.

Following the emergence of number-one wideout T.Y. Hilton and size and speed freak Donte Moncrief, the Colts added All-Pro veterans Andre Johnson and Frank Gore before drafting perhaps one of the best deep threats in this rookie class in Phillip Dorsett.

And with one of the league's top quarterbacks at the helm for this team in Andrew Luck, all eyes are on this revamped receiving corps to light the league on fire this upcoming season.

All this has made tight end Dwayne Allen the forgotten man in Indianapolis, at least as far as fantasy football managers are concerned. And because of this, as we'll soon discuss, Allen presents a great value for those looking for a high upside tight end near the back end of their drafts this season.

The Perks of Being A Colts Tight End

The tight end position is a heavily utilized one in offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's scheme. As Scott Barrett noted in his work earlier this offseason, 19%, 19%, and 25% of the team's targets went this position's way in 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively. With our projections pegging quarterback Andrew Luck for a little over 677 attempts this season, this type of target share on a team this pass heavy will potentially be a quite profitable one.

And despite the plethora of options in the passing game on the Colts roster, the role of the tight end in the Colts gameplan remains intact.

First, those concerned about the tight ends losing targets to Gore out of the backfield or Johnson on the outside should remember that these two players will actually be splitting the 150 targets that went to former Colts Trent Richardson and Reggie Wayne last season.

Beyond this, the tight end should continue to be featured prominently in Pep Hamilton's passing game because these athletes present a unique opportunity for the team to use their size and power to outmatch smaller opposing defenders. As Hamilton has said in regards to the critical role of these mismatches to winning games:

"There's going to be five or six plays that determine the outcome of every single game, and most of those are scheme matchups. That's a tight end that you get out in space and you get them on a smaller nickel back or a safety that's not a great cover guy."

And when it comes to the Colts roster, there's no one that fits this bill better than Dwayne Allen. 

A Mismatch Nightmare

Pep Hamilton once said of his move tight end: "Dwayne is like RoboCop, a big ball of muscle working the hashes and stretching the middle of the field." And when you're looking to outsize and outmatch undersized corners and defenders on the defense, this is exactly what you need.

Allen knows how to use his size and strength well. An explosive player that can gain separation from the best linebackers and safeties in the game, Allen has been known to use his size to effectively shield defenders away from the ball.

But he's more than just a bull in a china shop, so to speak. A fluid route runner, Allen received top scores at the NFL Combine in the agility drills, posting a 7.12-second 3-cone time and 4.37-second 20-yard shuttle time. In addition, Allen's natural ability to turn and locate the ball and his superb body control also makes him a natural receiver out of the tight end position.

This size and athleticism helped Allen attain the third-best Reception Net Expected Points per target (0.90) among all tight ends with at least 30 targets last season, sandwiched behind Julius Thomas (0.97) and Antonio Gates (0.92) and just ahead of Rob Gronkowski (0.86) and Travis Kelce (0.83). Not bad company if you ask me.

For those unfamiliar, Net Expected Points, or NEP, is a measure of a player's contributions to a team's chances of scoring above or below expectation. If a player makes a play that improves his team's chances of scoring (depending on exact down and distance) he receives a positive score, if he does the opposite, as you might expect, he receives a negative score.

So, in other words, every time Luck looked to Allen, his contributions were on average equivalent to adding nearly a full point to their actual score.

Much of this can be attributed to Allen's success in the red zone. In his six targets within the opponent's 10-yard line, Allen caught all six of these passes and converted five of them into touchdowns.

And these scores were more than just opportunistic flukes, but instead were part of Hamilton's gameplan in using mismatches to put points on the board. Last season, both Allen and Fleener caught eight touchdowns each, and as our own Jordan Hoover has found, "Indianapolis ranked third in the league in percentage of red zone touchdowns via the pass (82%) and fifth in percentage of red zone passing touchdowns to tight ends (44%)".

All of this bodes well for Allen's fantasy football prospects for next season.

Projections for 2015

Despite missing some time last season due to ankle and knee injuries, and still recovering from a stress fracture in his foot and surgeries on both hips that kept him out for most of the 2013 season, Allen still finished the year as the TE9 in standard-scoring leagues on a fantasy points per game basis. However, when we take his season as a whole, Allen was far from a model of consistency.

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Allen had fairly sporadic output, having almost as many 10-plus point days (five) as he had sub-five point performances (four). Much of this can be blamed on Allen's recovery his aforementioned injuries and issues with conditioning. While Allen surpassed the 8-point mark in 7 of the first nine weeks of the season, he only surpassed his season average of 6.7 fantasy points per game once more after that point. Recently, Allen admitted that he was playing at just 70% last season, saying that his body broke down as the season went on.

Fortunately for Dwayne Allen fans and the Indianapolis Colts, this has prompted Allen to re-commit himself to his conditioning. In this regard, it's been reported that Allen has shed 13 pounds this offseason in an effort to stay in top condition and play faster this year. And expectations are that if Allen can stay healthy, he can reclaim the lion's share of the tight end targets as he did in his rookie season and maintain his mid-level TE1 production that he flashed in the first half of last season.

Last season, Allen averaged an impressive 1.74 fantasy points per target. To put this into perspective, the number one overall tight end from last season, Rob Gronkowski averaged 1.41 points per target in 15 games with the Patriots last year. While this rate likely isn't sustainable for Allen, even if he regresses to a sub-Gronk figure of 1.3 fantasy points per target, and if he can claim a little over half of the 170 projected targets we expect to go to the tight end position based on usage from last season, this would still be good for 131.3 points over a 16-game season. That number would have ranked Allen as the sixth best tight end in fantasy, just ahead of fellow Colts tight end Coby Fleener.

With an ADP of 140 and as the 13th tight end off the board, it's clear that Dwayne Allen is severely undervalued going into the 2015 season. Indeed, our projections have him finishing the year as our TE10 with 503 yards and 7 touchdowns this season, making him a safe bet to finish the year as a TE1.

And as we've discussed above, as the team's best receiving tight end, given his heavy usage in the red zone, and with all the attention defenses will be paying to the bigger names on this roster, if Allen can stay healthy this season, he has the upside to give fantasy football managers much more in 2015.