Is Jacob Tamme an End-of-Season Tight End Solution in Fantasy Football?
Opportunity can lead to some strange things in the NFL.
That means that the same is true for fantasy football.
That's why, way back in 2010 when Peyton Manning was still slinging the ball at a Hall-of-Fame level to guys like Dallas Clark, his receivers were fantasy football assets. That's also why -- even when Clark missed time with injury -- a player such as Jacob Tamme, who had 15 targets in his first two seasons, could garner 93 targets and 67 catches as a replacement.
Tamme hasn't exactly gone on to be a superstar tight end with or without Manning like, for example, Eric Decker has done without the Manning effect, but he's now getting targets from Matt Ryan, who merited comparisons to Manning when Ryan was entering the NFL.
This opportunity is why Tamme, despite being an afterthought in the Atlanta offense during the start of the season, could be more than just a fantasy football streaming option as the season winds down.
Second in Line
Although Tamme seems like he is going on 50 after having played with Manning years ago, he actually is only 30 (just over 3 years younger than Roddy White). If any receiver on the team is washed up due to age, it is White, not Tamme.
With an athletic profile like Tamme's, it curious to wonder where he falls on JJ Zachariason's Dad Runner Scale. Athletically, Tamme is no slouch, and his age does not make him over the hill yet. While his early-season production was a worry, it looks like this problem is fixed.
Before Leonard Hankerson went down with an injury, it looked like the Falcons' passing game was going to run through Julio Jones and Hankerson. Through Week 7, Hankerson had 22 catches on 38 targets while Tamme had 22 catches on 32 targets, and Jones paced the team with 58 catches on 89 targets.
Since the injury to Hankerson, Tamme has 16 catches on 22 targets over Weeks 8 and 9. Those numbers are 42.1% of his catches, and 40.7% of his targets for the year.
With Hankerson out, Tamme has been second in line to Jones for targets.
For the year, Tamme has three games with at least 10 targets (two with Hankerson out). He has three games with at least six receptions (two with Hankerson out), four games with at least 60 yards (two with Hankerson out), and one game with a touchdown (with Hankerson out).
As the second option, Tamme has shown that he can still play.
Of the 31 tight ends with at least 25 targets, Tamme ranks 10th in Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) with a score of 35.79.
His per-target efficiency is not as great (13th) with a 0.68 Reception NEP per target. Although he has a moderate Reception NEP per target, he catches the ball well with a 71.7% Catch Rate (5th) with an 86.8% Reception Success Rate (7th), meaning that almost 9 out of 10 of his catches produce a positive NEP.
Even with the spike in volume recently, Tamme is improving all his efficiency metrics rather than seeing them fall off.
Before Hankerson was injured, Tamme had the 15th ranked Reception NEP (21.52) out of 35 tight ends with at least 16 targets. He still was 13th in Reception NEP per target (0.69) at the time, but he was 8th in Catch Rate (70.9%) and 10th in Reception Success Rate (86.4%). Tamme is proving highly impressive with the recent increase in opportunity.
In the six games both Hankerson and Tamme have played, Tamme's produced a 3.59 Reception NEP per game, but in the two games without Hankerson, Tamme's produced a 7.14 Reception NEP per game. Over a full season, this extrapolates to a 114.16 Reception NEP (ahead of Greg Olsen's current third-ranked pace).
Comparing Tamme and Hankerson tells the difference between a tight end and wide receiver. Because Hankerson has missed the last two games, Tamme has overtaken him in Reception NEP. Although Hankerson has the highest Reception NEP per target (0.86), Tamme's Reception NEP per target (0.68) is on par with Jones' (0.67), though the volume is significantly different.
Both Hankerson and Tamme have impressive Reception Success Rates, but Hankerson's (95.4%) is higher than Tamme's (86.8%). Where Tamme shows his prowess over Hankerson is in Catch Rate, as Hankerson has a 56.4% Catch Rate compared to Tamme's 71.7% Catch Rate.
With Ryan completing 66.9% of his passes, it is clear that Hankerson is primarily to blame for the low Catch Rate.
Even when Hankerson returns to the field, Tamme has a solid case for the increase in his role to remain steady. While he is not a big playmaker, his strong hands are what the Falcons need in an offense to keep moving the chains. With a higher volume of targets coming his way, Tamme is a solid option at tight end.
For the rest of the year, based on our algorithms, the Falcons only face one team in the top-10 for Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP; that team is the Carolina Panthers in Weeks 14 and 16. While that is a tough matchup, it is Jones who will have the toughest assignment in those games, battling Josh Norman on the outside.
Outside of the Panthers games, Tamme should see favorable matchups in every game going forward. The only thing that potentially stands in his way is the return of Hankerson if the Falcons decide to feature him over Tamme.
For the rest of the season, Tamme is projected as our 11th ranked tight end. With favorable matchups lined up for the rest of the year, Tamme has an opportunity to present starting tight end value weekly the rest of the way.
All Tamme needs to produce the rest of the year is the coaching staff to feel comfortable featuring him as the second option to Jones instead of Hankerson. If that's the case, Tamme could be a fantasy football difference maker like he was way back in 2010.