3 Tight Ends Who Should See Their Fantasy Football Production Drop in 2016

Is this finally the year Antonio Gates falls off?

If you've been to numberFire over the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed the series of content on fantasy points per game over expectation based on numberFire's Net Expected Points metric, and what it all might mean for 2016.

That's a mouthful.

You see, on every play, there's an expected point value an NFL team has for the drive based on yard line, down, and distance. What happens on that play can change the expected point value on said drive. What NEP does is aggregate the values gained or lost on every play into a single, net number. That's Net Expected Points.

You can read more about NEP in our glossary.

Today, we'll look at Tight End Fantasy Points Per Game over Expectation (TEFPPGoE).

What is TEFPPGoE?

TEFPPGoE is very similar to Receiving Fantasy Points Per Game over Expectation, which I used to evaluate the wide receivers. Just like that piece, I used Reception NEP, and saw how it correlated to fantasy points per game (expected points accrued through receiving only). 

The only real difference is the sample of players. Rather than wide receivers, I took every tight end since 2011 to receive at least 50 targets (147 players) and plotted their Reception NEP against fantasy points per game. 

Reception NEP vs. FP/G

Not surprisingly, the correlation between Reception NEP and fantasy points per game is almost identical between the tight ends and wide receivers. 

I used the regression equation pictured above (with Reception NEP as "x") to create Expected Receiving Fantasy Points Per Game (ERFPPG). Then, all I had to do was subtract a player's actual fantasy scoring by his expected scoring to arrive at Tight End Fantasy Points Per Game over Expectation.

Can TEFPPGoE Be Predictive?

The benefit of TEFPPGoE is that it allows you to see the difference between on-field play and fantasy scoring. In theory, tight ends with a lower expected than actual receiving fantasy points per game did better than their play on the field would suggest, while those with a higher expected than actual receiving fantasy points per game left some fantasy scoring on the field.

But can this tell us anything about what will happen the following year?

Of the 75 tight ends to qualify for study in consecutive years, 36 saw an increase in fantasy scoring the following year (48 percent). On the whole, TEFPPGoE was only slightly better than random chance at predicting improvement or regression in fantasy points per game the following year (50 and 56 percent respectively). 

However, we saw increased predictability at the extremes of this scale. Of the 10 tight ends who qualified in consecutive years with a TEFPPGoE greater than two -- meaning they scored two fantasy points per game more than they should have -- eight of them dropped in fantasy scoring the following year (80 percent). 

On the other end of the spectrum, there were four tight ends who qualified in consecutive years with a TEFPPGoE less than negative two. Three of them increased in fantasy scoring the following year (75 percent). 

There were no tight ends who qualified as candidates to improve, but here are three major candidates for regression in 2016. 

Jordan Reed, Redskins -- TEFPPGoE: 3.74

Jordan Reed posted the fourth highest TEFPPGoE in the entire sample, and was the highest among non-Patriots. He scored the most fantasy points per game of any tight end in 2015, but posted just the fifth highest Reception NEP total. With Reed being a lock as a top three tight end off the board in 2016, it would seem wiser to wait on cheaper options.

Antonio Gates, Chargers -- TEFPPGoE: 3.03

Antonio Gates owned a Reception NEP similar to that of of Zach Ertz (TE10 in fantasy points per game), Jimmy Graham (TE12), and Jacob Tamme (TE22), yet finished as the TE7. Gates will be 36 years old by the time the season kicks off, and Father Time will eventually be impacting him. 

The one positive thing going Gates' way right now is that he has an ADP outside of the top 12 tight ends, so you don't have to pay last year's price for him.

Tyler Eifert, Bengals -- TEFPPGoE: 2.22

After a breakout season that saw him become a top five tight end in fantasy points per game, Tyler Eifert looks like he is in line for some regression in 2016. He scored 13 touchdowns last year on just 74 targets, a figure that is sure to normalize some this season. 

Eifert could potentially lock in a bigger role for Cincinnati in 2016, with 153 targets to replace after the losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, but the team did add Brandon LaFell in free agency and could still take a receiver in the draft. How the depth chart and target distribution shakes out will have a lot to say about Eifert's 2016 prospects, and the uncertainty makes him a player to avoid for the time being in drafts.