Fantasy Football: Delanie Walker May Come Crashing Back Down to Earth in 2016
Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker set career-highs in targets, catches, and receiving yardage in 2015. He saw an eye-popping 77 targets in the final seven games of the regular season and finished as the season-long TE2 behind only Rob Gronkowski.
Despite all of that, there’s a very good chance that he’s currently being overvalued in early-season fantasy football drafts.
What do you need to know about Walker's 2016 season?
A Change In Makeup?
Not only did Walker excel in simple counting stats last season, he was also relatively efficient with his targets. Using numberFire’s Using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which quantifies a player's value to his team over replacement-level, Walker ranked sixth in Reception NEP per target (0.70) among 19 tight ends with 75 or more targets. Efficiency plus a healthy target share is a deadly combination.
But the winds may be changing in the Music City.
During the off-season, the Titans’ coaching staff has made statements about a possible shift in their offensive philosophy to During the offseason, the Titans' coaching staff has hinted at a shift in offensive philosophy toward a more run-oriented attack. The addition of running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and offensive tackle Jack Conklin with the team’s first-round draft pick would appear to solidify this change. It’s a fair point to make that if the Titans' defense doesn't improve, it will be tough to stick to a run-heavy game plan. But in theory, at least, it appears that's the goal.
What It Costs
Currently being taken as the TE6 Currently being drafted as the TE6, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, Walker is probably being valued fairly. You could, however, make the argument that Travis Kelce, Coby Fleener, and Gary Barnidge all offer similar upside at a slightly discounted cost.
But when you look at it from a position-indifferent view, you see multiple players who would likely add more value to your fantasy squad than Walker would at his current cost.
Duke Johnson and Giovani Bernard, two potential lynch pins of a ZeroRB strategy, are both available in the same range. Donte Moncrief, John Brown, Kevin White and Tyler Lockett are also available a full round or more after Walker.
It obviously depends on your draft strategy, but if you find yourself in a league that starts only one tight end and you understand how your league settings affect positional draft value, much more attractive options emerge in Walker’s general draft vicinity.
It Comes Down to Strategy
It is possible that if things would break Walker’s way in 2016, he could post similar numbers to his 2015 totals, making him a bargain at his current ADP. But investing a sixth-round fantasy pick on a tight end is risky enough, especially with a wealth of other options available in the same range who offer more upside.
Taking into account the possibility that the Titans go more run-heavy in 2016 and Marcus Mariota distributing the target share more equally between more quality options, it seems more likely that Walker is bound for some regression.
If you’re the type of fantasy owner who would rather not play the waiver wire all season and picking up a tight end with plus weekly matchups, I understand if you choose to draft Walker at his current price. But if you’re okay with the idea of streaming, Walker becomes much more difficult to take consider numerous other factors.