Josh Hill is the biggest fantasy winner after the Ravens sign Ben Watson
Per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Baltimore has agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal with veteran TE Ben Watson.
Watson, who has been in the league for an impressive 12 seasons, enjoyed a career-best year as the Saints’ primary replacement for the departed Jimmy Graham. Watson started all 16 games and put up career highs in targets (110), receptions (74), yards (825), and touchdowns (six).
Watson embraced his role as the primary pass catcher as he was called upon for pass protection on just 11.9 percent of his snaps. This paled in comparison to his rates the last two seasons, 35.3 percent and 43.7 percent in 2014 and 2013 respectively.
Watson wasn’t particularly efficient last year given that he ran the second-most routes (519) and his 1.54 yards per route run ranked just 11th among tight ends. His 8.75 percent drop rate also ranked 16th among 22 tight ends who saw 50 percent of the team’s targets.
It also shouldn’t be a shock that the 35 year old didn’t have much success avoiding tacklers after the catch as his 3.6 YAC per reception ranked tied for 58th out of 73 tight ends. The picture these numbers are painting is that Watson is a player who relies on heavily volume to be productive and he saw that in 2015.
Moving forward to 2016, it’s by no means a guarantee that Watson will sit atop the Ravens depth chart come Week 1, especially because they invested a second round pick in Maxx Williams in last season’s draft. The Ravens also have Dennis Pitta as their most expensive tight end on payroll, although there are serious questions about whether he will ever see the field again. It’s hard to rely on anyone on the Ravens roster providing TE1 value until one player emerges as the clear-cut top option in the offense. It will definitely be a battle to keep an eye on this summer.
On the Saints side, the fantasy upside is much more interesting because if the team doesn’t make a move to fill Watson’s role then everyone will finally get to see if Josh Hill can live up to the hype that was built up all last off season. When Graham was in New Orleans, Hill was known for scoring touchdowns very efficiently (20 targets, five touchdowns), but last year that production dipped dramatically (28 targets, two touchdowns).
We’ll have to wait and see what the Saints do, but if Hill goes into 2016 as the de facto starting tight end it will be hard to imagine him not putting up TE1 numbers given the volume that comes with that role.
Since this article was published, the Saints have signed TE Coby Fleener.