CYE For Jordan Reed
As a way to pay homage to the man who made the title of this piece something that would ever come to my mind, I will start with a quote from Larry David himself on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm: “When I called you I told that he asked me to recommend him so I’m “recommending” him. I put quotes around it…I thought you would pick up that it was a non-recommend recommend!”
Recently I read a tweet from one of the best fantasy minds in the business advising to think big when it came to Jordan Reed in 2014—as in top three or four tight end big. In fantasy football, several factors play a role in each player’s outlook, so it makes sense that there will be varying opinions and that’s the beauty of it. With Reed, I see a bleaker and more black and white outlook. I have no reason to be ambiguous about it, so I won’t even try to “non-recommend recommend” drafting Reed.
I will instead break down the several reasons why I think his perceived value is heavily inflated.
Role Within The Offensive System
Reed’s rookie season in the Mike and Kyle Shanahan offense didn’t really get kick-started until Week 6 when the team came out of its bye week. Starting in Week 6, Reed played over 50 percent of the team’s snaps for the first time and it continued over the next five games before his season-ending concussion. The increase in playing time could have been due to the team’s lackluster personnel at tight end or in the slot, or a coach’s realization that Reed needed to see the field. Either way, he parlayed his increased snaps to 28/335/2 line. Those are certainly solid numbers, especially at the shallow tight end position, but nothing to go crazy about.
Shanahan’s system is in the past, and Reed will have a new role in Jay Gruden’s offense. Gruden’s past success with using his outside receivers as a focal point of the offense is bad news for Reed’s outlook. In 2013, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohammed Sanu combined for 322 targets, while Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert combined for only 119. All three of the wide receivers spent an overwhelming majority of their snaps as an outside receiver.
For this equation, we can all but eliminate Gresham’s role in Gruden’s past offenses. Reed does not have the size or strength to handle inline tight end duties, and that role seems likely to be filled by Logan Paulsen instead.
Instead, let’s look at how Tyler Eifert fared in his rookie season under Gruden. Although Eifert brings more of a vertical skill-set compared to Reed’s horizontal skill-set, both players are used in a similar “move tight end” role. Eifert played 681 snaps compared to the 1,166 combined snaps played by Gresham and Alex Smith. Eifert was on the field for 355 pass plays compared to 497 from Gresham and 577 from Gresham and Smith combined.
Eifert still managed to play over 50 percent of his team’s snaps in every game aside from Week 16, but Gruden didn’t have the weapons at wide receiver that he has now. Some of Eifert’s snap count percentage came in two and three tight end sets. The team just signed wide receiver Andre Roberts to a multi-year contract, and it’s doubtful they let him rot on the bench. He has no place on the outside with Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson on the team, so he is likely to be an impediment to Reed’s snaps in the slot. Last season, Reed ran more than one-third (80 out of 228) of his pass routes out of the slot.
Reed carries with him a long line of injuries that should not be overlooked. A serious concussion caused Reed to miss the final six games last season. Concussions carry a major red flag of their own, as teams are much more likely to hold out a player for an extended period of time if he has a history with them. Reed also missed an earlier game against the Raiders in Week 4 with a quad contusion. Before that, he missed time in OTA’s with knee and quad injuries and in training camp with a mid-foot sprain. This brief injury recap only includes ailments from his professional career, but his injury history dates back to his college days with the Florida Gators as well.
Aside from competing with the team’s stable of talented wide receivers for snaps, Reed will also be competing with them for targets. As I alluded to above, Gruden’s offenses have featured heavy doses of plays designed for the outside wide receivers. If Reed were to win out the battle for snaps, he would still be no safe bet to see targets. When Reed is on the field, Robert Griffin will have the option of throwing to Garcon, Jackson, and on some snaps Roberts as well. It would be difficult to argue against Reed being Griffin’s No. 3 option at best in the passing game.
Reed will need to prove that he is a capable blocker if he wants to play in 11 personnel—three wide receiver sets with one tight end. Last season, he was only asked to pass block on 19 total plays, and this accounted for less than 8 percent of his total passing plays. In those 19 plays, he gave up one pressure—prorated over the course of a season, one pressure yielded for every 19 plays as a pass blocker, would render him nothing more than a middling pass blocker.
Often times, when a rookie is compared to an NFL player, it sticks for too long in fantasy football comunnities. Reed was compared to former tight end Aaron Hernandez, and while he offers similar traits when it comes to lateral agility and movement skills, he offers very little elsewhere. Reed ran a 4.72 forty-yard-dash at the NFL Combine, a slower time than several move tight ends including the above-mentioned Eifert. His lack of deep speed shows up on the field, as he was targeted on just two passes of 20 yards or more and caught just one for 38 yards. At just 6-foot-2 with 33 inch arms, Reed offers a limited catch radius that makes him less of a threat inside the red zone.
Reed certainly has the open field skills, lateral agility, and lateral explosion that make him a unique talent. In the right offense and situation, he could be a PPR machine while also providing value as some team’s default red zone option. However, this is not the situation or offense that is best suited to bring out his maximum fantasy success. You can add a vertical seam-stretcher like Ladarius Green, who offers plus athleticism and past production, for a fraction of the price. I am avoiding Reed in all drafts.
If you want to know any of my other evaluations on skill position players, continue the conversation, or yell at me for someone I missed, you can find me on Twitter @DanSchneier_NFL.
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