Why Ladarius Green could become a fantasy TE1 in Pittsburgh
(Editor’s note: Every day, we’re offering our Crazy Fantasy Stat of the Day, something that catches our eye and helps us learn something for fantasy for 2016.)
Much has been made of the move by the Pittsburgh Steelers to sign tight end Ladarius Green away from the San Diego Chargers this offseason. With longtime Steeler Heath Miller retiring, the Steelers needed a replacement, and chose Green from a free-agent class that also included Benjamin Watson, Coby Fleener, Jared Cook and others.
In fantasy circles, it’s been trendy to speak of Green in breakout terms — after all, he was once considered the heir apparent to Antonio Gates in San Diego. Gates was suspended for the first four games of 2015; in the three such games that Green played, he tied for fifth among tight ends in fantasy scoring. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has been a fantasy dynamo in recent seasons, with Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger all fantasy starters at their positions, and guys like Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and even Miller presenting streaming possibilities.
Combine Green’s athleticism with Miller’s usage (he finished in the top 20 in targets at tight end every year since 2007), the thinking goes, and fantasy glory could ensue.
That brings us to the Fantasy Stat of the Day: In 2015, Ladarius Green ran routes out of the slot the second-most-often of any tight end, 66.1 percent of the time; Heath Miller, meanwhile, did so the least often. He was in the slot 20 percent of the time in 2015, and never lined up in the slot more than 35 percent of the time. The only tight end who ran routes from the slot more often than Green in 2015 was his teammate Gates. Green had 429 yards and four touchdowns in 2015; more than half those yards and two of his touchdowns came on routes run from the slot.
The interesting part, though, is that Green wasn’t targeted very often in the slot. He ran 267 routes out of the slot, getting 30 targets. No tight end with as many total targets as Green was targeted in the slot less frequently (11.2 percent of the time). When not in the slot, Green was targeted nearly twice as often, 19 percent of the time. If he does indeed line up in the slot as rarely as Miller did in Pittsburgh, Green could see a bump in targets as a result.
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Ultimately, Green, assuming he makes a full recovery from his offseason surgery, does look like an intriguing fantasy option as a low-end TE1. He’s been mentioned as a breakout candidate by PFF Fantasy writers several times, and was one of our top seven offseason moves for fantasy. Not all of our writers are convinced, but overall, Green is our staff’s No. 8 fantasy tight end. If you can get him at that spot or lower, he presents a nice potential upside play.