Recency bias effect on tight end value
Over the past couple of seasons, highlighting how “recency bias” impacts fantasy decision making has become more common — for good reason. Simply put, it often wrongly skews perceptions and creates market inefficiencies we can exploit. Taking a step back and viewing Fantasyland from wide perspective is always a smart idea, but also easier said than done during the NFL’s 17-week sprint.
During the DFS season, we fight recency bias to avoid the dreaded Whack-A-Mole stance — which typically leads to overpaying for highly owned players who already peaked, rather than anticipating the next best play. By now, we are well-versed in the pitfalls of overreacting to weekly variance, but recency bias colors longer term decisions as well. We must guard against this when making dynasty valuations, or even drafting MFL10s.
Below are several tight ends whose general perception has been skewed, either positively or negatively, by recent events. None are screaming buys or sells in dynasty, as there’s no way of knowing what league-specific markets will bear. But since they are likely to be generally over or undervalued right now, it can’t hurt to kick the trade talk tires.
Amaro was getting picked as the TE17 in start-up mocks as recently as July*. After a shoulder injury in New York’s first preseason game cost him last season, he’s going off the board as the TE21 and should sink lower after a couple of recent negative articles. At this time of year, with impactful NFL news sparse, even stories like these — which reveal little new information – stick in dynasty owners’ heads.
Playing mostly with Geno Smith, Amaro had six drops on 52 targets during his rookie year. It contributed to the perception that he disappointed despite the fact he led all first-year tight ends in catches (38) and receiving yards (345) while earning a three-way tie for the most touchdowns (two). There have been 12 rookie tight ends who reached those allegedly disappointing totals at 22 years old (or younger) — as Amaro did. Two are in the Hall of Fame, and there are plenty of interesting names among the others.
|Tight End||Year||Catch Percentage|
Perhaps the four old timers would’ve had a higher catch percentage than Amaro if targets were tracked in their day. Raymond Chester and Charlie Young were excellent players, if not Hall of Famers like the other two. But the point is Amaro’s rookie-year drops — like most drop issues tend to get — are probably blown out of proportion. They don’t mean much unless they ultimately cost snaps and targets, which is pure speculation at this point.
The free agent tight end market isn’t exactly teeming with definite upgrades on Amaro. New York is not flush with salary cap space and they have larger roster holes elsewhere. Drafting tight ends, even with a premium pick, almost always includes a long developmental process. Amaro is still the same tight end that some believed was the best in his class. He remains an intriguing fit in Chan Gailey’s offense — one that’s used tight ends well in the past but was a wasteland at the position in Amaro’s absence.
If Amaro can be bought as a throw-in in a larger deal, he is worth taking a shot on while the vibe around him is negative. All it will take is one “he looks like a new man this offseason” fluff piece to breathe new life into his value. As for MFL10s, he is thus far being ignored through 16-plus rounds in the four I’m currently drafting. I’m hoping to add him as my third tight end in the last few rounds.
Speaking of Amaro, he was going before Reed – who was the TE18 – in July’s start-up mock drafts. That may be hard to imagine now that Reed is the third tight end off the board, usually by the early fifth round, in February mocks. This illustrates how fluid dynasty valuations can be, and it offers an opportunity to cash in a highly-volatile asset at what appears to be, at the very least, fair value.
Moving Reed, who turns 26 years old in July, will not feel good. Recency bias heavily weighs a season in which he led all tight ends in PPR points per game and ranked second only to Gronkowski in total fantasy points (standard and PPR). He had the highest catch percentage of the top-20 most-targeted tight ends, and — most memorably — finished the year by averaging 10.3 targets, 8.5 catches, 113.3 yards, and 1.5 touchdowns over his last four full games (minus Week 17; 19.7 percent of snaps).
Yet, while Reed’s third-highest passing game grade among tight ends (+13.8) was well earned, so was the injury-impacted risk that caused his ADP to plummet in the first place. He missed the rest of the season after a Week 11 concussion in 2013 and a couple of games in 2015 with another one. He has been on the injury report for 21 weeks, with nine separate injuries, during his three seasons in the NFL (hat-tip, PlayerProfiler.com).
Reed’s already-well-known history does not prove he is indeed “injury prone.” It is a voodoo classification, as any human is prone to injury if they step onto a football field. However, the perception that he is, at least for his dynasty value, is everything. His injury last season was a scary, recurring one – but it happened early in the season, before he went nuclear. That is what we remember, and it’s a reason he’s closer to being the top tight end now than he was to a top-12 tight end in July.
If Reed were to suffer an offseason injury, his dynasty value would take a disproportionate hit relative to other players whose reputations for “injury proneness” haven’t been (temporarily) obscured by a blazing statistical finish. The good news, as demonstrated by Reed rocketing up dynasty draft boards, is demand for him is frothy and he’d bring back a tidy trade haul. In MFL10s, the risk of him losing long-term value means little, and his price (TE2; fourth/fifth-round turn*) is full-retail but fair.
Walford is tricky because what recency bias does exist after a fairly nondescript rookie season is likely positive. His dynasty ADP has jumped from TE28 (early 19th round) in November, to TE13 (early 12th round). Over his last five games, he caught 15 passes on 26 targets for 178 yards and had a +2.5 passing game grade. In his first 11 games, he had 13 receptions on 23 targets for 151 yards (+0.7). Walford didn’t exactly kill it from Week 13 on — a good thing for prospective buyers — but he showed progress.
There is no reason to expect Walford’s progress to halt, despite the annoying presence of Mychal Rivera. While Walford’s passing game grade-per-target ranked 13th-best among 51 tight ends with at least 25 targets (+0.065), Rivera’s ranked fourth-worst (-0.116). Their playing time, as seen below, was trending in decidedly opposite directions. Rivera’s name still tends to pop up during Walford discussions, and perhaps he can be a key to shaking the second-year tight end free of an impatient owner who may not fully grasp how rookie tight ends typically struggle statistically. At his current value, it’s worth a shot.
Cameron will be looking for work if he doesn’t accept a pay cut from his $7.5 million salary after a disappointing 2015. Dragged down by an dysfunctional offense and continued injury issues, he was off to an encouraging start (136 yards on seven catches in 49 pass routes) through one-and-a-half games before hurting his groin. His passing game grade ranked fifth among tight ends (+2.5) at that point, and was -4.7 after that (69th of 73 qualifiers).
Cameron can essentially be bought for the cost of a roster spot, as he’s being drafted as the TE23 (mid-18th round) in February start-up mocks. His extensive injury history has conspired with a pair of underwhelming seasons to batter his dynasty value. Whether he stays in Miami and plays in a fantasy-friendly Adam Gase offense, or finds himself elsewhere (Pittsburgh, New England, Atlanta?), there is a reasonable chance Cameron sees a value bump before training camps even open. He can then be flipped for a modest profit or held as a lottery ticket.
Graham will be coming off of an injury (torn patellar tendon) that skill position players simply do not return from the same as before, and doing it during his age-30 season. Despite a generally negative perception of his Seahawks debut, he performed well before getting hurt — registering his second best cumulative passing game grade (+7.2) since 2011 despite missing more than a quarter of the season. It didn’t help his reputation when Seattle’s passing attack erupted around the same time Graham’s knee ruptured.
Graham’s dynasty start-up ADP has sunk from the TE2 in July (early-third round) to the TE12 (mid-12th round), yet he’s still being chosen before far younger, healthier tight ends like Walford, Ladarius Green, and Maxx Williams. He is also the TE12 in early MFL10s (mid-10th round). Other than his name value making a roster page look sexy, he’s a tough sell even at depressed prices. Like Victor Cruz last year, we hope modern medicine helps him beat the odds. Also like Cruz, it’s best to resist buying low and to just watch it play out on somebody else’s fantasy roster.
Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman