Zach Miller might be a 2016 breakout fantasy tight end
(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.)
Fantasy points per opportunity is one of PFF’s signature ways of measuring a player’s efficiency. It is the rate at which a player puts up his fantasy production per his chances for production — that is, fantasy points per his total of carries and routes run.
For tight ends, especially when there are injuries or depth-chart changes, the number of chances are often widely disparate (the top 20 tight ends in fantasy scoring in 2015 had a range of 71 targets), so PPO can give a better look on what players did with their opportunities.
Which brings us to the Fantasy Stat of the Day: Chicago’s Zach Miller tied with Cincinnati’s Tyler Eifert for the second-most fantasy points per opportunity (0.39) among tight ends in 2015. Washington’s Jordan Reed led the way among tight ends playing at least 50 percent of team snaps, at 0.41, but Miller (and Eifert) beat out every else, including New England’s Rob Gronkowski. On top of that, Miller — who has been around since 2009 but didn’t play between 2012 and 2014 — led all tight ends (minimum 40 targets) in yards per target last year, and had zero drops on the season.
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Amid injuries to starting tight end Martellus Bennett and the Bears’ wide receivers, Miller spent roughly half the season in 2015 as the Bears’ No. 1 tight end, from Week 9 to Week 16. In that stretch, he put up 70 fantasy points, fifth at the position and only four points behind Carolina’s Greg Olsen in the same number of games played (Miller was five points out of third place but 11 ahead of sixth). Combine his fantasy numbers with Bennett’s for 2015, and the two offered 135 fantasy points on the season, good for seventh at the position. (That’s quick-and-dirty math that doesn’t paint a full picture, but you get the idea.)
Heading into 2016, Bennett and Matt Forte are gone from Chicago. The Bears enter the season with the underwhelming Jeremy Langford at running back and Alshon Jeffery and the question mark that is Kevin White at wide receiver (White missed his rookie season; he has all the tools, but hasn’t yet had a chance to show anything at the pro level). Miller is the starting tight end heading into the season, and from here it looks like he has a shot at a breakout. He’s currently the No. 18 tight end in the PFF staff rankings, but if he can perform at his half-season 2015 rate over a whole year, he’ll be close to starter value.