Why you're way too high on Dwayne Allen
Dwayne Allen finished the 2014 regular season with eight touchdowns. He ranked 14th among tight ends in fantasy points and ninth in fantasy points per game. He accomplished that despite missing three games and a good chunk of two others. Allen’s 13.6 yards per reception mark was fourth-best among qualified tight ends and he’s one of the league’s better blockers at the position.
Early ADP data suggests that Allen is your 10th best fantasy option at tight end this season.
I’m here to explain why Allen should be on your avoid list in 2015.
Snaps and Routes
I believe it was the wise Yogi Berra who once said “you can’t catch the ball if you’re not on the field.” Okay, he didn’t say that, but he should’ve. Too often, we overvalue players who put a few big fantasy days together despite playing a situational passing-down role. Allen doesn’t even fit that bill, as he operates instead as Indianapolis’ primary blocking tight end. In fact, as you’ll soon find out, he’s not even a situational goal line target.
In the 14 games he was active/didn’t get hurt in 2014, Allen averaged 72 percent of the team’s snaps. That’s not a terrible number, but, as noted earlier, Allen is used as a blocker quite often. Asked to pass block 87 times this past season, Allen ran a route on only 52 percent of the Colts pass plays in those 14 games. For perspective, the top 20 fantasy tight ends of 2014 (excluding Allen) averaged 78 percent of their respective team’s snaps and 74 percent of all possible routes. Allen finished dead last in route percentage (Zach Ertz – 58 percent) and was ahead of only Ertz in snap percentage (50 percent). This means that the likes of Scott Chandler, Jermaine Gresham and Owen Daniels were a bigger part of their team’s passing game than Allen was in Indianapolis.
Some may point to Allen’s excellent rookie season in which he was on the field for 77 percent of the Colts offensive snaps. Allen was asked to pass block on a hefty 24 percent of those snaps, meaning he ran only 52 percent of the team’s routes.
Okay, so Allen doesn’t play as often, nor does he run as many routes as his competition at the tight end position. The next step is to take a look at how often he’s targeted. In a nutshell: not much. Allen handled a miniscule eight percent of the Colts targets this past season (60 total). That number jumps to 10 percent in his 14 “complete” games, which is still extremely low for a player who is supposed to be fantasy relevant. Referring back to our top 20 tight ends of 2014, Allen was the only one in single digits in this category. Chandler had the second-lowest mark, averaging 12 percent of the Bills’ targets. The top-20 average was 18 percent and Rob Gronkowski paced the position at 23 percent. Allen hasn’t exceeded six targets in a game since Week 11 of the 2012 season and averaged just over four per game in 2014. Allen saw fewer targets than 24 tight ends during the 2014 regular season. That list includes Levine Toilolo, John Carslon and Niles Paul. Four Colts (T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener, Hakeem Nicks) were targeted more often. Like I said: not much.
If you’ve made it this far and remain unconvinced Allen is a poor fantasy bet in 2015, your reasoning probably centers around his “ability” to score touchdowns.
Back in 2012, Allen put up a 45-521-3 line and was 23rd among tight ends in fantasy points. He scored 17 more fantasy points in 2014 despite an underwhelming 29-395-8 line. The difference, of course, was the five additional touchdowns. Note that Allen actually scored nine times on 40 receptions if we include the playoffs.
The question here is whether or not Allen can sustain such a massive touchdown rate, which will obviously be key in determining his 2015 fantasy value. The answer is a resounding no. A quick look at Allen’s OTD1, which analyzes the location of his targets in order to determine the odds of him scoring a touchdown, shows that Allen should’ve been closer to four or five touchdowns (three or four during the regular season). Including the playoffs, Allen racked up only six end zone targets. He caught all six, which isn’t close to sustainable – Rob Gronkowski’s 63 percent mark leads the NFL (min. 25 EZ targets) since 2007 – and also scored on the only other occasion he was targeted while within 5 yards of the opposing end zone. Allen’s two other scores came after runs of 30 and 36 yards – both very unlikely scores, especially for a tight end. Sixty seven players, including 14 tight ends and four Colts, were targeted in the end zone more often during the regular season.
Not only is Allen’s absurd efficiency on end zone targets unsustainable – he’s not even a featured target when the team is near the end zone. Barring a major change in usage, his touchdowns will drop by a hefty margin in 2015.
Like it or not, Coby Fleener isn’t going anywhere. Fleener isn’t a very good “conventional” tight end, but what that really means is that he’s not a good blocker. Fleener is a good receiver, and that’s what counts in fantasy. Fleener also plays a lot, even when Allen is active. In Allen’s 14 “complete” games last season, he played 715 snaps. Fleener played 648. Allen ran 344 routes, Fleener ran 402. Allen saw 57 targets, Fleener 65. Allen scored nine times with a 4.3 OTD, Fleener scored four times with a 4.1 OTD.
The Colts called a pass play 65 percent of the time last season, which was an NFL-high nine percentage points above expected once you take game flow into consideration. Put another way, the Colts operated the league’s pass-heaviest offense. The Indianapolis offense also averaged 3.0 touchdowns and 68.2 plays per game, which ranked sixth and third in the league, respectively. Of the Colts 57 offensive scores, 79 percent were passes, which was the league’s fourth-highest mark.
So the Colts were extremely pass heavy, ran a ton of plays, scored a lot, and most of their scoring was through the air. In that dream scenario, Allen managed 47 targets in 13 games and had to rely on unsustainable touchdown efficiency just to finish as fantasy’s No. 14 tight end. Yikes.
I put this last because I think injury “red flags” are mostly bologna. For the most part, injury regression to the mean kicks in eventually. Of course, there are players who simply can’t stay on the field. Call them fragile or label it bad long-term luck (aka the outliers), but there are always a few players in this category. Allen is only 25 years old, which means his “red flag” is probably bogus, but the fact remains that he missed all or the better part of five games in 2014 after managing only 30 snaps in 2013. Again, this should only be a minor concern, but Allen can’t afford to miss games, as he isn’t near as dominant enough when active to make for a worthwhile bench stash.
The likely departures of Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks is offset by the team’s signing of Duron Carter and Donte’ Moncrief’s likely promotion. With T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener and one of Ahmad Bradshaw or Dan Herron sure bets to be heavily involved, Allen’s route and target numbers seem unlikely to rise much in 2015. Add some guaranteed touchdown regression to the mix and Allen is best-viewed as a mid-pack TE2.
16-game projection: 64 targets, 41 receptions, 485 yards, 5 touchdowns
Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL
1I’ve written at length about opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (OTD) in the past. If you’re new to the stat, be sure to check out the original introductions to rushing and receiving OTD. This past offseason, I also improved my methodology and you can read the rushing, passing, and receiving articles via the provided links. In a nutshell, the OTD metric weighs every carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player’s scoring opportunity.