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This Spotlight was written by guest writer James Dorsett. James can be followed on Twitter @JamesDDorsett. His work can also be found at Hogs Haven.
WASHINGTON'S NEW 'REED' OPTION
Jordan Reed’s 2013 debut with Washington was the greatest rookie season by a tight end in the franchise’s 82-year history. Reed racked up 499 receiving yards, 45 receptions and 3 touchdowns, and set multiple team records in the process. What’s most impressive is that he did so while playing in just over half of Washington’s games. Reed was a model of efficiency in the nine games that he played, and in order to fully appreciate how special his rookie season was we need to view his production through a more focused lens. On a per game basis, Reed had 55.4 receiving yards, 5 receptions and .33 touchdowns. These are much more attractive numbers than the aforementioned aggregate totals. So much so that in order to put their historical significance into proper context, we need to look beyond his team records. Here’s how Reed’s per game stats compare to every other rookie tight end season in NFL history.
Jordan Reed's Per Game Stats and All-Time Rookie Rankings
Minimum of 2 Games Played and 5 Total Receptions
|All Time Rookie Rank
Jordan Reed’s 2013 ranked in the top four all-time for most receptions and yards per game by a rookie tight end. The top six of both categories is comprised of Reed and six other players. This bodes quite well for Reed’s prospects going forward, as half of the members of this group are in the Hall of Fame (Mike Ditka, Kellen Winslow and John Mackey) and the other half (Keith Jackson, Charle Young and Jeremy Shockey) are in the top 30 for career receptions and receiving yards for tight ends.
Over a full 16-game season, Reed’s numbers would extrapolate out to an outstanding 887-yard, 80 reception and 5 touchdown line. That would’ve been good for a 7th place fantasy finish last year. Looking at things this way doesn’t even truly do Reed justice though, because he didn't see that much action in the games that he played in. Reed only started in four of the nine weeks that he played, and his 42.56 snaps and 25.33 routes run per game ranked 36th and 25th respectively for tight ends. When we expand on what he did in the games where he actually saw the field on a regular basis, you start to understand the kind of upside he’s capable of achieving.
16 Game Extrapolation with Various Splits
|Wks 8-10 (Full Starts)
|Wks 6-10 (> 50% snaps)
The original extrapolations may have actually been a bit conservative. If Reed had maintained these levels of production over the course of the full season he would have finished 2nd and no lower than 7th in PPR and standard scoring, respectively, for the position.
Reed finished as a Top-5 tight end in three of the five weeks that he played over 50% of Washington’s offensive snaps. He finished in the top 13 in PPR scoring at the position in each of those five weeks. During the 9 weeks that he played last season, Jordan Reed put up three TE1 weeks (33%) in standard scoring formats (33%) and five TE1 performances (55.6%) in PPR leagues.
The former Florida Gator’s reign of rookie year efficiency didn’t stop there either. Per ProfootballFocus, Reed ranked in the top ten of fantasy points per opportunity (8th standard & 6th PPR), yards per route run (3rd) and receptions per route run (1st). PFF has tracked route running snaps since 2007. Reed’s .197 receptions per route run is the 3rd highest by a tight end over the last seven years (min 25% of targets). His 2.19 yards per route run is the 15th highest in that time frame. He is only the 3rd rookie TE to record a YPRR over 2.0. You might be familiar with the other two: Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.
How will Jordan Reed fit into Jay Gruden’s New Offense?
Expect Reed’s transition to life under first-year head coach Jay Gruden to be a smooth one, as both of the team’s two offense honchos are very tight end friendly.
Jermaine Gresham finished as a TE1 in two of the three years (2011 & 2012) that Gruden ran the offense in Cincinnati, and he is not nearly the player that Reed is. Gresham didn’t fare as well in 2013 because he had to split targets with rookie, Tyler Eifert. However, together they accounted for 906 yards, 85 receptions, and six touchdowns in 16 weeks of action (neither player suited up in week 17). That’s TE6 and TE2 production in standard and PPR scoring leagues respectively. Backup tight end Logan Paulsen will get a few looks this season, but rest assured he is no Tyler Eifert. Look for Jordan Reed to dominate the TE targets in Washington’s offense this year. If that isn’t enough to convince you, then consider that the new offensive coordinator is Reed’s former tight ends coach, Sean McVay. If anyone understands Reed’s abilities and knows how to best utilize them, it’s McVay.
Adding DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts to the mix with last year’s NFL leader in receptions, Pierre Garcon, gives Washington one of the most dynamic receiving corps in the league. This will be both a blessing and a curse for Reed. He surely will not see as many targets as he would have sans these additions, but at the same time they will open things up for him to operate freely in the middle of the field. Reed’s elite route-running skills and exceptional short-area quickness and agility will make it nearly impossible for slower linebackers and smaller defensive backs to consistently contain him in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field. Reed could lose some of his target volume, but his efficiency will almost certainly increase; some of which Washington hopes come in the form of additional red zone production.
The young tight end has by far the best red zone profile of any of Washington’s starting receivers. His 37.5% red zone TD conversion rate is much higher than Garcon, Jackson and Roberts’. And while Reed is one of the smallest starting tight ends in the league, he is still the biggest player in this group, as the Washington's pint-sized receiving corps is one of the smallest in the league.
It’s also safe to assume that Washington will need to put this upgraded offensive firepower to use in order to stay competitive in 2014. RG3 and company will be playing catch up quite often to make up for what could be one of the NFL’s worst defenses. Washington did little to address this unit that led the league in missed tackles and finished 31st in points allowed last year. Shootouts will be commonplace and this should lead to more passes and red zone opportunities for Reed to take advantage of.
Unfortunately, it’s not all roses for Reed. There is a reason that he missed the final six games of the season and it’s that he suffered a second concussion in as many weeks during a week 11 contest against the Eagles. What’s worse is that Reed admitted after the season that he also suffered two concussions while at Florida. That makes four in four years! This is quite troubling for Reed and for prospective fantasy owners when we remember players like Jahvid Best and Ryan Swope, whose careers were cut short after they suffered multiple severe concussions. Reed is oozing with upside, but is that potential worth the risk of drafting a someone whose season, and even his career, could end after taking one big hit?
- Reed had one of the most efficient rookie tight end seasons in NFL history
- Seasons like that are typically harbingers of great careers
- The additions of Jackson and Roberts should allow Reed to be even more effective on a per opportunity basis; especially in the red zone
- Washington will likely be involved in a number of high scoring affairs, giving Reed ample opportunity to produce
- Another concussion could lead to Reed being shut down for the season or longer
- It’s unlikely that Reed sees as many targets per game basis as he did in 2013
It seems like there are two major schools of thought in regards to drafting Jordan Reed in 2014. The first assumes that it is almost a foregone conclusion that he will suffer another concussion and miss significant time. While the second acknowledges the risk, but understands that the upside is probably too great to pass up. If his price (ADP) stays where it is, then count me firmly in the latter group. Reed’s consensus ADP (Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS, FFC and NFL) currently lies in the 8th round (8.04) and has him as the 9th tight end coming off the board. At that point, you’d be passing up on Reed in favor of a 4th running back or wide receiver that Reed may very well outscore. As we saw last year, Jordan Reed has the potential to be a top five fantasy tight end. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what he was on pace to become before his season was cut short.
Don’t tag Reed as “injury-prone” after just one year in the league. This is an all too common mistake that we see fantasy players make year after year (Matthew Stafford, Ryan Mathews, Demarco Murray, etc.). If Reed slips in your drafts, then take advantage of your league mate’s fear and scoop him up. Bold moves and weekly difference-makers win fantasy championships. The public has decided that drafting Reed is a bold move and he has proven that he is a difference-making player by putting up one of the greatest rookie tight end seasons in NFL history. If the price stays right, then draft Jordan Reed. If he plays, you win.
THOUGHTS FROM AROUND THE WEB
Yahoo’s Brad Evans sings Reed’s praises:
Largely lost in a stellar rookie class, Reed, when healthy, was an outstanding fantasy contributor in his inaugural season, an extremely rare feat for a first-year tight end. Over his first eight games, he thrived, attracting 7.3 targets per game while tallying a 44-483-3 line. His resulting 8.7 fantasy points per game in standard formats (11.3 for PPR) ranked top-eight during that stretch, ahead of notable names Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Greg Olsen. Extrapolate that production over a full 16 games (88-966-6) and he was essentially Jordan Cameron.
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.
Evan Silva of Rotoworld ranks Reed 54th overall in his comprehensive pre-training camp fantasy rankings:
The worries on Reed are not performance related. Aaron Hernandez lite, he was on pace for 80 catches, 888 yards, and six TDs -- top-seven TE1 stats as a rookie -- before suffering a year-ending concussion nine games in. The Shanahans used Reed in the Shannon Sharpe role, peppering him with nearly seven targets per game as the underneath complement to Pierre Garcon. Gone are the Shanahans, replaced by ex-Bengals OC Jay Gruden, whose Cincy offenses never oversaw a tight end who reached 750 yards. In addition, Reed has suffered no fewer than four concussions between his college and NFL careers. The 24-year-old is a high-ceiling TE1 with red-light risk. If you draft Reed, a TE2 is recommended. I am intrigued by Reed's TD upside in a pass-catching corps otherwise comprised of relatively size-deficient personnel. DeSean Jackson is 5'10/169. Andre Roberts is 5'11/195. Garcon is 6'0/210. Reed is 6'3/236.
If Reed can stay on the field, he's trending upward as one of the league's top young playmakers.
The Redskins are primed for a bounce-back season (on offense anyway), and Reed's presence is a major reason why. Reed developed quickly as a rookie, and we project continued growth in his second season. A 70/1,000/8 slash line isn't crazy talk. Stay healthy, kid.