2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Antonio Gates, Chargers, make reunion official
It doesn't come as much of a surprise, but the Chargers are bringing back Antonio Gates. Should Fantasy players get excited about this reunion?
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We've expected it ever since May, but the Chargers and Antonio Gates took their sweet time in planning their reunion. However, with training camp finished and the start of the season looming, the inevitable happened: Gates is back with the only team he's ever played for, per ESPN reports Sunday morning.
Gates returns to the only NFL home he's ever known for what will be his 16th season. He's coming off his least productive since 2003, as he had just 30 catches on 52 targets for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, part of that can be explained away by Hunter Henry's absence, as the duo combined for 115 targets, 75 catches, 895 yards and seven touchdowns. The Chargers still relied heavily on their tight ends, which bodes well for Gates' Fantasy value with Henry likely out for the season after tearing his ACL in May.
Gates won't just take all of that work in, of course, but he also won't have much competition among the tight end group in Los Angeles; before signing Gates, the Chargers were looking at going into the season with Virgil Green at the top of the depth chart.
Gates will obviously cede plenty of work to non-TE like second-year breakout candidate Mike Williams, but it seems almost certain he'll bounce back from 2017's numbers as well. If you want to set expectations, his 2016 season seems like a reasonable place to start. Two years ago, Gates was targeted 93 times and caught 53 balls for 548 yards and seven touchdowns. He did that over 14 games, and injuries will obviously be a concern for the 38-year-old, so that feels like it might be close to his ceiling.
Of course, that's still more than serviceable for a tight end, especially one you can either snag off waivers or with the last non-DST/K pick in your draft these final few days. Gates has been a touchdown dependent tight end for years. He hasn't scored seven-plus Fantasy points in a game in non-PPR without a touchdown since December 2015, but he still managed to finish as the No. 10 tight end in 2016. But this isn't a bad place to be if you want to score touchdowns.
We know the Chargers and Philip Rivers love to lean on their tight ends, especially near the end zone, and that's where Gates will make his mark. Those weeks he doesn't score, you're not going to get much from him. But he should score enough to be worth using, at least in that late-round-TE kind of way.
Don't expect a vintage season from Gates, and certainly don't pay for one. But if you're one of the last people taking a tight end in you draft, or you took a Jack Doyle or Eric Ebron type, Gates is a fine alternative now that he's back home.
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