I get the feeling regression isn't the most popular word to a lot of Fantasy players. That makes sense. When we talk about regression, we're often saying that the best performers from the previous season won't repeat their feats. However, it also means some players who were disappointing are probably going to be better. It would be much easier if we could just take one season's stats and apply them to the next year, but without accounting for regression, you might have taken Patrick Mahomes in the first round and been disappointed that he failed to repeat his breakout 2018.
I've done regression alert columns for years, and this year's will be a four-part series, with separate articles for each position. That's because 2019 had a lot of outlier performances. When I set out to compile a list of regression candidates, I came up with more than 40 names across the four main Fantasy positions. Yes, some of 2019's best were there including Lamar Jackson, Aaron Jones, Chris Godwin and Mark Andrews. But there were plenty of middling players as well.
While we may have had 40 players across all positions, tight end was a little thin on regression candidates. Thankfully, there's a lot to say about the three candidates we do have.
If there's one actionable note you take out of this article I hope it's that you should not draft Jared Cook as a starting tight end. Cook's 13.4% touchdown rate was nearly double league average and his 10.8 yards per target led all tight ends. Just what you'd expect from a 32-year-old on his fifth team, right?
Cook's career touchdown rate before last year stood at just 3.5%. His career best had come the year before when he caught six touchdowns on 101 targets. His career yards per target before last year was 7.7 and he hadn't topped nine since 2011 when he was 24 years old. There's just nothing about this that looks sustainable.
Cooks' 16-game pace was for 74 targets in 2019. Even if we ignore the fact that the Saints added Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason, 74 targets just isn't enough to be a tight end you want to start every week in Fantasy. At his career efficiency, that would be 44 catches for 584 yards and three touchdowns.
At this point you could spin it two ways. Either he'll be better than his career numbers because of Drew Brees or we should start looking for a drop off because he's 33 years old. I lean towards the Brees side of the discussion, but not enough to get Cook into my top 12 tight ends.
If you're in the double-digit rounds and all the young and exciting tight ends are gone, I don't hate Cook as a guy to start Week 1. Just be prepared to stream because Cook is going to disappoint more often than he produces.
There are definitely some similarities to the regression profile for Mark Andrews and Jared Cook. Andrews is almost certainly not going to repeat last year's 10.2% touchdown rate. And there's a chance he can't maintain his career 8.7 yards per target either. But there are more things that are different than the same with Andrews and Cook.
Andrews is not a 33-year-old, he's entering his third year in the league. Most tight ends haven't even had a good season yet at this point in their career. Also, his 104-target pace from last year is well within the range of an elite tight end. And that pace may still be too low. The Ravens had four blowout wins last year in which Andrews never played more than 41% of the snaps. His total snaps and targets should increase, not decrease in 2020. That's especially true after the Ravens dealt Hayden Hurst to the Atlanta Falcons.
I have Andrews projected for two fewer touchdowns on 13 more targets. His 6.7% touchdown rate is still among the leaders at the position, but I expect him to be among the leaders with the way the Ravens function on offense. He won't be the No. 2 tight end again, but he does rank third in my projections.
The risk for Andrews is if his targets stay the same. If Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin take a leap, that's at least a possibility, and that could drop Andrews outside of the top five. But that's not a risk I'm particularly concerned about.
There may not be a player I'm more conflicted about in 2020 than Darren Waller. On the one hand, his 2.6% touchdown rate should absolutely regress. If he gets 117 targets again I'd expect his touchdown total to double... at least. And I'm not so sure he shouldn't get 117 targets again. He was absolutely awesome last year, catching 76.9% of his targets and averaging near as much after the catch (6.3 yards) as he did before the catch (6.4). That's the type of guy you generally want to the throw the ball to more, not less.
But this offseason the Raiders added Henry Ruggs, Lynn Bowden, Bryan Edwards and Jason Witten. That is a lot of competition for targets on a team that hasn't thrown more than 556 passes in a season since Jon Gruden got there.
For now, I have Waller projected for 69 catches, 845 yards and a little more than four and a half touchdowns on 93 targets. But I've changed his projection every time I've looked at it, so don't hold me to it. Waller has top-three upside in PPR if Derek Carr keeps peppering him with targets, but the extra competition and short track record really hampers his floor.