I never like making the fantasy football bust series. I really don’t. I want everyone to be good, and I want everyone’s sleepers to hit, and I don’t want anyone to be a bust. Unfortunately, fantasy football doesn’t work that way. That means we have to take a look at some bust tight end candidates for 2021 fantasy football. There are no criteria here except for the ol’ gut. Generally, I looked for guys getting drafted at or above their perceived ceiling for 2021 fantasy football. Let’s dive in.
Bust Tight End #1: Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers
(ECR TE9, 90 Overall)
If you’ve read my bust articles so far this week, you already know where I’m going with this one… touchdown regression. Robert Tonyan had one of the most bonkers, out-of-control touchdown seasons of all time. And bonkers, out-of-control seasons tend to continue if you’re Alvin Kamara, not if you’re Robert Tonyan.
Tonyan finished as TE5 in fantasy points per game last season, but his target volume screams him falling off of that for 2021. 36 tight ends have double-digit touchdowns since 1992, and only five did it with fewer than 70 targets. Robert Tonyan had the fewest touchdowns to double-digit TDs, scoring 11 times on just 59 targets, a wholly unsustainable rate.
He also caught all those touchdowns thanks to another unsustainable rate. He caught 88% of his passes, and he is the only tight end to do this on more than 50 targets. In fact, he’s the only tight end to ever do this on more than 30 targets. I’m afraid to see which Jenga block it is that makes this whole thing come tumbling down, but it will come tumbling down in 2021. I’m just not going to be the one that tries to pull out the block that’s really wedged in there.
Bust Tight End #2: Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
(ECR TE10, 103 Overall)
Tyler Higbee isn’t that great at football. He’s fine, but he’s not spectacular. But, because he suddenly averaged 12 targets per game for four games at the end of 2019, people thought he would be great in 2020. 2020 was bad, but because suddenly averaged 12 targets per game for four games at the end of 2019, people think he will be great in 2021. He won’t. He’s not that good. In the fifteen games before that sudden target outburst, he averaged 2.5 catches for 26 yards. In the fifteen games since that outburst, he averaged 3 catches for 35 yards. I guess the smart money on 2021 is 3.5 catches for 44 yards per game? Certainly not a guy you want to take as the TE10 off the board.
There’s nothing to like about Higbee. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp will dominate targets, as will the bevy of wide receivers. If you want Higbee, you’re betting on a 2020 Robert Tonyan-esque 2021. If you didn’t just rush down to Higbee, you’ll know how historically unsustainable Tonyan’s 2020 was.
Now, it’s possible he gets more targets in 2021. After all, the Rams brought in a new quarterback in Matthew Stafford and let Gerald Everett walk. But, they also brought in Tutu Atwell, DeSean Jackson and Jacob Harris. The Rams seemed perfectly content last year just letting the offense run through Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. For that reason, I am not particularly enthusiastic about Tyler Higbee this season.
Bust Tight End #3: Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team
(ECR TE12, 106 Overall)
I really like Logan Thomas. He carries my favorite 2020 stat: no tight ends had 16 games with 5+ targets. Only two (Thomas and Darren Waller) had 16 games with 4+ targets. It was an astounding feat to be as consistent as Logan Thomas was last season. Unfortunately, I think that consistency takes a back seat to thrills in the Washington Football Team offense in 2021.
The WFT offense has an extremely dense short-area target game headed into 2021. Logan Thomas, Curtis Samuel, J.D. McKissic, and Antonio Gibson will all vie for these targets. Unfortunately, I think Thomas is the odd man out. While Thomas was consistent, he wasn’t very prolific. Prior to Antonio Gibson injuring his toe against the Steelers, Thomas had 34 receptions for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns on 60 targets in 11 games. Starting with the Steelers’ game, he had 342 yards, 38 receptions, and 2 touchdowns, on 50 targets in five games. Nearly two-thirds of his production came in the last third of the season, thanks to an Antonio Gibson absence.
Now, there are redundancies built in that make it less likely for Thomas to directly benefit from an injury. Lose Gibson? There’s McKissic and Samuel. Lose McKissic? Samuel and Gibson. Lose Samuel… well you get my point. He got fat on a pie split two ways, and the pie is now split four ways.
Plus, the pie likely gets smaller. It’s not Dwayne Haskins and Alex Smith under center in 2021; it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinecke chucking the rock. Ryan Fitzpatrick loves laser focusing in on one wide receiver and giving that guy more targets than he can handle. This season, that is going to be Terry McLaurin, not QB-turned-TE Logan Thomas.
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Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ca/WFT_TE_Logan_Thomas.jpg, cropped under CC BY SA 2.0