Evaluating offenses and defenses in the NFL is a complex task. There are so many moving parts and when you change one part it can have all kinds of ripple effects throughout the rest of the unit. The Houston Texans tight ends were actually good overall last season in some respects. They led the division in touchdown receptions. They were adept at yards after the catch. Yet, there were other areas where they were not so good.
Two of the four tight ends to get significant time are gone and they’ve been replaced by Dalton Schultz. If you have followed us along on this journey you’ve noticed that we will look at last year’s numbers first, then we will look at the top tight end on each squad following by the collective performance of the top three on each team. We will start with last year’s numbers to give us a frame of reference.
Jacksonville Jaguars: 123 targets, 92 catches, 983 yards, 4 TD, 74.8 catch%, 7.99 yards per target
Tennessee Titans: 122 targets, 85 catches, 956 yards, 6 TD, 69.7 catch%, 7.84 yards per target
Indianapolis Colts: 108 targets, 75 catches, 803 yards, 6 TD, 69.4 catch%, 7.44 yards per target
Houston Texans: 131 targets, 77 catches, 959 yards, 9 TD, 58.8 catch%, 7.32 yards per target
You could definitely argue that the Texans should be third here. They were first in touchdowns and second in yards receiving. They were third in catches. They were a distant last in both catch percentage and yards per target. That is why they are bringing up the rear and it is the main thing that Nick Caserio and DeMeco Ryans aimed to fix in the offseason. Dalton Schultz won’t be as explosive as Jordan Akins, but hopefully he will be more efficient.
Evan Engram was their big target last season and one of the main reasons why the Jaguars went on to win the division. With Calvin Ridley joining the receiving core, it remains to be seen how much of a threat Engram will be. Sometimes being threat doesn’t mean you have great numbers, but instead means you are opening things up for your teammates.
PFF: 87 Targets, 65 catches, 607 yards, 5 TD, 74.7 catch%, 6.98 yards per target
ESPN: 87 targets, 60 catches, 656 yards, 4 TD, 69.0 catch%, 7.54 yards per target
CBS: 90 targets, 63 catches, 659 yards, 4 TD, 70.0 catch%, 7.32 yards per target
Average: 88 targets, 63 catches, 641 yards, 4 TD, 71.6 catch%, 7.28 yards per target
I’ve talked about this before, but leverage is a huge topic in baseball circles. Catch percentage and yards per target are probably equivalent stats in football. One can easily catch a ton of balls if a ton of balls go their way. So, catches and yards aren’t impressive on their own. If you catch a high percentage of those balls or turn those targets into yards then you have done something impressive.
PFF: 121 targets, 90 catches, 867 yards, 7 TD, 74.4 catch%, 7.17 yards per target
ESPN: 115 targets, 80 catches, 853 yards, 5 TD, 69.6 catch%, 7.42 yards per target
CBS: 139 targets, 99 catches, 1,003 yards, 7 TD, 71.2 catch%, 7.22 yards per target
Average: 125 targets, 90 catches, 908 yards, 6 TD, 72.0 catch%, 7.26 yards per target
Often times the sum of the parts makes more sense than the individual parts by themselves. If you are a dynamic passing attack you need targets at multiple levels and spots. Tight ends can serve as a security blanket for young quarterbacks so they have a competent receiver to check down to. Other teams use their tight ends as more of a deep threat. We all can’t be Travis Kelce. The Jaguars look to have the best group yet again.
The Titans are shaping up to be a tight end by committee. It makes some sense. They prioritize the running game. The running game demands better blocking up front, but it also stimulates the play-action passing attack as well. Chigoziem Okonkwo is the guy penciled in to lead them in targets as a tight end.
PFF: 52 targets, 37 catches, 392 yards, 3 TD, 71.2 catch%, 7.54 yards per target
ESPN: 63 targets, 44 catches, 522 yards, 3 TD, 69.8 catch%, 8.29 yards per target
CBS: 61 targets, 42 catches, 604 yards, 4 TD, 68.9 catch%, 9.90 yards per target
Average: 59 targets, 41 catches, 506 yards, 3 TD, 69.5 catch%, 8.58 yards per target
Casual fans can focus on the simple numbers, but the efficiency numbers are hugely important. If Will Levis is quarterbacking for a good portion of the season then he will need guys that he can reliably throw the ball to when the Titans need to move the chains. If you are catching more than 65 percent of your targets you are a reliable weapon.
PFF: 93 targets, 67 catches, 755 yards, 5 TD, 72.0 catch%, 8.12 yards per target
ESPN: 109 targets, 75 catches, 857 yards, 6 TD, 68.8 catch%, 7.86 yards per target
CBS: 73 targets, 51 catches, 700 yards, 5 TD, 69.9 catch%, 9.59 yards per target
Average: 92 targets, 64 catches, 771 yards, 5 TD, 69.6 catch%, 8.38 yards per target
We’ve seen the phenomenon with CBS with the running backs and wide receivers. They just didn’t project as many. It makes sense at a certain level. A typical 12 team league doesn’t need 100 tight ends. We aren’t looking at the totals as much as we are looking at catch percentages and yards per target.
The Colts run a similar offense as the Titans. They base everything off of one great back and everything just stems from there. They hopefully are getting off of the quarterback shuffle with Richardson in tow. Yet, one can’t help but wonder if they will get worse before they get better. Jelani Woods is the closest thing they have to a number one tight end.
PFF: 52 targets, 37 catches, 392 yards, 3 TD, 71.2 catch%, 7.54 yards per target
ESPN: 64 targets, 40 catches, 484 yards, 4 TD, 62.5 catch%, 7.56 yards per target
CBS: 45 targets. 28 catches, 390 yards, 2 TD, 62.2 catch%, 8.67 yards per target
Average: 54 targets, 35 catches, 422 yards, 3 TD, 64.8 catch%, 7.81 yards per target
Getting Anthony Richardson to a 65 percent completion percentage almost seems impossible. Yet, if he utilizes guys like Woods on a more routine basis he just might get there. In terms of fantasy value, there really isn’t much here.
PFF: 107 targets, 77 catches, 799 yards. 6 TD, 72.0 catch%, 7.47 yards per target
ESPN: 108 targets, 68 catches, 796 yards, 7 TD, 63.0 catch%, 7.37 yards per target
CBS: 109 targets, 75 catches, 857 yards, 6 TD, 68.8 catch%, 7.86 yards per target
Average: 108 targets. 73 catches, 817 yards, 6 TD, 67.6 catch%, 7.56 yards per target
While there might be fewer catches, these numbers pack quite a wallop when looking at yards, catch percentage, and yards per target. It makes perfect sense when looking at these numbers in conjunction with the receivers. Richardson needs reliable targets and it just might be the tight ends.
Dalton Schultz is the man of the hour. If you combine all of the receivers that should get around 50 catches along with Schultz and you have a decent enough passing attack. The Texans need playmakers and Schultz might not be that. However, he should be a lot more efficient than the ones they used last cruise.
PFF: 73 targets, 53 catches, 549 yards, 4 TD, 72.6 catch%, 7.52 yards per target
ESPN: 84 targets, 56 catches, 556 yards, 4 TD, 66.7 catch%, 6.62 yards per target
CBS: 91 targets, 61 catches, 579 yards, 5 TD, 67.0 catch%, 6.36 yards per target
Average: 83 targets, 57 catches, 567 yards, 4 TD, 68.7 catch%, 6.83 yards per target
Schultz is better than what we had before. However, he doesn’t appear to be quite as good as the other top tight ends in the division. Ultimately, that’s partially on the team at large. A number one wide receiver would likely open things up for all of the tight ends. The Texans will have to wait until next year for that.
PFF: 103 targets, 74 catches, 764 yards, 6 TD, 71.8 catch%, 7.42 yards per target
ESPN: 122 targets, 80 catches, 836 yards, 6 TD, 65.6 catch%, 6.85 yards per target
CBS: 128 targets. 82 catches, 833 yards, 7 TD, 64.1 catch%, 6.51 yards per target
Average: 118 targets, 79 catches, 811 yards, 6 TD, 66.9 catch%, 6.87 yards per target
These numbers have two frames of reference. One frame of reference is when we compare them with the numbers from last season. The other frame of reference is with the rest of the division. The good news is that the tight end room is better as a whole. The bad news is that they still trail the rest of the division.
So, keep in mind where each team is coming from. The name of the game is improvement. If the Texans manage to improve in every facet of the game on offense even by a little then the overall effect will be very noticeable. If the defense has to work less than they also should be better. It’s not sexy but it makes you a more competitive football team.
Jaguars: 125 targets, 90 catches, 908 yards, 6 TD, 72.0 catch%, 7.26 yards per target
Titans: 92 targets. 64 catches, 771 yards, 5 TD, 69.6 catch%, 8.38 yards per target
Colts: 108 targets, 73 catches, 817 yards, 6 TD, 67.6 catch%, 7.56 yards per target
Texans: 118 targets, 79 catches, 811 yards, 6 TD, 66.9 catch%, 6.87 yards per target