Fantasy Football Debate: Mark Andrews vs T.J. Hockenson

Jul 29, 2021
Fantasy Football Debate: Mark Andrews vs T.J. Hockenson

After the top tier of tight ends, Mark Andrews and T.J. Hockenson are leaving draft boards as TE5 and TE6 respectively in Underdog drafts. Rob Lorge argues why he's going for Andrews while Jennifer Eakins fights for Hockenson.

Other Fantasy Football Debates: Kyler Murray vs Lamar Jackson | Allen Robinson vs Terry McLaurin | D.J. Chark vs Laviska Shenault | Courtland Sutton vs Jerry Jeudy | Darren Waller vs George Kittle | Antonio Gibson vs Clyde Edwards-Helaire

The Case for Mark Andrews

Rob: As fantasy managers, we tend to have short memories. Sometimes that is a good thing. You can't be afraid to make a trade or swing for the fences just because your lost move didn't work out as you planned. Sometimes, however, our short memories can work against us. It's like we've forgotten just how valuable Mark Andrews is as a fantasy asset. He's coming off of back-to-back top-five tight end seasons and he's just 25 years old. He's also catching passes from a former MVP-winning quarterback on a top-10 offense.

My opponent is likely going to drive home the point of TJ Hockenson being "the" passing offense in Detroit, but is that not also true for Mark Andrews in Baltimore? They are both the unquestioned leaders of their respective teams in this sense. The difference is one tight end is catching passes from Lamar Jackson and the other one has Jared Goff. If that wasn't enough, the Ravens are expected to be a top-10 scoring offense while the Lions, on the other hand, are expected to be a bottom-10 scoring offense or worse. Those aren't the only reasons why fantasy managers should be Team Mark Andrews though.

Using the plethora of advanced tools here at 4For4, fantasy managers can see just the kind of advantage Mark Andrews had over TJ Hockenson last season. When we look at their total amount of air yards, a predictive stat for fantasy success, we find Andrews led Hockenson by a wide margin. Andrews racked up 1,056 air yards in 2020 compared to Hockenson's 736. That was with Matthew Stafford at quarterback, mind you. Stafford averaged 7.9 adjusted yards per attempt last season, which ranked 11th in the NFL. Jared Goff in comparison averaged just 6.8 yards, which was 21st in the NFL. That's a concerning number for fantasy managers. Especially since Goff and Hockenson are in a brand new offense with a first-time head coach.

To make matters even worse, check out the table below and focus on the average depth of target for each player. With an average depth of 10.4 yards, Andrews led all tight ends who received at least six targets per game last season. Hockenson only averaged 7.1 yards per depth of target and once again, that was with Stafford at quarterback who is drastically better at pushing the ball down the field than Goff.

The numbers for Hockenson, unfortunately, do not get any better. My adversary is likely to focus on Hockenson's potential for a high-volume role in the Detroit offense because they are without any other playmakers. In theory, the notion makes a lot of sense, but who was he competing with last year? Kenny Golladay hardly played and Danny Amendola isn't exactly what I would consider "competition"—certainly, nothing that cannot be easily replaced. Marvin Jones is gone, but it's not like he was a target hog, with just 115 targets. One could argue Jones's presence as a deep ball threat actually helped open the middle of the field for Hockenson as defenses needed to respect Jones's ability to beat them over the top. That aspect is now gone.

Even from a target perspective last year, Hockenson barely had any sort of significant per-game advantage on Andrews. Hockenson averaged 6.5 targets per game compared to Andrews's 6.3. Is Hockenson going to get "that" much more volume to cancel out the big scoring advantage that undoubtedly favors Andrews? That's highly questionable.

The negative on Mark Andrews tends to be his lack of consistency. News flash—that's something every tight end not named Kelce, Waller or Kittle struggle with. Hockenson had four games last year with under five points and nine games where he didn't even break double-digits.

Now, Andrews comes with the same issues. I will not try to refute that. In fact, Andrews had six games with under five points, but only seven games with less than double-digits. Andrews also provided his fantasy managers with four games of 15 points or more. This was despite the Ravens struggling to pass the ball at times, an element that can be expected to improve in 2021. At tight end, this is a score that can provide as much as an 8–12 point advantage vs. one's opponent. In 2019, he had four such games as well.

T.J. Hockenson scored 15 or more points zero times in 2020 and that was with Matthew Stafford at quarterback and with the Lions finishing as a slightly below-average offense. Are an extra 20–30 targets going to make up for the decline in quarterback play and offensive scoring? I wouldn't want to bet on 1–2 more targets per week being the difference there.

While the overall volume in Baltimore has not been ideal, it has not impacted Andrews in the slightest in terms of his fantasy scoring. Over the past two seasons, Andrews has averaged 6.4 targets per game and has twice finished as a top-five tight end due to his high touchdown rate.

However, based on the Ravens' offseason moves and some of the comments made by coaches, it seems clear they are focused on getting more out of their passing game. Whether that is by sheer volume or by better efficiency, it doesn't matter. Either is great for Mark Andrews's fantasy prospects in 2021.

Fantasy managers often talk about regression, but that same argument can be used for the Ravens' passing attack. In 2019, Jackson threw for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns. In 2020, that dropped to 2,757 yards and 26 touchdowns. His adjusted yards per attempt also dropped from 8.9 in 2019 to 7.6 in 2020. While fantasy managers shouldn't be expecting a repeat performance like 2019 anytime soon, it's not unreasonable to expect Jackson to cut the difference between the two seasons and end up somewhere in the middle. That would result in a more effective passing attack, which would only help increase Andrews's fantasy value.

The Case for T.J. Hockenson

Jennifer: The stars seem to be aligning perfectly for T.J. Hockenson to bust it big this season in fantasy and despite using the word bust, this is actually a good thing. The term breakout is insanely overused, so what came to mind are some lyrics from the Widespread Panic song Mexico, “gonna bust it big, gonna write my ticket, gonna call my shots and ride my liquor down to Mexico.”

The third year’s a charm for TEs in both the real NFL and fantasy football and the setup of this year’s Detroit offense is offering the perfect space for Hockenson to emerge with all the points, and head to wherever he wants to come January (as we all know the Lions will not be playing in February).

With Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola all no longer in Detroit, that leaves the most targets per game (21.9) and highest target share (58.5%) in the league up for grabs, with only Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown added to the mix. Hockenson saw 101 balls last year which was fifth among TEs, and that was with Golladay and Jones. He could realistically eclipse 120 targets in 2021 which would put him among the top three in volume.

While the new coaching staff and QB aren’t appealing to most, it could actually benefit Hockenson. New HC Dan Campbell was a former TE and comes from a Saints offense that loved to use their TE in different ways, calling it a big skill position in today’s NFL. There’s also new OC Anthony Lynn who certainly had past success with Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry and won’t be afraid to make the 23-year old a focal point of the Lions' passing offense.

Jared Goff is Jared Goff, but he does like to utilize his TEs. In 2020 the QB tossed 126 targets to the position which was the 12th most, and the year prior his TEs saw 154 balls, the fourth-highest mark in the league.

With Perriman and Williams being downfield guys, Hockenson should be Goff’s primary underneath weapon along with D’Andre Swift. Negative game scripts are most likely in the cards for this Detroit team, meaning they’ll need to abandon the run and count on a high-volume pass attack. If Hockenson sees those 120 balls I referred to earlier, we’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 80+ catches for 815+ yards and 7-10 touchdowns. That’s top-five TE territory which aligns with his current ADP of 60.3 as TE5 on Underdog.

I am certainly not anti-Mark Andrews for fantasy purposes as the guy has finished as TE4 and TE3 in half -PPR points per game respectively over the past two seasons, I just prefer Hockenson’s setup in 2021. Andrews has been touchdown-dependent in his past two stellar fantasy years (17 total), which is a fickle thing to count on from season to season.

The addition of weapons for an already pass-anemic offense (32nd in pass attempts for two-straight seasons) doesn’t help Andrews at all this year. Rookie Rashod Bateman—who brings legit separation skills for an immediate impact—and Sammy Watkins (although unreliable) both add a boost in talent that could stifle Andrews’s output in 2021. OC Greg Roman is back for a third season which isn’t super encouraging for the passing direction of this offense. I probably don’t need to mention this but figured for those of you in the back, QB Lamar Jackon also runs a lot.

Both Hockenson and Andrews are very similar in their current ADPs and are on offenses with some question marks. In Underdog formats, Hock is the TE5 off boards at 60.3 with Andrews right behind him as TE6 at 61.5. In MyFantasyLeague redraft leagues, they are flopped with Andrews as TE5 at 53.9 and Hock as TE6, coming off boards at 57.1.

My preference is Hockenson due to him sitting atop the talent pecking order in an offense that will most likely need to throw a bunch for most of the season. We should also be seeing the Detroit TE with a cocktail in hand at the Pro Bowl come January, while not in Mexico, but by a refreshing Las Vegas pool.

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