A True Sleeper
If Will Tye wasn't on your radar this time last season, you weren't alone. Coming out of Stony Brook University, Tye wasn't invited to the NFL Combine and went undrafted. He eventually signed with the Giants as a rookie free agent, but was considered a long shot to make the 53-man roster. A strong preseason changed the narrative, and Tye secured a roster spot playing behind returning starter Larry Donnell. Tye didn't see the field much in the early going, but started seeing regular snaps in the Giants 5th game of the season. His real opportunity came when Larry Donnell was lost for the season eight games into the schedule.
- Weeks 1-3 -- 0 targets per game, 0 catches per game, 0 yards per game, 0 TDs per game
- Weeks 4-8 (with Donnell) -- 2.4 targets per game, 1.5 catches per game, 17.5 yards per game, 0 TDs per game
- Weeks 9-17 (without Donnell) -- 6.3 targets per game, 4.3 catches per game, 48.4 yards per game, 0.4 TDs per game
Over the last eight games of the season, Will Tye was a Top 10 fantasy tight end:
Was he a world beater? No, but he was a fantasy TE1 for half a season who could have been acquired for a low price waiver wire bid.
That's Great, but Isn't Larry Donnell Going to Get His Starting Job Back?
It's worth remembering that Will Tye didn't see fantasy-relevant snaps until Larry Donnell was lost for the season, and Donnell is reportedly healthy (having been re-signed in April) which means he should relegate Tye to backup duties again. However, if you believe new head coach Ben McAdoo is motivated to field the best offense available to him, I would argue Donnell will be the one relegated to backup duties in 2016.
Will Tye Is Better Than You Think
While Will Tye was an undrafted rookie free agent who played for Stony Brook University, that doesn't properly illustrate his ability or pedigree. The truth is Tye was originally a Florida State Seminole, but was frustrated by his lack of playing time. Rather than toil behind Nick O'Leary, Tye transferred to Stony Brook and became an immediate impact starter in spite of being routinely double-teamed. In two seasons at Stony Brook, Tye caught 79 passes for 1,015 yards and 9 touchdowns. Although his level of competition wasn't up to BCS standards, Tye dominated everyone in his wake. As importantly, Tye is an ELITE athlete. He wasn't invited to the Combine, but his Pro Day numbers would have ranked:
- 40-Yard Dash -- 4.47 seconds (1st among tight ends)
- 3-Cone -- 6.96 seconds (3rd)
- Short Shuttle -- 4.33 seconds (3rd)
- Vertical -- 33 inches (6th)
Pro-rating Tye's 8 starts over a 16-game season yields:
- 100 Targets
- 68 Receptions
- 774 Yards
- 11.4 Yards per Reception
- 6 Touchdowns
- 181.4 Fantasy Points (PPR)
Larry Donnell Isn't That Good
Larry Donnell's reputation benefited from a monstrous 3-TD game early in the 2014 season, but in 1.5 seasons as the Giants starter, he doesn't have much else to hang his hat. Over the last three seasons, the 10th ranked fantasy TE has averaged 10.44 points per game. Donnell only eclipsed that mark 10 times (41.7%) whereas Tye eclipsed that mark 5 times in 8 starts (62.5%). Over that same span, the 5th ranked fantasy TE has averaged 13.76 fantasy points per game. Donnell leapt that hurdle just six times (25.0%) while Tye posted Top 5 numbers 3 times in 8 games (37.5%). We're dealing with small sample sizes, but objectively the film shows Tye as the more athletic, explosive playmaker.
- 40-Yard Dash -- 4.91 seconds (vs. 4.47 for Tye)
- 3-Cone -- 7.41 seconds (vs. 6.96)
- Short Shuttle -- 4.59 (vs. 4.33)
- Vertical -- 34.5 inches (vs. 33)
- NFL Career Yards per Catch -- 9.2 (vs. 11.0)
- NFL Career Yards After the Catch (YAC) -- 3.3 (vs. 4.9)
- Tye is uber-athletic and fits with the aggressive downfield passing attack Ben McAdoo has installed in New York over the last two season
- Tye performed as a Top 10 fantasy tight end once taking over the starting role
- Tye is better than Larry Donnell in virtually every aspect of the game
- Tye is not a great blocker, and was completely irrelevant until Larry Donnell got hurt
- The Giants have depth at receiver, and Tye will rarely be one of the focal points of a game script
- Tye dropped four passes last year in limited duty, he has to take better care of the ball
Will Tye is not going to emerge as an elite tight end in the mold of Jordan Reed or Greg Olsen, the Giants simply have too many other weapons at their disposal. But he's being treated as an afterthought because most fantasy owners assume Larry Donnell will return to the starting lineup. Based on what we saw of Tye and Donnell, respectively, it's clear to me that Tye is the better fit in McAdoo's offense. If you are looking for a LATE round tight end with Top 10 upside, few options are more enticing than Will Tye. And if I'm wrong and Tye ends up as a backup (or sharing time with Donnell), his cost on draft day makes him an easy drop for a priority waiver wire pickup.
Jordan Raanan of NJ.com also believes Will Tye will emerge as the Giants starter:
The Giants have some intriguing options at tight end, aside from Larry Donnell and Will Tye. Matt LaCosse may be the best all-around option on the roster and sixth-round pick Jerell Adams has talent. But there is hope with the way Tye flashed in the second half of last season that he can build on that and become a dangerous receiving option. His athleticism and pass-catching potential makes him my choice to start Week 1, especially given the uncertainty that remains with Donnell returning from a broken bone in his neck.