High-Variance Players: TE Vance McDonald - Footballguys

The Footballguys staff discusses the high side and low side of Vance McDonald

When August rolls around, the fantasy football community usually reaches a consensus on most players. Vance McDonald isn't one of those players. While he's averaging somewhere around TE24, he has been ranked between 15 and unranked at his position. What are your thoughts on him? Is he underrated or overrated? Or neither?

Clayton Gray: McDonald is a value play because of his performance in Pittsburgh's sole playoff game last year. With 10 catches for 112 yards, McDonald gave a glimpse of what he can do in the Steelers offense.

Of course, that game is an outlier, but it showed McDonald can be exactly what a fantasy player should look for in a late-round tight end. That late in your draft, you should be searching hard for upside.

McDonald, of course, has some warts - most notably his injury history (and his injury present) - but also has fantastic upside.

Daniel Simpkins: I agree with Clayton. When healthy, the potential for being a top option is there. At such a negligible draft cost, he can be tossed back for a waiver pickup with little to no consequence if we find out that he’s not healthy enough to suit up.

Jason Wood: TE24 is almost worthless in fantasy leagues. The drop off at tight end is startling and TE24 is squarely in the zone of guys you can pick up off waivers to play appealing defensive matchups. That’s just about right for McDonald. He’s never been a reliable fantasy commodity. I understand the excitement some have for him, but you shouldn’t reach for him, either.

Sigmund Bloom: If McDonald was having a strong training camp, he would be interesting simply on the basis of the intersection between a player that caught 10 balls in the playoff loss to the Jaguars, offseason buzz that his role would grow, the quality of the Steelers pass offense, and the low bar for fantasy relevance at tight end. McDonald also joined the team right before the 2017 season, so it makes sense that his effect would be minimal last year while the team still had plans for him. He is not having a strong camp. McDonald is sidelined with a foot injury, and the team has signed Bucky Hodges to help with training camp reps. Chances are the Steelers tight end position will be irrelevant in fantasy leagues in 2018.

Ryan Hester: I agree with Sigmund. Unless McDonald can get back on the practice field soon, his impact won't help fantasy players from a season-long perspective. However, at TE25 in ADP, it's possible that McDonald isn't drafted in many 12-team leagues.

He's a name to keep an eye on as a waiver wire pickup, both from a matchup/streaming perspective and also as a player who has TE1-upside for multiple-week stretches.

So while his health makes it a stretch to say he'll finish above his current price for the season, fantasy football is still a weekly game, which makes McDonald attractive if/when he is healthy - even if that is multiple short stretches during the season.

Chad Parsons: McDonald is one of the IIIIIIin bright lightsIIIIII tight ends on my target board beyond the top-10 or so. Jesse James is a short-range target only and the tight end in Pittsburgh's passing offense may not see a double team all season due to their wide receiver strength. In recent seasons, the Steelers tried to have the vertical tight end element with Ladarius Green, but health derailed their plan. McDonald is similar in terms of health and consistency holding him back to-date, but TE1-upside is present in this role and offense. Waiting at tight end if missing on Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce points to a late-round positional strategy and McDonald is a key player for the team-building approach.

Jeff Tefertiller: McDonald was listed as the starter on the team's first depth chart. Add in his workload versus Jacksonville in the playoffs, and I see a fantasy sleeper when healthy.

Andy Hicks: McDonald is a better fantasy option than Jesse James, but both will eat into each other's production. McDonald needs to be able to stay on the field as well. He has missed between one and eight games in every one of his five years in the NFL and is dealing with an injury now. McDonald is a better waiver wire option if he is playing than a draft pick before the season starts.

Devin Knotts: While McDonald is looking like he will beat out Jesse James, he is still going to be at least the fifth option on a team that already has two high-target players in Bell and Brown. The second issue is that I have no confidence that McDonald will get touchdown opportunities as I believe those will go to the bigger Jesse James.

Will Grant: McDonald is an interesting sleeper as the 24th overall tight end being drafted, but when you're in this range, you're talking about guys who you can easily pick up as a waiver wire option. There are too many questions around his role in the offense yet to pronounce him as undervalued, but he may be in the deep sleeper category for leagues that have deeper rosters and where drafting two tight ends makes sense.

McDonald is a good option for best-ball formats since he could always repeat his playoff performance from last season. In a traditional PPR league though, 24th is probably about right.

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