Is Trey Burton the Tight End Savior We've Been Waiting For? - Footballguys

Dave Larkin delves into the fantasy prospects for new Bears tight end Trey Burton.

WHY TREY BURTON CAN CRASH THE ELITE TIGHT END PARTY

  • New head coach Matt Nagy was instrumental in turning Travis Kelce into a superstar and has already called Burton his version of the Kansas City tight end
  • A revamped offense featuring legitimate speed and mismatch options on the perimeter – Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller – will leave the middle of the field ripe for the picking
  • Burton has demonstrated his supreme athletic profile in spurts in the past in a part-time role and should be able to translate that seamlessly to a full-time role

MONEY TALKS

When the Bears parted ways with John Fox this offseason, the priority became revamping an offense that had coughed and spluttered, but never quite gotten out of its own way. Enter fresh-faced offensive wunderkind Matt Nagy, who steps in as the Bears’ new head coach in 2018. Teams show their hands with their free agent acquisitions and draft picks, and they didn’t waste any time professing their love for Burton.

Money talks and the four-year contract worth $32m (with $22m of that guaranteed) had more guarantees in it than the Green Bay Packers gave Jimmy Graham ($18m), and the most guaranteed money since Julius Thomas and Charles Clay got $24m apiece in 2015. Both Thomas and Clay were more established assets at the time, so the Bears clearly liked what they saw from Burton and made a beeline for him.

THE CHICAGO VERSION OF TRAVIS KELCE?

KELCE Vs BURTON – THE TALE OF THE TAPE (COMBINE MEASUREMENTS)

Player
Height
Weight
40 Time
Bench
Broad
Shuttle
3-Cone
Vertical
6'5"
255lbs
4.63
DNP
DNP
DNP
DNP
DNP
6'3"
224lbs
4.62
DNP
112
4.32
7.14
30.0

It has been nigh on impossible to have a conversation in fantasy circles about Trey Burton this offseason without the name Travis Kelce coming up. The All-Pro Chiefs tight end has blossomed into one of the true mismatch weapons at the position, eclipsed perhaps only by Rob Gronkowski for sheer down-to-down impact.

The comparisons between Kelce and Burton don’t stop at their Combine measurables which, while not identical by any means, suggest a similar enough athletic profile. Certainly, there have been enough examples of this potential from Burton to get excited. Bears head coach Matt Nagy only added fuel to the fire with his remarks in March about his shiny new toy, insisting Burton would play the Travis Kelce role:

"It’s an important role," Nagy said. "It’s easy to create some plays for. And when you have a guy that has the size that Trey has and the speed that he has, it’s about mismatches."

You can’t help but admire the confidence of Nagy here – “it’s easy to create some plays for” – and it is a justifiable bravado considering his success with Kelce in Kansas City, where over the past two seasons 31% and 32% of the team’s receiving fantasy points, respectively, went to the tight end position.

And judging from this clip, there will be scant reason to take Burton off the field due to concerns about his blocking ability.

MANY MOUTHS TO FEED

One of the key variables in Burton’s outlook for 2018 is something outside of his control: the array of weapons at the team’s disposal. At this juncture of the offseason, it is commonplace for coaches – especially fresh-faced new ones – to lavish their players with praise and insist that this particular player has a ‘special role’ to play. Some of this is just talk, but much of it has substance.

Nevertheless, the Bears’ retooled attack boasts the likes of Allen Robinson, jack-of-all-trades rookie Anthony Miller, speedster Taylor Gabriel and, of course, second-year scatback extraordinaire Tarik Cohen. This is both a blessing and a curse for Burton, who should be able to exploit matchups in the middle of the field and on bunch and mesh concepts to get free against defenders playing off the line of scrimmage, something Matt Waldman profiled astutely in his breakdown of Cohen.

This has to be baked into any projection of Burton’s upside, but if the Bears’ offensive pie is due to get bigger – and it certainly looks like it is – then there will be plenty of points to go around.

And yet there is one key character where all this value intersects who hasn’t been mentioned yet.

TRUSTING TRUBISKY

My colleague Sigmund Bloom often says that when you draft a skill position player, you are drafting the player’s quarterback as well. It is a delicate balance to be considered, and one that can skew one’s opinion of a player and create nagging doubt at the moment of truth.

Mitchell Trubisky performed admirably in his rookie year, and there are some who believe he can parlay that rough-and-tumble baptism of fire into a solid campaign in 2018 under the tutelage of Matt Nagy. The offense isn't comparable with last year’s; too much has changed with its personnel, and the leap for young quarterbacks from their first to their second year is often stark.

MITCHELL TRUBISKY PROJECTIONS

Year
Player
Games
Comps
Atts
Yards
TDs
INTs
Rushes
Yards
TDs
FumLost
2017
13
196
330
2193
7
7
41
248
2
3
Year
Projector
Games
Comps
Atts
Yards
TDs
INTs
Rushes
Yards
TDs
FumLost
2018
15.6
301.0
500.0
3355
20.2
14.3
56.0
277
2.0
3.9
2018
16.0
315.0
505.0
3480
20.0
15.0
60.0
310
3.0
2.0
2018
16.0
326.0
525.0
3655
21.0
15.0
50.0
190
2.0
4.0
2018
16.0
280.0
463.0
3078
16.4
13.6
48.0
254
1.7
1.0

It would be reasonable to assume an uptick in passing game production and a downstream effect on the likes of Burton and other passing game weapons. Let us not forget, though, that Trey Burton can sling it as well if he has to:

PROJECTIONS and STATS

Year
Team
Games
Recs
Yards
TDs
2015
Philadelphia
16
3
54
0
2016
Philadelphia
15
37
327
1
2017
Philadelphia
15
23
248
5
Year
Projector
Games
Recs
Yards
TDs
2018
15.3
49.0
559
4.1
2018
16.0
54.0
600
4.3
2018
16.0
48.0
600
5.0
2018
16.0
38.8
426
3.8

FINAL THOUGHTS

If there is one tight end who can realistically break up the hegemony of Gronkowski, Kelce, Olsen et al, it is the 2018 version of Trey Burton. In standard 12-team formats, Burton is currently being drafted as a No. 1 fantasy tight end, a reasonable price to pay for a player who has already been tabbed as Chicago’s version of Travis Kelce. The opportunities will be plentiful in Matt Nagy’s offense, and with the passing pie expected to grow, Burton should be a primary beneficiary. There are strong parallels between the 2018 Bears and the 2017 Los Angeles Rams offenses. Fantasy owners who took that leap of faith were handsomely rewarded. An investment in Burton as a late-round tight end target might well be the best decision you make on draft day.

OTHER PERSPECTIVES

Footballguys staffer Chad Parsons profiled Trey Burton as a tight end who is being overvalued in leagues, currently at TE8:

"Burton is a major projection considering his TE1 ADP and 63 career receptions over four seasons. Burton has yet to be a starting tight end in the NFL and the Bears brought in not only Burton, but high-profile free agent Allen Robinson, second-round draft pick Anthony Miller, and have Kevin White returning from injury at a previously starved wide receiver depth chart in 2017. While the Bears have targets available from last season in passing game personnel turnover, to justify a TE1 price, there also needs to be a rising tide uptick for the Chicago offense overall, hinging on quarterback Mitch Trubisky."

Fellow staffer Jeff Haseley was more optimistic in his assessment of Burton’s upside:

"The Bears have made moves to improve their offense, most notably the continued development of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky plus the signing of free agent, Allen Robinson. New head coach Matt Nagy comes from a Chiefs team that thrived on offense and made Travis Kelce a household name. Trey Burton may not have stats that jump off the page in his three years of NFL action, but he's relatively young (27) and his skill set is ripe for a breakout as the Bears primary tight-end-receiving weapon. He's the perfect example of a player who could rise into the Top 8 by the end of the year."

Bobby Sylvester at FantasyPros takes a balanced approach to valuing Burton:

"There is no denying that Burton was a highly sought after tight end free agent this off-season. The Bears ended up signing him to a big deal and he expects to step in right away as a playmaker. With that said, going from Wentz to Trubisky is a big drop off, and now, the Bears have plenty of weapons in the passing game so Burton may be going overrated at this point. The upside is clearly there, but don't sleep on the risk."

THOUGHTS FROM THE FOOTBALLGUYS MESSAGE BOARD

Saintfool has an optimistic outlook for Burton:

“I think he's going to be a nice addition to the passing game. He's a veteran on a largely inexperienced offense that doesn't have a lot of proven players. I think he will be a favorite of Trubisky because he's versatile. Adam Shaheen can lurk but I bet he really only has value in the red zone. He can vulture TDs but not much of the total targets.”

ZWK thinks there are more questions than answers surrounding the Bears tight end:

“I see Burton was one of the guys in the TE10-15 range who could have a solid season but has a lot of uncertainty. How good is Burton? We don't know. Delanie Walker and Martellus Bennett give reasons for optimism as TEs that produced after they left the shadow of a star TE, though it's interesting that both of them were significantly more productive in their second and third year out of town than in their first. Will the Bears have a TE-friendly offense? We don't know. A big part of what makes an offense TE (and WR) friendly is just being a really good passing offense, and they most likely won't have that. Will Burton be an every-down TE? We don't know. They have Shaheen going into his second year and chose to keep Dion Sims for $6M in new money as a blocking TE. Burton looks like their lead guy, but probably all three will get some usage, and it's not obvious if the lead guy will get 90% of the snaps or 60%.”