Heading into the 2020 season, Blake Jarwin was one of the most popular sleeper picks amongst tight ends. His quarterback, Dak Prescott, was coming off a season in which he had completed 388 passes in 596 attempts for 4902 yards and 30 TDs. Just as soon as he became a popular pick, disaster struck in the form of a torn ACL in game one of the season. So, where does Jarwin stand heading into 2021?
For a player to “breakout” at the tight end position and be top 12, two things must be present: 1) talent in the player himself; and 2) an opportunity to succeed within his current situation. Jarwin showed some skills while at Oklahoma State (first-team all-Big 12 in 2015 and second-team all Big12 in 2016) and also had a good week at the East-West Shrine game leading up to the 2017 draft. He was considered a better blocker than a receiver, according to his draft profile provided by WalterFootball.Com. Jarwin wound up entering the league as an undrafted free agent.
Despite having been originally projected as more of a blocking tight end, Jarwin earned an opportunity to play as the receiving tight end in two tight end sets. This opportunity occurred at both the end of the 2018 season and for the entire 2019 season. During that span, he recorded 58 catches (on 77 targets) for a 75 percent catch rate. Along with reliable hands, Jarwin also showed a degree of athleticism by averaging 11.6 yards/catch and scoring six TD’s.
As previously mentioned, he entered 2020 regarded as a sleeper TE amongst the fantasy community. He wound up catching just one pass for 12 yards before missing the rest of the season due to the torn ACL surgery. Jarwin is on pace to play in week one and is expected to once again be the primary receiving tight end, with Dalton Schultz slated to be more of a blocking TE. This was the same arrangement that Schultz and Jarwin had during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Over that two-season span, Schultz only caught 13 passes for 122 yards and zero touchdowns.
In addition to displaying a degree of talent, a breakout player has to be in a situation for success. Prior to his compound ankle fracture in week five last year, Prescott was statistically the top-scoring fantasy quarterback. He had amassed 1856 passing yards and nine touchdowns in just five games.
In the five years that Prescott has been in the league, he has displayed a propensity to target his tight ends. The five-year statistical breakdown in regards to targets to his TE’s is as follows:
2016: 110 (Witten 95)
2017: 65 (Witten 63)
2018: 85 (Jarwin 36)
2019: 126 (Witten 83/Jarwin 41)
2020: 32 through five games (projected to 16 games, would have been 102)
2017 was an outlier as the leading WR (Dez Bryant) in targets only had 69. Over the other four years, the average targets per year were 105.7. Over a 16 game season, this equates to an average of 6.6 targets per game. In 2020, only six tight ends exceeded that average per game. These six tight ends (with average targets listed) were: 1) Travis Kelce (9.7); 2)Darren Waller (9.1); 3) George Kittle (7.9); 4) Logan Thomas (6.9); 5) Evan Engram (6.8); and 6) Hunter Henry (6.6). Kelce, Waller, and Thomas finished three of the top 7 PPR TE’s, while Kittle missed eight games.
The other component to look at is whether or not the trio of wide receivers (Amari Cooper/CeeDee Lamb/Michael Gallup) will funnel too many targets away from Jarwin for him to be successful. In Dak’s five games last year, he attempted 222 passes (an average of 44.4 passes per game). As mentioned previously, tight ends accounted for 32 of these targets (a 14.4 percent target share), while Lamb had 36 (16 percent share), Cooper had 55 (24.7 percent share) and Gallup had only 28 (12.7 percent share). If history repeats itself, which it often does, Jarwin will get his share of targets, even if at the expense of Gallup.
The final piece of the puzzle is to figure out what kind of price that one has to pay to take a chance on that type of production. Depending upon which source you use, Jarwin is being drafted anywhere from the number 13 tight end all the way down to the mid-twenties. Per FantasyPros.Com his current ADP (average draft position) is as the number 18 tight end in redraft leagues, and number 20 in dynasty rankings. As we all know, the tight end position gets really dicey after the top 6 or so. I would be more than willing to take a chance on a tight end who plays for a good offense and one which has traditionally involved their tight end.