TSO Report: New Orleans Saints TE - Coby Fleener

There are some players whose talent transcends their surroundings and situation (Adrian Peterson). Unfortunately for 99% of players that is not the case. That's where the Talent, Situation and Opportunity Report comes in. The TSO Report puts an individual under the microscope and analyzes that player through three different lenses to determine their fantasy outlook:

Talent: What does the player bring to the table? Do they have any trump cards? Will an area of weakness prevent the player from reaching their potential?

Situation: Will the player be used correctly? Are they an integral part of a good offense? Do they fit the offensive scheme well? Is the arrow pointing up or down for the offense?

Opportunity: Where do they sit on the depth chart? Do they have a role carved out in their offense? Are they stuck behind an elite talent?

Background:

Name: Coby Fleener

Height: 6'6"

Weight:  251 LBS

College: Stanford

Drafted: 2nd Round, 34th Overall by Indianapolis in 2012

Experience: 5th Season

2015 Season Stats: 54 Rec, 84 Targets, 491 Yards, 9.1 YPC, 3 TD 

Talent:

The Colts selected Coby Fleener atop the 2nd Round in 2012, teaming him up with former Stanford teammate, Andrew Luck. With the talent and chemistry the players already possessed the Colts envisioned the two becoming a dynamic duo in the passing game for the coming decade. Fleener was to play Robin to Andrew Luck's Batman.

Unfortunately this never came to fruition and four years later Fleener bolted to New Orleans in free agency. Fleener certainly wasn't a bust. In 2014 he finished as the 6th best TE in fantasy. However, when push came to shove the Colts decided to pay the often injured but more complete TE in Dwayne Allen. I realize you can't pay everyone and for all we know the Colts would have loved to bring Fleener back but I wouldn't be surprised if they viewed Fleener as just another guy.

Coming out of college Fleener was seen as this agile, seam splitting, move-TE prospect. So far that really hasn't been the case and it’s apparent the size and speed of the NFL has caught up to him. Athletically Fleener no longer stands out on a football field. He isn't sudden in his breaks or elusive player with the ball in his hands and really plays at one speed. The lack of a second gear in his routes and with the ball in his hands is why he struggles to separate from defenders and create more after the catch. Fleener still has ways to go as a run blocker and is really just a possession receiving TE. At this stage of his career he likely is what he is.

With that being said Fleener is still a mismatch vs certain linebackers and in the box safeties due to his 6'6" frame and acceptable speed. Fleener did a nice job finding the soft spot in zones as a route runner this past year. Fleener has some ugly drops on his resume and could be better in contested situations but I think the concern over his "shaky" hands are overblown. His drop rates fall in line with many of todays top TEs.

At the end of the day, Fleener is solid move TE, but not worth the money he received in free agency.

Situation:

Coby Fleener spent the first 4 years of his NFL career in a TEBC (Tight End By Committee), battling Dwayne Allen for snaps. He arrives in New Orleans after signing a 5-year, $36 Million deal and is in line to be a focal point of one of the most prolific passing games in the NFL He really couldn't be in a better situation.

Here are a couple fun tidbits to illustrate the situation he's entering:

- Drew Brees has led the NFL in passing yards 4 of the past 5 years. In 2013 he came in 2nd while having the 5th highest total in NFL history. If you're wondering, Peyton Manning set the all-time passing yards record that season.

- Drew Brees has been Top 7 in the league in passing attempts, completions, passing yards and touchdowns in each of his 10 seasons with the Saints.

- A Tight End on a Drew Brees team has finished as the TE1 in fantasy 4 times (Graham & Gates both 2 times). Other Top 10 performances include Graham and Ben Watson.

Below you'll see over the past 9 seasons Saints TE's compile on average: 147 targets, 98 receptions, 1,088 yards, 10 TD and a 22.86% market share of targets. To put this into perspective Drew Brees targets his TE's nearly the same as Aaron Rodgers targeted Randall Cobb last year, 22.5%. A reminder that Jordy Nelson didn't play in 2015. Some other target market share percentages you may find interesting: Calvin Johnson - 23.9%, Odell Beckham Jr - 25.3%, AJ Green - 26.1%, Emmanuel Sanders - 22.4%, Amari Cooper - 21.4%, TY Hilton - 21.6%, Brandin Cooks - 19.1% and Allen Robinson - 24.8%. Targets are an important piece of puzzle when evaluating tight ends and wide receivers because it lets you know how heavily involved they are in the offense.

I wanted to also look at this from a TE perspective. I looked at other top passing games that didn't have a high profile TE where the passing game was built around that player. If you have a Gronk or Eifert you're going to them in every high leverage situation you can get. That's not he case with a Ben Watson, Josh Hill or Coby Fleener.  I wanted to see how often prolific passing QBs targeted league average TEs. Comes to show that in 2015 Aaron Rodgers targeted a TE on 15.7% of pass plays. Carson Palmer 10.6%, Big Ben 16.1%, Eli Manning 17.6%, Matt Ryan 14.9%, Matt Stafford 15.9%. Drew Brees is still way ahead of the pack.

Now this is only a one year sample but based off Saints TE production over the years I think its fair to say Sean Payton and Drew Brees are more willing to get the TE involved no matter who is in the game.

Opportunity: 

The departures of Marques Colston, Ben Watson and Khiry Robinson free up 197 targets from last season.

Fleener will fill Ben Watson's shoes as the primary receiving TE and should be one of Drew Bree's favorite targets from the get go.  Backing up Fleener are TE's Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui. Hoomanawanui is the blocking TE of the bunch while Josh Hill offers some of the same value Fleener does. Coming into 2015 Hill was thought to be the top candidate to take over the starting TE job but lost it to 35-year old Ben Watson. My expectations for 2016 are that the distribution of targets amongst the TE will be similar to this past year. I think a 27-year old Fleener should have a little more gas in the tank as a receiver than aging Ben Watson. This past season Fleener was limited to more quick underneath passes and short crossing routes but in New Orleans he will be used to attack all levels of the field.

It will be interesting to see how the Saints deploy rookie 2nd round pick, WR Michael Thomas. Thomas admitted that he had a hard time picking up the playbook at Ohio State so it will be interesting to see if it takes him a while to get going. Thomas has the ability to play on the outside but it would be fun to see him used in the Marques Colston - jumbo slot WR role. Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead round out receiving corp. They'll consume most of Brees targets with Brandon Coleman making a splash here and there. Just enough to make you remember he's around.

Quietly Mark Ingram is one of the most complete all around back in the NFL. He's really come along as a receiver. Tim Hightower and CJ Spiller will be competing for touches behind Ingram.

Outlook: 

The opportunity is there for Fleener to have a career year in the voluminous Saints passing attack.

According to fantasydraftpros.com consensus ADP (Average Draft Position) board Fleener currently rests at TE11 and 115th overall. I expect that ADP to rise as the season approaches but as it stands right now that would be a major steal. I'd even go as far as saying that Fleener could be TE5, behind Gronk, Eifert, Olsen, Reed and ahead of Barnidge, Kelce and Walker.

Fleener is an excellent example of how a players situation and opportunity can turn a ho-hum player into an intriguing building block for your fantasy teams.