2018 has been a rough season for the tight end position, and Jordan Reed is no exception. Despite being healthy for the first time in a long time, the Washington Redskins tight end hadn’t played up to his potential for the majority of the season. Entering Week 11, Reed recorded just 37 receptions for 391 yards and one touchdown.
However, Reed’s production took a turn for the better starting in Week 11. Over the past two weeks, Reed has recorded 13 receptions for 146 yards and one touchdown on 19 targets. The difference: Colt McCoy. McCoy favors Reed in the passing game and is giving him the opportunities Smith never did. Look for Reed to return to his near-dominant form for the final stretch of the season.
Fantasy Football: Jordan Reed Will Thrive With Colt McCoy
Reed has played the better part of five quarters with McCoy under center. In that timeframe, Reed has recorded nine receptions for 96 yards and one touchdown. This is obviously great production for a tight end, and it’s not likely to dramatically decrease any time soon.
The best way to ensure a players fantasy production is sustainable is by following the target share. The more targets a player receives, the more opportunity he’ll have to put up numbers. So far in the young season, McCoy has attempted 50 passes. Of those 50 attempts, 14 have gone to Reed. This 28% target share is good news for Reed, as McCoy is turning to his top tight end more than once every four attempts.
Additionally, Washington isn’t afraid to let their backup quarterback air it out. McCoy attempted 38 pass attempts in his lone start this season, which is in line with how often a true starting quarterback would throw the ball. The Redskins aren’t trying to hide McCoy behind a running game, and McCoy is targeting Reed at an enviable rate. Once again, this is great news for Reed and his fantasy stock moving forward.
Reed’s Earning His Targets
The spreadsheet says Reed’s success is here to stay and the film backs up that assessment. Reed’s production isn’t the product of McCoy force-feeding Reed despite having better options elsewhere. If this were the case, there is a chance Reed’s production would dip as the season went on. Fortunately, the film shows Reed is the best option in Washington’s passing attack.
Reed is the best player on the Redskins in terms of consistently getting open. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Reed averages 3.3 yards of separation on his routes. This number is above-average for a wide receiver and fantastic for a tight end. By comparison, Josh Doctson, Washington’s second option in the passing game, averages just 2.2 yards of separation per route run. Maurice Harris averages just 3.0 yards of separation while Paul Richardson sits at just 2.8 yards.
Quarterbacks always prefer to throw to the open man, and Reed gets open better than anyone else. When factoring in Reed’s ability to separate from coverage with his ability to win contested catches, it’s clear that Reed is Washington’s best option in the passing game.
So Where Was This Production Earlier?
So if Reed has been doing everything right this season, why wasn’t he able to produce with former starting quarterback Alex Smith? Smith isn’t a superstar by any means, but he’s better than Colt McCoy. In theory, if McCoy can get the ball to Reed, then Smith should have been able to do it too.
The answer to this probably lies in familiarity and comfort. Smith is in his first year with the Redskins and needed time to develop chemistry with his new weapons. This transition wasn’t seamless, as Reed and Smith clearly were working out timing issues throughout the season. Prior to Smith’s injury, Reed was catching just 62.7% of his targets. While this number looks good on paper, it’s considerably below his career 76.0% catch rate entering the season.
Now that McCoy’s under center, Reed doesn’t have to deal with developing a new rapport. McCoy first joined the Redskins back in 2014, one year after Reed first arrived in Washington. While McCoy has primarily been the backup, it’s safe to assume that these two developed a connection through five years of practicing together. McCoy and Reed are a more natural pairing than Smith and Reed, at least at this point in time.
It’s obviously a small sample, but this issue appeared to be much improved against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. McCoy targeted Reed eight times, and Reed hauled in six of those targets. This 75% catch rate is much closer to Reed’s career norms and should be a positive signal of things to come.
Last Word on Jordan Reed
After disappointing throughout the majority of the season, Jordan Reed is set to look like his old self for the remainder of the 2018 season. Reed is putting up TE1 numbers in his short time with McCoy and is seeing 28% of McCoy’s targets. This production is here to stay, as Reed is easily the best weapon in the Redskins passing game. He’s better at getting open than anybody else on the roster and has the frame to win contested catches.
Much of Reed’s early-season struggles were due to Reed and Smith not being exactly on the same page. Reed’s catch percentage with Smith was almost 12 full points below his career average. With McCoy under center, that should no longer be an issue. McCoy and Reed have been in Washington together since 2014 and had years and years of practices to iron out any and all connection problems.
Reed has a strong target share, fantastic on-field ability, and the confidence of his quarterback. Mix it all together and this is a recipe for turning a talented player back into one of the best weapons in fantasy football. Jordan Reed owners who held on to him will be rewarded for their patience, as he’s set to go off just in time for the fantasy football playoffs.
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