Player Points - Visanthe Shiancoe
By Chase Stuart
July 7th, 2010

Visanthe Shiancoe caught three one-yard touchdown passes last season, the only player to accomplish that feat in 2009. Shiancoe had 11 receiving touchdowns in all, with the other eight coming from 3, 6, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13 and 19 yards from the line of scrimmage. Shiancoe made his fantasy living off those scores, as evidenced by the table below. In fact, no other top-30 tight end gained as much of his value from touchdowns as Shiancoe did:

Tight End
Team
Rec
Yards
TDs
FPs
TD%
Visanthe Shiancoe
MIN
56
566
11
150.6
44%
Vernon Davis
SFO
78
965
13
213.5
37%
Ben Watson
NWE
29
404
5
84.9
35%
Greg Olsen
CHI
60
612
8
139.2
34%
John Carlson
SEA
51
574
7
124.9
34%
Fred Davis
WAS
48
509
6
110.9
32%
Todd Heap
BAL
53
593
6
122.0
30%
Owen Daniels
HOU
40
519
5
101.9
29%
Will Heller
DET
29
296
3
62.1
29%
Kevin Boss
NYG
42
567
5
109.3
27%
Dallas Clark
IND
100
1106
10
221.7
27%
Brent Celek
PHI
76
971
8
183.1
26%
Jermichael Finley
GNB
55
676
5
125.1
24%
Antonio Gates
SDG
79
1157
8
203.2
24%
Heath Miller
PIT
76
789
6
152.9
24%
Tony Gonzalez
ATL
83
867
6
164.2
22%
Dante Rosario
CAR
26
313
2
56.3
21%
Chris Cooley
WAS
29
332
2
59.7
20%
Anthony Fasano
MIA
31
339
2
61.4
20%
Brandon Pettigrew
DET
31
352
2
62.7
19%
Kellen Winslow Jr.
TAM
77
884
5
157.6
19%
Jeremy Shockey
NOR
48
569
3
98.9
18%
Tony Scheffler
DEN
31
416
2
69.1
17%
Marcedes Lewis
JAX
32
518
2
79.8
15%
Dustin Keller
NYJ
45
522
2
87.4
14%
Zach Miller
OAK
66
805
3
131.5
14%
Randy McMichael
STL
34
332
1
56.2
11%
David Thomas
NOR
35
356
1
59.1
10%
Bo Scaife
TEN
45
440
1
72.5
8%
Jason Witten
DAL
94
1030
2
162.0
7%

And, as discussed in the Antonio Gates spotlight (http://footballguys.com/10stuart_players_antoniogates.php), tight ends who rely on touchdowns for their fantasy value are risky propositions going forward. But Shiancoe scored eight touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line last season: it's clear he was a key goal-line target for the Vikings. Does that mean he's more likely to retain his touchdown scoring ways than a player who scores a bunch of long touchdowns? Shiancoe scored 73% of his touchdowns from inside the 10-yard-line, one of the highest ratios in the league. So what does this mean?

I looked at all tight ends who scored at least six touchdowns in any season from 1988 to 2009. Excluding those who played in fewer than eight games in the next season, there were 85 such tight ends. Twenty-one of those tight ends had at least 70% of their touchdowns come from within 10 yards; on average, those players scored 7.2 touchdowns per 16 games and gained 84% of their touchdowns from inside the ten. The next season, those tight ends gained just 4.3 touchdowns per 16 games. On the other end of the spectrum, twenty-two of those tight ends scored over 60% of their touchdowns from beyond the ten-yard line. On average, they caught 7.4 touchdowns per 16 games, with 71% of them being from 10+ yards out. The next year, those tight ends gained 5.3 touchdowns per 16 games.

According to those data points, tight ends who score from farther away are more keep scoring than tight ends who score from inside the ten. Why might this be? For starters, the "big-play tight ends" are probably more athletic, and better receiving options, than the "goal-line vulture tight ends." David Sloan caught four one-yard touchdowns in 2001, the only player in NFL history to do so in a single season. While Sloan caught seven touchdowns that season, he never caught another touchdown again in his career. Just like one-yard rushing touchdowns may be random, the same goes for one-yard receiving touchdowns. Maybe next year, the player who brought the ball down to the 1-yard-line will gain that extra foot and score. Or instead of calling a play-action pass, the Vikings will call a quarterback sneak, or hand-off to Toby Gerhart or Adrian Peterson. Or maybe that pass will go to a different Vikings receiver. There are lots of ways to envision Shiancoe missing out on those short touchdowns in 2010.

On the other hand, there are some good reasons to think Shiancoe will be the exception to the rule. For starters, 86% of Shiancoe's touchdowns in 2008 came from 11+ yards away, making him one of those "big-play tight ends" who tend to score a lot of touchdowns. Another reason? Shiancoe isn't the first tight end to catch three one-yard touchdowns from Brett Favre in a season -- Bubba Franks did the same in 2001. That year, Franks caught eight touchdown passes from inside the five-yard line, and he caught nine more from that range in the following two seasons. I still think it's wise to be cautionary about tight ends who accumulate most of their value from touchdowns, and Shiancoe is the poster child for that proposition. And while I also see merit to this study, and that it might be wise to downgrade most guys who score a bunch of short touchdowns, I can see the argument for deciding that Shiancoe in 2010 will be the exception to that rule. With an ADP of TE12 as of mid-July, I think he's being properly valued as a great TE2 or a weak TE1.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.