Entering into last season, you had your sights on particular players and drafted one or more teams. You followed your players and remained generally aware of how the other NFL players were doing. One of the more interesting facets of a previous season is how players performed over the last half of the 2020 season.
Players that come on strong in the second half of the season often show progress that carries over into the next year. It can be much more telling for player value than just their overall ranking from the previous year.
For this review, I have lumped quarterbacks and tight ends together as there is much less movement in the positions. You typically only start one each week and the reality is that only a few tight ends yield significant difference and most of the quarterbacks have marginal variation.
Below shows the ranking for players over Weeks 9 to 16, and where they ranked overall and for the first eight weeks of the season. The points-per-game and number of games played in the second half of the year are shown, with a minimum of four required.
Aaron Rodgers (GB) – He was golden all season but came on even stronger with a string of 300-yard games, all three rushing scores and around three passing touchdowns per game after midseason.
Kirk Cousins (MIN) – After throwing for only twelve touchdowns through Week 8, Cousins came alive mostly in tandem with Justin Jefferson and Irv Smith doing more. He would finish out the year with six three-touchdown efforts in his final eight games along with four of his five 300-yard games. He also had five home venues in those final eight.
Mitchell Trubisky (CHI) – It is what it is. He only played in five games and hit a nice slice of the schedule. Obviously, he did not impress the coaching staff.
Justin Herbert (LAC) – This was a minor surprise, since most rookie quarterbacks improve later in the season and Herbert sat out Week 1. He still finished in the Top-10 overall. After logging four straight three-touchdown games by Week 8, he only managed one more through Week 16. Herbert enjoyed one of the best passing schedules in the NFL for 2020, and while the yardage remained high, the touchdown count declined.
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – The passing yardage was surprisingly low for Big Ben in the first half of the year, but he started cranking out the 300-yard efforts for the next eight games. His elbow surgery during this offseason should help, but oddly he got better later in the 2020 season, not worse.
Tight ends had a surprising amount of movement between the two halves of the 2020 season. Granted – the point differential between most tight ends is so small that just a handful of points can appear like a dramatic rise or fall in the rankings.
Irv Smith (MIN) – This is promising. The second-year former second-round pick of Smith is paying off. His yardage remains low but he ended the year with all five of his touchdowns between Weeks 9 and 16 and he offered four games with over 50 yards. The wideouts for the Vikings will absorb most of the catches and yardage, but Smith has become an end-zone threat.
Logan Thomas (WAS) – Thomas was just another tight end to start the 2020 season but then came to life in Week 6 and Week 7 with touchdowns. His yardage rose significantly to end the year with monster performances of nine catches for 98 yards and 13 receptions for 101 yards to end the year.
Mike Gesicki (MIA) – The third-year Penn State product suffered four games with only one or no catches in the first half of the year, but then became consistent with four catches and around 40 yards per game the rest of the way. Like Thomas, his final weeks included games with nine catches for 88 yards and five receptions for 65 yards. He also scored four times over his final four games.
Dallas Goedert (PHI) – His late-season production is encouraging, and more so factoring in that Zach Ertz is expected to be gone this season. Goedert’s production suffered along with the rest of the Eagle’s passing offense and his first “half” stats were even worse than they seemed since he started the year with eight catches for 101 yards and a score in Week 1. Goedert missed four weeks on the shortened injured reserve and only played in four by Week 8. He became very consistent with four catches per week over the second half of the year. One caveat – when Tua Tagovailoa became the starter, Goedert never caught a touchdown.
Robert Tonyan (GB) – The third-year tight end shocked the fantasy world with 11 touchdowns in 2020. He only totaled two from his first two seasons. His catches and yardage dipped in the second half of the year. Tonyan remained below 40 yards in all but two of his final eight games and his touchdowns salvaged his value. That may all disappear if Aaron Rodgers does leave Green Bay.
Evan Engram (NYG) – Ending up as the No. 11 fantasy tight end is hardly a difference-maker. Engram’s increase was mostly helped with a shocking six-catch, 129 yard effort at the Bengals in Week 12. Otherwise, he remained mostly mediocre. The addition of receivers for the Giants won’t make Engram any more important this season.