As we close in toward a new season, the ever-changing NFL landscape has player fantasy football values constantly on the move, and nothing shakes up the league like the recently finished NFL Draft, where young rookies begin their NFL careers.
Michael Mayer’s Dynasty Outlook and Value
The NFL Draft is always full of surprises. They’re players you’ve been high on for years but don’t go where you expect. This was the case for Mayer.
For myself, and many, he was the unquestioned TE1 one coming into the year. He did nothing but produce for Notre Dame, catching 180 passes for 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns, including back-to-back seasons with 800 yards and seven or more TDs.
Like Mayer, I was surprised when he came off the draft board as the TE3 to the Raiders in the second round (No. 35 overall). Mayer is not the most fleet of foot, finishing last year 88th in YAC/rec while also running a 4.7 40-yard dash. But elusiveness is not necessarily part of his game.
He’s just an all-around good tight end. He is by no means a liability as a run blocker and has some of the more nuanced routes of any tight end in this class. He’s an early separator against linebackers and is a size mismatch at 6’4″ and 249 pounds against any DB.
Las Vegas Must Utilize Mayer in the Red Zone To Combat Their Struggles
Losing Darren Waller in the offseason, Las Vegas opted to bring in Austin Hooper and O.J. Howard. That will do a job for depth, but neither is the long-term solution nor addresses the issues plaguing the Raiders’ offense.
Moving the ball has not been an issue for Las Vegas. They finished eighth, 11th, and 12th in total yards over the last three seasons. They just can’t score in the red zone. In 2020, the Raiders were dead last in the league with drives ending in a touchdown at just 54.2%. In 2021, they were the fourth worst at 49.2%, and those struggles continued last season with Josh McDaniels at 48.9% (26th overall).
Go back to 2020 when Waller had a career-high nine touchdowns. Six of those were from inside the 20, which was the fourth most among tight ends. This is where Mayer can thrive — not just between the 20s.
Davante Adams will unquestionably maintain one of the highest target shares of any player in the NFL, with Jakobi Meyers behind him as the expected No. 2 ahead of Hunter Renfrow. With that said, Jimmy Garoppolo certainly has no issue targeting tight ends. Given that McDaniels comes from New England and is basically building Patriots-west with his offense, Mayer will be his version of a baby Rob Gronkowski.
Michael Mayer’s Fantasy Ranking
Even if Hooper does get the opening start, Mayer will become the starting tight end by no later than Week 4 and serve as a red-zone package option until that point. While he might not have the upside of guys like Kincaid or even Sam LaPorta this year, Mayer will become one of the most reliable tight ends in the NFL and dynasty within the next two years.
There might not be a better TE in this class at fighting through contact to secure the catch. Even when he knows contact is coming, rarely do you ever see Mayer not survive it. That alone is going to bring him touchdown upside as a trusted target when every rep is critical.
A realistic positive outcome for Mayer as a rookie would be similar to what Pat Freiermuth did in 2021, catching 60 passes for just under 500 yards but with seven touchdowns. I don’t see the targets necessarily coming his way immediately, but behind Adams, Mayer is likely Las Vegas’ best red-zone option.
He will be a touchdown-dependent rookie, but I would still rank Mayer as the TE10 for dynasty. He has the profile, received the draft capital, and went to one of the desired landing spots for a tight end.
Mayer slipped out of the first round in rookie drafts but should remain one of the first names off the board in the second round. I still think he can end up the Day 1 starter in Las Vegas and become a weapon for Garoppolo.
Mayer is only 21 years old — Kincaid will turn 24 before the season — and will have an easier path to playing time at his position. There’s not a wrong choice either way, but don’t discount the talent and skill Mayer brings to the NFL just because he went as the TE3 in the draft.
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