Adam Trautman is not a name that many will have on their radar. Drafted in the third round of the 2020 Draft by the New Orleans Saints he was behind Jared Cook and Josh Hill on the Depth Chart. The Saints had acquired a player, out of Division I Dayton, who was a versatile player but someone who was very raw.
Measuring at 6’5 and 251lbs Trautman had the size required to play the position well. He had experience too, as a Redshirt Senior he had five years of college ball under his belt. Whilst this makes him slightly older than some of the other guys entering the Draft, it made sure he had been afforded plenty of time to hone the skills he had. His comparisons ranged from Mark Andrews to Austin Hooper come Draft season.
That time spent at college was a good thing. A High School Quarterback, Trautman had never caught a pass before attending Dayton. Over the next five years he became the schools all time leading receiver. Along with this record, Trautman developed excellent blocking skills to go with these. To truly make an impact in the NFL you need to be able to stay on the field for three downs. When they were drafted this was the knock against players such as Mark Andrews and Mike Gesicki . Yes you can work on those skills in the league but that takes time.
How It Went – 2020
Expectations were low in the immediate term for Trautman, the first player to even be drafted from Dayton since 1977. Longer term though there were high hopes. The excitement has only grown this offseason with the Saints release of both Cook and Hill, with no replacement signed outside of Nick Vannett.
Trautman did everything asked of him in his rookie season. He only caught 16 balls (on 18 targets) for 175 yards and a lone touchdown but it was his blocking that made him jump off the page. Across all Tight Ends in the league, not just rookies, Trautman graded out as number 1.
That’s right, Adam Trautman was THE best blocking Tight End in the league last year. That doesn’t happen by accident. With a PFF Grade of 86.9 he was 5 points clear of the next guy, Albert Okwuegbunam of Denver.
This effort and output through last season has obviously turned some heads in New Orleans. It isn’t often that a rookie comes in a instills enough confidence that you let all the experience leave a position group at once. The Saints have brought in Nick Vannett who’s currently listed as their starter. Don’t let that fool you, Adam Trautman is going to take over and make that position his own.
How It’s Going to Go – 2021
Given half a chance I would title this season the ‘Season of the Traut’. New Orleans have 174 available vacated targets going into this year. Vacated targets being a figure that reflects the number of targets that went to a player last year who is no longer on the team. This represents 34.2% of all targets thrown last year. This 34.2% actually accounts for 50.3% of the air yards thrown last year, 1,599.
Whilst it is clear the vacated targets won’t all go to the Tight End position, there is plenty of scope for a big season for Trautman. With a new Quarterback finding his feet with the Saints, I am going to make the assumption that Winston is the starter. What we should look at then, rather than how much the Tight end was targeted last year, is whether Winston likes his Tight Ends.
The Jameis Winston we had in Tampa was one who often wouldn’t make it to his second read in a timely manner. As such there were often heaved passes downfield rather than to Tight Ends on intermediate routes. When he did throw to them however he was very good. An illustration of his 2019 season is below:
Roughly 20% of the targets that year were to the Tight End. After a year under Drew Brees I would expect Winston to have calmed and improved over the year. This should allow him more time to make his second and third read, it’s not as if he doesn’t throw to the Tight End well.
… And Here’s Why
There are 69 vacated Tight End targets from last year. The largest loss to the team overall was Emmanuel Sanders who had 81. With Michael Thomas also out until mid-November at least there is no obvious Number 1 receiver on this team. Should Trautman establish an early connection with Winston then who knows, it could be him.
If Jameis Winston can make even a small improvement this year then Trautman projects to have approximately 80-100 targets. Assuming a catch percentage of 80% that equates to between 64-80 receptions. If we apply the Saints average depth of target to Tight Ends last year, 10.2 yards, then we have between 652-816 yards. There were 9 touchdowns thrown to Tight Ends by the Saints last year. I seen no reason that expectations for 8-10 are unrealistic. A line of 72/734/8 (the mean figures taken from above)? That sounds like a fantastic second season to me. It would reflect roughly the same trajectory taken by T.J. Hockenson last year.
Tight End is a onesie position in most fantasy leagues, flex spots aside. I can guarantee that Adam Trautman is not getting drafted in 90% of leagues. If you are brave enough to wait and take advantage of the advantage you gain at the multiple player positions Trautman will pay dividends.
Based on the above figures Trautman would have finished third in yardage last year, in 6 point per TD, full PPR leagues he would have scored 185 points, best for third in the league. Yes these are lofty expectations but with the situation in New Orleans there is no reason to believe this isn’t Adam Trautman’s ceiling.
This is the first guy I have truly planted my flag in this year and I look forward to seeing just how he does. I have taken him in every fantasy draft that I can to date so I am heavily invested. I urge you to join me on this journey, waiting late for a Tight End was never so much fun!
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