The Arizona Cardinals truly need playmaking tight end

Historically, the Arizona Cardinals haven’t had a tight end since Jay Novacek and Jackie Smith. The lack of production that the team has endured from their negligence to address the void has led to defenses having an easier time in coverage. If there’s no threat at the position, why worry about it when more imminent threats are on the outside?

Will the Arizona Cardinals ever see another Dan Arnold? I mean honestly, it’s kind of sad that 6 touchdowns in less than two full seasons with the team had me excited that Arizona had found someone for once.

I wanted to find out if tight ends can be the make-or-break of the playoff push. By taking the top 10 leaders at the position for the last 5 years, and the research I am putting together with help from fftoday.com. Shout out to Google Sheets for making this happen as well.

Is there a possible benchmark that links production and playoffs?

I thought for sure that there was going to be a clear, landslide winner here when I started this research. But boy did I end up with some interesting results. And after compiling the data, it turns out that the Arizona Cardinals have been missing the “benchmark” for a tight end to help the offense into the playoffs. What’s the secret? 800 yards.

  • The red dots show tight ends that have 800 or more yards in the past five years but didn’t make the playoffs.
  • There are 21 occurrences where tight ends qualified for the green/red dot.
    • The ratio of playoffs to non-playoffs is 13:8
    • 29 players did not hit 800 yards, but some did make the playoffs below that threshold.
  • So roughly around 61% of the time, teams that have a tight end gain ≥800 have made the playoffs the last five years.
  • The most successful, non-qualifying outlier was Darren Waller this year, who had 107/1,196/9
  • The lowest outlier was Evan Engram in 2019, who had 44/467/3

What happened to those grey dots? Did any of those make the playoffs?

There were 10 instances where teams made the playoffs without the tight end gaining the “benchmark” addressed above. So for those of you who are counting:

  1. 13 of the top 21 statistical leaders made playoffs, a 61% success rate
  2. The remaining 8 did not qualify for playoffs but statistically qualified
  3. There were 29 grey dots, in which only 10 of those made it to the playoffs.

So this brings our total to 50 (NOTE: Rob Gronkowski’s 2020 season is not showing in the chart for some reason). In this study, it was almost a 50/50 split on if achieving such a benchmark resulted in postseason football. The final tally was 26 missing the playoffs, and 24 making it. 26:24, almost 50/50.

This is different from my hypothesis if you will and just goes to show you that there are so many intangibles in the game of football. Maybe Kliff Kingsbury is doing right by this research. The only safe thing to say is how much impact that these tight ends have in fantasy football as opposed to the real thing. The rest of the data I accumulated can be seen here.

Maybe if there are going to be predominantly blocking tight ends, maybe Kingsbury could just have an unbalanced set with an extra offensive lineman on the line. As long as an eligible receiver covers that extra lineman up on the line of scrimmage, then I don’t think it would be a penalty if I am understanding the rule correctly.