Coming into the season, Vance McDonald was getting some fantasy football sleeper love. He had a never-actualized draft pedigree and an athletic profile. It’s easy to forget now, but he was drafted ahead of two fantasy football tight end mainstays in Travis Kelce and Jordan Reed. However, Vance McDonald’s promise was never actualized in the passing game. He took a back seat to Vernon Davis and could not make the most of his opportunities: before this season, one-of-five passes sent McDonald’s way were registered as drops. He was bad, and I was one of those speaking out against drafting McDonald, mostly because of the drops. He had other issues, as well (had trouble catching while hit, making man coverage an issue), but he had great things about him, as well (his route running is great).[embedit snippet=”jeff-ads”]
I’ll eat crow. The drops are (mostly) fixed. While his hands are still bad (8% drop rate), he improved drastically from dreadful (20% drop rate). In addition, McDonald started the season off slowly with Blaine Gabbert under center, getting just nine targets in his first four games. His lone catch in week two was a 75-yard touchdown, so it helped mask underlying issues. However, Kaepernick is under center now, and it is a whole new world for McDonald. McDonald has gotten at least six targets in each of the last five games, but it’s since the 49ers’ Bye that McDonald has really shined. He’s posted an average of 60 yards across those four games, and has scored two touchdowns. He’s getting to be Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target, and his rise has gone alongside Kaepernick’s.
This week isn’t the best matchup for McDonald, at least on paper. But without Gronk, Reed or Delanie this week, and with only Travis Kelce, Coby Fleener, Jimmy Graham and Zach Ertz having positive matchups this week, McDonald might just be the player for you. The Bears are a bad matchup on paper, given that they are the #20 team at allowing tight end production, but in actuality, they are a much easier matchup than they seem, as they are hemorrhaging talent due to injuries. After yielding just two double-digit fantasy performances in their first eight games, they have done it in two of the last three games, giving 14.4 points and 11 points to Cameron Brate and the aforementioned Delanie Walker. They used to be a bad matchup, but injuries have left them wanting, and they are now a positive matchup for tight ends.
With a turnaround in the hands department, a quarterback who believes in him and a good matchup ahead of him, Vance McDonald is set up to be a positive factor for your team this weekend, and he is available in four-of-five Yahoo! leagues, so if you’re in a desperate spot for your TE slot, look no further than Old McDonald.