Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!




 Log In  | Sign Up  |  Contact      




 

Anatomy of a League Winner - Tight Ends


Preseason Matchup Analysis

By Doug Orth | 7/19/21 |
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs


One of the most difficult - and sometimes impossible - tasks for any fantasy owner during the offseason is figuring out what players have league-winning upside. Certainly, the Christian McCaffrey's and Dalvin Cook's of the world come immediately to mind, but we need some pretty good luck in a traditional snake draft to land either one of those players.

To answer this "league-winner" question better, I decided to take a position-by-position look at each player that enjoyed rarified air over the last six seasons. By using the best of the best in each position group over a six-year period as the basis for what is great versus elite, we should be able to create realistic parameters for what it takes to be a true fantasy difference-maker.

There will invariably be repeat entries (as in certain players appearing multiple times on the list). It is also OK to view this series of articles as something of a correlational study or a series of interesting facts, but there's more value in this kind of analysis than that. My top priority is trying to establish what benchmarks fantasy owners need to shoot for at each position, especially considering the different styles of players that exist in the game.

Each position will be divided into multiple groups for the express purpose of challenging how you currently think about the position (and its upside). The "Rk" column to the left of each player's name is where he finished among his peers over the six years of this study. (For example, Darren Waller's 2020 season ranked fourth among all tight ends in the last six years.) Tight ends were split into the following groups:

Chain Movers - 11.4 YPC or lower
Field Stretchers - 11.5 YPC or higher

Take note that a particular tight end may appear in both tables. While that may not seem ideal, tight ends are often asked to assume different roles from one season to the next. For example, tight ends need to run shorter routes some years due to the limitations of the offensive line, while others get the opportunity to run deeper routes some years because his team acquired a quarterback who is unafraid to make a tight-window throw 20-25 yards down the field. I also acknowledge that while some of the observations I will make in this four-part series are somewhat obvious, they often bear repeating.

Below each table will be another table that summarizes the averages of each group as well as the group minimum and maximum. The cutoff at receiver for this study was 150 fantasy points (top 53 performances in the last six years).

 Chain Movers (2015-20)
Rk Player Year Age Tm G PPR Tgt Rec Catch % ReYds YPC ReTDs
3 Zach Ertz 2018 28 PHI 16 280.3 156 116 74.4% 1163 10.0 8
4 Darren Waller 2020 28 LV 16 278.6 145 107 73.8% 1196 11.2 9
9 Jordan Reed 2015 25 WAS 14 244.2 114 87 76.3% 952 10.9 11
16 Eric Ebron 2018 25 IND 16 222.2 110 66 60.0% 750 11.4 13
18 Zach Ertz 2019 29 PHI 15 215.6 135 88 65.2% 916 10.4 6
19 Kyle Rudolph 2016 27 MIN 16 209.0 132 83 62.9% 840 10.1 7
22 Zach Ertz 2017 27 PHI 14 202.4 110 74 67.3% 824 11.1 8
24 Austin Hooper 2019 25 ATL 13 191.7 97 75 77.3% 787 10.5 6
26 Ben Watson 2015 35 NO 16 190.5 110 74 67.3% 825 11.1 6
30 Zach Ertz 2016 26 PHI 14 183.6 106 78 73.6% 816 10.5 4
31 Logan Thomas 2020 29 WAS 16 176.6 110 72 65.5% 670 9.3 6
32 Robert Tonyan 2020 26 GB 16 176.6 59 52 88.1% 586 11.3 11
33 T.J. Hockenson 2020 23 DET 16 175.3 101 67 66.3% 723 10.8 6
34 Delanie Walker 2017 33 TEN 16 174.5 111 74 66.7% 807 10.9 3
35 Evan Engram 2017 23 NYG 15 173.6 115 64 55.7% 722 11.3 6
37 Jimmy Graham 2017 31 SEA 16 171.0 96 57 59.4% 520 9.1 10
38 Zach Ertz 2015 25 PHI 15 170.3 112 75 67.0% 853 11.4 2
40 Jack Doyle 2017 27 IND 15 169.0 108 80 74.1% 690 8.6 4
41 Dennis Pitta 2016 31 BAL 16 168.9 121 86 71.1% 729 8.5 2
42 Jordan Reed 2016 26 WAS 12 168.6 89 66 74.2% 686 10.4 6
45 Jason Witten 2015 33 DAL 16 164.3 104 77 74.0% 713 9.3 3
46 Austin Hooper 2018 24 ATL 16 163.0 88 71 80.7% 660 9.3 4
47 Tyler Higbee 2019 26 LAR 15 160.4 89 69 77.5% 734 10.6 3
48 Richard Rodgers 2015 23 GB 16 160.1 85 58 68.2% 510 8.8 8
50 Kyle Rudolph 2017 28 MIN 16 158.2 81 57 70.4% 532 9.3 8
51 Jason Witten 2016 34 DAL 16 152.3 95 69 72.6% 673 9.8 3
52 Kyle Rudolph 2018 29 MIN 16 151.4 82 64 78.0% 634 9.9 4

Rk Player Year Age Tm G PPR Tgt Rec Catch % ReYds YPC ReTDs
32 Group Average - 28 - 15 187.1 106 74 70.1% 760 10.2 6
3 Group Minimum - 23 - 12 151.4 59 52 88.1% 510 8.5 2
52 Group Maximum - 35 - 16 280.3 156 116 74.4% 1196 11.4 13

 Field Stretchers (2015-20)
Rk Player Year Age Tm G PPR Tgt Rec Catch % ReYds YPC ReTDs
1 Travis Kelce 2020 31 KC 15 312.8 145 105 72.4% 1416 13.5 11
2 Travis Kelce 2018 29 KC 16 294.6 150 103 68.7% 1336 13.0 10
5 George Kittle 2018 25 SF 16 258.7 136 88 64.7% 1377 15.6 5
6 Rob Gronkowski 2015 26 NE 15 255.6 120 72 60.0% 1176 16.3 11
7 Travis Kelce 2019 30 KC 16 254.3 136 97 71.3% 1229 12.7 5
10 Gary Barnidge 2015 30 CLE 16 237.3 125 79 63.2% 1043 13.2 9
11 Travis Kelce 2017 28 KC 15 233.5 122 83 68.0% 1038 12.5 8
12 Rob Gronkowski 2017 28 NE 14 227.4 105 69 65.7% 1084 15.7 8
13 Greg Olsen 2015 30 CAR 16 227.4 124 77 62.1% 1104 14.3 7
14 Travis Kelce 2016 27 KC 16 223.0 117 85 72.6% 1125 13.2 4
15 George Kittle 2019 26 SF 14 222.5 107 85 79.4% 1053 12.4 5
17 Darren Waller 2019 27 OAK 16 221.0 117 90 76.9% 1145 12.7 3
20 Greg Olsen 2016 31 CAR 16 207.3 129 80 62.0% 1073 13.4 3
21 Mark Andrews 2019 24 BAL 15 207.2 98 64 65.3% 852 13.3 10
23 Jared Cook 2018 31 OAK 16 193.6 101 68 67.3% 896 13.2 6
25 Tyler Eifert 2015 25 CIN 13 191.5 74 52 70.3% 615 11.8 13
27 Travis Kelce 2015 26 KC 16 189.5 103 72 69.9% 875 12.2 5
28 Jimmy Graham 2016 30 SEA 16 189.3 95 65 68.4% 923 14.2 6
29 Delanie Walker 2016 32 TEN 15 188.1 102 65 63.7% 800 12.3 7
36 Cameron Brate 2016 25 TB 15 171.0 81 57 70.4% 660 11.6 8
39 Mark Andrews 2020 25 BAL 14 170.1 88 58 65.9% 701 12.1 7
43 Martellus Bennett 2016 29 NE 16 168.1 73 55 75.3% 701 12.7 7
44 Jared Cook 2019 32 NO 14 167.5 65 43 66.2% 705 16.4 9
49 Mike Gesicki 2020 25 MIA 15 159.3 85 53 62.4% 703 13.3 6
53 Hunter Henry 2019 25 LAC 12 150.2 76 55 72.4% 652 11.9 5

Rk Player Year Age Tm G PPR Tgt Rec Catch % ReYds YPC ReTDs
22 Group Average - 28 - 15 212.8 107 73 68.1% 971 13.3 7
1 Group Minimum - 24 - 12 150.2 65 43 66.2% 615 11.6 3
53 Group Maximum - 32 - 16 312.8 150 105 70.0% 1416 16.4 13

Observations

* The touchdown average for the 53 tight ends over the last six seasons to score at least 150 fantasy points was 6.6.

* Taken one step further, 35 of the 50 tight ends (70 percent) to score at least six touchdowns over any of the last six years - regardless of how much they produced in any other receiving category - made the list.

* There are only nine instances of a tight end scoring double-digit TDs. Kelce is responsible for only two of them.

* The lowest target total for a top 10 tight end from 2015-20 was Jordan Reed with 114 in 2015. The lowest YPC for a tight over that same span was 10. The next lowest was 10.9.

* The average age of the 53 tight ends that qualified for this study is 27.8. Sixteen players were 30 or older. With six entries, tight ends in their age-31 season posted the third-highest total of 150-point fantasy performances - including two top-10 and four top-20 finishes.

* "Chain movers" caught only two percent more of their targets than the "field stretchers" did. The latter group enjoyed an advantage of nearly 214 yards on the former.

How can this help us for moving forward?

Five of the top seven and 11 of the top 15 finishers at tight end averaged at least 11.5 yards per catch.

This is somewhat notable considering the field-stretching tight ends had three fewer entries than the possession group did. There is no question this data is heavily affected by the six top-27 appearances from Kelce and two apiece from Kittle and Gronkowski.

Age is just a number at tight end to a point.

The 30-and-over crowd is represented well with 30 percent of the entries. As I alluded to earlier, they are not just squeaking past the 150-point mark either. However, it appears 32 is about the extent fantasy owners should push their luck on tight ends who make their living downfield - no 33-or-over tight end (of the 53) averaged more than 11.1 YPC.

The path to a potential league-winner type at tight end begins at six touchdowns.

When we consider that 70 percent of the tight ends to amass at least six touchdowns over the last six seasons have scored 150 fantasy points, it would appear as if that is a good place to start when choosing between options at the position. Twelve tight ends in all scored at least six touchdowns last year and seven made this list. Of the seven to make the list, only Gesicki (last year's TE7) finished outside the top 40 in this study.

Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends


Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and has appeared as a guest analyst on several national sports radio shows and podcasts, including Sirius XM's Fantasy Drive, FantasyPros and RealTime Fantasy Sports. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.