Fantasy Football Tight End Draft Tips[the_ad id=”63198″]The key to dominating fantasy drafts is recognizing the forces that have shaped the draft board, the strategies that are likely to be employed and the angles you can use to extract value with every pick throughout the draft. There are unique circumstances each year that create exploitable opportunities. The rush to load up on Wide Receiver talent has created value at other positions (Zero WR Strategy for example), including Tight End, that can be used to propel your team above the rest.
Disclaimer: This is not a draft strategy, more a technique or tool to use if in the given situation. I believe you should always be open minded to changing your draft strategy on the fly if needed.
Fantasy Case Study
I was participating in a MFL10 and drew the 11th position. The 11th pick is solid because you can grab two elite WRs back-to-back even if the top four or five WR’s are off the board. In this particular MFL10, I drafted Dez Bryant and Keenan Allen with my first two picks as planned. I was ready to take another WR with my third pick, but Eddie Lacy, Mark Ingram and LeSean McCoy were still on the board. I settled on drafting Lacy and hoped that Ingram would be available after the turn.
The team that drafted after me took McCoy and Julian Edelman leaving me with Ingram in the fourth round. Even though I prefer stocking up on WRs early, I’ll take Lacy and Ingram that late any day and twice on Sundays, but it created a predicament I wasn’t used to.
I almost always have at least three and normally four stud WR’s heading into the fifth round (message) and just use the fifth and sixth rounds to take the best player available whether it’s a RB, TE or another WR (message).
By the seventh round, I have five or six WR’s and shift my focus to TE’s and start accumulating RB’s like Justin Forsett and Rashad Jennings mixed with some high-upside RB’s or target monsters like Theo Riddick or Duke Johnson (message). At some point late in the draft, I’ll grab two or three QB’s close together (message) and then fill in my roster with position depth and look for some sleepers. This is nothing I created or anything new. This is pretty much Zero-RB and Late-Round-QB strategy 101.
Nabbing two RBs who can easily finish the season as top-5 RBs in the third and fourth rounds was amazing, but I had to scratch my normal draft strategy and think outside the box. I already had two elite RBs so I wasn’t as compelled to load up on RBs hoping for some David Johnson or Devonta Freeman-esq breakouts from a stable of RBs that Zero-RB strategy normally requires to work. The WR options after the sixth round begin to look really uninspiring outside of a few sleepers and even those are creeping up with every article and mention within the fantasy community. At the same time, the WR position is critical in formats like MFLs where PPR scoring places a premium on receptions and rosters consist of three WRs and a flex position that can also hold a WR.
The strength of the Zero-RB strategy is the ability of an owner to draft a stable of WRs that rack up receptions and post dominating scores in four roster spots. The problem with the Zero-RB strategy is that it works-the cat is out of the bag. A typical draft in 2016 will include at least one team who drafts five WRs within their first six picks and a few that will have four. Even people that have never heard of these strategies will draft teams that look like they were employing those strategies.
MFL10 and MFL25 ADPs
Player breakdowns through the first six rounds in MFL10 and MFL25 ADPs as of June 15th look like this:
|Position||Total Number||Players/ Team||% of Total|
Obviously, you can’t have .33 TEs, but most teams are probably going to have 3-4 WRs, 2-3 RBs and roughly half the teams will have a TE or QB. The Three Tight End Tool will work in two circumstances. You either drafted four WRs and two RBs OR you drafted one of the top four TEs, three WRs and two RBs.
Seventh Round Pivot Point
Whether you know it or not, the seventh round of drafts, especially MFLs, are major pivot points and probably the most defining round from a strategic standpoint. Here are the 16 players available right around the seventh round in MFLs as of June 15th:
|DeSean Jackson||Jonathan Stewart||Russell Wilson||Travis Kelce|
|Sterling Shepard||Frank Gore||Andrew Luck||Coby Fleener|
|Torrey Smith||Ameer Abdullah||Drew Brees||Delanie Walker|
|Charles Sims||Tyler Eifert|
If you’ve read many articles about the Zero-RB strategy or seen a Zero-RB roster in 2016, you’re going to see those exact RB names frequently since the seventh round is where players using this strategy will look to add their first or second RB. Zero-RB drafters are banking on the above RB’s to put up decent numbers week-to-week while their WR’s are doing the majority of the scoring.
The wideouts available in the seventh round are pretty common for people with balanced rosters trying to catch up to the Zero-RB drafters. You will see a lot of sleeper WR picks pop into rounds 7-9 because drafters will be clamoring for any WR that can return value in the middle rounds like a lost hiker seeks water in the desert.
The QBs will be drafted by people who can’t completely commit to a Late-Round-QB strategy, but don’t want to burn an early-round pick on a QB. These are the drafters who can’t bring themselves to pass up on the value of an elite QB with a seventh-round pick.
The Tight Ends available around the seventh round are the key.
The Three TE Tool
The Three TE Tool is using a pick around the seventh round to grab a second TE to pair with one of the top four Tight Ends or grabbing two Tight Ends between the late-sixth round and eighth rounds. Once you have two of the top Tight Ends, you wait and grab a TE later to create a three-headed monster at your TE position.
Hopefully, you have four WR’s or three elite WR’s and a TE by the seventh round because the only WR’s left are lottery tickets, sleepers and warm bodies. You need to focus on separating your team from the rest of the pack and it won’t be achievable strictly through the WR junkyard that remains after the sixth round. TE’s are the closest thing you can get to guaranteed value especially in the seventh round. Here are the projections by our own Jody Smith for the WR’s and TEs currently being drafted in the seventh round:
These PPR projections start to favor the Tight Ends. What about upside? I’m not going to argue the fact that those Receivers are capable of big seasons, but how surprised would you be if a couple of the seventh-round Tight Ends have 75+ receptions and/or 10+ TD’s? I would be more surprised if those Receivers were able to post those numbers and history is on my side.
Only 10 out of 57 Receivers drafted after the sixth round in 2015 had 65+ receptions and/or 10+ TDs (Tavon Austin is included since he had 52 rushes to go with 52 receptions and scored 9 TD’s-That’s good enough). The WR hit rate after the sixth round was 10/57 or 18%.
Six of the 24 Tight Ends drafted after the sixth round had 65+ receptions and/or 10+ TD’s (Not including Antonio Gates who would have easily exceeded 65 receptions except for his suspension to start the season). The TE hit rate was 6/24 or 25%. If the hit rates seem remotely comparable, three of those WR ‘hits’ were within the first 38 Receivers off the board which is exactly how many Receivers are being drafted before the seventh round this year.
Just as I was finishing up this article, I saw this tweet and had to include it to drive my point home:
Over the past three seasons, 6.7 Tight Ends on avg outscore the WR’30 in PPR points. Just two TE’s are off the board before the WR30 in current ADP.
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) June 28, 2016
You are still going to need at least six WR’s on your team to ensure your WR roster positions give you good production each week, but a stable of Tight Ends can produce TE1 numbers and contribute to your flex. Grab Tight Ends who are more likely than Receivers to give you better returns while you can. Most people draft 2-3 Tight Ends anyways and it won’t hurt to have multiple Tight Ends to insulate your team from injuries at that position.
Zero-Sum Drafting[the_ad id=”58837″]If you’re still on the fence about loading up on Tight Ends, think of what it does to your opponents. I can’t speak for everyone, but most people that I’ve talked to have ten or eleven TEs they really like and a few sleepers. This means that in a normal 12-team draft, one or two teams are missing the boat on a top TE. In a couple best ball leagues I’ve participated in, I waited on the TE position and was really underwhelmed by what was available late. Does anyone feel good about waiting on TE and choosing between Dwayne Allen, Zach Miller, or Austin-Seferian Jenkins?
Any or all of them could have great years, but any or all of them could be out by Week 4. ASJ can’t even stay on the practice field when he’s healthy (low blow).
If you can manage to draft two or three of the top-10 Tight Ends on the board, you have a major positional advantage at TE. Pick up your preferred TE sleeper like Ladarius Green, Eric Ebron or Clive Walford later and you have a crew of Tight Ends that can contribute to your flex position some weeks. Rarely can a single drafter change the character of an entire draft and bring the fight to the other teams directly, but each top-10 TE you grab weakens another team. It’s a zero-sum game-What’s good for you is bad for your opponents and vice-versa.
The Three TE Tool is fairly specific to PPR best ball leagues that typically have 18 or more roster spots, but that doesn’t mean the hit rates are different in 15-round redraft leagues. If you want to add a WR to your team, but you’re not really happy with anything that’s out there, look at the Tight Ends that are available. Receptions, yards and TD’s for Receivers and Tight Ends count the same in every league I’ve played in. I wouldn’t go so far as tying up three roster spots with Tight Ends, but drafting a second TE to use as depth and an occasional flex start is every bit as useful as a fifth or sixth WR.
The Jordan Reed Play
If everyone knew Jordan Reed would be healthy for all 16 games, his ADP would probably shoot up to around the mid-second round and give Gronk a run for his money. Niles Paul won the starting job in Washington last year, but a season-ending injury in the preseason moved Jordan Reed back into the starting role and the rest is history. If you draft Jordan Reed, why not do something a little unconventional and draft Niles Paul, who is starter material, as a handcuff with your 20th pick?
The only players drafted in the 20th round are defenses and lottery tickets anyways so use that round to buy insurance in the event Reed misses time. You essentially use your 20th pick to lock up second-round production and it only costs you Reed’s fourth-round ADP.
Wide Receivers will continue to be an integral part of every roster, but at some point, you may be better off taking a shot on an extra TE than continue to hunt WR’s that have a lower success rate. You want to be a trend-setter, not follow in the back of the herd. When you fall in line with what everyone is doing, exceptional results will require more luck. You can attain exceptional results if you find the value in the draft that others are missing and some of the TE’s can return better results than the WR’s available around them.
Eric joined the Navy just before 9/11 and shipped off to boot camp as a Nuclear Engineer in January 2002. He was accepted into an officer program and became a Surface Warfare Officer driving big ships with lots of guns after graduating from The University of Memphis with a degree in Engineering. Eric played fantasy football for years before the Navy, but limited internet access and hectic schedules during multiple deployments made following football closely nearly impossible. Upon returning stateside, Eric started consuming fantasy strategies and analysis to catch back up on the NFL. Not only did Eric catch up, he got hooked and caught the fantasy sickness. Eric separated from the Navy and returned to his hometown of Buffalo, NY to resume his sadistic love of the Bills locally.
In addition to football, Eric loves poker and writing. The lessons Eric learned while reading well over 20 poker books and playing poker avidly often drives his approach to fantasy. As a family man, Eric doesn’t get away to the poker tables nearly enough, but he finds time to pursue his love of writing and fantasy football. Eric specializes in redraft league strategies and loves the complexity of auction drafts