Should Zero TE Be A More Popular Strategy?
Fading a position completely has become increasingly popular in fantasy football over the years. We hear fantasy analysts every day talk about strategies like “ZeroRB” and “Wait on QB”. But, it doesn’t seem like ZeroTE has gotten as much traction despite it being a widely known volatile position. Whether you prefer to play on DraftKings or stick to season-long formats, I wanted to take a look at this a little deeper to see if this is a strategy that should be more widely adopted going forward.
To determine whether or not this is a viable strategy, I went back to take a look at the top fantasy performers at TE from each individual week of prime fantasy season (1-16) over at FantasyPros. I grabbed the top-scoring TE from each week that would have been considered a streamable option based on low ownership.
Here’s is how your 2018 Stream Dream Team would have looked each week:
|Week||Player Name||Opponent||Weekly Rank||Fantasy Points|
|1||Jared Cook||vs. LAR||TE1||27|
|2||Jesse James||vs. KC||TE2||24.8|
|3||Vance McDonald||@ TB||TE1||21.2|
|4||Tyler Eifert||@ ATL||TE7||13.8|
|5||Niles Paul||@ KC||TE6||13.5|
|6||Nick O’Leary||vs. CHI||TE7||14.9|
|7||Michael Roberts||@ MIA||TE4||19.8|
|8||Jordan Thomas||vs. MIA||TE3||18.9|
|9||Jeff Heuerman||vs. HOU||TE2||24.3|
|10||Jonnu Smith||vs. NE||TE6||13.5|
|11||Gerald Everett||vs. KC||TE3||19.9|
|12||Vernon Davis||@ DAL||TE4||15.3|
|13||Anthony Firkser||vs. NYJ||TE6||13.2|
|14||Ian Thomas||@ CLE||TE5||16.7|
|15||Garrett Celek||vs. SEA||TE2||14.1|
|16||Chris Herndon||vs. GB||TE3||20.2|
As you can see from this list, there are some serious shots in the dark in here with most guys not even registering with projected weekly ownerships on DFS lineup builder sites prior to these breakouts. Nevertheless, this team of streamers would have combined for a total of 264.1 fantasy points on the season last year which would have ranked as the overall TE3 behind Travis Kelce (294.6) and Zach Ertz (280.3), but ahead of George Kittle (258.7). Jared Cook and Vance McDonald were the only guys on this list that were able to really maintain any kind of success and finish inside the top-12 overall on the season. Cook was essentially undrafted with a 2018 preseason ADP of TE27 while McDonald could have potentially been rostered as a TE2 with an ADP of TE14.
When looking at the opponents, eight of the highest-scoring streamers were facing a team whose defense finished the season ranked top-12 in most fantasy points allowed to the position. So there is some weight to matchup based streaming here, but I expected a little more than a 50% margin initially honestly.
Is This Strategy Worth Trying?
This method certainly can work obviously as evidenced that last season you were able to stream a TE every week that would have finished as a TE1 somewhere inside the top-eight. Even though I was a little surprised by the 50% matchup rating, that really isn’t bad odds at just taking a shot at a cheap name with a plus matchup. But, the fact that this method didn’t give you any type of clear cut advantage over the elite guys like Kelce and Ertz in standard 12-team leagues makes me continue to lean towards the importance of really locking down one of these top tight ends in the early rounds of fantasy drafts heading into 2019. Kelce and Ertz specifically have a proven track record the last few years of this consistent production and while I am as high on Kittle as most are, I think he is kind of in a tier of his own at TE3 until we see him string together back-to-back elite performances.
I think a great way of approaching this ZeroTE strategy if you are willing to try it out is to still wait until the late rounds of the draft and pick up some guys who do have a history of consistent overall performance still like Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Graham, or Delanie Walker. These aren’t sexy names heading into 2019 but they have been solid performers on average over the last three years. Rudolph and Graham actually are third and fourth behind Kelce and Ertz when you look at average final ranks over the last three years with Rudolph coming in at 5.7 and Graham at 7.3. This way you can still insert a somewhat safe option at the position if you don’t see anyone you like worth streaming with a lights out matchup on the waiver wire or as a cheap buy-in DFS.
It takes exploring all kinds of new strategies in fantasy football to really gain that edge over your competitors on a weekly basis. If you find yourself hit with an injury early on or just don’t get an elite guy in the early rounds, a ZeroTE strategy may be worth looking into.
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