Maintaining The Advantage At The Shallowest Position

I’ve played fantasy football for 16 years now.  My strategy for drafting has changed as the NFL has evolved.  The value of Running Backs, Wide Receivers, and Quarterbacks has changed with committee backfields and the rules being slanted to favor passing.  Tight End is the one position that largely has remained the same.  The gap between the elite TE and the middle tier remains greater than the gaps at the other positions.  I will spend early draft capital on that position especially in PPR formats looking to maintain the positional advantage over my opponents. The difference between an elite producing TE vs. a streaming player is tremendous.  That advantage helps to mask other potential deficiencies in the roster.  I believe there is a higher probability of being able to replace an RB2, WR3, K, or Def than at TE.    

In drafting my starting TE I’m looking for a player that will produce over 70 catches. With that many catches 7 or more TD’s is a distinct possibility.  As an owner you either draft a TE that catches a lot of passes or hope you can stream someone that falls into the end zone that week.   

In a league that is getting more pass happy with each season, do you know how many TE caught 70 or more passes last season? The answer is 3. Darren Waller 107, Travis Kelce 105, and Logan Thomas 72.  Now if you switch the baseline to 60 catches then T.J. Hockenson 67, Dalton Schultz 63, Evan Engram 63, Noah Fant 62, and Hunter Henry 60 qualify.  

Switching to Touchdowns Robert Tonyan/Travis Kelce each had 11. Darren Waller 9, Jonnu Smith/Jimmy Graham 8, Rob Gronkowski/Jared Cook/Mark Andrews 7.  Now lets see how many catches did these players used to get their 7 plus TD’s.  Tonyan 52, Kelce 105, Waller 107, Smith 40, Graham 48,  Gronkowski 43, Cook 37, Andrews had 48.  Overall there’s some donut scoring weeks with so few catches for some of these players.  

Using the scoring from one of the full point PPR leagues I play in Kelce was worth 310 points while Waller was worth 275 points.  Logan Thomas was the 3rd highest scoring TE at 172. Hockenson 171, Tonyan 168, Andrews 168, Fant 149, Henry 147, Gronkowski 143, Schultz 141, Graham 140, Smith 138, Cook 131, Engram 130.

For example, Kelce was worth more than average of 8.68 points per game over Hockenson.  The funny thing is I believe Hockenson had a great year in 2020.  The disparity of catches between Waller and Tonyan was more than what Tonyan had 107-52=55.  Not surprisingly, Waller was worth more than an average of 6.69 points per game over the season than Tonyan.  Remember Tonyan tied with Kelce for TD’s at the position.  Thomas was worth more than an average of 2.6 points per game than Engram.

Tight End is the one position I will reach for early in drafts and the above shows exactly why. Maintaining the positional advantage to the most scarce position has been a fundamental key to my success.  Maybe after reading this, it will be a key to yours.      

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