It is fair to say I’m not ‘about that tight end life.’ Much like quarterbacks in any standard league, I feel like it is beneficial to bypass the position and instead focus on stocking up in places where I can win big – running back and receiver. There are, however, two exceptions that are impossible to ignore: Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Check out the top tight end scorers since they burst onto the scene in 2011:
Before Graham and Gronk, no tight end had topped 300 PPR fantasy points. If your dynasty goal is to build the ultimate team to win championships, one of these two is a requirement. They are studs where it’s hard to find them. I knew they were dominant on a yearly basis, but this study allowed me to look into their weekly finished and see just how amazing they are in comparison to every other tight end. Before I dove into the weekly scoring, I thought it right to list some views on the position:
- Tight ends (as a whole) score fewer points than other positions, so I value them accordingly (the fourth most important)
- Outside of Gronkowski and Graham, it is hard to predict who will excel from year-to-year
- My preferred strategy is to pair one or two ‘breakout potential’ second/third year players with a savvy veteran like Antonio Gates or Heath Miller
- I avoid rookie tight ends (or at least never rely on them in a starting lineup)
I wasn’t sure how much of this was actually valid, and how much simply came from my own experiences; but that was part of what this study helped me discover. How far ahead of everyone else are the top two? Who has played well in a small sample size? Which players are worth waiting for? I wanted answers to all of these questions.
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I categorize a top 12 weekly player as a ‘1’ and player who placed between 13 and 24 as a ‘2’. While placing in the 24 is fine, difference makers get in the top 12 often when they play. I began by working out how many points, on average, it takes to be a ‘1’ or a ‘2’ at tight end by going back through every fantasy gameweek from 2012-14.
- TE1: 10.8
- TE2: 6.2
Clearly, these numbers are extremely low in comparison to the positions we have covered so far. In fact, a score of 6.2 from a running back would barely scrape them into the top 50 in any given week and for a wide receiver it wouldn’t come close. A top 24 tight end score may make a slight difference, but unless your starter gets in that top 12, does it really matter if you have the TE13 or the TE24? The next stage of the research involved taking the tight ends in the ADP data and calculating how many times they placed in each of the categories over the last three years in games they played. I then filtered them by highest and lowest percentages in each category, and outlined them below.
- Data was taken from FFToday.com (http://fftoday.com/stats/playerstats.php)
- PPR scoring
- Playoff games were not included
- GP – Number of games played
- TE1/2 – Number of games with 6.2+ points
- TE1 – Number of games with 10.8+ points
- TE2 – Number of games with between 6.2 and 10.8 points
- % – Percentage of games placing in each category
The numbers to focus on when looking at each list are highlighted (green = good, red = bad).
- Well, this is a surprise. Travis Kelce at the top? After missing his rookie year, he burst on to the scene with a 67-862-5 line. He provided a very consistent floor in 2014, but will need more involvement in 2015 to reach expectations (he had fewer than five catches in 12 of his 16 games).
- Some of these trusty veterans are not too far away from the big guns. Need an easy 6-10 points? Don’t be afraid to rely on the older players like Heath Miller, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates.
- Jermaine Gresham and Larry Donnell stand out on the list, but we must remember this is for scoring only 6.2 points or more: the TE1 and superstar weeks will be more valuable.
- On the off chance your league allows you to start four tight ends, Ladarius Green wouldn’t have been worthy of your ‘TE4’ spot last year. For all of our hope and expectation, he finished as the TE52
- What do you do with Vernon Davis? 2013 was great, but after a TE1 performance in the first game of 2014 and a TE2 in the second, he didn’t top six points in any game for the rest of the year. At his price, I might gamble on a veteran resurgence.
- Coby Fleener had a TE7 yearly finish in 2014, but he scored 72.7 of his 176.4 points in just three games (41%) and only had five top 12 games on the year. Deception!
- This is where the top two start to separate themselves. More than three quarters of the time, Gronkowski and Graham score over 10.8 points
- There is almost a 50% difference between Gronkowski at the top and Donnell at the bottom.
- With the drafting of Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta took a hit, but how effective will Williams be in his rookie year? The big ‘if’ with Pitta is his health, but if you have a spare spot right at the end of the roster he could excel when back on the field.
- Kyle Rudolph was touchdown-dependent early on in his career until injuries slowed him down and has only ever gone over 69 yards in a game one time. But now he has a superstar quarterback and I like his chances to improve on his numbers.
- Gavin Escobar actually scored almost half (21.5) of his 43.5 points last year in one game.
- It is interesting to see Jordan Cameron on this list. Like many tight ends, he was a slow starter and did nothing in 2012 despite taking part in games. However, in his strong 2013, he was a TE1 in nine games out of 15 played (60%).
- Tyler Eifert is still being drafted as a top ten tight end, ahead of some more established players. This year he must prove his worth.
- Eifert and Zach Ertz haven’t exactly lived up to their early-round 2013 draft selections, and have some making up to do. How long do we stick with them?
- Kelce was in great company on the top 24 list, but if he doesn’t step up his game next year he will drift into a group of serviceable tight ends, but not ones you want to spend a high startup pick on.
- Dwayne Allen has never gone over 16.4 points. Will he have the upside while he plays in tandem with Fleener?
- Jordan Reed was held out of the end zone in 2014, and has yet to put together a full season of staying healthy. However, I believe that Robert Griffin III will bounce back and Reed could be a beneficiary of that.
- I love the contrast on this list. Gronkowski and Graham don’t have TE2 weeks because they never get held to fewer than 10.8 points. Virgil Green doesn’t have TE2 weeks because he never scores over 6.2
- Four of Niles Paul’s six relevant fantasy games were the first four of 2014. He scored 49.3 of his 95.7 points in the year in the first three games of the year.
Check back tomorrow as we go through the rookies, chart out the “superstar weeks” and do a TE/WR comparison.
- 2022 Rookie Class: An Early Look at Kenny Pickett, QB Pittsburgh - January 31, 2022
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Update: Quez Watkins, WR PHI - July 15, 2020
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Update: John Hightower, WR PHI - July 7, 2020
Great Article. Just further proof of how truly elite Rob Gronkowski really is! Not to mention only being 26 and in an offense that completely features him! Dude is the #1 dynasty asset in my books
Kelce is gonna join that elite group this year. That’s my prediction.
I don’t know man I feel like I hear that same thing with a new tight end every year (K. Rudolph, J. Cameron, J. Reed, L. Green, etc..) but it always comes back to Gronkowski as clear and away the best TE and it’s not close
I agree with the 1st half of your statement. We don’t know how much Kelce will be thrown to for him to reach elite status, but your second half is missing a player named Jimmy Graham.
2011 – 99 rec, 1310 yds, 11 TDs
2012 – 85 rec, 982 yds, 9 TDs
2013 – 86 rec, 1215 yds, 16 TDs
2014 – 85 rec, 889 yds, 10 TDs
those aren’t numbers of just some ho-hum tight end. And the years he didn’t top 1000 yards, he battled through injuries where he should’ve sat, but was basically a decoy. 2012 he battled a season long wrist injury, 2013, where he dominated, he played injured, and last year, he battled a shoulder injury for much of the season and still put up those stats.
And I feel like people forget that Gronkowski has battled serious injuries all the way back to college. So he plays 2 great healthy seasons. Am I supposed to believe he’s done being hurt? I would take Gronk over Graham, but you can’t leave him out.
I agree. Graham has been amazing but that was when he had one of the most prolific offenses around him along with an Elite passer in Brees. Now that he is in Seattle unfortunately I do not see those numbers continuing. He will absolutely still be the second best TE in the league, however I don’t think his numbers will touch those of Gronk’s (barring injury) from here on out. You are right though, injuries have plagued Gronk and you have to keep that in mind.
Graham dropped a lot of balls last year compared to his norm.
Yeah he dropped passes, but battled a nearly season long shoulder problem. I’m sure that didn’t help him
Eric H, I see, I thought you were referring to past years and that Gronk was the only TE that showed any dominance. As far as Graham’s move to Seattle, for some reason I personally don’t hate it. I feel like Seattle giving up Unger and a 1st means they want to feature him like NO did. Now maybe not to the extent that he’s getting any more 1200 yards seasons, but I wouldn’t rule out 80 rec, 1000 yds, and double digit TDs. I just feel the weapons Russ had to throw to were terrible at times so there wasn’t any need to force throws when they had Lynch and Russ’s feet. Plus, Wilson and Graham are already quickly becoming best friends apparently. Maybe I’m overrating the move, but I think he’ll be fine.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to rest any of my hopes or dynasty predictions on Alex Smith’s noodle arm, but that’s just me. Their WR corps couldn’t even combine for 900 yards and they had zero touchdowns. It could just as easily be Kelce dying of thirst in the desert that is KC receiving yards this year with the addition of Maclin.
As far as Gronk, yeah, barring injury.. 2014 was only his second year (5 years in the league) with over a thousand yards and his first since 2012.. Seattle or not, I’d still rather have Jimmy Graham.
So in a 10 team league with 1.5 PPR for TE, would you trade three 2016 first round picks for Gronk straight up? I know he is the best when healthy, just not sure if that price is too steep? Curious on your thoughts. thanks.
53 man salary cap IDP league
My answer is yes. To land a player of his talent at a position where you have a competitive advantage over the rest of the league, and all you have to give up are three unknown pieces, I’d do that in a heartbeat.