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Dynasty Leverage: How to Approach Tight Ends in TE-Premium Leagues

We break down the tight end position in depth. How much of an impact does scoring have and which players should you target?

Kyle Pitts

The Dynasty Leverage series resumes with some controversy! We are back at it discussing tight ends, their impact in different formats and why you should be extremely picky and absolute in who you add/stash to your dynasty roster. I am here to provide some insight and like usual, we begin with a tweet…

TE Premium: The True Impact

Before we get into the actual names and profiles, let us dive into the burning question that begins every tight end discussion. Does tight end premium matter? What are we talking about here? It starts with identifying the scoring and how much “premium” is added to the tight end position in your given league.

For purposes of this article, I am assuming we are playing in a 12-team superflex format where you are required to start two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end and two flexes (10 starters). Adjusting for tight end premium scoring, assume the “premium” is strictly added points per reception only. We now look at the impact of the position in four different formats over the course of the past five seasons.

Definitions

Before we dive into the data, please read below for some basic definitions that will be useful for this article.

  • Median – middle quantile or number in a data set – (Ex: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12).
  • AVG – a number expressing the central value in a data set.
  • Median AVG – the number expressing the central value of the middle quantiles in a data set. All data points that reflect the term “AVG” are calculated using this method.

1.0 PPR Impact

When tight ends get no premium for receptions, the impact is negligible. The median average at the position over the past decade is 11.86 PPR and the flex threshold is 11.93 PPR. Looking at the most recent season, only seven tight ends matched or exceeded the flex threshold. This is not enough to exceed the required number of starters across the league (12) and move into a flex spot.

Takeaway: Never flex a tight end in this format unless you have multiple top seven-ish players at the position. From a market perspective, this would be a sub-optimal strategy.

1.5 PPR Impact

When tight ends get .5 extra premium for receptions, the impact is still negligible. The median average at the position over the past decade is 14.00 PPR and the flex threshold is 12.09 PPR. Looking at the most recent season, only 11 tight ends matched or exceeded the flex threshold. This is not enough to exceed the required number of starters across the league (12) and move into a flex spot.

Takeaway: Never flex a tight end in this format unless you have multiple top 11-ish players at the position. From a market perspective, this would be a sub-optimal strategy.

1.75 PPR Impact

When tight ends get .75 points extra for receptions, the impact changes to favorable. The median average at the position over the past decade is 15.09 PPR and the flex threshold is 12.23 PPR. Looking at the most recent season, 13 tight ends matched or exceeded the flex threshold. This is more than the required number of starters across the league (12) and spills over into the flex spot.

Takeaway: This is the first format where tight ends become viable flexes. You still want to be on the very high end of the TE2 range (top 13 by the data), but prioritizing a backup tight end slightly more is an optimal strategy.

2.0 PPR Impact

When tight ends get one point extra for receptions, the impact becomes much more favorable. The median average at the position over the past decade is 16.19 PPR and the flex threshold is 12.37 PPR. Looking at the most recent season, 16 tight ends matched or exceeded the flex threshold. This is more than the required number of starters across the league (12) and spills over into the flex spot.

Takeaway: This is the first format where tight ends really become viable flexes. You still want to be on the very high-end of the TE2 range (top 16 by the data), but prioritizing multiple backup tight ends up to the threshold is an optimal strategy. Adding to this, the flexibility of being able to add more tight ends in this range also limits the options by a greater degree for the other teams to obtain a player within this range.

Start 2 TE Impact

I did not measure the impact when you are required to start multiple tight ends each week, however, the same flex data from above will still apply as the premium scoring will scale the same way. The major difference is the scarcity, given 24 tight ends are now required to start across the league instead of 12.

Using the data above, the PPR and 1.5 PPR strategy leans toward getting the two best at the position you can, with no consideration of valuing a third other than as a replacement. You never want to draft more than the required starters in these formats given the suboptimal decision to flex.

In 1.75 and 2.0 PPR formats, prioritize filling each of your starters within the original flex threshold but consider that adding extra players at the position is justifiable given they can be flexed. Ultimately, this becomes a roster construction decision and understanding how to apply this can be crucial to understanding how to best use your bench spots.

Historical TE Production

Taking everything posted above, you should now have a much better understanding of which formats the tight end position actually matters. I will now look at what we can learn from the past decade of top-12 production at the position to determine which players to target in the leveraged formats.

RAS Score

We start by looking at the Relative Athletic Score (RAS) and what it means. As referenced on the site developed by Kent Lee Platte, a players’ Relative Athletic Score is a cumulation of ten different metrics adjusted relative to the position they play. It measures relative athleticism based on height, weight, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 40-yard dash, 20-yard split, 10-yard split, shuttle time and three-cone time. Each of these is weighted based on position and a player is given a RAS score. See the example below.

All images courtesy of RAS Football.

RAS Score and Top 12 TE Production

Using the top 12 tight ends over the past ten NFL seasons, RAS scores are available for 108 of the 120 TE1 finishers.

Out of this group, 93 of 108 (86.1 percent) posted a RAS score of 7.14 or better. Nine of the remaining 15 who were below this mark still posted a RAS score of 6.38 or better.

In total, 94.4 percent of TE1 finishers over the past decade had a RAS score at or over 6.38.

40-Time and Top 12 TE Production

Using the top 12 tight ends over the past ten NFL seasons, 40-times are available for all 120 TE1 finishers.

Out of this group, 99 of 120 (82.5 percent) posted a 40-time of 4.72 seconds or better. Nine of the remaining 21 who were below this mark still posted a 40-time of under 4.80 seconds.

In total, 93.3 percent of TE1 finishers over the past decade ran a 40-time under 4.80 seconds.

RAS and 40-Time Thresholds + Top 12 TE Production

Considering that 40-time is part of the RAS score, there is significant overlap in the subset of players who have finished as TE1.

Using the group who ran under a 4.80 in the 40-time, 94 of 112 (83.9 percent) also posted a RAS score over 6.38. Nine more were in the “RAS unavailable” category. Removing those players, 94 of 103 or 91.2 percent of the players overlap.

Using the group who posted a 6.38 or better in the RAS score, 97 of 102 (95.1 percent) also ran a sub 4.80 time in the 40-yard dash.

Cross-referencing both data points, the threshold is over 91 percent overlapping in both metrics.

The Outliers and Top 12 TE Production

The above numbers suggest extremely high success with filtering tight ends who are above at least one of these marks (94.4 percent and 93.3 percent respectively). Hitting both marks is not far behind at 91.1 percent.

Now, we will look at those who posted top-12 numbers without hitting one or both of these marks.

Top 12 TE Production without RAS

Hunter Henry accounts for three of the nine top 12 seasons with a RAS score below 6.38. Jordan Reed accounts for four of the nine top 12 seasons with a RAS score below 6.38.

The other two were Trey Burton in 2018 (5.56 RAS and 4.62 40-time) and Brandon Myers in 2012 (5.93 RAS and 4.78 40-time)

Top 12 TE Production without 40-Time

Kyle Rudolph accounts for four of the five top 12 seasons with a 40-time below 4.80.

The only other was Zach Miller in 2016 (7.15 RAS and 4.86 40-time)

Top 12 TE Production without RAS and 40-Time

This is simple. It has never happened. No player has posted a top 12 season with a RAS score under 6.38 and a 40-time over 4.80. Only three potential examples exist with Heath Miller (2012 and 2014) and Jack Doyle (2017). RAS scores for both players are not available. Miller ran a 4.84 and Doyle a 4.91.

Takeaway: After all of the data and looking to capture the highest predictive threshold, the data overwhelmingly supports filtering out for tight ends with a RAS score over 7.0 and a 40-time under 4.80.

Approach to Outliers

Understanding that outliers exist, I am more than fine waiting for them to emerge and then buying. It is likely fair to assume once you perform like Zach Ertz, you are pretty good.

The Buy/Stash List

The following list is filled with obvious players of values and others who may be lesser-known and completely free. Remember, understand your league and using the criteria at the beginning of the article, determine which formats you want to consider where to roster these players.

The Fade List

The following list is filled with obvious players of values and others that may be lesser-known and completely free. Remember, understand your league and using the criteria at the beginning of the article, determine which formats you want to consider where to roster these players.

I will not say these players are bad, but based on the historical data, they are in the “sell until they prove it” category and I would be liquidating any that have value. Isaiah Likely and Jalen Wydermyer are not worth a roster spot and I see them very commonly on teams even in heavily-valued formats for tight ends.

The Original Tweet

Takeaway: Do not bet on it!

Conclusion

Tight end evaluation in a dynasty is rare. I find that most writers, analysts and content creators generalize the position and if the discussion goes any deeper, they dismiss the impact. I hope this piece gives you an understanding of when tight ends matter and what to look for in a prospect.

Considering the overwhelming complexity of the position in the current NFL, I have adopted this evaluation process for my own portfolio as a way to both filter and simplify what I am looking for at the position. Best of luck tweaking your rosters over the summer and stay tuned for article three coming right before training camp.

Dynasty Leverage: How to Approach Tight Ends in TE-Premium Leagues
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Steven Munger
27 days ago

Scott,
This was really interesting and informative. Thanks for doing this analysis. I had one question. Did you break down the analysis based on TE type (for example, Y vs. F)? I can imagine the traits that that bode well for success with the inline guys will be different than those who predominantly line up like WRs. Thanks in advance!

Steven Munger
Reply to  Scott Connor
27 days ago

Makes sense. Thanks very much!

AJ Dundass
26 days ago

This is excellent stuff. I’ve been waiting for an article like this and it could not have been any more thorough!

David Malone
26 days ago

Agree, this is excellent, particularly in distinguishing the value of flex TEs in 2 PPR vs. 1.75 & lower PPR — it really changes my prior (incorrect) assumptions. (Plus, I’m drafting a 2 PPR team right now & this directly informs my strategery.)

Dennis Salisbury
Reply to  David Malone
26 days ago

Outstanding analysis on this article! I wonder where we we could slot Travis Kelce (drafted 2013) in this model? Can they/we piece some data together…sure he met the 40 time metric?

NoLiver
26 days ago

Great work. Very informative, thanks for this.

David Sheehan
25 days ago

great stuff as always Scott, one of the best dynasty analysts in the space

Clyde Aker
24 days ago

Nice work, Scott. I didn’t notice AlbertO on either the stash or fade list. I assume this means he is on the third list, “play”.

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