The tight end position is where a fantasy owner can gain a significant edge over his opponents, especially if he lands the tight end that produces impact stats in the championship rounds of the playoffs in the high-stakes market. Last year, fantasy owners saw two elite options (Travis Kelce and Darren Waller) deliver impact seasons. They beat the second through the sixth-ranked tight ends by over 100 fantasy points in PPR leagues.
Top 12 tight end point totals (2017 – 2020)
Tight Ends 1 to 12
In 2020, the top 12 tight ends averaged 67 catches for 758 yards and 6.7 touchdowns or 182.84 fantasy points in PPR leagues. The top TE options in 2017 (173.18 fantasy points) had the lowest outcome over the last nine seasons. Last year’s scoring at tight end fell in line with the rebound in play from 2018 (187.88 fantasy points) and 2019 (18.04 fantasy points).
The scoring difference from TE1 to TE12 tends to be extensive, leading to the top tight end owners having a 100-point edge over the TE9 to TE12 in most seasons. Last year that gap was even more pronounced as Travis Kelce outscored the TE7 by over 154.5 fantasy points in PPR leagues and the TE12 by 168.5 fantasy points.
Travis Kelce remains the top tight end in 2021 thanks to him playing in an explosive offense and working almost as a WR1 for the Chiefs. Darren Waller played well over the past two seasons, leading to him pushing up draft boards. George Kittle fell short of expectations last year due to an injury while remaining another edge player.
The mid-range of tight end options this draft season has one player (Mark Andrews – ADP of 66) with success over the past two seasons (64/852/10 and 58/701/7). He looks to be a value while also fitting the medium target number a fantasy owner should be looking for if missing on a top-tier tight end. Andrews brings scoring ability, with a low-end WR1 feel in the Ravens’ offense. His risk comes from Baltimore running the ball a lot, leading to many games with short pass attempts.
A fantasy owner should use his baseline when deciding to push up another tight end. Kyle Pitts draws the sexy card as the fourth tight end drafted with an ADP of 55. In essence, he has to beat a 60/750/7 season to warrant his price point.
T.J. Hockenson, Dallas Goedert, and Noah Fant all have the pedigree and talent to push higher in the tight end rankings. However, each player has some questions about his potential opportunity.
If a fantasy owner decides to cheat the tight end, their bets most likely fall on Logan Thomas and Robert Tonyan, building off their growth in 2020.
Tight Ends 13 to 24 point totals (2017 – 2020)
Tight Ends 13 to 24
Almost all fantasy leagues don't use a second tight end in their starting lineup. Last year, the second 12 tight ends averaged 44 catches for 496 yards and 4.4 touchdowns or 122.53 fantasy points in full-point PPR leagues.
Realistically, there are maybe only 15 tight ends that have value in most seasons. Anyone waiting at the tight end position could be digging themselves in a considerable hole as some teams will double up at tight end so they can play that player at the flex position.
In 2019, the 13th to 24th ranked tight ends average only 6.65 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues.
The decision when to draft your first tight end comes down to how you structure your team. If you wait at the position, you are hoping to find an upside player that can deliver between 180 and 200 fantasy points. If you miss this player, you may end up starting an option that falls into the back half of the second group of tight ends, which would probably deliver between eight and nine fantasy points per week. If you compare that player to the top six options in 2020, a fantasy owner will be losing at this position by six to ten fantasy points per week if the top players have elite seasons.
The average RB3 averaged about 151.06 fantasy points last year, and the average WR4 scored 164.23 fantasy points. The goal of each fantasy owner would be to find a player that would beat the average scores at each position in your starting lineup. The target number for the first flex position is 10.49 fantasy points per week or 167.78 fantasy points based on 2020, which is why it is imperative to know where the drop-offs are at each position. You also have to have a good feel for comparable values at the other slots in your starting lineup to help make better decisions during the draft.
In each draft season, the best-name players don't always win, and many players do not repeat their success from the previous year. Depending on your scoring system, it is nice to have a second tight end that has upside, and that player may develop into a viable option at the flex position at certain times.
By reviewing each position, you will see the average player scores, and this will help you when you are making some decisions at the draft table. Everything is subject to opinion, and many drafters weigh the choices heavily on stats from the previous season. Fantasy owners need to separate themselves from what happened in the past when making decisions about future results. Many players have established resumes to help identify where the strongest pieces of the puzzle are. To win in fantasy football, you need to have a successful draft, plus you need to stay healthy all season. It is difficult to dominate your league over the first two-thirds of the season and then have enough left in the tank to finish strong over the last couple of weeks of the season where championships are determined.
Each draft is about team structure and getting an edge. Some draft slots are a lot tougher to have success, depending on your format. In my years of following the high-stakes events, there has been a common theme in many overall championship teams. Almost all of the overall winners have had one of the best tight ends in the league.
I wrote an article a couple of years back about this, and I believe Tony Gonzalez was on the most overall winnings teams. Jason Witten and Antonio Gates were sprinkled on a couple of other winning rosters. Jordan Reed was the winning tight end play in 2015. Darren Waller ended up being the difference-maker at tight end late in 2020, while Travis Kelce created an edge over the past five years.
If you play in standalone leagues, you can win without having a stud tight end because those league titles usually are determined by head-to-head matchups. The tight end position gets disrespected in many formats. By creating an edge at this position, you increase your chances of winning as long as you get the other starting lineup positions right.
The first cut of the 2021 NFL Rankings & Projections should give some insight into this draft season's potential values and targets.
More Fantasy Football:
- 2021 Fantasy Team Outlooks
- 2021 NFL Projections & Rankings
- Injury Reaction: Cam Akers Out for Season
- Fantasy Case Against Kyle Pitts
- Fantasy Case Against Ja'Marr Chase
Senior analyst Shawn Childs is a multi-sport, high-stakes fantasy legend with lifetime earnings in the high six-figures. He has been providing in-depth, analytical break downs for years all while helping his subscribers to countless titles and winnings across season-long & DFS. A inaugural inductee of the NFBC Hall of Fame, Shawn can teach you how to prep like a champ!