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Game Script Impact on Fantasy Football Production: Tight Ends

SI Fantasy analyst Michael Fabiano shares his discoveries on how game script affects tight ends across fantasy football.

Game script. Positive. Negative. Neutral. We hear these terms more and more as folks discuss the advantages and disadvantages of players under different game scenarios.

To help fantasy managers use this data to help them in their upcoming drafts, I looked at how each of the four major offensive skill positions (QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs) did, based on fantasy points when their team won or lost. To spin that to the future, I also examined projected over/under totals for wins and losses for this season.

Let’s continue this research project with tight ends. Players were required to play at least eight games, so someone like O.J. Howard (who played just four games) was not included. Since the Kansas City Chiefs lost just one game in the regular season, I put a minimum of five targets in either scenario (wins or losses). Ties were not considered in this exercise. Let’s find out how the information can help us for 2021!

Game Script: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

Negative Win/Loss Point Differentials

Note: The total to the right of the player’s name is the decline in average fantasy points he experienced in losses compared to his average fantasy points in his wins. Jimmy Graham, for example, averaged 7.5 more points in wins than in losses last season.

1. Jimmy Graham, Bears (-6.7, O/U 7.5)

Graham wasn’t a fantasy star by any stretch last season, but he did rank as the TE13 and was tied for fourth in touchdown catches (8). Seven of those scores came in eight wins, where he averaged 12.3 fantasy points. That ranked sixth among tight ends. He averaged fewer than six points in Chicago's eight losses. With Cole Kmet expected to see a bigger role in the offense this season, Graham is mostly off the 2021 draft radar.

2. Logan Thomas, Football Team (-4.2, O/U 8)

Washington Football Team Logan Thomas

Thomas broke out last season, finishing third in fantasy points among tight ends. He was better when the Football Team won, averaging the fourth-most points (13.4 PPG). In nine losses, he averaged 9.2 points, which ranked 14th. Washington is projected as a .500-level team for 2021, and the schedule is middle of the road in terms of difficulty. Another top-three finish is unlikely, so consider Thomas more of a low-end No. 1 option.

3. Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers (-3.8, O/U 12)

Gronkowski averaged 10.5 fantasy points in Buccaneers wins but was the TE28 when the team took a loss. Luckily, Tampa Bay won 11 games last year and is projected to win around 12 in 2021. They also have the fourth-easiest schedule in the league, which is good news for Gronkowski. The bad news? O.J. Howard will be back from an Achilles ailment, and Antonio Brown will be around for the entire season. Consider Gronk a TE2.

4. Darren Waller, Raiders (-3.7, O/U 7.5)

Waller is one of the elite tight ends in fantasy football, and he was even better when the Raiders won. In those eight games, he averaged just 1.3 fewer points than the leader, Travis Kelce. Waller was also second behind Kelce in losses, averaging 15.6 points a game. The Raiders are projected as a sub-.500 team and have the eighth-toughest schedule this season, but Waller has proven to be a star and fantasy’s No. 2 tight end.

5. Hayden Hurst, Falcons (-3.6, O/U 7.5)

Hurst played in just four Atlanta wins last season, but he did average a solid 12 fantasy points in those contests. He was less productive when the Falcons lost, though, putting up an average of 8.4 points. That was 18th at the position. However, these numbers won't mean much for 2021 as the team added rookie Kyle Pitts to the offense. Hurst will be worth a late-round look in tight end premium leagues, but his value is in freefall.

Notables

  • Eric Ebron averaged 10.1 points in 12 Steelers wins a season ago, but he was less effective when the team lost (6.9 PPG). Their over/under total for the 2021 season is 8.5, meaning Vegas expects a decline in victories. Pittsburgh also has the most difficult schedule in the league, and rookie Pete Freiermuth could take at least some of Ebron’s targets this season. Consider him a No. 2 option at best.
  • Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry were both more productive in wins for their old teams last season. Smith averaged 3.1 more points, while Henry was better by 2.5 points. New England has a win total over/under of nine, and their schedule is tied for the 12th easiest. But with so many mouths to feed after an offseason signing frenzy, it’ll be tough to trust either of them as more than No. 2 fantasy tight ends.

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Positive Win/Loss Point Differentials

1. Dallas Goedert, Eagles (+7.6, O/U 6.5)

Goedert was only part of two Eagles wins last season, so this is a small sample size. It’s still notable that he averaged 12 points in eight losses but was held to a combined 10.8 points in defeat. Based on the data, it's no surprise that Goedert saw twice as many targets a game in losses. Philadelphia has an over/under of 6.5, but its slate is ranked as the easiest in the league. Overall, Goedert will be a top-10 tight end in most drafts.

2. Travis Kelce, Chiefs (+4.2, O/U 12.5)

I’m mentioning Kelce here because, well, he’s Kelce. The Chiefs lost just once last year, and he scored 24.8 points in that game. Kansas City has the highest over/under (12.5) this season, but it matters little to the value of this superstar tight end. Kelce will be the first tight end selected in most 2021 fantasy drafts. For those of you who are wondering, the Chiefs will face the 11th-most difficult schedule but remain the favorites in the AFC.

3. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins (+3.7, O/U 9)

Miami Dolphins Mike Gesicki

Gesicki finished seventh in fantasy points among tight ends last season, averaging 10.6 points per game. He was better when the Dolphins lost, however, ranking sixth at 12.8 points on average. Gesicki also saw almost two more targets per game when Miami was on the wrong side of the scoreboard. The Dolphins project to win nine-plus games this season, and they do have the fifth-easiest schedule. I project Gesicki as a low TE1.

4. Noah Fant, Broncos (+3.5, O/U 9)

Fant ranked in the top eight among fantasy tight ends a season ago, but he averaged more points in losses (10.9 PPG) than in wins (7.4 PPG). He also saw an average of around two fewer targets per game in Broncos victories. Their schedule is among the easiest in the league, ranking seventh with an opponent's winning percentage of just .471. This does project to be no better than an eight or nine-win team at best, though.

5. Irv Smith Jr., Vikings (+2.7, O/U 9)

Smith saw just 43 targets last season, as the Vikings still had Kyle Rudolph ahead of him on the depth chart. He did see a bigger role over the final four weeks, however, during which time he scored 16+ points twice. Those games were losses, including a 52-33 thrashing against the Saints that saw Smith score two touchdowns. With Rudolph now in New York, Smith projects as a potential sleeper in fantasy land.

Notables

  • Robert Tonyan busted out last season, scoring 11 touchdowns while ranking as the TE4 in fantasy leagues. His points per game average in wins (11 PPG) and losses (11.3 PPG) were nearly identical, though, and he scored a touchdown in 77 percent of the Packers wins. While regression is coming in that department, Green Bay does have an over/under of 10.5 with Aaron Rodgers back for 2021.
  • T.J. Hockenson was also a reliable option in fantasy leagues, averaging 10.9 points in wins and 11 points in losses. His target share was nearly identical too, and chances are it’ll remain the same this season. With Jared Goff under center and an over/under of 4.5, Hockenson should be top five in tight end targets as game script projections suggest the Lions will be playing behind quite often.

Michael Fabiano's PPR Redraft Rankings

10-Team PPR Mock Draft

Training Camp Battles
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

Fabiano's Top 10 Lists
Breakouts | Sleepers | Deep Sleepers | Busts | Rookies

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Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!