It’s DFS Week at SI.com. All week, we and our 4for4 colleagues will help provide you with a foundation for DFS success this season. In this installment, 4for4’s Chris Raybon gives you his best practices for making lineup decisions at tight end.
Tight ends are inconsistent. As confident as you may feel when you hit “submit lineup”, deep down you just don't know exactly what you’re going to get from your tight end.
Take Travis Kelce, for instance. You may recall his spectacular run of six 100-yard games over a nine-game span down the stretch in 2016. But did you recall that he didn’t top 32 yards in the three games leading up to that run? Or that he caught only one pass for eight yards in the final game of the season?
Below are five tips to help you prosper at the tight end position in DFS, amidst all the inconsistency.
1. Exploit home-field advantage
Of all the fantasy positions, tight end is made up of the largest human beings. Perhaps that's why their production spikes when they're getting home cooking. Only 30% of tight ends over the past four seasons average more touchdowns per game on the road than at home. That's a big reason why tight ends at home have historically paid off their salary at a much greater rate than those on the road. Not only that, but tight end is the only position with better splits as a home underdog than as a road favorite.
Home/road splits not only tip you off about who to play, but also about who to fade. Especially in tournaments, owning a popular player that disappoints will torpedo your lineup. If a tight end on the road is going to be one of the most popular plays of the week at the position, it's time to consider a fade.
2. Use the betting odds to find upside
While playing at home tends to raise consistency by way of an increased touchdown floor, playing as a favorite is the leading indicator for upside. Since 2013, favorites have accounted for 72% of 100-yard games and 71% of multi-TD games at the tight end position. Being at home is still ideal, however, with 69% of 100-yard games and 66% of multi-touchdown games by said favorites occurring at home.
In essence, favorite/underdog splits offer a cut-and-dried approach to judging a matchup. You can use them as an alternative to, or in tandem with, fantasy points allowed, which tends to contain a lot of noise.
3. Use targets to predict production and find value
Targets are the most predictable week-to-week stat for tight ends. They also have the strongest correlation to fantasy points. This makes target projection the best means for identifying value at the position.
The average sub-$5,000 tight end on FanDuel or DraftKings has historically needed seven targets in a game to hit value. If a low-salaried tight end has a floor of about five targets and a realistic shot at seven or more, consider him a viable option.
4. Follow the red-zone targets
Since the average tight end is targeted less frequently and gains fewer yards per target than a wide receiver, touchdowns move the needle for tight ends more than any other position. The opponent’s 20-yard line, or red zone, may be an arbitrary cut-off point, but it does a nice job of indicating which receivers get the most targets in scoring range. Two-thirds of all passing touchdowns occur in the red zone.
Tight ends often end up as one of their team’s most targeted options in the red zone, thanks in large part to their size. Identifying tight ends who thrive in the red zone is a good way to distinguish the most valuable ones from the rest of the crowd. For example, Kyle Rudolph rode a second-place finish at the position in red-zone targets (24) to a second-place finish in fantasy scoring last season. And surprise performers Cameron Brate and Hunter Henry tied for fourth among tight ends in red zone targets (16).
5. Go cheap in cash games
Weekly fantasy scoring is more inconsistent at tight end than at any other position. Paying up may seem like the logical way to combat this, but the best way to leverage it in your favor is by spending as little as possible, also known as "punting" the position. Why? The average tight end will score fewer points per dollar than any other position. Therefore, the more you pay up, the more salary you’re sacrificing that you could have used to lock in more points elsewhere.