The Art of the Fantasy Football Late Round Flier: TEs
We started this series with late round running backs and late round wide receivers that filled late round flier “archetypes” that seem to spring up every year when scouring mock drafts, average draft position (ADP), and early rankings. Before we look at TEs, let’s get on the same page of what we mean by “late round flier”.
A late round flier is simply a pick used at the end of your draft with the ultimate goal of finding a player with major upside at minimal cost. In 10-12 team redraft leagues, we are talking about players taken in Rounds 13-15 that fill the last available spot on your bench. Of all the positions we have covered with our late round fliers, TEs are the ones that must be taken in context when it comes to the end of the draft. TE is a low value position in fantasy considering the lack of scarcity and lack of multiple top-end options. Once you get to TE6 and on, there is a pile of mush that can be swapped out frequently.
Note: We must remind ourselves that buying a lottery ticket in fantasy football is not an exact science as much as …. well, buying a lottery ticket. There is a bit of randomness involved alongside the puzzle pieces of injury, opportunity, and offensive schemes in football. In other words, these are simply suggestions which have the possibility of striking fantasy gold.
Check out some of Andy, Mike, and Jason’s favorite late round TE sleepers in the Ultimate Draft Kit.
The TE Who Cried Wolf
Not again… This archetype has teased you for years with their measurables to the point where you still try to convince your friends that this is “the year”. For Jared Cook and Eric Ebron, this has been their fantasy lives. If you are wanting to swing for the fences, this is your type of TE flier. Delanie Walker spent 7 forgettable years in San Francisco before blossoming into a go-to option in Tennessee. He was basically free in 2013 and has since racked up 2 Pro Bowl seasons and 4 top 10 TE finishes in a row.
Flier(s) for 2017: Eric Ebron, Jared Cook, Coby Fleener
The Sophomore Lump
Tight-ends are notoriously slow starters and it’s easy to write off players if they made little to no impact in their first season in the league. We tend to lump everyone into the same middling category. However, there is a steep learning curve that sometimes is acquired by this 2nd season. Tyler Eifert technically played 1 game in his sophomore year before blowing out his elbow and being done for the season. However, he was my late round man crush in 2015 with a breakout 13 TD season.
The Steady Eddie
As much as we want a thoroughbred TE such as Jordan Reed, sometimes the old faithful mule is what you need to progress across the fantasy terrain in front of you. I know it’s not fun to draft old farts like Jason Witten with your final selection, but when you can bank on 90+ targets for 13 years in a row, it’s sometimes the most dependable path you can take at the TE position. This selection clearly lends itself towards TEs in PPR leagues. Only 10 TEs caught 60+ passes in 2016 and 4 of them were Rounds 13 or later including the league-leader, Dennis Pitta.
Flier(s) for 2017: Dennis Pitta, Jack Doyle, Jason Witten
The TD Hoarder
In standard leagues especially, TDs are king and TEs that score TDs are crowned weekly. Every once in awhile, teams target TEs as red zone machines sometimes despite having any other discernible skills. Julius Thomas, the former college basketball player, came out of nowhere in 2013 to dominate the red zone to the tune of 12 TDs during Peyton Manning’s historic season. He finished as the TE3 after sitting out all of 2012 due to injury. Chasing TDs at the TE position is only advisable in a high-octane offense that features the TE inside the 20. Don’t chase TEs on crappy offenses.