Fantasy Football 101: How to Approach Tight Ends in Dynasty

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Tight end is a position that is hard to nail down, particularly for dynasty purposes. What sort of factors should you look at when deciding how to handle the tight end position? Why is it tough to strike gold with a tight end? And should you wait to draft a tight end or jump at the chance for a player like Travis Kelce to join your roster? I had to take a long hard look at all of these questions and more when diving headfirst into drafting and managing tight ends in dynasty leagues. There is no one size fits all option here, and these are just a few of the items to take a look at when dealing with your roster.

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Kelce or Bust?

Even the casual football fan can recognize greatness, and it comes in the form of Kansas City Chiefs’ Zeus. Travis Kelce has been the TE1 each of the last five seasons. In two of those seasons (2017 and 2020), he owned the title of TE1 while only playing 15 games. The TE2 in 2020 was Las Vegas’ Darren Waller, appearing in 16 games and tallying 35.2 fewer points overall than Kelce. Waller totaled 225.1 points total in the 2020 season, while Kelce topped him with 260.3 points, based on Half PPR Scoring.

Take a look at how Kelce compares to the top wide receivers and TE2 over the last three years.

2020

Player Points Rank at Position
Davante Adams 300.9 WR1
Tyreek Hill 285.4 WR2
Stefon Diggs 265.1 WR3
Travis Kelce 260.3 TE1
Calvin Ridley 236.5 WR4
DeAndre Hopkins 230.3 WR5
Justin Jefferson 230.2 WR6
DK Metcalf 229.8 WR7
Darren Waller 225.1 TE2

2019

Player Points Rank at Position
Michael Thomas 300.1 WR1
Chris Godwin 233.1 WR2
Julio Jones 224.6 WR3
Cooper Kupp 223.5 WR4
DeAndre Hopkins 223.9 WR5
Kenny Golladay 215.5 WR6
DeVante Parker 210.2 WR7
Keenan Allen 209.5 WR8
Amari Cooper 207 WR9
Julian Edelman 206.3 WR10
Allen Robinson II 208.9 WR11
Travis Kelce 205.8 TE1
Mike Evans 199.2 WR12
Jarvis Landry 195.9 WR13
Tyler Lockett 194.2 WR14
A.J. Brown 191.1 WR15
DJ Chark Jr. 189.3 WR16
Robert Woods 187.9 WR17
D.J. Moore 187 WR18
Courtland Sutton 186.4 WR19
John Brown 183.8 WR20
Stefon Diggs 180.6 WR21
George Kittle 180 TE2

2018

Player Points Rank at Position
Davante Adams 274.1 WR3
Antonio Brown 271.7 WR4
Julio Jones 269.4 WR5
Michael Thomas 253 WR6
Adam Thielen 250.8 WR7
Mike Evans 247.4 WR8
Travis Kelce 243.1 TE1
JuJu Smith-Schuster 241.4 WR9
Robert Woods 222.6 WR10
Zach Ertz 222.3 TE2

If you are going to draft Kelce, you’ll need to take him early. If you are in a league with a tight end premium element, Kelce should be a target. If you have already drafted and question if you should add Kelce to your roster, know that it will take a significant haul to get the Kelce manager to part ways with him.  Kelce has proven he is a viable player who compares well to top wideouts.

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George Kittle was injured for part of 2020, yet he still managed to have four top-12 in the eight games he played.  He took the top honors as TE1 in the game versus Philadelphia in Week 4.  Being healthy for a full season will catapult Kittle into top consideration at the position, so determine whether or not you would want him on your roster before his ADP jumps anymore.

TEAM UTILIZATION

Target share is a significant factor when deciding who you want on your roster. In 2020, we know Kelce was TE1. He saw a large share of his team’s targets, receptions, and touchdowns. Knowing what we know about his usage, we can explore the other top tight ends to see if they share that same factor.

Target Share (TE vs. Team’s Top Fantasy WR)

Player Finish TGT Share Player Finish TGT Share
Travis Kelce TE1 25.10% Tyreek Hill WR2 23.40%
Darren Waller TE2 27.70% Nelson Agholor WR29 15.70%
Robert Tonyan TE3 11.80% Davante Adams WR1 33.90%
T.J. Hockenson TE4 18.80% Marvin Jones WR17 20.60%
Mark Andrews TE5 24.60% Marquise Brown WR34 25.50%

Just looking at the top five TEs, you can see that they had comparable target shares to their top wideout, except in Tonyan’s case. Tonyan found his success in the end zone, making the most of his smaller target share. He ended the season with 11 touchdowns but had a dry spell in that department between weeks 6-10, where he did not score. Week 4 versus Atlanta, Tonyan hauled in three touchdowns. He wore the TE3 crown in 2020, but five games found him out of the top 12 at the position.

Target share is not always a determining factor of whether or not a tight end will have a top-12 season, but it can be something to monitor. Waller’s case helped that he had more of the target share than Las Vegas’s top fantasy producer at wide receiver. When a quarterback trusts his tight end the way Derek Carr does, it is also worth noting.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Image

Kyle Pitts has been the talk of the offseason, and now that we know his landing spot is Atlanta, we can feel even more comfortable drafting him if we choose to go that route. The Falcons had a bad pass defense last season (ranked 32nd), more on that later, and the offense found itself having to put up points. Hayden Hurst was Atlanta’s TE1 this prior season, and he did manage to grab ten or more fantasy points in five games. He also had six touchdowns on the season. This TE play was still good enough to be TE9. Before the Falcons acquiring Hurst, Austin Hooper had been their starting tight end. In 2018 and 2019, Hooper finished the season as TE6. Just imagine what Pitts can do with quarterback Matt Ryan throwing him the ball.

PLUG AND PLAY AWAY

Sometimes you may need to plug and play a tight end. The tight end position is inconsistent, so keep that in mind when drafting and trading. There are situations where you may need to start a tight end based on the defense his team is facing. For instance, Tonyan’s 30.8 fantasy points were referenced earlier when talking about his three touchdowns. Atlanta had previously conceded double-digit fantasy points to the TE in each of the three games before facing the Packers (13.6 to Seattle, 21.7 to Dallas, and 24 to Chicago). Yes, Atlanta’s defense allowed players like Jimmy Graham (TE11 in 2020) to look relevant again. It was only a no-brainer to plug in Tonyan if you had him on your roster.

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The situation can affect how you look at the tight end position weekly. You are not going to know what lies ahead for your tight ends while you’re drafting, but once you find out what defenses do a poor job against tight ends, feel free to plug away.

Other Thoughts

  • You don’t need to focus as much on age as you think.  Rookie tight ends rarely make a splash in their first year.  Don’t be disappointed if it takes a few years for them to develop.  At the same time, you have someone like the TE5 of his rookie season who went on to be TE12, TE18, and TE16 in the seasons after.  That would be Evan Engram, one of the rare rookies to make an impact in his first year.
  • Take advantage of your league’s taxi squad, if they have one.  Maybe place a few rookie tight ends there in case someone does end up hitting.
  • Make sure you check your league’s settings to see if your league is a TE Premium league or not.

It may feel like the tight end position is super hit or miss, and that would be a correct statement for the most part. Do not get frustrated if you can’t figure out the magic formula that is drafting and rostering tight ends, as there is not just one magic formula. TE has been a position people joke about getting rid of like kickers due to lack of consistency and low points. Playing around with different strategies and making trades to bulk up your tight end core is also just plain fun.

If you are looking for more information for fantasy football newbies, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Fantasy Football. To find out the ins and outs of dynasty football, this write-up will assist you. Make sure to head over to How to Approach Wide Receivers in Dynasty and How to Approach Quarterbacks in Dynasty. And remember to get your mittens on the Ultimate Draft Kit.

Comments

Andrew M. says:

I feel like it’s finally time for my TE position to take the next step forward in my dynasty league. I have Noah Fant, Jonnu Smith, Tyler Higbee, Zach Ertz, Eric Ebron, and Pat Freiermuth.

rangdangdoo says:

Good article, btw. Forgot to say that.

rangdangdoo says:

I feel good about my TE’s in dynasty: Kittle, Goedert, and Logan Thomas on active squad (Sample too but he’ll be cut soon), and Kmet and Trautman on taxi. It’s my redraft leagues where I worry. If I can’t get an elite guy, I’m prolly just waiting.

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