Fantasy Football Strategy: 5 Ways to Draft TEs
Navigating the tight end landscape in fantasy football can be an arduous task. If you want proof of just how fickle fantasy tight ends can be, check out the TRUTH About Fantasy TEs in 2018 episode and a corresponding article. Due to the volatility of the position, securing points from your tight end on a week-to-week basis can give your team a substantial advantage. There are various ways this can be accomplished, but one thing is for sure; you’d better have a plan. Here we’ll investigate five strategies that can be employed when drafting fantasy tight ends.
Keep in mind these strategies are tailored to the “Ballers Preferred” league settings and scoring.
Draft a Stud
There’s an immediate, massive drop off in tight ends after the top tier. The TE1 in 2018, Travis Kelce, more than doubled the point total of the TE7. Only three tight ends, Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle, broke the 200-point barrier, so this strategy is pretty straight forward: Draft one of those guys.
The best part of this strategy is, aside from the bye week or an unfortunate injury, you have your TE slot set for the entirety of the fantasy season. There’s no need to sweat the week-to-week matchups, with these guys you get to “set it and forget it”. Starting one of the stud tight ends instantly gives you a head start against most opponents in your league. This strategy pairs well with the Zero RB strategy, if that’s your thing.
To secure one of the stud tight ends you’ll have to sacrifice a high draft pick, likely one of your first three. The draft capital invested in the tight end will force you to miss out on a high-end option at running back or wide receiver. Hopefully, you have some sleepers ready to draft in the later rounds and are ready to stay active on the waiver wires. The time and energy saved by not worrying about your tight end will be spent making decisions at other positions.
Corner the Market
This strategy treats the tight end position like a commodity and you’re drafting based on supply and demand. If you can draft two or three startable tight ends, you corner the market, putting your league-mates in a tough spot. They either toil away week-to-week at the position or start sending you trade offers. You get the joy of watching them struggle and have the chance to strengthen your team when you sell to the highest bidder.
The reward can be huge if you pull this off successfully. You get the comfort of knowing you’re set at the most capricious position in all of fantasy football. Even if one of them goes down, you’ve got a viable option backing him up. You also have the benefit of sliding one of them into your flex spot on any given week. When you finally get that trade offer you can’t refuse, you can pull the trigger and instantly improve your team for a fantasy playoff run.
There are plenty of variables at play with this strategy, and it takes time for it to pay off. First, there’s no guarantee that the tight ends you draft are going to be as good as you plan. If any of them bust, this strategy is shot. What’s worse, you’re probably pretty weak at the other positions given the draft picks you spent on tight ends. Even if you have enough tight end depth to trade one away, you have to get the timing right. Sell too soon and you’ll be dealing with seller’s remorse; sell too late and you’ll be stuck wondering what could’ve been.
Based on quantity alone, this will likely be the most popular strategy in most redraft leagues. The majority of teams won’t want to pay up for one of the studs. Once they have their starting running backs and wideouts set they turn their attention to tight ends. Usually, somewhere around the fifth round, tight ends start flying off the board as owners want to round out their starting lineups. Based on current ADP, you’re looking at guys like Eric Ebron, David Njoku, and Jared Cook in these rounds.
This strategy offers a nice balance. You get a tight end that’s a solid NFL starter, likely with at least some proven history. You don’t have to sacrifice a high equity pick early on, and you’re probably pretty comfortable with your starting running backs and wide receivers as well.
While this may be the “safest” strategy, the truth is that most tight ends are just not that reliable week in and week out. There’s a pretty good chance that the tight end you get in the middle rounds ends up being a touchdown-dependent, boom-or-bust player. There’s no guarantee that you won’t be trying to stream tight ends by Week 3.
There are a handful of NFL tight ends that manage to catch a few passes every game. When their QB is under pressure, he’s the guy he looks to for the check down. In this strategy, you hope to get the same reliability you would in the “Draft a Stud” strategy, only without the stud part. The plan is still to roll out the same tight end every week and live with the comfort of knowing you won’t have a goose egg in your lineup. Think Kyle Rudolph or Vance McDonald in 2018. They each caught at least one pass in every game of the season, but only scored over 10 fantasy points in 7-of-32 games between the two of them.
With this strategy, you still get reliability at the position, which is hard to come by with tight ends. These tight ends are typically drafted in the middle to late rounds of the draft, giving you more flexibility at the top of your draft. They aren’t sexy picks, so there’s a good chance you can draft them lower than their end of season ranking.
These guys aren’t going to be winning you any games. Your hope is that they won’t lose any for you either, though even the safest tight end has the chance to disappear any given week. You’re going to be at a disadvantage when you face off against the teams that own the stud tight ends and are going to have to make up the point difference at other positions.
Late Round Flier
This is the lottery ticket strategy of tight end drafting. You continue to fill up your bench spots and wait on selecting your tight end. With 12 teams in your fantasy league and 32 teams in the NFL, there will be some starting tight ends available in the last round of your draft. In fact, there will be some that aren’t even drafted and can be picked up off waivers in Week 1. The table below highlights some late round fliers that paid off in 2018.[lptw_table id=”159360″ style=”default”]
If you hit on this strategy there’s a strong chance you’ll finish near the top of your league standings. You can use your early and mid-round picks to bolster your running back and receiver corps, stock up on flex options, and get a reliable quarterback or two. You should end up with a strong team at every position.
This strategy is extremely difficult to pull off. There’s a reason these tight ends are available so late; they all carry some type of inherent risk. If you go with this strategy, the odds are much better that you’ll be streaming tight ends on a weekly basis than you’ll find that diamond in the rough.