One of the hardest parts of lineup building in the NFL each week is filling the tight end spot – in recent years it’s been either pay up for a Gronkowski, Thomas, or Graham, or choose your tight end last and just try to find a good match of upside and salary that fits the rest of your lineup. And in general, that’s not a bad way to approach the position – it’s less predictable than quarterback or running back, and when something is less predictable, you might as well not pay up for it.
But can we find any predictability or value at tight end? A lot of the value at that position is touchdowns – we aren’t going to get a 200-yard receiving game from a tight end, so really the only opportunity for upside is to get in the end zone a couple times. And while that in itself isn’t terribly predictable, we can see which tight ends are targeted the most by their quarterback. The more targets they get, the more chances to get into the end zone.
If we look broadly at tight ends who come into a game averaging at least five targets a game, we see they have a solid Plus/Minus at +1.30.
No matter the salary level, finding targeted tight ends has led to value. But the interesting thing about tight ends is their salary – they’re typically a lot lower than the other skill positions. And if you can find a tight end at near-minimum salary that has been getting targeted at a high rate by their quarterback, you’re in for a bunch of value.
Look at the average actual points – even though we filter down and eliminate all tight ends with a salary at $4,000 on DraftKings or higher (150 of them last season), the points scored barely dipped. And this is a crazy obvious statement, but if they’re going to perform equally, you should take the cheaper player.
Unless…you’re sacrificing consistency or upside in the process. Here at Fantasy Labs, we define consistency as whether a player hit their expected production and upside as whether they doubled it. Here are the numbers for the specific tight ends from above.
For an inconsistent position, the numbers are pretty crazy. Really, these numbers would be great for any position when you’re getting to near-minimum salary, but again, especially for tight ends.
A higher percentage of the tight ends doubled their expected production than missed it and only six (5.6%) had a game of zero fantasy points. From tight ends with these specific criteria, you’re getting both consistency and upside – a rare combination anywhere in NFL DFS.
Further, many of these players that doubled their expected fantasy production actually tripled it, or even more. Tight ends are indeed a polarizing fantasy position and they can be hard to pick, especially if they’re the last spot to fill in your lineup. But rest assured that you can find (tremendous) value even at the low salary levels, if you just know how to find them.