Streaming is a well worn, time-honored tradition in fantasy football. Not paying up for tight end production is another tradition. It’s often argued that you can punt the tight end position and stream tight end on a weekly basis. The thinking is that you can find adequate production from either unheralded tight ends or find them on the waiver wire during the season. I have grown to disagree with this stance.
There are a couple of issues with this thinking. First, you presuppose that you’ll hit on the correct streaming option every week (unless of course you strike gold and find an every week starter). Secondly, the difference between the elite tight ends and even the TE12 let alone TE24 is an ocean-sized chasm. Lastly, there’s the known opportunity cost lost. As well as the unknown opportunity cost you incur by continuing to start non-productive tight ends because they gave you one good week.
Note: scoring is full PPR scoring
Top Heavy Tight End Scoring
In 2017 the difference between the TE1 and TE12 was 8.3 fantasy points per game and from TE1 to TE24 it ballooned to 10.2 fantasy points per game per week. In 2018 the gap has grown to 10.2 from TE1 to TE12 and 12.6 from TE1 to TE24.
For comparison, the difference in 2018 for running backs is 9.8 (1 to 12) and 12.8 (1 to 24). Wide receivers have a difference of just 3.28 fantasy points per week from WR1 to WR12 and 7.58 points from WR1 to WR24.
While the gap in scoring is larger at the running back position, there are more usable fantasy assets in the RB1-RB24 range than there are in the TE1-TE24 range. Tight end scoring falls off a cliff after the TE8 this year (I’m excluding TE9 Jack Doyle since he only played six games this year). After the TE8 no tight end averages double-digit (10.0) scoring on the season. The running back position has 30 players who’ve reached the double-digit scoring threshold while still playing at least 10 games this season.
It’s not just that there are more fantasy relevant running backs than tight ends. That’s to be expected. It’s that the proportional scoring difference between the top scorers at the respective positions is laughable vast. The RB12 (15.9 fantasy points) gives you 61.68% of the fantasy production of the RB1 (25.7) on average while the RB24 will give you 50.97% of the RB1’s production.
The TE12 gives you just 47.95% (9.4 fantasy points) of the fantasy production you receive from the TE1 (19.6). The TE24 (7) gives you a pathetic 35.71% of the production of the TE1. So you don’t think I’m using selective sampling I’ve added the same information below for quarterback and wide receiver.
QB1 = 31.6
QB12 = 23.5 (-8.1 fantasy points) (74.36%)
QB24 = 19.9 (-11.7 fantasy points)(62.97%)
WR1 = 21.8
WR12 = 17.9 (-3.9 fantasy points) (82.11%)
WR24 = 13.6 (-8.2 fantasy points) (62.38%)
It’s not only the scoring difference between the TE1 and TE12 on the aggregate that leads me to the conclusion that I need to pay up for a Tight End. It’s also the week to week difference in scoring. On average, through week 14, the TE1 outscores the TE12 by 18.75 fantasy points per week.
Some of the weeks the differential isn’t obscene. But in 9 out of 14 weeks the difference exceeds 18 points. Starting a stud tight end can seemingly win you a week all by themselves.
Knowing which tight end to stream is like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles. The first 14 weeks of the season saw 58 different tight ends that have finished with a TE1 week. This list includes such luminaries as James O’Shaughnessy, Anthony Firkser, Blake Jarwin, Darren Fells, Derek Carrier, Levine Toilolo. Of those 58 ends, 25 had 1 tight end week on the season and then disappeared into the ether. Another 11 players had TE1 weeks twice through 14 weeks, and 4 gave you 3 TE1 weeks.
There are many definitions of opportunity cost, but the one below best suits the purposes of this article.
“In microeconomic theory, the opportunity cost, also known as alternative cost, is the value (not a benefit) of a choice, relative to an alternative. When an option is chosen from two mutually exclusive alternatives, the opportunity cost is the “cost” incurred by not enjoying the benefit associated with the alternative choice.”
As noted above there were a total of forty tight ends that gave you at least one but no more than three TE1 weeks. Did you have multiple weeks starting any of these gems below, our one and done TE1 group? If so, just compare their weekly scoring to any of the stud tights group that consists of Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, George Kittle, O.J. Howard (yes O.J. Howard) or Eric Ebron. That will give you a start towards figuring out just how much it cost you (in fantasy points) by streaming/punting the tight end position.
Fantasy scoring is not the only place you suffer when streaming tight ends. There’s also the amount of FAAB you spent during the season on trying to fill the position with anyone, just anyone that can produce. You may have also shipped out draft picks for tight ends trying to fill the hole in your roster. Think about what other players you could have spent FAAB on. With the fantasy season wrapping up next week think about the value spike that rookie picks are going to see that you can’t capitalize on because you already traded those picks away. Without having a stud tight end it often feels like your trying to fill a bottomless hole.
Beyond everything else I cited above, the scoring differential between good and less than good tight ends, the high rate of turnover among TE1’s, the wasted FAAB and draft picks there’s one final consideration. I’m just tired of it.
Scouring the waiver wire for tight ends every week. I’m tired of parsing box scores to see what tight ends had a decent amount of targets. I’m tired of adding tight ends who are not a focal point of an offense that disappears as quickly as they appear. I want a tight end that’s an every week weapon. It’s not something you can quantify, but I’m just tired of it.
For the peace of mind that owning a top end supplies I’m willing to pay the cost. I’m willing to pay above cost. This offseason will see me willingly overpay for the established TE1’s like Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce and George Kittle. I’ll also overpay for the ascending tight ends that I believe will be TE1’s like O.J. Howard (seven TE1 weeks out of 11 games played). Dallas Goedert owners will see offers in their inboxes from me as well. I’ll even overpay for a phenom like Noah Fant who will be the top tight end of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Special thank you to @amazehayes_ for helping me compile the data needed for this article! Thank you for reading. What are your thoughts on the tight end position? Am I overreacting or do you agree with my stance? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @DFF_Shane. If you like podcasts you can also find me co-hosting DynastyTradesHQ every week.