Perfect DraftKings Lineup Tight End Trends

We continue our five-part series with the fourth installment that analyzes a tight end position that leveled out after a horrendous 2017 season.  As many in redraft and dynasty leagues can attest, finding a reliable tight end was quite the endeavor in 2018 after the position was already a dumpster fire the year before.  In fact, 2015 saw 15 tight ends maintain an average of double-digit fantasy points in PPR scoring but that number has dropped to only 13 of them in 2016 to just eight and nine in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

While overall tight end targets and touchdowns have decreased each season since 2015, overall tight end receptions and yards saw a slight bump in 2018 after experiencing the same decreases as the aforementioned targets and touchdowns.  There were 209 tight end touchdowns in 2015 and since that season, that number hasn’t eclipsed 200.

As we discussed in part two of this series, the running back has been integrated more and more into the passing game over the last few years.  Receiving touchdowns from the running back have increased from 94 in 2016 to 108 and 120 in 2017 and 2018, respectively.  Circa back to 2016 when total running back and tight end receptions were nearly identical with 2,516 of them at running back and 2,484 at tight end.  Since that season, running back receptions are up an average of 242 per year while tight end receptions are down an average of 169.  

This helps explain some of the reasoning why tight end fantasy production has been on the decline.  The running backs are syphoning work from their tight end teammates, especially when some of them are the best offensive asset on their respective teams and deserve additional work.  It also validates taking a top-tier tight end in fantasy drafts as early as the second round when Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, and George Kittle all led their offenses in receptions and targets.  The drop off after those three is pretty significant and one can only hope Eric Ebron continues what was an unexpected 2018 season and O.J. Howard rebounds from his season-ending foot and ankle injuries.

This first tight end trend should come as no surprise after reading the intro to this article.  While you were able to find bargains that did pay off, there was safety in paying up for the top options that delivered more than they disappointed.  

12 OF THE 22 PERFECT TIGHT ENDS REPRESENTED THE TOP FIVE IN SCORING AT THE POSITION IN 2018 IN FULL POINT PPR FORMATS

The struggle at this frustrating position could also be felt in the DFS community.  For the first half of 2018, rostering Zach Ertz or Travis Kelce yielded excellent returns as they represented the perfect tight end in five of the eight weeks when both were available on the main slate.  These two continued to dominate in the second half but an injury to Jack Doyle opened the door for the usually unreliable Eric Ebron to post his best season at the NFL level which generated two spots on the list.  Kittle had a December to remember as the top tight end in the final month and one that helped make money for those that rostered him in Weeks 14 and 17.

Ertz, Kelce, Kittle, and Ebron combined to make up half of the perfect tight ends with soon-to-be free agent Jared Cook sneaking into the list in Week 4 to complete the 12 occurrences from the top 5 at the position in 2018.  Pending the Week 1 schedule, the former three should represent the priciest options on the first main slate of 2019.

15 OF THE 22 TIGHT ENDS WERE PRICED UNDER $6000

Even the better tight end options had some pricing errors that made them so enticing, they couldn’t be passed up.  Travis Kelce was inexplicably priced under $6000 in Week 2 as he went off for 32.9 DK points.  Eric Ebron wasn’t correctly priced until week 13 as the DFS community took advantage of this low cost with Jack Doyle lost for the year.  George Kittle was slightly discounted at $5500 when he destroyed the Broncos to the tune of 210 yards and a touchdown.

As maddening as the position could be, 15 of the 17 weeks in 2018 featured at least one tight end not named Ertz or Kelce that scored 20+ fantasy points; Weeks 8 and 15 had no one eclipse that mark.  Like the wide receiver, this shows there were some perfect options that didn’t require breaking the bank in order to get to the coveted bell cow backs.  Austin Hooper took advantage of a Buccaneers defense that was extremely inept against the position prior to defensive coordinator Mike Smith being fired at the low cost of $3500.  Kyle Rudolph had dominated at Ford Field to the tune of 17.56 FPPG in his last three at that venue prior to the 2018 matchup that saw him continue that trend with a 36.2 DK point performance.  $3400 was the cost to roster his best performance of the year.

THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF RECEPTIONS PER GAME FOR THE TIGHT ENDS WAS 7.73 

This figure is nearly identical to the average number of catches for the perfect receivers.  The ceiling was 16 catches by Zach Ertz who slaughtered the Texans while Eric Ebron needed three touchdowns off as few as four touches to cement his spot in perfection.  There’s no secret here, paying up means obtaining a solid floor of volume while rolling the dice on a cheaper option can pay off but is certainly a riskier proposition; ask those that rostered Matt LaCosse and Anthony Firkser who both posted goose eggs in favorable matchups in Week 13 and 15 respectively. 

HOUSTON, CLEVELAND, OAKLAND, DENVER, AND MIAMI EACH ALLOWED TWO TIGHT ENDS IN THE PERFECT LINEUP

All five of these teams have been repeat offenders in the top 10 in FPA to tight ends since 2017.  Cleveland’s spot on this list should come as no surprise as they’ve been inside the top 10 in FPA in each of the last three years.  The Browns looked to have remedied their issues in the first eight games but allowed 17.81 FPPG in the second half to the position.  Pending where Jared Cook lands in the offseason and Gronk’s decision to continue to suit up or retire, the Browns tight end schedule eases up in 2019 as they would only face two tight ends inside the top 10 in FPPG in 2018 in George Kittle and Vance McDonald.  

Oakland and Denver fall victim to facing Travis Kelce twice a year which explains part of their heartache.  Still, the Broncos allowed a tight end playing his first game in the NFL in Will Dissly and an aged Antonio Gates to have their best performances of the season while the Raiders let a cornucopia of Ravens and Colts tight ends destroy them.  The Dolphins will benefit from a retired Gronk if that indeed happens but still deal with Zach Ertz and an Indianapolis offense that almost doubled up every team in touchdowns thrown to the position last season.  The Texans have dates with that same Colts offense and Travis Kelce who the Texans have failed to contain in three of four career matchups.

CONCLUSION

When August comes around and you get to the second round of redraft leagues, you will be faced with the decision of taking one of the big three tight ends or playing the crapshoot at the position.  That’s the same scenario DFS players will face weekly in 2019.   

Playing the defensive matchups can work to your advantage as the last trend indicates where paying down is viable.  However, that’s the headache in what can be an unreliable position.  Will you pay up for the consistent Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz, or let it ride on a cheaper option in a favorable matchup?  Hopefully our struggle is alleviated with the emergence of more reliable tight end options as the 2019 season unfolds.

Noah Fant: an Infusion of Tight End Talent

Noah Fant (6’5”, 241), Tight End, Iowa

20.6 Aggregate Score (4 Star Prospect)

Welcome to the 48 Report, a full working database including 48 of our favorite 2019 Draft Prospects. The key, however, is that we focus specifically on their ability to translate as fantasy football players. All players in the database have been/will be scored by 3 writers, and this is their article; explaining their aggregate score, as well as the score of their writer.

All categories are scored on a 1-5 scale; with 5 being the highest score a prospect can receive. The highest aggregate average scores a player can receive is 25. Articles will be posted January-April, all the way up to the draft. Ratings will be adjusted after the combine, based on measurables and after the draft, because as we all know: landing spot matters.

VERY excited to discuss this upcoming NFL Draft stud. As all fantasy players know, 2018 was a year in which the tight end position hit rock bottom. Talent was hard to come by and production was scarce. It practically became a wasteland outside of the top 5 and even they had their struggles.

Enter this year’s draft class rich with plenty of top prospects that should lead the tight end position back to fantasy relevance. Today we will be discussing Iowa Tight End Noah Fant. Fant attended Omaha South High School and played football and basketball. He totaled 1,064 yards on 78 catches and scored 18 touchdowns.

College Production

A 3 star recruit, Fant committed to Iowa in 2016. Fant appeared in 6 games as a freshman, totaling 9 receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown. As a sophomore in 2017, Fant appeared in 12 games catching 30 balls for 494 yards and 11 touchdowns. Looking to improve on a solid sophomore season, Fant appeared in another 12 games in his final college season grabbing 39 receptions for 519 yards and 7 touchdowns.

It is fair to note that while at Iowa, Fant had a running mate in fellow tight end TJ Hockensen who, in his own right, will also be a very high draft pick come April. They are likely to be the first 2 tight ends off the board in the Draft and are both very good tight ends.

Speed/Acceleration: Aggregate Score 4.6 (Personal Score 5)

6 foot 5 inches and 241 pounds, I just want to state that before letting you know Noah Fant possesses elite speed and acceleration for a tight end. Fant was constantly blowing by defenders and has a gear that elite tight ends possess. He creates easy separation for a guy his size and will be a matchup nightmare at the NFL level.

Route Running: Aggregate Score 4 (Personal Score 4)

Very solid route runner who can improve but who couldn’t? Fant has enough in this area to be an elite receiving option right away in the NFL. He has swift cuts and good burst off the line of scrimmage and in and out of his routes. A true matchup nightmare for opposing defenses and it shows on tape.

Blocking: Aggregate Score 3 (Personal Score 3)

Honestly he was better than I thought he was going into the tape. I have heard that he just doesn’t block at all and that is just not true. He can be an effective blocker and has the tools to be a very good one. What he needs to work on is his awareness in blocking schemes. There was a certain play where he was tasked with blocking an outside defender and turning him inside so the RB could get the edge. He succeeded in doing so but he also let a defender run right inside and disrupt the play. If he cut that defender off, the play goes for a big gain. It’s little things that he can do better and if he improves then he will be one of the better all around tight ends sooner rather than later.

Handwork/Positioning: Aggregate Score 4.3 (Personal Score 5)

Good luck getting a hand on this guy because jamming him at the line, at his size, just won’t work. He constantly swatted away defenders at the line of scrimmage. Whether it’s a linebacker, safety or corner defending him, he is going to be difficult to account for with the way he can win at the line of scrimmage.

Athleticism: Aggregate Score 4.6 (Personal Score 5)

Get ready for Fant to be a darling of the combine. He will ace every test with flying colors and his 40 time will especially be monitored because if he an pull a 4.5 or lower then that may secure him a spot in the first round. The bench press also bears watching due to his playing strength. If he can perform well in those two areas then he’s going in the first round.

Conclusion: Late 1st-Early 2nd round

Fant is a bona fide stud and he will no doubt in high demand come rookie draft season. The tight end position needs a shot in the arm and Fant along with the rest of the class should provide it. If you’re sitting around the 1.08-1.12 range and Fant is available, I would pull the trigger. Even if not a need and you’re set at TE, Fant can be a valuable trade commodity with the current state of the position for fantasy football.

Week 1 Start/Sit: Running Backs & Tight Ends

Welcome back to the regular season and my weekly Running Back & Tight End: Start/Sit article.

Before I go any further, please note that you will never find names like Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, or Travis Kelce on this list. They are weekly starters and you drafted them as such. If you’re doubting that, remember it for next season and don’t commit such high draft capital on the position.

With that in mind, here we go!

Running Backs: Start ’em

Players that might normally ride the fantasy pine or, at best, be considered in your flex play will be found in this list. Start them, with confidence

Isaiah Crowell – New York Jets

The Lions are improved. However, they were absolutely atrocious against the run in 2017. You don’t magically fix that overnight.

The Jets will want to protect the ball and ease Sam Darnold into the mix.

These two points equates to Isaiah Crowell having a very good week being fed the rock many times. That mid round draft pick is about to pay off very quickly. Don’t let the 2017 Browns taint your opinion of Isaiah Crowell. He will rarely be a weekly RB1, but is worthy of the RB2 slot for this week 1 matchup.

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Peyton Barber – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He is the man in Tampa Bay right now. You likely have two running backs on your squad that you would prefer to start over Barber and that’s fine! Float this guy into your flex and take a nap before the games begin. (Actually, don’t take a nap. Crazy stuff happens before the kickoff.)

Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns

The Steelers are below average against the run and mediocre against the passing game.

Tyrod Taylor is comfortable passing to the RBs. Both Hyde and Johnson are capable pass catchers. I don’t know anybody crazy enough to draft both of them but they are both startable assets.

Running Backs: Sit ’em

Players that you may have invested a high draft capital but might have a rough week due to their matchup……or for other reasons.

Indianapolis Colts RBs

Leave them on your bench unless we get a clear answer of who-will-be-the-starter before kickoff. The Bengals aren’t very good against the run, but we just don’t know who to trust. If the Colts declare Mack out for week 1, that helps the cause. Maybe put Wilkins in the flex spot if you’re truly strapped. But consider this: Do you really want to trust a starting slot to a player who could lose touches to Robert Turbin when he comes back from suspension?

Alfred Morris

Yes, you spent the FAAB or your waiver priority after losing Jerick McKinnon. You might not have another choice.

If you drafted for RB depth instead of taking a QB in the early rounds, you have the luxury to heed my warning: Do NOT start Alfred Morris. Let’s ignore all of the talk coming out of San Francisco that Matt Breida might have the larger role and just hang on to thinking that Alfred Morris is the lead back. They’re playing the Minnesota Vikings…..IN MINNESOTA. They are really good against the run.

Minnesota is going to dominate this game leaving the 49ers to use the pass catching Matt Breida as their focus to try to stay competitive. Alfred Morris could salvage the week by scoring an early touchdown. If not, you’re looking at approximately 5 points, regardless of PPR or Standard because Alf does not catch the ball.

Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks

Like I mentioned above, the Seahawks will be travelling to Denver to open the season against the Broncos. The same Broncos who gave up the 6th fewest Yards Per Game in 2017. Away game + above average rushing defense = Leave Chris Carson on your bench. It will be the “Russell Wilson and the Receivers” show by the second quarter.

Best of luck to all of you in your week 1 matchups……unless I am your opponent. In that case, a jinx on your team! Jinx!!

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Tight Ends: Start ’em

Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins

They’ve protected him all season. It’s time to put him to work with a Quarterback (Alex Smith) who loves throwing to the Tight End. This combination was hand crafted by the fantasy gods for our enjoyment.

Note: Fine, let’s say Jordan Reed injures himself during the pregame warmups. Substitute Reed for Vernon Davis with confidence. He has chemistry with Alex Smith from their days as teammates on the 49ers.

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins – Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are playing the Giants. This is a friendly reminder that the Giants stunk last year. Offensive injuries didn’t help, but the offense doesn’t give up points to the opposition (pick 6s aside). Their defense wasn’t very good. Their pass defense, in particular, is ripe for the picking.

The unfortunate injury to Marqise Lee just means that ASJ might get more targets. I like having ASJ here. For people like me, who wait on Tight Ends until the later rounds of the draft or even plan on streaming the position, ASJ is a must start and possibly even a waiver wire add in shallow leagues.

Tight Ends: Sit ’em

Evan Engram – New York Giants

Why oh why did you draft him so high? It’s going to be even worse in week 1. The Giants only saving grace is that it’s a home game. The Jags are going to throttle down on the Giants offense. Odell Beckham Jr. will have his points. Barkley might have a decent game. After that, there won’t be enough production to go around.

George Kittle – San Francisco 49ers

I like Kittle a lot. Unfortunately, they open the season on the road…..against the Vikings. Oh boy. Temper your expectations and hope for a touchdown.

Actually, you might want to start with hoping that he even plays. He was only cleared for practice yesterday (September 2). Will he even be ready to play with any kind of effectiveness in 7 days? He could, but the risk is too high for my tastes.

Best of luck to you all in your week 1 matchups. Unless you’re playing against me. In that case, I wish upon you nothing more than dropped passes and a bunch of snaps where your Tight End is used as a pass blocker.