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The New 2018 Strength of Schedule: Tight Ends (Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
May 11, 2018

Chargers tight end Hunter Henry was already primed for a breakout season and his schedule only gives us more optimism

How many times have you heard someone on a podcast or in an article dismiss strength of schedule? The same ones who say that will often publish something on strength of schedule, because there are so many people who are looking to get every edge possible. But it becomes a problem when everyone looks at strength of schedule the same way.

While it’s impossible to justify why certain teams have gotten better and apply any measurement as to how it will improve their team’s defense in the following year. Sure, they may have drafted a defensive player, but maybe they have him play out of position, maybe he doesn’t quite fit the scheme, or maybe he’s just a bust. Because of that, we have to throw the idea that we can adjust teams out the window.

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Instead, let’s make the traditional strength of schedule better. Remember when Frank Gore finished the 2016 season as the No. 12 running back? Does that mean he should’ve been drafted as the 12th running back off the board? Absolutely not, anyone who played fantasy football can tell you that. That method is exactly what most do for strength of schedule. How many total points did a team allow, rank them among others, apply those ranks to next year’s schedule, and voila, traditional strength of schedule.

Instead of accepting this as a method, I did exactly what I do for fantasy players with “Boom, Bust, and Everything in Between,” (read the process on that here) where I went through every team and added up how many top-12 performances they allowed (based on the BBEIB method), how many top-24, etc. as to how it relates to each position. What this does is remove an outlier performance where a team may have allowed a massive game to a superstar that influenced the overall numbers more than they should’ve. Who knows, maybe they were missing a superstar like Luke Kuechly on defense that week. Whatever the case, this method allows us to see each team’s consistency as it relates to fantasy football and should better project the strength of schedule for 2018. Here’s my list of tight ends with their score in my strength of schedule earned.

Tight Ends with a Great Schedule

Stephen Anderson (TE – HOU) Score: 15
What a waste of the top tight end schedule, eh? We don’t really know who will lead this Texans group of tight ends, but I’m expecting it to be Anderson for now, though both Jordan Akins and Ryan Griffin will likely be involved. With the way I scored the strength of schedule, the Texans had a +15 while no other team recorded a score of more than +9. They’ll play the Browns and Giants, who both allowed 11 TE1 performances through 15 games (Week 16) and will also play the Broncos who allowed 10 TE1 performances. On top of that, they have just one game against a top-six defense against tight ends, the Jaguars. Something tells me you still don’t want to draft Anderson.

Hunter Henry (TE – LAC) Score: 9
Here’s one that makes an impact, as Henry was a favorite of mine already. Knowing he’s got the second-best schedule among tight ends only reassures my ranking of him as the No. 4 tight end behind only Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz. He’ll play the Browns, Broncos, and then gets the Raiders twice during the fantasy season, while the Steelers are the only top-six team he’ll face. Keep in mind that the Steelers just completely overhauled their safety unit, too, which could take a step back.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE – JAX) Score: 8
He’s No. 3 in the strength of schedule, but even better than that is when his plus-matchups come in the season. His final three games (the fantasy playoffs) will come against the Titans, Redskins, and Dolphins, three teams who ranked inside the top-six in terms of TE1 performances allowed. He also gets the Giants to open the season, a team that allowed a league-high seven 15-plus PPR-point performances last year, while no other team allowed more than five. Seferian-Jenkins can get off to a hot start if the Giants didn’t fix their problems.

Jared Cook (TE – OAK) Score: 8
Cook is another tight end who is likely to go undrafted in a lot of fantasy leagues, but one with a solid schedule. A big part of that is because he’ll play the Broncos twice, including in Week 16, the fantasy championship. The funny part is that the Broncos allowed 10 TE1 performances last year through 15 games, and Cook accounted for two of the times they didn’t, so maybe don’t count on elite performances out of him. It likely just means that Cook isn’t a very good player and is wildly inconsistent.

Tight Ends with a Bad Schedule

Austin Hooper (TE – ATL) Score: -8
Similar to Stephen Anderson, but on the other end, Hooper has the worst schedule among all tight ends and it’s not all that close. He’ll have five matchups against teams who allowed just three TE1 performances all season, including one in Week 14, the first round of the fantasy playoffs. There’s no other tight end in the league who has more than four of those matchups, making Hooper even less appealing than he already was. With Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu spread across the field, don’t expect him to take a leap this year.

David Njoku (TE – CLE) Score: -7
Not only is the Browns offense now loaded with offensive weapons, but Njoku has one of the toughest schedules among tight ends. In four of the first eight games, he’ll play a top-three defense from last year. Granted, his schedule opens up after that, but you’ll likely find him on waiver wires. Not only is his schedule bad and the talent has increased around him, but the Browns are likely to throw a lot less with Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson, and Tyrod Taylor in the backfield.

Kyle Rudolph (TE – MIN) Score: -7
Acquiring Kirk Cousins definitely won’t hurt Rudolph’s stock, but his schedule does him no favors. He’s one of just a few tight ends who don’t have a matchup with a bottom-three team from last year and he’s got just one matchup with a bottom-six team. That one matchup against the Dolphins, who allowed nine TE1 performances last year, is in Week 15, but that’s the only great matchup, while he’ll have three games against top-three defenses during the fantasy regular season, including two games against the Packers who held him to six catches for 53 scoreless yards in their two meetings combined last year.

Trey Burton (TE – CHI) Score: -6
Burton has a similar schedule to that of Rudolph, seeing they’re in the same division, but Burton gets a matchup with the Giants, which was virtually a lock for TE1 performance last year (11-of-15). The Packers defense allowed just three TE1 performances last year and now Burton has to play them in both Week 1 and Week 14, though the Packers won’t have any tape on how Burton will be featured in the offense for their first meeting, so it’s not quite as scary.

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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