The New 2019 Strength of Schedule: Tight Ends (Fantasy Football)
How many times have you heard someone on a podcast or in an article dismiss strength of schedule? The same ones who say that 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.
It’s legitimately 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 and doesn’t get on the field. Because of that, we must throw the idea that we can adjust teams out the window.
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
Delanie Walker (TEN) SOS Score: 27
One of the oddest things I’ve seen in best-ball drafts early this offseason is how far Walker has fallen in them. Sure, he’s older, but that hasn’t stopped him from finishing as a top-12 tight end for the last five healthy seasons. And now, he’s got the best schedule among tight ends, and it’s not even close. There were 11 teams who accounted towards a negative grade in my SOS method and Walker will be playing just two games against them in 2019. On the flip side, he’ll be playing 8-of-15 games against teams who my SOS method considered below-average against the tight end position.
Eric Ebron/Jack Doyle (IND) SOS Score: 17
As if the Colts duo needed an easier schedule than the rest of the league, right? Outside of two matchups with the Titans and one with the Saints, the Colts don’t have any other below-average matchups on their schedule. Unfortunately, the Saints matchup does come in Week 15 during the fantasy playoffs, but that matchup is bookended by matchups with the Bucs and Panthers in Weeks 14 and 16, two great matchups.
Chris Herndon (NYJ) SOS Score: 15
I’ve been vocal about my concern for Herndon in the new Jets offense, but his schedule isn’t part of that equation. After playing the Bills in the opener (one of the toughest matchups in the NFL) and then the Eagles in his fourth game (in Week 5), he won’t have a below-average matchup for the remainder of the season. It might be wise to let someone else draft him and then you’ll be able to stream him in some nice matchups later in the year.
Jared Cook (NO) SOS Score: 13
Will he be Jimmy Graham or Coby Fleener in New Orleans? His schedule should allow him to flourish a bit, as the Saints only have one absolutely brutal matchup on their schedule, and it’s not until Week 16 when they play the Titans. There are a few below average matchups along the way, but he’s one of a few tight ends who has just one bottom-five matchup on his schedule. It also doesn’t hurt that he plays four games against bottom-four teams, including two of his first five games (HOU, TB).
Tight Ends with a Bad Schedule
Jason Witten (DAL) SOS Score: -25
Welcome back, Mr. Witten. Here’s the hardest schedule in the league. He’s one of six tight ends who doesn’t have a matchup with a bottom-four team, and in fact, he has just one matchup with a team who I’d consider to be below average. Meanwhile, he’s playing against the Saints, Jets, Eagles (twice), and Bills, all teams who were among the five worst matchups in all of football for tight ends. If you thought Witten was going to come back and be fantasy relevant again, you should probably reconsider.
Jordan Reed (WAS) SOS Score: -21
I’ve been saying that Reed is undervalued this offseason (currently ranked as the No. 17 tight end in ECR), but after looking at his schedule, it’s not very kind to him. He’s another tight end who has none of the top-tier matchups against teams who struggle against tight ends, but has eight matchups with teams who are inside the top-10 against tight ends. Outside of two games against the Patriots and Panthers, there’s nothing to get excited about on Reed’s schedule.
Evan Engram (NYG) SOS Score: -13
What do you know, another tight end from the NFC East in with the bad schedule. They’re being forced to play against the Bills, Jets, and Eagles, who happen to be top-five at defending tight ends. Engram did luck out in that he’ll only play the Eagles once, as his second matchup with them is in Week 17, off the fantasy schedule. Engram should still get targeted quite a bit, but his schedule might limit some huge games against tough opponents.
Jimmy Graham (GB) SOS Score: -11
After a disappointing first season with the Packers, Graham’s schedule won’t make his second season go much better. He’ll start the year with two tough matchups against the Bears and Vikings, then play the lockdown defense of the Eagles in Week 4, making his first month of the season a rough one to expect much production. He’s another tight end whose ADP (TE14) and ECR (TE19) is quite suppressed, so maybe it’s for the best that you let someone else draft him.