How to Approach the TE Position in 2019 Drafts (Fantasy Football)
The upcoming fantasy season warrants a cheesy Hardy Boys-style subtitle that speaks to the mystery surrounding the game’s most volatile position. I’m thinking Fantasy Football and the Tumultuous Tight End Travesty…Don’t judge me, it’s a work in progress. The point is that the tight end position is splashed with more red ink than a slacker’s high school mid-term.
The 2018 season was a story of two extremes. Travis Kelce (294 fantasy points), George Kittle (1,377 receiving yards) and Zach Ertz (116 reception) all produced historically phenomenal seasons while tight ends six through twelve posted laughable lows on the year. If you owned a top-three TE in 2018, you boasted arguably the greatest weekly positional advantage of the last decade. If not, you were left slinging late round picks and waiver wire additions like the rest of us peasants. And the difference was staggering.
Kelce, who finished as TE1, averaged 18.4 PPR points per game last year, a full 8.2 points more than TE 6 (Austin Hooper). For comparison, the difference in weekly point totals between RB 1 (Saquon Barkley) and RB 12 (Kareem Hunt) last year was just 3.2 points; the difference between WR1 (DeAndre Hopkins) and WR12 (Keenan Allen) was 3.5 points. The week-to-week consistency at the game’ thinnest position can’t be overlooked; Kelce (13), Ertz (12) and Kittle (12) were the only three tight ends to finish as a top-10 option at the position in double-digit weeks last year.
The Big Three
Round 1 in 2019 is unsurprisingly populated by running backs, which will push high-end WRs down the draft board. This means there’s value to be had there later on; you should happily gobble up the likes of Michael Thomas and Odell Beckham Jr. in Round 2. Given the top-heavy nature of the TE position, the Big Three justify their current PPR ADPs. As things stand now, Kelce, Ertz and Kittle can be had right in that Round 2 to Round 3 range.
If you’re unable or unwilling to invest in the position that early, your best strategy is to wait on a TE until the later rounds. The difference between a mid-to-low tier pick like Trey Burton (TE8) last year and a free agent pick-up was relatively negligible last season. You’re likely to find equitable production from a waiver wire flier as you are from the Austin Hoopers of the world. Patience is okay in this scenario.
If you do opt to wait, try to pick out a few TEs who do most of their damage with the ball in their in hands. Nine of the top-12 fantasy TEs last year posted at least 30 percent of their receiving total with yards after the catch. In that realm, you’re looking at lower-tier guys with upside such as Vance McDonald, David Njoku and Jared Cook, though all have target competition heading into the new season (of that bunch, McDonald is my favorite).
It’s time to put a stop to the stigma connected to high-end TE picks. You shouldn’t feel as if you’re reaching if you want to grab one of the Big Three at their current price. It will provide you with a weekly positional advantage and stability at an otherwise inconsistent roster spot. Conversely, if you miss out on one of the top guys, you don’t need to panic. Instead, stock up at the RB and WR spots to build depth (and trade assets) as you wait until the later rounds to find a serviceable yards-after-catch option.
Brandon Katz is a correspondent at FantasyPros.