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Guide to Playing in Tight End Premium Leagues (2020 Fantasy Football)

Mar 5, 2020

One of the great things about fantasy football is the versatility of league formats. You can play standard, points per reception, SuperFlex, only kickers, etc. When changing the scoring settings of a league, you have the ability to affect the strategy with which you approach the entire game, including drafting, trading, and setting lineups. One inventive scoring format that is becoming more prevalent among redraft and dynasty teams is Tight End Premium.

Tight End Premium leagues have essentially the same scoring format as PPR leagues, except they adjust tight end scoring. Given the decimated landscape of the tight end position over the past several years, fantasy players wanted to make the position a little more worthwhile and add some importance to the TE spot. Instead of earning one point per reception like every other position, tight ends get 1.5 points per reception in this format.

While the point difference may seem small, it will make a noticeable impact in the overall fantasy standings. However, do the additional points really affect the strategy you should take when joining a TE-Premium league, or does it open up the opportunity for you to take advantage of your friends who think it does? 

Let’s take a look at how the scoring of TE-Premium changes the fantasy landscape and whether or not you should adjust your playing strategy to compensate.

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Scoring Adjustment

Using 2019’s season-long data, we can determine how exactly the half-point boost per reception would affect a tight end’s fantasy finish and their relative value to other positions. In order to get a complete picture, I took a look at the top-15 finishers at the tight end position from this past season. Below represents a list of those tight ends, their point total in PPR, and their point total in TE-Premium.

Tight End Receptions FP in PPR FP in TE-Prem Diff
Travis Kelce 94 248.9 295.9 47
Zach Ertz 88 215.6 259.6 44
Mark Andrews 64 207.2 239.2 32
George Kittle 78 206.2 245.2 39
Darren Waller 84 204.3 246.3 42
Austin Hooper 68 180.2 214.2 34
Jared Cook 41 155.1 175.6 20.5
Tyler Higbee 61 138.0 168.5 30.5
Hunter Henry 50 135.0 160.0 25
Dallas Goedert 54 134.2 161.2 27
Jason Witten 59 133.5 163.0 29.5
Mike Gesicki 47 122.6 146.1 23.5
Greg Olsen 50 120.5 145.5 25
Kyle Rudolph 39 113.7 133.2 19.5
Jack Doyle 42 110.2 131.2 21

Given that TE-Premium provides a boost for tight ends who are more volume-centric, receptions are the main differentiator at the position. The average jump in scoring from PPR to TE-Premium for the top-15 tight ends in 2019 was approximately 31 points each; this would contribute an average of two points more per week to each tight end.

While that jump is serviceable, it’s skewed by the top-tier tight ends. Less than half of the top-15 tight ends actually experienced a two-point jump.

Fantasy Finish

As far as it affected overall standings, there was a noticeable jump in fantasy finish. 

Tight End FF Overall in PPR FF Overall in TE-Prem Diff
Travis Kelce 27 10 17
Zach Ertz 52 21 31
Mark Andrews 62 34 28
George Kittle 65 32 33
Darren Waller 66 31 35
Austin Hooper 85 56 29
Jared Cook 103 89 14
Tyler Higbee 124 92 32
Hunter Henry 130 102 28
Dallas Goedert 134 100 34
Jason Witten 136 97 39
Mike Gesicki 148 118 30
Greg Olsen 154 120 34
Kyle Rudolph 168 140 28
Jack Doyle 175 145 30

Most tight ends jumped approximately 30 spots in the overall standings, with five tight ends finishing among the top-36 players on the year (including quarterback). As far as how the point boost affected the overall finish among the tight end group, each player’s jump essentially cancelled out any value to be gained from the boost.

Aside from Jared Cook, every tight end finished relatively the same compared to one another as they did in PPR — they all just rose approximately 30 spots in unison. While a few tight ends flipped in the rankings by a few spots, Tight End Premium did not change the hierarchy of tight end value in any meaningful way.

Weekly Performances

Since fantasy football wins and losses are determined by who scores the most any given week, what truly matters is weekly TE1 finishes. If these additional points increase the frequency of top-12 performances, then it could be possible that some tight ends are worth more than others in premium leagues. However, that proved not to be the case.

Tight End #Times as a top-12 TE in PPR #Times as a top-12 TE in TE-Premium Diff
Travis Kelce 14 13 -1
Zach Ertz 9 9 0
Mark Andrews 10 10 0
George Kittle 11 11 0
Darren Waller 9 9 0
Austin Hooper 8 8 0
Jared Cook 9 7 -2
Tyler Higbee 5 6 1
Hunter Henry 6 5 -1
Dallas Goedert 7 8 1
Jason Witten 5 5 0
Mike Gesicki 4 4 0

Among the top-12 tight ends, only five had a change in TE1 performances. The ones that lost their top-12 performances were those who relied on touchdowns over receptions, as Jared Cook and Hunter Henry had the lowest and third-lowest receptions respectively among the top-12. Travis Kelce is the outlier, as he had several performances barely outside the top-12. Nevertheless, one additional or fewer TE1 performance per year is not a season-altering event; the point boost did not significantly alter any tight end’s weekly output compared to others at the position.

This point total and fantasy finish data tells us that grabbing elite tight ends provides an even greater advantage than in PPR, as the gap between the top-tier and the middle-tier becomes even wider because of differences in overall volume and consistency. These point totals won’t provide any additional TE1 weeks, but the strength of their performances will provide an even greater positional advantage.

The middle tier of tight ends do not necessarily benefit from the point change, as they still fall far behind the elite tight ends and don’t have significant volume to create a chasm between themselves and the lower-tier. 

While the boost provides a tangible advantage for the elite tight ends, it will be canceled out by the premium you pay for the tight end in the draft. The psychological appeal of a point boost and rise in assumed value will far outweigh the actual performance on a weekly and season-long basis. When selecting one player for your “TE” spot, there is really no greater advantage in TE-Premium leagues than what is already presented in PPR.

Flex Viability

Now that we have concluded that the”TE” spot does not see a drastic change in value in TE-Premium leagues, we can look at how the 1.5 points per reception fares against other positions that are stuck at one point per reception. Does the overall point increase make tight ends viable at Flex, thus raising their value?

Let’s take a look at how the top-15 tight ends finished relative to all other running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. Assuming a PPR 12-team league with two RB slots, two WR slots, one TE slot, and one Flex slot, I set the standard of being a viable Flex play as finishing among the top 72 non-quarterbacks. I felt this would give a steady indicator regarding if these were worth paying a premium to add to the Flex position.

Tight End Top 72 RB/WR/TE  in PPR Top 72 RB/WR/TE in TE-Prem TE-Prem Relative Finish Players TE-Prem Relative Finish by Position
Travis Kelce Yes, #14 Yes, #4 A. Jones > Kelce > D. Cook RB2 > TE1 > RB3
Zach Ertz Yes, #31 Yes, #10 Hopkins > Ertz > Fournette WR3 > TE2 > RB6
Mark Andrews Yes, #38 Yes, #20 Ingram > Andrews > A. Robinson RB9 > TE5 > WR7
George Kittle Yes, #39 Yes, #18 Kupp > Kittle > Ingram WR6 > TE4 > RB9
Darren Waller Yes, #40 Yes, #17 Kupp > Waller > Ingram WR6 > TE3 > RB9
Austin Hooper Yes, #56 Yes, #35 Lockett > Hooper > Sutton WR17 > TE6 > WR18
Jared Cook Yes, #69 Yes, #60 Crowder > Cook > Fitzgerald WR32 > TE7 > WR33
Tyler Higbee No, #89 Yes, #62 Fitzgerald > Higbee > C. Samuel WR33 > TE8 > WR34
Hunter Henry No, #92 Yes, #70 Slayton > Henry > R. Anderson WR37 > TE11 > WR38
Dallas Goedert No, #95 Yes, #68 Mack > Goedert > Slayton RB22 > TE10 > WR37
Jason Witten No, #98 Yes, #66 D. Samuel > Witten > Mack WR36 > TE9 > RB22
Mike Gesicki No, #104 No, #84 J. Williams > Gesicki > Conner RB30 > TE12 > RB31
Greg Olsen No, #106 No, #86 Conner > Olsen > Mostert RB31 > TE13 > RB32
Kyle Rudolph No, #112 No, #101 J. Washington > Rudolph > Pascal WR50 > TE14 > WR51
Jack Doyle No, #119 No, #106 Amendola > Doyle > A. Miller WR53 > TE15 > WR54

The data indicates that four more tight ends would finish in the top 72 in TE-Premium, jumping barely into the 60-72 range. However, despite finishing in the top 72,  that jump did not necessarily make them any more Flex-viable. Tyler Higbee, Hunter Henry, Dallas Goedert, and Jason Witten all would finish relative to an RB3 or WR4, many of which could be found on your waiver wire in redraft or had for a low cost through trade. 

Given the unpredictable nature of tight ends to begin with, spending premium capital in the hopes of grabbing a barely Flex-viable tight end is not a wise strategy. These tight ends, although playable in the Flex depending on their matchups, are not every-week starters despite the point boost. They finished barely in a usable range and will be drafted/traded at a much higher value than where they’ll ultimately finish.

Tight ends generally see a greater touchdown dependency overall as a unit, so the Tight End Premium doesn’t do much to balance the scales. It will increase overall scoring and make the middle-to-lower tier tight ends slightly more Flex-viable, but it does not provide any additional advantage. The only true difference it seems to make is for the elite tier, who were already Flex-viable before the premium was introduced.

Draft and Trade Strategy

Typically in Tight End Premium, all tight ends will see a commensurate rise in ADP. While it appears paying up for a tight end will provide an even greater advantage, this has proven not to be the case. Outside of the elite options, the 1.5 points per reception changes the tight end position from a wasteland to a streaming play. 

Assuming each player has a top-12 tight end, those outside of that pool fall within the RB3/WR4 range and will quickly drop in status from there. A drafter would be better off not paying the jump for any of the middle-tier or lower-tier tight ends, allowing themselves to find value down the board. 

Below is a list of the top-15 tight end finishers in comparison to their average 2019 ADP in PPR leagues.

Tight End 2019 Average ADP by TE 2019 Average ADP Overall
Travis Kelce 1 15
Zach Ertz 2 27
Mark Andrews 15 143
George Kittle 3 26
Darren Waller 25 174
Austin Hooper 11 108
Jared Cook 7 69
Tyler Higbee 71 331
Hunter Henry 6 61
Dallas Goedert 23 206
Jason Witten 21 200
Mike Gesicki 28 251
Greg Olsen 13 137
Kyle Rudolph 14 140
Jack Doyle 20 194

Last year, outside of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz, who were also the top-three tight ends in 2018, it was all guesswork. Only three others who finished as a top-15 tight end in 2019 were drafted before the 11th round in redraft. 

While some will make the argument that the breakout tight ends from this year are guaranteed to be elite options in 2020, it’s far from certain that they can maintain production. They could enter elite status, but that is a debate for another article. The three tight ends drafted after the “Big 3” in 2019 were OJ Howard, Evan Engram, and Hunter Henry; only one finished in the top-15 at the position. Given the mass uncertainty outside of the elite options, the cost of paying a premium in the draft will outweigh the minimal scoring benefits.

The same applies to trade strategy. People will tend to overvalue the tight end position as a whole, so you can flip the middle-tier to lower-tier tight ends for a huge profit. The top-tier tight ends will command a heavy price that will put them on par with late first and early second-round picks. The psychological value of an elite tight end will typically outweigh their actual production, so a seller’s market will be more profitable than a buyer’s market in TE-Premium.

Overall, Tight End Premium is a fun scoring format that gives tight ends more relevance than they had before. While overall scoring increases, as well as the number of points scored per week, the strategy shouldn’t change. If you want a positional advantage at tight end, you can pay the premium to grab the top guys. Meanwhile, the middle-tier and lower-tier tight ends will see an ADP jump that far outweighs their scoring increase, creating a prime opportunity to gain an advantage over your league-mates.

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Dan Ambrosino is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Dan, check out his archive and follow him @AmbrosinoNFL.

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