News & Analysis

How to approach tight end in TE Premium startup drafts

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 30: Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after catching a touchdown pass during the second quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Entering a new type of dynasty startup league is a great way to continue to challenge yourself and spice things up with some variety. One of the more popular scoring changes you’ll find is the addition of “tight End Premium” scoring. Instead of the typical point-per-reception, tight ends in this format are granted a boost and score 1.5 points per reception.

This is a common addition to dynasty leagues made by commissioners. It doesn’t require much work on their end, and it provides owners another challenge when building rosters.

While this may alter some of your fellow leaguemates’ views on the tight end position, should it alter yours? The results may surprise you.

Tight End Premium scoring difference

Here’s how last year’s top-12 tight ends fared in both traditional PPR fantasy points and in TE Premium scoring:

Player Team PPR FPs TE Prem Difference
Travis Kelce KC 233.5 275 41.5
Rob Gronkowski NE 227.4 261.9 34.5
Zach Ertz PHI 202.4 239.4 37
Delanie Walker TEN 174.5 211.5 37
Evan Engram NYG 173.6 205.6 32
Jimmy Graham SEA 171 199.5 28.5
Jack Doyle IND 169 209 40
Kyle Rudolph MIN 158.2 186.7 28.5
Jason Witten DAL 147 178.5 31.5
Cameron Brate TB 143.1 167.1 24
Benjamin Watson BAL 137.2 167.7 30.5
Jared Cook OAK 132.8 159.8 27

The average difference here was roughly 32 points added in Tight End Premium leagues. Over the course of the season, that’s just two points a game. Fantasy football is a week-to-week game and this trivial boost in scoring you get isn’t worth sacrificing a starting running back or wide receiver. Sure, every little bit helps, but is it enough to warrant reaching for a tight end early in your draft?

Unless it’s a tight end that you can reasonably project for 250-plus fantasy points with heavy targets and receptions, it may be best to wait.

Last year, Kelce and Gronkowski were the only two tight ends to net over 250-plus fantasy points under TE Premium scoring. That boost in scoring took Kelce from the 18th-highest-scoring fantasy player (excluding quarterbacks) up to 10th. Gronkowski rose from 20th to 13th. These guys saw a boost of 2.4 points per game and climbed nearly a full round in terms of draft position versus final fantasy finish. In fact, it puts these guys in a tier of their own compared to their other tight end contemporaries.

TE Prem Fantasy Points 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
250+ 2 2 5 5 3
200+ 5 8 10 8 10
150+ 13 18 17 17 17

The elite tight ends are now few and far between. The position has largely been dominated by Gronkowski and a small rotation of others over the past five seasons, but the table above shows a declining trend in heavy-scoring tight ends. With running back receptions on the rise and teams incorporating more sets with slot receivers, tight ends aren’t being used like they were a few years back. TE Premium gives a healthy boost to the elite tier, but what about the others?

Foregoing the top tight end tier

Excluding the 250-plus tier, the rest of the tight ends fall in line much closer to their ADP with only a minor bump. Last year’s top-24 players averaged a difference of just 1.6 points per game added under TE Premium scoring. This minute difference from a week-to-week perspective makes these players far less enticing and worth reaching for.

The perception that tight ends are more valuable in TE Premium leagues often has players reaching to acquire one. Nobody wants to be left “holding the bag.” Use that to your advantage and stock up on valuable running backs and wide receivers before addressing the tight end position. When there’s a lull in value or a break in your tiers, make your move and acquire a solid tight end. The binary jump down the tight end ADP line makes them rather interchangeable after the top tier. Most of these players make up a large collection of streamers and matchup-dependent plays.

With most leagues requiring you to start just one tight end, let others get tricked into the perceived increase in demand. Don’t get caught up in double-dipping with flexing a second tight end unless the matchup dictates it. Tight ends are inherently volatile in their scoring nature, often relying on touchdowns to boost their scoring. Chasing that 1.6-point bonus in TE Premium leagues isn’t really worth it in a flex spot, unless there’s a high-quality matchup in a potential shootout. In a startup, you should be planning to use that flex spot with a running back or wide receiver. Their roles and route to touches are often far more clearly defined from a week-to-week perspective than their tight end counterparts.

Entering the 2018 season, we should continue to see a decrease in top-tier tight end scoring. We’re in the midst of a “changing of the guard” as previous fantasy stalwarts enter their twilight years and we wait for the last few classes to make the jump to fantasy stardom.

The only tight ends I’d advocate taking a bit higher than consensus are those that you can project for 80-plus receptions in a year. A 40-point boost based solely on receptions is a quality benchmark to target. PFF’s current projections have Ertz (82.1 receptions) as the sole tight end to lay claim to that honor entering 2018, with Kelce right behind him (79.2). Investing early in them, especially at their age (Ertz, 27 and Kelce, 28), could net you a five-year fantasy stud

If you miss out on them, take your time before you approach the position. While your opponents are reaching for tight ends early in your draft, net yourself some high-quality running backs and wide receivers with top-24 potential.

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