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Fantasy football rankings: Sorting the dynasty TEs into tiers

Dec 3, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (85) is defended by Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Trevor Williams (24) as he catches a second quarter touchdown at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

I love tight ends. I find it fascinating to study the different ways they are used to create matchup problems in real football. I find the gradual influx of elite athletic talent at position to be exciting. And most of all, I’m obsessed with the weekly positional advantage owning a top tight end can provide in fantasy football.

The format really doesn’t matter. Across redraft, dynasty, and best ball, I own an embarrassing percentage of the consensus top tight ends in my portfolio. In dynasty, I’m usually four-deep at the position, even in single-TE leagues. I maintain a top-40 list for dynasty purposes and I study college tight ends as much as any fantasy analyst I’ve come across. The truth as of today for single-TE leagues is that there are only a light handful of difference-making tight ends for fantasy football purposes. However, the TE-premium format (in which tight ends typically get 1.5 points per reception) is growing in popularity. I also hope to see two-TE leagues to grow in coming years in the same way that superflex leagues made quarterback a more interesting fantasy position.

Regardless of the dynasty format, it’s important to understand relative tight end value. Ranking tight ends in a sequential list is a severe injustice to the players at the top who hold significant roster value. One of the most helpful ways to make rankings sets actionable is to add tiers. I’ve added tiers to our PFF dynasty team composite rankings to help you understand where the perceived value gaps are between player groupings. This was done primarily by using the group average and looking for natural breaks. I also used standard deviation to help draw in tier breaks when the decision could have gone either way. If a player on the edge of a tier had a wide range of ranks (read: lack of agreement) among our team then I dropped him to the lower tier. I ended up dividing our composite top-36 dynasty tight end rankings into eight tiers.

(For the dynasty running back tiers, check here.)

Tier 1

Rank Player Team Tier
1 Rob Gronkowski NE 1
2 Travis Kelce KC 1

It seems commonplace that analysts and dynasty players refer to a “big three” at the top of the tight end rankings that consists of Gronkowski, Kelce, and Zach Ertz. However, Gronkowski and Kelce are the only two at the position to receive a rank of first overall from the PFF team and this separates them from Ertz when drawing in tiers. If it weren’t for questions about longevity and retirement, Gronkowski would likely be manning the top tier alone. No matter how you slice it, his role in the New England offense and his ability to convert his opportunities are still unrivaled. In 2017, he ranked first among tight ends with at least 50 targets in: average depth of target, yards per reception, yards per target, and PPR points per opportunity.

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