Fantasy Tight End Instability and a Case for Streaming
March 17, 2013 | C.D. Carter
You stumble upon a truly dominant fantasy defense that proves to be an elite option every Sunday, whether at home or on the road, even against top-notch offenses prone to scaring most owners into an unexpected bowel movement.
If you don’t have one of these otherworldly defenses — think the Chicago Bears during their mostly absurd first nine weeks of 2012 — what do you do? If you have a handful of working brain cells, and know that fake football defenses have a negative year-to-year correlation, you’ll stream your defensive units, finding waiver wire options with delightful match-ups against inept or turnover prone offenses.
Dreaming of Streaming, as we saw often enough in 2012, can pinpoint a top-10 fantasy defense in the most unexpected places. The only cost: Research and trust in the predictable incompetence of the league’s worst quarterbacks and offensive lines.
It’s time to apply this strategy to the tight end position, which, as of last season, proved a weekly migraine for fantasy owners hoping and praying to various gods that Antonio Gates and Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis would eventually remember they were upper echelon tight ends. So many owners stuck with their mid-tier tight ends while other tight ends with good match-ups languished on the waiver wire.
If you own the Elite Five (Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez, and Aaron Hernandez), good for you. There’s no reason to stream, just like you wouldn’t have bench the Bears’ defense after the unit posted double digit fantasy points in seven of its first eight games.
Beyond the Elite Five, I think there’s a case to be made for weekly streaming, targeting defenses that have been gouged by tight ends. A painstaking look at tight end production from last year’s maddening crap shoot showed that 47 — yes, 47 — tight ends finished in the top-12 from Weeks 1-16.
Put more simply: There were 47 players who posted TE1 numbers at least once last year. Twenty-five tight ends scored in the top-12 four or more times. Only four tight ends were in the top 12 eight times or more in 2012.
See the bottom of this article for a chart of every tight end who achieved top-12 status in at least one week. The list includes shockers like Anthony McCoy, the little-used Seattle Seahawks tight end, racking up more TE1 performances than Jermichael Finley.
Just as the worst offenses make themselves known in the first few weeks of every season — giving defensive streamers a feel for which squads are begging to be exploited — defenses that struggle mightily against tight ends should be targeted.
The Washington Redskins, for example, were exposed as a defense who gave up points by the bushel-full to fantasy tight ends. They allowed an average of 11.2 fantasy points per game to tight ends in the first five weeks of 2012, ending the year with an average of 9.6 PPG allowed to tight ends. The Broncos and Titans were just a smidgen better, giving up 9.4 fantasy PPG to tight ends. The Titans were a laughing stock early on: Tight ends combined for 76 fantasy points against Tennessee from Weeks 1-4.
We also quickly discovered which defenses smothered tight ends — an important aspect of streaming any position. The Ravens were the league’s best team against tight ends, allowing a miniscule 5.1 fantasy PPG. Baltimore gave up three or fewer fantasy points to tight ends 10 times in 2012. That’s ludicrous, and a useful red flag for anyone with the intestinal fortitude to stream tight ends.
Don’t mistake this for a call to drop guys like Dennis Pitta to the waiver wire after he comes through against a poor defense. Keep him on board, just don’t hesitate to use another tight end when Pitta squares off against teams that allow the fewest points to tight ends.
I’ve written plenty about tight end efficiency, the best fantasy tight ends of 2012’s second half, and what to look for in a late-round tight end in 2013, all to concede that the position — outside of the Elite Five — is fraught with unpredictability. It seems foolhardy to start the Finleys of the world, week in and week out.
Tight end inconsistency is a fact (as seen below). I think it’s time that owners without the luxury of locking Graham and Gronk and Gonzalez into their lineups consider streaming the position, and I’ll throw my two cents into weekly streaming tight end plays this fall in my Dreaming of Streaming column for The Fake Football.
Even more than streaming defenses, I think streaming tight ends won’t be for the faint of heart. And when all else fails, berate me on Twitter.[table “34” not found /]