Updated Fantasy Equity Scores: Tight End Starters And Streamers September 1, 2015  |  Chet



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I wrote a few years back on the viability of tight end streaming, showing that the role and physical profile of NFL tight ends had changed quite dramatically over the past decade and a half.

Those numbers — the routes run, the targets, the receptions, the number of fantasy points allowed to tight ends — haven’t changed all that much over the past couple seasons, as we’ve reached what I term exploitation stagnation. It means, in short, that the evolution of tight end has plateaued in recent seasons.

It’s slightly disappointing for committed tight end streamers, but I doubt we’ve seen the end of tight end evolution.

Before we jump into updated fantasy equity scores for every tight end drafted in 12-team drafts, I’d like to show that pass routes matter as much as ever. Blocking is a big part of the job for some tight ends. For others, not so much. Pass routes represent opportunity. Only the best, most freakish tight ends can produce with limited route running (see: Travis Kelce 2014). Pass routes are very often the difference between a starter and a streamer, between a locked-in fantasy asset and a matchup play, between a good bet and a carefully calculated risk.

Below is a look at routes per game from TE1s (top-12) and TE2s (top-24) in 2013 and 2014.


2013 TE1-12 Games played Routes per game 2013 TE13-24 Games played Routes per game
Jimmy Graham 16 33.6 Tim Wright 14 27.6
Vernon Davis 15 26.7 Brent Celek 16 19.9
Julius Thomas 14 31.1 Garrett Graham 12 25
Tony Gonzalez 16 38 Coby Fleener 16 30.1
Jordan Cameron 15 41.5 Rob Gronkowski 7 30.7
Jason Witten 16 33.6 Scott Chandler 16 30.7
Charles Clay 16 29.3 Brandon Myers 15 29.6
Greg Olsen 16 30.1 Zach Ertz 15 16.2
Antonio Gates 16 34.3 Jordan Reed 15 25.3
Martellus Bennett 16 32.6 Zach Miller 13 22.6
Jared Cook 16 25.1 Jermaine Gresham 14 27.1
Delanie Walker 15 32.1 Heath Miller 14 33.9
AVERAGES 15.5 games 36.8 routes AVERAGES 13.9 games 26.3 routes

A couple observations before we get to 2014 numbers…

  • The difference in routes per game is enormous: 10.5 routes is the difference between middling production and consistently solid production. It amounts to 168 routes per season. That’s 168 more opportunities. Routes matter.


  • Vernon Davis, during his prime, always produced with limited route running. That’s in part because he has been a great blocker, but also because he’s always been trapped in conservative offensive schemes. There’s no telling what he could’ve done with 30 routes per game. Davis is only 30 years old, and I think his efficiency of yesteryear is a good sign for those taking him as a late-round flier.


  • 2013 was the last time Jordan Cameron was healthy for most of the year. Look at that average routes per game. We should feel lucky to have our tight end run 28-30 routes every week — 40 is off the proverbial charts. Cameron truthers (yours truly included) can only hope he gets this sort of workload in Miami’s offense. I’m drafting him everywhere, as we’re getting a five round discount thanks to his ongoing concussion issues.


2014 TE1-12 Games played Routes per game 2014 TE13-24 Games played Routes per game
Rob Gronkowski 15 29.6 Zach Ertz 16 24.8
Jimmy Graham 15 34.9 Charles Clay 14 27.6
Antonio Gates 16 32.8 Jermaine Gresham 15 23.7
Greg Olsen 16 33.5 Jared Cook 16 25.3
Martellus Bennett 16 34.5 Mychael Rivera 16 30.8
Travis Kelce 16 23.3 Owen Daniels 15 27.3
Coby Fleener 16 29.6 Dwayne Allen 12 23.4
Delanie Walker 15 32.3 Scott Chandler 16 29.6
Jason Witten 16 28.6 Jordan Reed 11 22.6
Julius Thomas 12 28.3 Niles Paul 15 18.6
Heath Miller 16 32.1 Tim Wright 12 20.9
Larry Donnell 15 34.2 Jace Amaro 13 18.7
AVERAGES 15.3 31.2 routes AVERAGES 14.2 24.4 routes
  •  The TE1-12 average pass routes are dragged down by Kelce’s absurdly low average, along with unusually low averages from Witten and Thomas. Witten finishing the year as a top-9 tight end despite a low number of pass routes is good news for those bullish on the elderly dad runner in 2015. Dallas is destined to throw (a lot) more than they did in 2014, Tony Romo reportedly looks and feels better than he has since the 2012 offseason and no opposing defense will focus their efforts on stopping Witten with Dez Bryant wreaking havoc on the outside. I wouldn’t be shocked if Witten, with another 3-4 pass routes per game, posted top-4 fantasy numbers. His equity scores (below) largely agree.


  • Owen Daniels is old and incredibly inefficient at this point in his solid career. He ran a good number of routes for the Ravens in 2014, post-Pitta, saw a reliable number of targets in a tight end friendly scheme and proved nothing more than a streaming play. I always target Peyton Manning’s tight ends, but I can’t bring myself to pay up for Daniels at his lofty ADP. I’m convinced that uber-athletic Virgil Green will be relevant in 2015, and may be a revelation.



Player ADP Median equity score High equity score Target?
Rob Gronkowski TE1 0 (TE1) 0 (TE1)  
Jimmy Graham TE2 -3 (TE5) -1 (TE3)  
Travis Kelce TE3 -2 (TE5) 2 (TE1) Yes
Greg Olsen TE4 -3 (TE7) 1 (TE3)  
Martellus Bennett TE5 0 (TE5) 2 (TE3)  
Owen Daniels TE6 -5 (TE11) -2 (TE8)  
Julius Thomas TE7 -3 (TE10) 1 (TE6)  
Jordan Cameron TE8 1 (TE7) 4 (TE4) Yes
Jason Witten TE9 1 (TE8) 4 (TE5) Yes
Delanie Walker TE10 2 (TE8) 5 (TE5) Yes


  • Olsen’s median and high equity scores didn’t change all that much after Kelvin Benjamin’s season ending ACL injury, with his high score rising by one and his median score remaining the same. Olsen is as safe as it gets at the tight end position, and you’ll see that his routes per game leaves little to be desired. Benjamin’s absence should give Olsen quite a bit more red zone action, unless the Panthers decide that big-bodied Devin Funchess can’t be stopped at or near the goal line.


  • Remember: it’s not just Graham’s fantasy ceiling we’re worried about this year; it’s his floor, which has necessarily seen a significant hit with the move from New Orleans to Seattle. It’s hard to imagine Graham finishing outside the top-3 tight ends, but that’s precisely what these equity scores warn. He’s certainly draftable at some point — I’d say the fifth round — but I want no part of him at his current valuation.


Player ADP Median equity score High equity score Target?
Tyler Eifert TE11 0 (TE11) 4 (TE7) Yes
Kyle Rudolph TE12 -1 (TE13) 4 (TE8)  
Zach Ertz TE13 0 (TE13) 2 (TE11)  
Dwayne Allen TE14 -3 (TE17) 1 (TE13)  
Antonio Gates TE15 2 (TE13) 6 (TE9)  
Josh Hill TE16 -2 (TE18) 0 (TE16)  
Vernon Davis TE17 5 (TE12) 10 (TE7) Yes
Richard Rodgers TE18 4 (TE14) 10 (TE8) Yes
Coby Fleener TE19 9 (TE10) 11 (TE8) Yes
Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE20 3 (TE17) 6 (TE14)  


  • A good chunk of Eifert’s equity has vanished over the past couple weeks. Preseason hype has boosted his ADP from the middle of the 13th round to the end of the ninth round. That’s quite the jump, though I think he’s still a target for anyone who think Eifert could be a seam-busting matchup nightmare in an offense that isn’t exactly bursting with pass-catching options. At least one Bengals beat writer believes that health is the only thing stopping Eifertfrom a breakout 2015 campaign. Don’t forget that Eifertsports top-end athleticism, with an almost-extraordinary height-adjusted speed score, an almost-unmatched catch radius and a sparkling agility score, per PlayerProfile.com.


  • Fleener runs a good number of routes in the league’s most explosive offense system. And yet, he’s drafted as a late-round flier. I understand that Fleener will never be the focal point of Indy’s attack, but we don’t need him to be anything close to that at his current ADP. Allen going before Fleener is one of life’s greatest mysteries, but I’ll gladly take Fleener at the end of a draft and roll him out against teams that struggle against tight ends.


  • Richard Rodgers, post-Jordy, is pretty close to irresistible for me. Probably he’s not that good, and he’s nowhere close to the physical freak of nature that was Jermichael Finley. But being in the starting lineup with Aaron Rodgers make you A-OK in my book, especially at such a cheap draft price. I don’t think anyone should be surprised when Rodgers becomes an unquestioned fantasy starter.


Player ADP Median equity score High equity score Target?
Benjamin Watson TE21 8 (TE13) 10 (TE11) Yes
Jordan Reed TE22 10 (TE12) 13 (TE9) Yes
Eric Ebron TE23 2 (TE21) 4 (TE19)
Ladarius Green TE24 4 (TE20) 10 (TE14)
Larry Donnell TE25 13 (TE12) 17 (TE8) Yes
Heath Miller TE26 11 (TE15) 15 (TE11)
  •  Donnell has reportedly improve his blocking — a deficiency that kept him off the field for much of the last half of 2014 — and has lost weight in preparation for a role in New York’s offense. Ben McAdoo, the Giants’ offensive coordinator, is widely considered a tight end guru of sorts. I’ve always been interested in any tight end with a consistent role in his scheme, and that’s (probably) what we have in Donnell, who was targeted more than any other tight end in the red zone last season. I consider Donnell a dirt-cheap investment in an offense that should score a lot of points in 2015.


  • Watson is the Saints’ starter. We don’t talk about that at Josh Hill truther meetings, but it’s true. Coaches have said so. Drew Brees said so. There’s no evidence that Hill will emerge as the inheritor of Graham’s spot in the New Orleans offense.

One Response

  1. John Schaeffer says:

    Good read Denny. How would approach TE in an 12 team $200 auction with standard scoring? Whar are you willing to pay for Kelce? Or wait and pay 4-5 bucks for Cameron? Go 1-2 bucks for Eifert, Witten, or Walker? And what are your thoughts on rostering 2 tight ends? 1 safe floor guy like Walker and one high upside guy like Eifert or ASJ? Or is that a waste of a roster spot in your opinion? Dad runner skills are a plus but not essential. Thanks man.

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