5 Tight End Strength of Schedule Beneficiaries
These days there seems to be a perpetual revolving door of noise surrounding fantasy football drafts. With so much data available, it can feel overwhelming for some and confusing to others as to what stats they should focus on or which skills they should hone to benefit from the most on draft day.
When it comes to using strength of schedule, knowing which tight ends have the most favorable path in front of them is more advantageous than perhaps any other position player in the draft. This is in part due to the amount of disparity between the top few elite tight ends and the rest of the pack. In other words, if you don’t draft Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen or Jordan Reed, there is a chance you will end up either hitting the waiver wire or streaming the tight end position at some point throughout the course of the season.
By looking ahead and evaluating each team’s schedule you can up your chances of drafting a mid to low-tier player who could hit it big, therefore potentially eliminating the need for the waiver wire or streaming options. No matter which strategy you choose to implement this season, walking into your draft knowing which tight ends will benefit from the softest schedules gives you a leg up on your competition, and we will all take any advantage that we can get.
Below is a list of affordable tight ends that, according to 4for4’s Strength of Schedule (SOS) Rankings and Schedule-Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed (aFPA), will have the easiest route to fantasy points from week to week throughout the NFL season. From here you can decide whether your approach will be to reach for a top-tier player, aim for upside on a midgrade tight end, or use this data to prepare to stream a few players as the season develops.
Eric Ebron, Lions
The Detroit Lions head into the 2016 season with the third easiest schedule for tight ends in a PPR format and fourth best in standard scoring leagues. Detroit’s opposing defenses are expected to give up an average of 8.3 and 13.4 points to the tight end position in standard and PPR scoring, respectively. In his third year in the league, Ebron is in an excellent position for a step forward, as not only is he more comfortable with quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense, but he should see an increased role with Calvin Johnson no longer lining up next to him on the field.
Throughout the course of the season, Detroit will face five good or great tight end matchups according to SOS rankings, which bodes well for Ebron’s fantasy numbers. He is currently coming off the board in the 13th round which presents a good value, as he is slated to finish the season with 157 fantasy points - within the top 15 tight ends. At this ADP Ebron is worth gambling on as your number one tight end, and could potentially provide you with enough points to stick with him all season long.
Zach Ertz, Eagles
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Yes, Ertz is one of those tight ends that people have a hard time trusting -- myself included. However, this season he should end up among the top ten at his position, in part due to the Philadelphia Eagles cushy schedule. They open the 2016 season against the Cleveland Browns, only leave the Eastern Time Zone three times and host all three of their fellow NFC East rivals at home in the final weeks of the season.
Among those, the New York Giants sit 31st in the league in aFPA to tight ends, expected to allow a whopping 17.5 in PPR and 11.3 in standard. Philadelphia’s other opponents will give up an average of 8.1 points in a standard format and 13.2 in PPR points to the tight end position in 2016. With a projected 184 total fantasy points, according to John Paulsen, Ertz makes a nice choice at his current late eighth-round ADP. If you choose to roster him as your number one tight end, it will free up bench spaces for depth at other positions.
Jared Cook, Packers
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Now a member of the Green Bay Packers, Cook could find himself putting up numbers indicative of a tight end one this season. We can’t dismiss the opportunity he has with Aaron Rodgers throwing the rock, who usually targets his top tight end around 90 times per season. Cook will need to stay healthy, which hasn’t been the case in recent years, to reach his projected 116 fantasy points in a PPR format.
Green Bay’s opponents are estimated to give up the fifth most fantasy points to the tight end position in 2016, with 13.3 in PPR and 8.2 in standard scoring leagues. Two of the projected bottom 15 teams in aFPA to tight ends come from Green Bay's own NFC North division with the Detroit Lions expected to allow the fourth most points to the position with 14.7 points and the Minnesota Vikings 13th worst with 13.4 points allowed.
With an ADP in the 17th round, it may be worth it to grab Cook and see if the Packers offense catches fire or keep him in mind as he could turn out to be a waiver wire hero early this season.
C.J. Fiedorowicz / Ryan Griffin, Texans
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Sure, I know what you’re thinking. Who are these guys and why haven’t I heard either of them mentioned in tight end talks this season? They are the tight end duo of the Houston Texans and have the second squishiest schedule in the entire NFL for the 2016 season.
Eight games out of their schedule are against teams in either the great or good category in 4for4’s SOS metric. The Texans’ opponents are slotted to give up 13.4 points per game to the tight end position which bodes well for this tandem. All three of the Texans’ AFC South opponents rank in the the bottom 10 in aFPA to tight ends this season with Tennessee expected to allow 15.3 schedule-adjusted PPR points, Jacksonville at 14.3 points and Indianapolis coming in as the eighth worst with 14.1 points.
Griffin is an imposing pass-catcher who is currently sidelined with an Achilles injury but should be back on the field by the start of the season. Fiedorowicz is more of a blocker but still managed to catch 17 of 24 passes for 167 yards and one touchdown last season. With a rookie quarterback under center, the tight end position could certainly see more targets this season and with neither of these guys even charting an ADP thus far, they could make a decent streaming option.
Jason Witten, Cowboys
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Witten is one of those tight ends we tend to forget about or dismiss due to his longevity in the league. The Cowboys schedule appears to be the eighth fluffiest this season with three great matchups and one good matchup. Over the past 12 seasons, the sturdy tight end has seen the top 10 in PPR formats every year, and with a healthy Tony Romo on the field, he could just find himself there again in 2016 with around 160 projected fantasy points.
At 34 years old, his health does come into question but with the makeup of Dallas’ cake schedule, look for Witten to put up solid numbers for the 13th consecutive season. He is currently coming off the board in the 14th round which allows you to either get number one tight end productivity at a cheap price, or pair him with another later round tight end with upside in the event that Witten gets injured or loses to father time.