FFPC Win Rates: Tight Ends

May 02, 2022
FFPC Win Rates: Tight Ends

Tight ends are a Ponzi scheme. We get lured in by the elite-options season. The hype train for the middle-class players comes next. Finally, somebody’s ‘sleeper’ pick becomes everyone’s favorite target without fail. It’s a vicious cycle that ends the same way. A subset of the same studs tops the charts with an assortment of mid-tier players. And, at least one guy few saw coming. FFPC makes drafting tight-ends slightly more exciting with the premium scoring, but the position still feels random year to year. Regardless, with some data from the good folks over at FantasyMojo, I’ll walk you through my approach to the position this season.

More Best Ball Content: FFPC Win Rates: QBs | FFPC Win Rates: RBs | Best Ball Mania Positional Allocation Guide | Best Ball Mania Roster Construction Guide | Best Ball Mania Positional Draft Strategies | How to Approach Underdog 3-Team Best Ball Drafts

Highest TE Win Rates

FFPC Top 12 TE Win Rates, 2021
Rank Player Roster Rate on Winning Teams ADP
1 Mark Andrews 21.2% 4.05
2 Dalton Schultz 14.1% 24.01
3 Rob Gronkowski 13.3% 11.07
4 Travis Kelce 12.2% 1.03
5 Dawson Knox 12.0% 20.11
6 C.J. Uzomah 11.8% 21.08
7 Zach Ertz 10.9% 14.04
8 Jordan Akins 9.8% 24.06
9 Mike Gesicki 9.7% 9.01
10 T.J. Hockenson 9.6% 4.01
11 George Kittle 8.9% 2.06
12 Hunter Henry 8.7% 12.08

Again, I’ll use roster win rate to set the stage. Paths to victory weren’t wholly dependent on drafting one of these guys. Well, maybe Mark Andrews. But still, when combined with ADP, we get some idea of where we should be taking our swings.

Before your eyes criss-cross looking at the chart, check out the downward trend as more rounds pass. It’s not just one season of the early-round tight-ends dominating the roster win rate Top 12. It’s been four straight years. Of course, there are outliers. Dalton Schultz ascended to the Top 8 in just one year. But, unlike quarterbacks or running backs, our chances of finding steady production drop off as the draft progresses.

We’ve got options, though. I did some quick perusing of our roster construction tool for Underdog Fantasy. it's a different platform with different scoring, but I wanted proof of concept. Teams with a tight-end drafted before the fourth round averaged 1,515 points. However, drafters that waited until Rounds 5 or 6 outscored them. So, let’s break down the production profiles during each draft phase and see what we should be targeting in 2022.

Early Rounds

Highest TE Win Rates, Rounds 1-6
Rank Player Roster Rate on Winning Teams ADP
1 Mark Andrews 21.2% 4.5
4 Travis Kelce 12.2% 1.3
10 T.J. Hockenson 9.6% 4.1
11 George Kittle 8.9% 2.6

We know what to expect in the early rounds for tight-ends. Early-down, red-zone, and intermediate or deep targets are all up for grabs here. Opportunity brings us back to the elite options, as it has one of the strongest correlations with a player’s fantasy rank.

It seems straightforward that targets and receptions are crucial to their success. But remember tight-ends play two positions. So, their opportunity must translate into fantasy production to sustain their value. For the early-rounders, it’s an easy task.

Early-Round TE Rank Profiles, 2021
Name TE1 Top 3 Top 6 Top 12 PPR PPG
Mark Andrews 2 6 11 12 17.7
Travis Kelce 3 6 10 12 16.4
T.J. Hockenson 1 3 4 7 12.1
George Kittle 2 3 6 8 14.1

The ‘top-12 option with first overall upside’ profile is too much to ignore here. Early-round tight-ends were running routes on 83.4% of their quarterback’s dropbacks. The smallest target share of the four was 21.8%. Their ability to outearn their peers and other pass-catchers on the same team makes them unicorns at the position. And it’s not like 2021 was a fluke.

Early-Round TE Rank Profiles, 2018-2020
Season Player TE1 Top 3 Top 6 Top 12
2020 Darren Waller 3 6 11 11
2020 Mark Andrews 1 5 6 8
2020 Travis Kelce 6 9 14 15
2019 George Kittle 2 5 8 12
2019 Travis Kelce 1 4 8 14
2019 Zach Ertz 3 5 7 9
2018 Travis Kelce 5 7 10 13
2018 Trey Burton 1 2 3 8
2018 Zach Ertz 3 9 9 12

Premium scoring on FFPC may force your hand, but drafting at least one early-round target is the optimal approach. They’ve maintained a 43.8% hit rate for the Top 12 over the last four seasons, and we’re drafting the same amount this season (eight). A hit here would solidify your squad throughout most of the season with your other tight-ends on hand to pick up the slack if needed.

Favorite Early-Round Targets: Mark Andrews (1.12), Kyle Pitts (2.05), Darren Waller (2.12), Dalton Schultz (4.02)

Middle Rounds

Highest TE Win Rates, Rounds 7-15
Rank Player Roster Rate on Winning Teams ADP
3 Rob Gronkowski 13.3% 11.7
7 Zach Ertz 10.9% 14.4
9 Mike Gesicki 9.7% 9.1
12 Hunter Henry 8.7% 12.8

Optimal roster constructions call for three or four tight-ends. So, you’ll need to add more throughout the middle rounds. Some of the names aren’t as appealing, but there’s some upside to them. It seems like an easy task just grabbing a guy or two, but the middle rounds are a race to fortify other positions.

Here’s another way to visualize opportunity cost. I used just 2021 ADP, but you can see how many other positions are flying off the board. We draft more quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers in five of nine rounds. At best, it’s a push in a few rounds. Meanwhile, the average points per game for tight-ends continue to fall. We need to bolster our early-round investments so let’s look at what’s needed production-wise.

Mid-Round TE Rank Profiles, 2021
Player TE1 Top 3 Top 6 Top 12
Mike Gesicki 0 3 3 6
Rob Gronkowski 1 6 6 8
Hunter Henry 0 2 3 5
Zach Ertz 1 1 3 10

Rob Gronkowski’s the gold standard given his offense and quarterback. But Mike Gesicki’s situation was on the opposite end of the spectrum. And still, he was able to cobble together multiple top-3 and top-6 weeks. Their overall target shares ranged from 14.7% to 21.4%, but they made up for it in the red zone.

Red-Zone Target Shares for Mid-Round Tight-Ends, 2021
Player Red-zone Target Share
Mike Gesicki 14.5%
Rob Gronkowski 15.2%
Hunter Henry 23.6%
Zach Ertz 23.9%

Zach Ertz and Hunter Henry made the Top 10 in red-zone targets for all tight-ends. Ertz’s trade sustained his fantasy upside, but he had a 20.0% red-zone share while still in Philadelphia. Regardless, we can see what to value in the middle rounds. Our targets should be players that are the second or third passing option that’s still on the field when inside the 20-yard line. They won’t constantly top the charts, but multiple shots at the Top 6 are what we need.

Favorite Mid-Round Targets: Rob Gronkowski (9.08), Tyler Higbee (10.10), Logan Thomas (12.02), Hayden Hurst (13.04)

Late Rounds

Highest TE Win Rates, Rounds 16-28
Rank Player Roster Rate on Winning Teams ADP
2 Dalton Schultz 14.1% 24.1
5 Dawson Knox 12.0% 20.11
6 C.J. Uzomah 11.8% 21.8
8 Jordan Akins 9.8% 24.6

We say darts, but I’d like to think of the late-round options as ‘educated guesses.’ We won’t always be correct, but finding a viable process can yield positive results. So let’s derive a method from this madness.

Comparing Target Shares Over Two Seasons for 2021 Late-Round TEs
Player 2020 Target Share 2021 Target Share 2020 RZ Target Share 2021 RZ Target Share
Dawson Knox 9.3% 11.10% 14.3% 15.8%
C.J. Uzomah 10.3% 11.90% 13.3% 11.7%
Dalton Schultz 14.0% 16.50% 17.1% 12.4%
Jordan Akins 10.4% 8.00% 11.4% 11.6%

After looking at this chart, I completely whiffed on Dalton Schultz. But the larger point is these guys weren’t hiding in the shadows. And actually, this point holds for the prior three seasons, too.

Previous Season Target Shares for Late-Round Tight-Ends, 2018-2020
Season Player Previous Year's Target Share
2020 Jimmy Graham 10.5%
2020 Darren Fells 10.4%
2019 Will Dissly 11.6%
2019 Gerald Everett 8.9%
2018 Jesse James 10.7%

Rookies and players set to benefit from ‘vacated targets’ typically take center stage in the later rounds. But, like crowded backfields for running backs, we tend to overprice the uncertainty that comes with it. And it pushes down the prices for potential stars.

Late-round TE Rank Profiles, 2021
Player TE1 Top 3 Top 6 Top 12
Dawson Knox 0 3 5 7
C.J. Uzomah 2 2 2 3
Dalton Schultz 1 3 6 11
Jordan Akins 0 0 0 1

Jordan Akins sets the bar low for late-rounders, but we can see how the others vaulted into the upper ranks. Each was part of multi-option passing games with top-12 quarterbacks. The same was the case for the others in past seasons. As a result, we can use this approach when evaluating tight-ends once the other positions thin out.

Favorite Late-Round Targets: Mo Alie-Cox (18.09), Ricky Seals-Jones (22.03)

Bottom Line

  • Leaving Rounds 1-6 with at least one tight-end is an optimal approach to drafting. Early-round tight-ends have dominated the roster win rate Top 12 for four straight years.
  • Tight-ends drafted before Round 6 have maintained a 43.8% hit rate for the Top 12 over the last four seasons. The previous season’s elite options ran routes on 83.4% of their quarterback’s dropbacks, and 21.8% was the smallest target share.
  • Mid-round targets should be second or third passing options with red-zone opportunities. Tight-ends drafted here had target shares ranging from 14.7% to 21.4% but had an average red-zone target share of 19.3%.
  • Late-round targets aren’t a secret. They’ve had an average 10.7% target share the previous season.
  • Eight of the last nine late-round tight-ends were a part of diverse passing offenses attached to top-12 quarterbacks. The uncertainty drives their price down creating value in the late rounds.
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