DFS Big Game Profiles: Tight End

DFS Big Game Profiles: Tight End

By TJ Hernandez (Director of DFS), last update Jul 17, 2017

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TJ is a former full-time poker player who has been playing fantasy football for more than a decade. After online poker was outlawed, TJ ended his poker career and dedicated himself to fantasy football. His background in poker statistics and analytics translates to success in both daily and season-long fantasy football.

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Having access to the entire player pool in DFS means that on any given day a player can theoretically pick a perfect lineup. In practice though, that virtually never happens, even in massive-field tournaments. The most likely scenario is that the top finisher in a large field might have one or two players that finished tops at their position, with a roster full of other players that performed very well, but not number-one overall. 

Because it’s virtually impossible to nail down the top player at each position in a given week, a useful exercise is to build a profile for top players at each position and look for commonalities among those top performers, hopefully giving us a better idea of which stats are really important to target and which ones might be common traps to avoid.

Defining a Top Daily Fantasy Tight End

With just one tight end in play on both FanDuel and DraftKings (or possibly two, with the flex on DK), rostering a tight end that finishes in the top four each week is usually sufficient to keep you in contention in even the largest contests. I took the average weekly top-four tight end score from 2015 (19.8 FD points and 24.6+ DK points) and went back three seasons and pulled all tight ends that met these point thresholds. This threshold methodology provided a significant sample size (83 FD TEs, 81 DK TEs) and weeded out players that snuck into the top four on unusually low scoring weeks. 

Average Stat Line of Top-Four FanDuel Tight End

Top FanDuel Tight End Averages, 2013-2015
Receptions Yards TD Spread O/U Implied Pts
7.8 111.2 1.5 -1.8 46.3 24.1

Home Team: 62.7%                              100+ Rec Yards: 54.2%
Winning Team: 77.1%                          7+ Receptions : 65.1%
Vegas Favorite: 65.1%                         8+ Receptions: 47.0%
O/U 46+: 53.0%                                     2+ TD: 60.2%
Implied Total 24+: 53.0%                     Opp. aFPA 17+: 54.2%

Average Stat Line of Top-Four DraftKings Tight End

Top DraftKings Tight End Averages, 2013-2015
Receptions Yards TD Spread O/U Implied Pts
7.3 101.8 1.7 -2.1 46.1 24.1

Home Team: 66.7%                               100+ Rec Yards:  69.1%
Winning Team: 70.4%                           7+ Receptions : 71.6%
Vegas Favorite: 61.7%                          8+ Receptions: 53.1%
O/U 46+: 54.3%                                      2+ TD: 46.9%
Implied Total 24+: 49.4%                      Opp. aFPA 17+: 63.0%

How to Choose a Tight End in DFS That Will Have a Big Game

Unlike wide receivers, top-scoring tight ends were on the winning team a vast majority of the time, and more often than not were favorites, usually at home.

While favorable winning conditions often boosted the likelihood of putting a top-scoring tight end in your lineup, Vegas totals had little impact on the chances that a tight end would explode. In fact, slightly more tight ends turned in top games when their team had a low implied team total (below 24), than when their team was expected to have a big scoring day. 

Matchup seemingly had a much bigger impact on tight end scoring on DraftKings than on FanDuel. While almost two-thirds of top tight ends came against defenses that finished the season in the bottom half of the league in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to the position, that number was just over half on FanDuel. A closer look at the stats needed for a top tight end performance and the differences in scoring between the two sites may lend some insight to the reason for this disconnect in matchup stats.

High catch volume and yardage (specifically 100+ yard games) were driving forces in determining whether or not tight ends turned in a big game on DraftKings, but oftentimes one touchdown was enough to be near the top of the weekly DK leaderboard. On FanDuel, while catching a lot of balls still carried some weight for top scoring tight ends, multiple trips to the end zone is usually what separated tight ends from the pack and yardage was just an added bonus -- reaching the 100-yard mark was less important for tight ends on FanDuel than for any other skill position in this study. Meanwhile, top-scoring tight ends on DraftKings needed to hit 100 yards at roughly the same rate as top-scoring running backs on both sites.

Given the major difference between the two sites in touchdown and yardage production needed from tight ends for a big game, we can at least shoehorn a story as to why there’s a difference in matchup stats for the position. DraftKings' full-PPR scoring and 100-yard bonus rewards consistent production, which is going to be difficult to obtain against a stingy defense, whereas a tight end on FanDuel can sometimes luck into a big game with a couple scores.

Since there are so few viable tight end options to begin with, a touchdown or two can separate a tight end from the field on FanDuel. Those same scores might not make up for the consistent volume of a player like Greg Olsen or Jordan Reed on DraftKings.

Recapping How to Identify Tight Ends That Have Big Games in DFS

  • In large-field tournaments, we generally want tight ends on the winning team.
  • Like wide receivers, projected point totals have little predictive value for tight ends, and targeting tight ends on team with LOW projected team totals could be a savvy contrarian play.
  • Matchup matters more for tight ends on DraftKings, where volume is rewarded.
  • On FanDuel, touchdown upside should be our main focus.

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