4 Ideal Late-Round TE Pairings and When to Draft Them
When it’s time to walk in, or pull up a chair to begin our fantasy drafts, there are a myriad of approaches or strategies to take into consideration at the TE position. More than any other position, TE sees a huge disparity between the top few players and the remainder of the pack. Drafters can choose to pay up and grab one of the select tier-one guys, wait a bit and draft a mid-round serviceable TE with upside, or decide to stream the position with a pair of TEs based on their individual matchups.
If the streaming option aligns with your personal strategy for roster construction in 2017, this piece will provide you with a visual idea of how various streaming pairings will look, and possibly perform this season. By examining 4for4’s Hot Spots: Team Level SOS by Position, we can assemble some ideal TE tandems who, together, can potentially achieve TE1 numbers based on their teams’ strength of schedule.
Only TEs ranked beyond the top-12 were considered here1, under the assumption that drafters are utilizing later round players for streaming purposes. If you’re debating the streaming option in any redraft leagues this season, grabbing one of these TE duos may give you an edge over your fellow drafters, who might not consider this line of research. So grab your favorite beverage, and perhaps a snack, and check out some of my favorite TE streaming pairs for the 2017 NFL season.
David Njoku, Browns with Austin Hooper, Falcons
Based on the composition of the schedules for Atlanta and Cleveland, this young tandem has the potential to offer solid TE1 numbers this season. Rookie TEs in the NFL don’t exactly have the best track record, but considering the Browns' super-soft schedule versus the TE, Njoku (TE18) is certainly worthy of consideration in 2017. Hooper (TE21) is capable of TE1 numbers alone, but the Browns TE serves as a nice accompaniment.
You’ll notice that the Browns’ first five games are versus weak or moderately weak defenders against the TE position, highlighted by a Week 4 tilt against the Bengals, the 30th ranked defense in the league against TE, according to aFPA.
In Week 6, the Falcons are just coming off of their bye week and will have a stretch of five straight games against weaker TE defenses. The beauty of this E duo, is that from Week 10 on, both of their schedules are favorable, allowing you to insert the player who is performing better in their respective offense into your lineup with little worry of the matchup.
Based on current ADP, here are the ideal spots to draft this TE tandem:
- 10-Team League: Njoku 19th Round, Hooper 16th Round
- 12-Team League: Njoku 16th Round, Hooper 13th Round
Zach Miller, Bears with Cameron Brate/OJ Howard, Buccaneers
Ranked as the TE28 heading into the 2017 season, Miller has one of the easiest schedules on the books, facing only one red, or very strong, defense versus the TE all season. During Chicago’s Week 9 bye, the Buccaneers (Brate TE27 & Howard TE29) face a Saints defense that is moderate at defending the TE position, giving up an estimated 11.4 PPR points per game. When Tampa Bay has their bye in Week 11, the Bears face a soft Detroit defense, with an estimated 15.3 PPR points allowed to TEs.
Another attractive advantage of drafting Miller with Brate or Howard is that both of their schedules are among the juiciest versus TEs down the stretch and throughout the fantasy playoffs, allowing you to plug in whoever has had the better season to that point. In regards to deciding whether to roll with Brate or Howard, history tells us that rookie TEs rarely make an impact, and Brate had a very impressive 2016 season in Tampa Bay. Barring injury or a horrendous training camp, the starting job is Brate’s to lose. Of course, Howard is immensely talented so is worth a gamble if you’re the type to do so.
Plan on targeting this appealing TE duo based on their current ADP below:
- 10-Team League: Miller 20th Round, Brate 15th & Howard 14th Round
- 12-Team League: Miller 17th Round, Brate 13th & Howard 11th Round
Sure, Fleener is a guy who some are drafting as their TE1 this season, but he hasn’t performed as such over the past few years. The New Orleans TE ended as the TE19 in 2015 and TE15 last season in overall PPR points, with a conservative pre-season ranking of TE14 in 2017. By pairing him with Seferian-Jenkins (TE25), who has been cited as a camp standout this season, the two have the potential to produce league-winning numbers for your fantasy squad.
Through their bye in Week 11, the Jets schedule is advantageous for TEs, with only one stingy defense in Week 4 versus Jacksonville. New Orleans’ opponents as a whole are relatively soft against the TE, with a particularly easy run from Week 11 on. You’re welcome to use these two interchangeably throughout the season as their schedules dictate a supple road in 2017.
For this pairing, here is where you should think about drafting ASJ and Fleener based on 4for4’s current ADP:
- 10-Team League: ASJ 30th Round, Fleener 15th Round
- 12-Team League: ASJ 25th Round, Fleener, 12th Round
Julius Thomas, Dolphins with Charles Clay, Bills
Both of these TEs can arguably stand alone as your TE1, however, with both of their injury-riddled pasts, it’s best to stream them together in 2017. The first five weeks of the season are fairly easy for both AFC East teams, with the Bills bye week falling on Week 6. Miami’s opponent that week is the Falcons, who are estimated to give up a cushy 14.6 PPR points to the TE position.
Miami gets a bye in Week 11, as Buffalo tilts with a fairly weak Chargers defense when it comes to defending opposing TEs. The remaining schedule is relatively soft for both teams, with the Bills schedule coming out slightly easier. This allows you to play the hot hand at TE, or in their cases, the healthier of the two.
Thomas is ranked at TE17 and Clay sits with a rank of TE26. Based on their current ADP, this is where you should aim to draft them:
- 10-Team League: Thomas 16th Round, Clay 21st Round
- 12-Team League: Thomas 13th Round, Clay 17th Round
Editor's Note: Sign up with 4for4 for complete rankings of which teams have the easiest/hardest schedules at each position, color-coded hot spots for each position/player, as well as defensive aFPA rankings.
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