5 Tight Ends with an Easy Fantasy Strength of Schedule
At times, the volume of noise surrounding fantasy football can feel like a bad acid trip, with endless amounts of new data, charts, and graphs popping up all over the place. With so much information available, it can feel overwhelming for some and be confusing for others as to what they should focus on to benefit them 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 in a fantasy 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, Travis Kelce or Jordan Reed, there is a chance you will find yourself combing 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, as fantasy players, we will all take any advantage that we can possibly get.
Below is a list of mid- to low-rated tight ends who, according to 4for4’s strength of schedule (SOS) rankings and schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA), will have the easiest route from week to week through the NFL schedule. From here you can decide whether your approach will be to reach for a top-tier player, aim for upside on amid-gradee tight end, or use this data to prepare to stream a few players as the season develops.
- Fantasy Strength of Schedule Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | K | DEF
- Fantasy Strength of Schedule Hot Spots: By Player | By Position
- Fantasy Strength of Schedule at Other Positions: QB | RB | WR
Green Bay heads into the 2017 season with the third easiest schedule versus the TE position in PPR formats, and the fifth best in standard scoring leagues. The Packers’ opponents are expected to give up an average of 13.6 PPR points and 8.2 standard points throughout the course of the season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a notorious stickler for details and Bennett has spent his summer focused on getting in sync with the known perfectionist.
Throughout the course of the season, Green Bay will face six good or great tight end matchups according to SOS rankings, which bodes well for Bennett and the pass-happy Packers offense. His ADP is hovering somewhere in the seventh to eighth round, which is about where it should be for a potential top-15 TE.
Sure, you most likely let out some sort of a groan when reading the name Zach Miller, but we can’t deny the Bears’ supple schedule for TEs in 2017. Only one of their opponents in the first half of the season is considered a bad matchup to TEs, while three of Chicago’s last five games involve teams with very porous defenses to the TE position - the Bengals (aFPA 16.8), the Browns (aFPA 17.1) and the Lions (aFPA 15.3).
Miller has certainly had his share of injuries over the past few seasons and his health is still a legitimate concern as we start this one. If healthy, the Bears TE should outscore his late round ADP, however, if he can’t get it together physically, Miller could lose the starting job to former Dolphin Dion Sims or rookie Adam Shaheen.
No matter who lines up at TE for Chicago this season, it’s a good idea to keep them in mind for streaming purposes or to stash on your bench in very deep leagues for their TE-friendly schedule alone.
Buffalo’s 2017 schedule is very favorable for Clay, as their opponents rank the fifth loosest when it comes to defending NFL TEs. Like Miller, the Bills’ TE starts this season recovering from an injury, and will most likely take it easy with limited reps in camp. The Bills did not add any depth at the TE position this offseason, so Clay should see a ton of snaps if his knee makes it through the preseason.
Clay ended his 2016 campaign as the TE12 over the second half of the season and proved to be a legitimate weapon for quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Buffalo only has two tough matchups versus stout TE defenses all year. The rest of their schedule should pan out relatively easy for Clay with four of their last five games against fellow AFC East teams, Miami and New England, who, together, average an aFPA of 14.25.
With a dirt-cheap ADP sitting somewhere in the 18th round, Clay is worth a bench gamble or a mental note to check back when considering streamers once the season gets underway.
With another training camp to build chemistry with Matt Ryan, sophomore TE Hooper should be more involved in Atlanta’s offense this season, after he emerged last year as a strong blocker who can also stretch the field. The Falcons’ 2017 opponents are expected to give up an average of 12.8 PPR points to TEs each week, with matchups against Dallas (aFPA 17.9), the spongiest defense in the league to TEs, and two games against the Panthers whose aFPA is estimated at 15.5.
While Hooper has generated some buzz as a potential breakout this season, his ADP is still in the 13th round for 12-team leagues and the 16th for leagues with 10 teams. He makes a solid choice for those fantasy owners deciding to let the first few tiers of TEs go, in favor of more depth at RB or WR. His raw athletic ability in conjunction with a fluffy schedule could propel Hooper to TE1 status, and the second-year player could find himself cracking the top-15 by the end of the 2017 season.
Ben Watson/Crockett Gilmore/Maxx Williams/Gary Barnidge?, Ravens
The TE position in Baltimore is cloudier than Flint, Michigan’s drinking water as they head into training camp. Right now, it appears that Watson, the 36-year old who is recovering from a torn Achilles is the front runner for the starting job, but we still have a long way to go before the NFL season officially kicks off on September 7th.
The Ravens are fortunate enough start the season against two of the NFL’s worst teams at defending the TE. In Week 1, they head to Cincinnati to face a Bengals defense with an aFPA of 16.8, then get the Browns at home in Week 2, whose aFPA is a lofty 17.1 PPR points. Their schedule doesn’t get much worse as the weeks go on -- in fact, as a whole, Baltimore’s opponents are projected to rank as the fifth weakest against TEs in the league for 2017.
Hopefully, the TE depth chart will become a bit less murky once training camp gets underway, and when it’s prime time for redraft leagues, we’ll have a clear idea as to which Raven to grab. There have been some rumblings of interest in signing former Browns TE Gary Barnidge to Baltimore’s roster, so we can’t rule him out either at this point.
Most drafters aren’t touching the Ravens TEs at all, so they should certainly be available in your leagues for a last-round flier. Based on Baltimore’s favorable schedule, it’s not a bad call to throw a dart at Watson, Gilmore, Williams or even Barny, as it could prove to be a difference maker and one that could even make you look like a genius.
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.
- 6 Quarterbacks With an Easy Fantasy Strength of Schedule
- 7 Wide Receivers With an Easy Fantasy Strength of Schedule
- 7 Running Backs With an Easy Fantasy Strength of Schedule
- Using Advanced Stats to Identify Austin Hooper and 8 More Breakout & Value Tight Ends
- Using Red Zone Expected Value to Find 4 Tight End Touchdown Regression Candidates
- What are the Most Predictable Year-to-Year Stats for Tight Ends?