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Fantasy Football Tight Ends: Ideal Streaming Pairs

Fantasy Football
Fantasy Football

Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley (88) stiff-arms Tennessee Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon (92) after catching a pass at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The argument is a simple one: more tight ends are seeing more footballs come their way, and defenses that struggle against tight ends have become easier to identify and exploit.

I’ve made it a bit of an offseason mission to explore the limits of drafting tight ends in the waning rounds of fantasy football drafts and streaming them like we do with defenses – based solely on matchups.

The multitude of weekly tight ends options who have proven fantasy relevant are well documented by now, as well as the glut of defenses that should be the target of any tight end streamer.

Read more about fantasy tight end values…

The Most (and Least) Efficient Tight Ends

Any advocate of a plug-and-play tight end strategy – which works with the position’s elite players – should dwell on the following statistic: 11 defenses allowed more than seven fantasy points per game to tight ends in 2012. With careful matchup plays, we can maximize the position’s fantasy potential.

If you’re committed to streaming, you’re going to need two tight ends to start with. You can stock up on three tight ends if you have the benefit of a deep bench. Maybe you’ll even stumble upon an every-week starter. Either way, you should be ready and willing to find and exploit favorable matchups.

I’ll write more about this as the summer wears on and tight end fantasy values shift as we approach Opening Day, but here’s my first crack at identifying tight end duos that could be drafted late and used according to matchup. I tried, with each pair, to include one option from rounds 10-12 and another from rounds 13-14.

This isn’t a requirement, of course, but it’s the way I’ve gone about it in my degenerate mock drafts this spring. Each player’s average draft position is listed next to his name.

Jermichael Finley (10.12) and Jordan Cameron (13.11)

Finley, who has drawn praise from Packers’ players and coaches alike this month, is on the high end of streaming options, as I’d hesitate to expend anything more than a 10th round pick on a streamable tight end. Cameron, whose value is sure to rise, is currently available for the rock-bottom price of 13.11. Burning and 10th and 13th on tight ends is a low price to play for two guys who could combine for 130 receptions this season.

Remember that before Finley was a fantasy pariah, he was the guy who, in 2009, was second among tight ends in fantasy points per opportunity and fantasy points per snap, trailing only Antonio Gates. Before you hated him, Finley was on the edge of fantasy greatness.

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported last week that Cameron had been targeted quite a bit on OTAs, targeted on “plenty of deep balls” as Norv Turner’s tight end-friendly offense is established in Cleveland.

“This is an offense that has featured tight ends and tight ends have always been a big part of it,” head coach Rob Chudzinski said in an ESPN Cleveland interview. “He has the skill set that fits.”

Jared Cook (10.05) and Fred Davis (13.10)

Cook is the leading candidate to fill the slot vacancy left by the departure of Danny Amendola to New England. The former Tennessee Titans’ tight end is fit for the job after playing 76 percent of his 2012 snaps from the slot. Cook was third in fantasy points per snap – a reliable measure of efficiency — until his season ended in Week 14, according to Pro Football Focus.

Probably he won’t be a target hog in St. Louis, but Cook has shown that he can be productive without a glut of opportunities. The Rams are going to throw the ball quite a bit this year – a factor that hasn’t yet been incorporated into the fantasy value of their various pass catchers.

Davis’ ADP isn’t going anywhere this summer, thanks to the Achilles injury that ended his 2012 campaign after just seven games. He showed good chemistry with Robert Griffin III, drawing almost five targets per game and catching 24 balls for 325 yards, a pace that would’ve given Davis 742 yards on 55 receptions. Those projections certainly aren’t worthy of an every-week starter. Hence, Davis is a streaming option – not more or less. He’ll be useful in favorable matchups as the Skins’ read-option empties the middle of the field, as it did so many times last season.

Owen Daniels (10.10) and Greg Olsen (12.03)

Olsen, 2012’s sixth highest scoring fantasy tight end, is available almost for free one short year later. Perhaps it’s the departure of tight end-friendly Chudzinski from Carolina to Cleveland that’s keeping Olsen’s ADP firmly in the 11th round, but let’s not pretend that the Panthers have upgraded their pass-catching options since the end of 2012. They haven’t.

That Daniels is being drafted 17 picks before Olsen is one of 2013’s great offseason mysteries.

Olsen remains Cam Newton’s No. 2 target behind Steve Smith. His fantasy points per opportunity in 2012 were just a hair (.01) below Tony Gonzalez and Aaron Hernandez. Olsen, in other words, rewarded fantasy owners when the pigskin came his way, and there’s not a strong argument for why his targets (95, or fifth among tight ends) are going to change much at all in 2013.

Daniels has eclipsed 60 receptions in three of his four healthy seasons, which isn’t overly impressive if you forget that the Texans have been a decidedly run-first team for most of his career. He was fantasy’s No. 8 tight end in 2012 – a solid campaign for a guy who eclipsed four receptions in just six games.

Daniels saw 98 targets come his way, and like Olsen in Carolina, there’s not a whole lot that would lead us to think Daniels will see a marked dip in opportunities, unless the emergence of rookie DeAndre Hopkins shifts Matt Schaub’s target distribution.

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