My tight end streaming mission from God started in earnest last February when preliminary research on one of fantasy football’s most maddening positions showed that 47 tight ends posted top-12 fantasy numbers at least once in 2012.
There’s an ocean of post-season data begging to be explored in fantasy’s dark days of winter. It’s that research — the unglamorous stuff that requires parsing into eternity — that improves our understanding of this silly little game.
I thought I’d start my 2014 tight end research with a look back at perhaps the most important piece of the streaming puzzle: matchups. Pinpointing where, exactly, we should look to exploit the position’s inefficiencies is vital to squeezing production out of weekly plays.
Without understanding which defenses were most vulnerable to viable tight ends, streaming the position is useless. You might as well roll with your touchdown-reliant late-round option as he blocks his way to fake football glory.
Raw fantasy points are a decent starting point, but adjusting for strength of schedule gave us a much clearer view of which teams were worst against tight ends in 2013. Here were the 10 most generous defenses to tight ends during the 2013 season, using standard fantasy points.
|Team||Adjusted fantasy points allowed|
|New England Patriots||9.6|
|New York Jets||8.5|
|Kansas City Chiefs||8.3|
A few of these defenses stuck out like an exploitable thumb early in the season, while others didn’t emerge as streaming targets until late October or early November.
The Jets, for instance, didn’t allow a single tight end fantasy point until Week 3, while the Cardinals gave up 26-point outings to tight ends in two of their first three contests. Injuries to safeties and linebackers played a role in tight end-friendly defenses, as did game flow. We’ll see that with the Broncos.
Let’s look at how many top-12 performances these teams allowed from Week 1-16. For the uninitiated: we examine top-12 performances because in a 12-team fantasy league, we want to know who posted startable weekly stats.
|Team||Top-12 tight end performances allowed|
|New York Jets||5|
|Kansas City Chiefs||5|
|New England Patriots||5|
- Tight ends posted top-12 stat lines against these teams 62 times in 2013, meaning our streaming targets gave up useable fantasy outputs 39 percent of the time. I find that to be somewhat discouraging, as I expected at least a coin flip’s chance of landing a solid streaming play simply by targeting these defenses. It’s important to remember, however, that some defenses sneaked out of the bottom-10 list in the season’s waning weeks after being bludgeoned by tight ends for large swaths of 2013. The Titans and Cowboys are among defenses that were very much targetable by tight ends streamers, but avoided the bottom-10 list.
- The five most generous teams allowed top-12 fantasy performances in 45 percent of their games. That’s more like it.
- The Cardinals were one of the worst against tight ends in recent memory. I’ll explore their deficiencies in a later post, but for now, consider this: tight ends scored double digit points in nine games against the Cardinals. When tight ends went off against Arizona, they went nuclear. Arizona allowed nine touchdowns to tight ends in their final eight games. That, dear fantasy footballer, is nutty.
- Quite a bit of fantasy production posted against Denver this year was thanks to Peyton’s Perfect Machine jumping out to big leads against shell-shocked opponents. Banking on garbage time production is always a risky little game as we set our lineups, but it seemed to prove a reasonable strategy against the Broncos. Though they held opposing tight ends to six or fewer fantasy points in five games, tight ends put up decent numbers as their quarterbacks took to the air, down by a few scores. Jordan Reed, Anthony Fasano, and Brandon Myers were among the beneficiaries of this trend. I think it’s worth further exploration.