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Fantasy Football Streaming Tight Ends: More Options Than Ever

C.D. Carter

C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.
Tim Wright, fantasy football
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Timothy Wright (81) carries the ball past New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette (93). Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

You were never going to plug and play Jim Dray. Dray’s mother, his best friend, his priest wouldn’t use Dray in a fantasy lineup.

So I understand that exploring the list of tight ends who posted at least one top-12 fantasy performance during the 2013 season isn’t the deciding factor in determining whether streaming the position was a success or a failure.

After all, backup tight end Dray — who ran all of 13 pass routes per game and caught all of 26 passes — was a top-12 tight end not once, but twice in the season past.

I think there is value in reviewing tight end streaming from every angle during the offseason, looking for better ways to evaluate the strategy’s viability in 2014 and beyond. I’m married to no concept. If an approach to our silly little game proves untenable, I’ll be the first to wave the white flag and look elsewhere for small edges on the competition.

There were a record 47 tight ends in 2012 who achieved top-12 status (TE1) at least once that season. I thought that number was bound to dip, or at least plateau in 2013.

I was wrong: 56 tight ends put up at least one top-12 fantasy stat lines last season, a nearly 20 percent increase from year to year. I’m cautiously encouraged by these findings, and I’ll further explore how many top-12 performances each of the below tight ends posted in the 2013 season.

I’ve thrown together the jumble of 56 top-12 tight ends in the chart below. Anyone who was anyone in streaming circles can be found here.

Julius Thomas Jared Cook Vernon Davis Jason Witten Owen Daniels Jordan Cameron
Kellen Winslow Brandon Myers Jermichael Finley Brent Celek Martellus Bennett Jimmy Graham
Charles Clay Greg Olsen Coby Fleener Antonio Gates Kyle Rudolph Garrett Graham
Scott Chandler Zach Miller Levine Toilolo Like Wilson Logan Paulsen David Johnson
Tony Gonzalez Sean McGrath Jeff Cumberland Mychal Rivera Lance Kendricks Jim Dray
Jordan Reed Cory Harkey Tim Wright Joseph Fauria Rob Gronkowski Dallas Clark
Heath Miller Jermaine Gresham Brandon Pettigrew Joel Dreessen Zach Ertz Gary Barnidge
John Carlson Delanie Walker Rob Housler Tyler Eifert Marcedes Lewis Brandon Bostick
Ryan Griffin Matt Spaeth Fred Davis Andrew Quarless Dennis Pitta Jacob Tamme
Anthony Fasano Ladarius Green

 

  • An interesting note: there are three Houston Texans tight ends in this group. Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham, and Ryan Griffin were all somewhere between good and serviceable at some point during the 2013 season. I think, more than anything, this speaks to the foundational role of the tight end in Gary Kubiak’s offense. It’s just another bit of good news for those who believe Dennis Pitta is on track to become a top-end fantasy option.
  • I averaged the number of weekly targets seen by five of the more random names on the chart above: Dallas Clark, Anthony Fasano, Andrew Quarless, Lance Kendricks, and Logan Paulsen. I figured these guys fell firmly into the Hail Mary category of tight end streaming options, though let’s not forget that Clark saw 12 targets — TWELVE TARGETS — on opening night against Denver. This five-pack of unlikely streaming options averaged 3.7 targets per contest. This is just one number that shows how touchdown-reliant streamers were — and will continue to be — in fantasy football.
  • The 12 most targeted tight ends — a list that surprisingly included Charles Clay and Garrett Graham — averaged seven targets per game, a number that didn’t change a whole lot from 2012. The elites will always see an absurd number of targets — Jimmy Graham saw 8.4 looks per contest — but it’s good to know that there is some predictability in the number of opportunities tight ends will see. I should note that Julius Thomas, fantasy’s No. 3 tight end, saw fewer targets per game (6.2) than Antonio Gates (6.8) in 2013. Gates finished 10th in tight end scoring, and proved one of the least efficient producers in all of fantasy.

What comes next? I’ll break down the frequency of top-12 finishes among the tight ends included in the above chart, comparing those results to the 2012 tight end stats I wrote about last winter.

I’ll then revert back to matchup stats and compare 2013 points-against numbers against those from 2012, 2007 and 2002 — seasons I’ve found to be good mile markers in the evolution of tight ends.