Fantasy Football Streaming Tight Ends: Exploitation Stagnation

jordan reed fantasy football
Brace Hemmelgarn USA TODAY Sports

It’s so very easy, in the heat of the season, to get bogged down in the moment.

Our singular focus is on the week at hand, frantically evaluating injuries, matchups, weather, game flow, offense roles and myriad other factors that center our fantasy football attention to immediate decisions immediately.

During the season, in all your desire to crush your mortal enemies, picture yourself hunched over the experiment that is fantasy football. You’re gripping a magnifying glass and examining every tiny crevice of said experiment. You’re determined to see what others don’t (or won’t).

The offseason should be different.

We should set aside our magnifying glass, stand up from our seats, and step back to admire the complexity of the entire fantasy football experiment — to take the wide view, to see trends that are invisible to us during those 17 hectic weeks, when nothing matters but the decisions at hand.

Committing to this very exercise has offered less-than-encouraging news about the opportunities for streaming tight end options, of which there are more than ever.

We’ve also seen that the most generous defenses to tight ends during the 2013 season were fairly reliable in yielding top-12 weekly stat lines. A look at just how much tight end fantasy production is being had against the most generous defenses, however, tells a story I didn’t expect.

This wide-angle view of the streamability of fantasy tight ends is just the latest in my increasing doubt about the strategy. The below chart looks at the 10 worst defenses against tight ends from 2005-2013. I’ve used standard scoring here.

Season Average PPG allowed to tight ends among 10 worst defenses vs. TEs
2005 7.3
2006 7.3
2007 8
2008 7.9
2009 8.9
2010 8.6
2011 9.2
2012 8.3
2013 8.9


  • In short, the league’s 10 worst defenses against tight ends have allowed similar outputs over the past five seasons, with 2011 numbers skewed in part by the laughably bad Buffalo Bills’ defense giving up 86 receptions and 14 touchdowns to tight ends. That averages out to 5.3 receptions and .87 touchdowns per game — an unbelievable rate of production that stood in stark contrast to the other teams that struggled against opposing tight ends.
  • I suppose if we’re going to credit the Bills’ defense for inflating 2011 numbers against tight ends, the Arizona Cardinals deserve full credit for pushing 2013 numbers beyond the 8.3 points allowed in 2012. I couldn’t find another defense that defended the tight end worse than last year’s Cardinals, who allowed a whopping nine double-digit fantasy outputs to tight ends. The rest of 2013’s most generous defenses allowed fantasy points that fell in line with 2012 and 2011 numbers.
  • I think it’s worth mentioning that in the dark days of 2005, some of the most generous defenses to tight ends allowed around 6.5 points per contest. That’s not a lot. In fact, some of the stingiest defenses allowed 6.5 points per game to tight ends in 2013. No teams allowed fewer fantasy production to tight ends in 2013 than the Rams, who gave up 5.5 standard points per game. This shows that for as similar as these numbers have remained in recent seasons, the definition of “generous” has changed rather dramatically over the past decade.
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