Position Value: Tight End
Of the many flaws I am currently aware of in my fantasy football game, one that intrigues me the most is the proper valuation of the tight end position, especially with the elite players like Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, or Zach Ertz. Have you ever heard the phrase, “If I am not the first to take one, I am the last to take one (in a draft)?”
Many people subscribe to this and many more people just punt the position in general. I am one such player. I am totally fine taking a shot on a guy like Cameron Brate or Tyler Eifert in the 13th round or later. Waiting is a better option than spending 2nd or 3rd round capital on an elite top-3 tight end. Why? When I take Kelce in the third, I feel like I wasted a pick. I now have a gaping hole at either running back or wide receiver that I will later fill by trading Kelce, and be streaming tight end instead.
Recognizing this, I set out to see how tight ends perform as if they were designated as wideouts. By doing this, I remove the tight end label and look at the position through receiving production only. The results are pretty interesting and have helped me shift my valuations of tight ends by looking at them as a wide receiver. This small change might seem obvious to some people. I would imagine many are already doing this already, but this was a change in process for me.
A Change In Philosophy
Above is a simple chart looking at the average rank for each tight end among WRs since 2000 (second column) and since 2013 (third column). For example, the TE1 overall has an average finish as the WR12- 13 since 2000 or the WR11-12 since 2013.
This chart is very interesting to me for a couple reasons. First, notice the increase in converted rank when comparing the average since 2013 to the average since 2000. This tells me there is a slow shift in targeting tight ends more as the NFL becomes even more of a passing league. The second thing I noticed is, over the last five years, you are getting a top-20 WR by getting a top-3 tight end.
Tight Ends As Wide Receivers
Taking it one step further, here are the top-three tight end finishes since 2013. The chart converts their rank among wide receivers. Rob Gronkowski’s finishes stick out the most to me. Since 2013, he has been drafted as a late first or early second round pick. This turned out to be a major reach for Gronk, given yearly finishes as a back-end WR1.
We now have new perspective on the tight end position. Let’s use this knowledge to evaluate their ADPs for the 2018 season from fantasyfootballcalculator.com.
Projecting for 2018
Here are the top-16 tight ends in redraft ADP. They are accompanied by their correlating converted ADP among wide receivers. It’s very interesting to me that all of these tight ends are actually well valued! Of the top-3 tight ends, Ertz is the best value as his converted ADP matches his expected converted rank. Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen appear slightly undervalued should they finish at their ADP. Trey Burton and David Njoku are the most overvalued, taken three spots earlier than their expected converted rank.
Using this new method of evaluating the tight end position (especially the elite tight ends), you can follow along as wideouts start coming off the board in your draft. Once the top-10 receivers are gone, its fair game for Gronk and even Kelce. Both have been the TE1 overall the past two seasons. Ertz’s ADP seems to be well valued as the TE3 and is a fine fit in the early or mid-fourth round.
Some of my later round favorites are Delanie Walker and Kyle Rudolph. Both who have the potential to finish as a top-5 tight end. If so, they are being properly valued by their current ADP and can easily be difference makers drafted in the sixth or seventh round.