It’s draft day and you have filled your roster with one QB, four RBs, and six WRs. Awesome! You are ready to draft your Tight End in round 12. You look at your draft board to see who is available. Travis Kelce and George Kittle were drafted in the second round, so who is left? The answer is: WHO CARES?? You can draft any one of the next 20 and are still likely to dump him after week 3 and stream for the rest of the season.
The only reliable thing in fantasy football, much like the NFL, is that it is utterly unreliable. While Travis Kelce has consistently been among the leaders in the Tight End position since 2016, each year we see another Tight End accompany him at the top, but not always the same person. He’s been joined by Gronk, Ertz, Kittle, and Andrews, to name a few. There are so few Tight Ends that consistently produce, why do we still limit the roster spot to Tight End specifically? It’s time, TE needs to be changed to a TE/WR flex spot.
The Tight End in modern day NFL is used more like a slot receiver than a traditional book end that blocks and rarely moves from the line of scrimmage. Travis Kelce, for example, was involved in 85.4% of all routes the Kansas City Chiefs ran last year. He finished the year with 157.3 fantasy points, which was equivalent to the WR12 last season. Clearly, if you draft Kelce as your TE1 you have a great advantage over the rest of the field at the TE position. The issue is that you are taking him in the second round of your draft, strictly because of his position. By contrast, the 12th Wide Receiver typically goes two rounds later, in the 4th.
The rule of thumb in fantasy drafts is that we chase scarcity first and fill in the rest later. The only scarcity at this position is at the very top. Typically only the top three Tight Ends can be relied upon to average 10 or more standard fantasy points per week. If Kelce was eligible to be drafted as a flex option, would you still need to take him in round 2? More than likely he would slide to round 3 or 4.
Tight End 1 Through 6
Over the past five years, the top six Tight Ends have produced an average of 7.5 ppg (points per game); which is equivalent to WR36 production. The truth is that in 12 team leagues you flip a coin, and choose between two talented Tight Ends, with no real idea what will happen. How many times do we say for certain that Player X will be an absolute stud this year and just isn’t? Oh look, there’s Mark Andrews waving at us. Everyone knew he was amazing and could not possibly falter. Except that so far this season, Travis Kelce is the number one (as usual) and the number 2 is none other than…. You guessed it, Robert Tonyan. Unless you happened to check the stats before reading this article, I doubt he is who came to mind.
The Rest of the Tight End Tier
The bottom of the TE1 tier is significantly less predictable and much less impressive. From 2016 to 2020 the TE12 has averaged just 5.4 ppg. Each year 57 WR3’s average the same ppg as the Tight End 12. Elite Tight Ends run routes like Wide Receivers and deserve the same treatment in fantasy. The bottom six TEs also produce less than 100 fantasy points each year. George Kittle is currently the TE12 for fantasy; two points ahead of Evan Engram. Kittle has played six games!
The state of Tight End over the last half decade (you could argue longer if you really wanted to) has been such a mess that it has led fantasy managers to stop caring who is filling the spot each week. Why continue to reserve a spot on your roster for a position that requires no more thought than who is playing this week? When Taysom Hill is TE eligible, we have serious integrity issues with the position. The fact is that WR and TE are very much interchangeable, so why shouldn’t we change it to a WR/TE flex spot? Do you care if your opponent starts MVS over Trey Burton or Mike Gesicki? Like we’ve done with Kickers, it’s time to have a serious conversation about the future of the Tight End position in fantasy!