Measuring Consistency: Tight Ends (2021 Fantasy Football)
We’ve finally reached the end of my four-part Measuring Consistency series, where I have reviewed 2020 fantasy football data to highlight startable players that helped or hurt managers last season. In the first three parts of the series, I analyzed the top-18 QBs, top-24 RBs, and top-36 WRs, looking at each player’s average weekly production and volatility.
Through this series, I hope to help fantasy managers construct their teams by mixing and matching relatively consistent players with more high-ceiling/low-floor players.
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In case you haven’t yet read the first three articles of this series, I analyze every startable player’s weekly performances to understand their average production before clustering and indexing them against their respective positional groups. After reviewing each position group’s top players in a standard 1QB, 3WR, 2RB, 1TE league (i.e., top-18 QBs, top-24 RBs, top-36 WRs, and top-18 TEs), I note a few players to target in 2021 drafts.
Additionally, considering none of these players were particularly awful (they were startable players at their positions after all), I spotlight stellar and middling performances — especially true for tight ends — depending on the player’s average production and volatility, measured by their coefficient of variation (CV).
Finally, let’s discuss TEs!
Data & Visualization
Unsurprisingly, everyone’s (not so) favorite positional group was rather underwhelming in 2020. In terms of fantasy, there were basically three groups of managers: ecstatic Travis Kelce managers, elated Darren Waller managers, and … everyone else.
Every season, people get hyped about the next up-and-coming tight end, only to see Kelce and George Kittle (or another tight end) lead their managers to victory as everyone else streams the position each week. Last season, the only truly stellar performances belonged to Kelce and Waller.
However, for the sake of this article, I’d like to highlight the consistency of T.J. Hockenson and “breakout” (or Pro Bowl snub) Robert Tonyan. Alternatively, Tyler Higbee and “Pro Bowl representative” Evan Engram both underperformed. Seen as potential fantasy winners at mid-draft ADPs, neither lived up to expectations outside of a few solid weeks.
As much as fantasy managers want to find the next great TE to join the upper echelon (i.e., Kelce, Kittle, and Waller), I just don’t see the benefit of risking a middle-round pick when there’s virtually no distinction between everyone beyond that top group. In half-PPR leagues last season, the difference between the third-highest-scoring TE, Tonyan, and the 12th-highest scorer, Noah Fant, was just 32.3 points. That’s essentially a two-point difference per week. The position just doesn’t matter unless you have one of the top options.
As such, I recommend employing one of two strategies for your 2021 drafts. Either take one of the premier TEs in the first three rounds (i.e., Kelce in the late first or early second, Waller and Kittle in the late second to late third), OR completely pass on the position until the double-digit rounds, unless someone falls significantly (e.g., Hockenson falling to the sixth or seventh).
Most importantly, if you miss out on one of the top-three tight ends, don’t sweat it. Just attack other positions and grab one or two in the later rounds.
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Jared Lese is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jared, check out his archive and follow him @JaredL_FF.