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Breaking Out the Tight Ends

By Matthew Walters

Whether you are a seasoned fantasy football veteran or fairly new to the game, I am sure there are certain tropes that you have heard. One such trope is that tight ends take longer to develop than the other positions. This is often thrown out like a fact without any look into the data to see if it is true or not. There are plenty of other tropes we could dive into as well, but I would like to focus on that one here. Before getting too far into it though, it is important to understand what I consider to be a fantasy relevant season and how the various positions stack up against each other. So follow this link to learn more about that before we dive into this data. (What’s the Fantasy Point? : How to Look at the Numbers | Ride or Dynasty).

Welcome back! Whether you agree with my line of thinking or not, at least you know where I’m coming from. Using that as how I judge whether a player has a playable season or not, it is time to compare the average season it takes each position to become fantasy relevant by having a playable season or better.

Average Years Until Playable Season (150 points)Average Years Until Good Season (200 Points)Average Years Until Elite Season (250 points)
Running Back2.262.452.48
Tight End3.3143.8

Just looking at this here, maybe there is something to it that tight ends take longer to develop. Tight ends had the longest average number of years to have a playable season, and only quarterbacks took longer to have a good or elite season. However, this data is looking at every fantasy relevant player of the last 10 years. Let’s see what happens when we adjust the numbers to only include players that have had an elite season. 

Playable Season (150 points)Good Season (200 points)Elite Season (250 points)
Running Back1.72.092.48
Tight End2.52.93.8

Not surprisingly, every position improves the average number of years to become playable or good. Elite players are going to shine sooner than other players. This also drastically closes the gap for tight ends versus the other flex positions. The elite tight ends on average took 2.9 years to post a good season. This is not too far behind receivers at 2.7 years. However, as I stated in my previous article, there is a strong case that a tight end having a good season could be considered on par with the other positions having an elite season. With only 4 tight ends on average per year with the necessary 200 fantasy points to be considered a good year, tight ends are a scarce commodity to come by. 

Now some might say it’s cheating to say a good season for a tight end is the same as an elite season for a wide receiver or running back. I think that is a fair critique. You gotta take into account though that on average 23 wide receivers and 18 running backs will post a good season and 11 wide receivers and 6.5 running backs will post an elite season. Scarcity has to matter when evaluating the positions. Now, if we consider good seasons as elite for tight ends then they actually start posting elite seasons sooner than wide receivers. Even if we decide that is cheating and everything must be compared exactly as it is, tight ends are only .34 years behind wide receivers to post an elite year. 

Based on the data I collected, the next tight end I believe you should be buying up in dynasty and taking a shot on in redraft right now is Mark Andrews. Andrews posted 207 fantasy points in his second year in the league. He had a bit of a down year last year with 170 points. He is still going to be the guy Lamar goes to in the passing game, and with the addition of Bateman, some pressure should be taken off of him. Andrews seems poised to make the jump into that true elite territory, but let’s take a look at how Andrews’ career thus far compares to the first few years of the 3 top tight ends in the game right now. 

Rookie PointsYear 2 PointsYear 3 PointsYear 4 Points
Travis Kelce0183189223
Darren Waller43015221
George Kittle106258222125
Mark Andrews107207170?

Andrews has held his own against these top tight ends early in his career. Obviously this is a small sample, and Kelce was injured his rookie year. Also, Waller switched positions from college and switched teams after his second year, but I am using it to show that Andrews just may be ready to make that leap, and he is not as far behind these guys as it may appear. Andrews is currently going as the 6th tight end off the board in dynasty startups at 66 overall. Andrews falls behind these top 3 players who are all top 30 overall picks as well as Hockenson who is going 52nd overall. He is also behind Pitts who is also going top 30 overall. I know Pitts is a generational talent, but there is nothing at this point suggesting he should be above Andrews. There is especially nothing suggesting that Andrews should be going behind Hockenson as they were within 5 points of each other last year, and Andrews has already shown he can break that 200 point mark. Andrews seems to be a value right now in startups and is poised to jump into that upper echelon of tight ends. He is already a weekly starter that you just plug and play into your lineup and not have to worry about the position. 

At the end of the day, that is what fantasy football is all about. You have to win against your opponent every week. A big way of doing that is using the tight end position to your advantage. While others are zigging and grabbing a top 3 tight end or just fading the position entirely until late in their drafts, you can set yourself apart by picking up one of those tight ends poised to have that elite breakout season like a Mark Andrews. Even if you do not want to take the plunge on Andrews, you can take solace knowing that if a tight end is going to break out, it does necessarily take as long as some might think. 

Matthew Walters
Twitter: @fantasyferret
Ride or Dynasty

Other articles by Matthew Walters:

Dynasty Perspective: Comparing the Draft Value of Veterans vs Rookies – TEs | Ride or Dynasty

Dynasty Perspective: Comparing Draft Values of Rookie and Veteran WRs | Ride or Dynasty

Dynasty Perspective: Comparing Draft Value of Rookie and Veteran RBs | Ride or Dynasty

Quarterback of the Future: A Study | Ride or Dynasty

Dynasty Perspective: End Game | Ride or Dynasty

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