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With fantasy football experts recommending you what to do in your upcoming draft, chances are you will hear about strategies that are either understandable or delusional. Drafting a quarterback in later rounds makes sense as pocket passers can give you nearly the same production as a typical running quarterback that can pass like Russell Wilson. Unfortunately, as I stated in my column about Le’Veon Bell, you will also hear about the strategy that almost never works, drafting a starting running back’s backup.
What you rarely hear about, however, are the tight ends. Only Rob Gronkowski seems to be an attractive option, according to these alleged but self-proclaimed brainiacs. Worst of all, you might still hear about potential depth players like Virgil Green again, find no criticism of Antonio Gates and Jason Witten aging, and see former one-hit wonders like Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron being called draftable despite their recently maligned production or injuries having ruined them.
The dirty secret about fantasy football analysis is that experts do not want to confess about a tight end crisis, and, therefore, they never count any of them out.
Take a look at Michael Fabiano of NFL.com. In an August 11 article that projected fantasy statistics for tight ends, he calculated that Tyler Eifert of the Cincinnati Bengals, a player that was speculated to miss a few games due to a foot injury since May, would catch 61 passes for 723 yards and seven touchdowns. Much of this of analysis should come off as very disconcerting as Eifert himself disclosed a Week 1 uncertainty in late July. The dumbest part is that his statistics from 2015 pretty much show that Fabiano’s projections cannot realistically add up.
He caught four passes per game and 11.8 yards per catch, and if he expressed any doubt of playing after the early part of his season seemed to be in jeopardy beforehand, slating him for more catches (52) and yards (615) than last year never made any sense.
If the experts can only help when they recommend Gronk, which makes you wonder why you even need an expert, just be prepared to lose him as his average draft position (13.9 per Fantasy Football Calculator and 9.9 per FantasyPros.com) shows that he will be picked up within the first fifteen selections.
Your first tight end is better off being drafted in the fifth round as decent production is available there and elite wide receiver and running back production can come earlier. Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker, and Gary Barnidge are notable ones but do not stop there. Your opponents might think that you drafted a lesser tight end early. Except, you should set them up for vulnerability as decent tight ends are a fantasy rarity. Depending on where you are positioned, your sixth-round pick should be your tight end’s backup as his presence could keep your matchup less close than it would if he were playing for the opponent.
Think about it. You draft Olsen in the Round 5, and you could have Walker in Round 6. If you skip walker or someone comparable over after picking Olsen, you cause your opponent to lose as many as 10 points. If you draft a player like Olson, picking walker or Barnidge as his backup immediately afterward is smart. Last year, according to Pro Football Reference, each of the latter two averaged more fantasy points than Olsen by at least half a point.
The idea does not sound ridiculous as the waiver wire for tight ends has to wait until after Week 1 and depends on luck. Remember, there is no need to rely on luck when preparation and hard work over others can give you all the luck that you need. Back-to-back tight ends can give you that luck, and that way you will secure your way to the playoffs, a place where it genuinely matters as the season elongates and thus puts players at greater risk for injury.