Using FireFactor to Dominate Your Fantasy Football League: Tight End Edition
One of the biggest changes in fantasy football since I've started playing is the role of the tight end.
Once a bane to roster, tight ends are becoming increasingly involved in NFL offenses, and that gives them enough luster to consider using one as a flex option.
Who would have thought?
But just because your league might offer you a running back/wide receiver/tight end flex slot doesn't mean you should be looking to overspend on the position, according to FireFactor, our mechanism for indicating how valuable a player is based on your specific league settings.
FireFactor is a Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) score that accounts for positional scarcity based on your league's roster requirements and scoring setup.
In most leagues, Rob Gronkowski is worth considering in the second round or so, but if your league doesn't even require a tight end, how does that diminish his edge at the position? FireFactor answers that, and it helps uncover which positions are the most important in your league based on our projections.
FireFactor and Tight Ends
Every league is different, so it's critical to change your perception of players and positions based on your actual league.
We'll start by looking at how tight ends should be valued in a 12-team, 1-quarterback, 1-tight end, 2-running back, 2-receiver, 1-running back/receiver/tight end flex league that rewards no points for receptions and 4 points for passing touchdowns while subtracting 2 points for an interception. That's about as standard as it gets.
Unsurprisingly, Gronk is the top tight end based on FireFactor, and he comes in as the 18th-most valuable player in fantasy football in this league. How big of an edge does he provide?
It's a pretty big gap over the rest in terms of overall ranking, and no other tight end is in the top 60 overall. However, per Fantasy Football Calculator, Jordan Reed is drafted as the 42nd player in 12-team drafts, and Greg Olsen is 51st.
Sure, you can think that Reed will be the TE2 this year and not Olsen, but the bigger picture here is that -- provided scoring remains relatively constant with historical averages among each position -- tight ends aren't worth the going rate based on positional scarcity.
Put another way: you can get away with rostering one tight end, they don't score a lot of points in standard leagues, and you shouldn't overspend for them.
In PPR formats with the same roster requirements as above, six tight ends are drafted in the top 75 on Fantasy Football Calculator, but we see only three as top-75 values. And, again, you can make the case that players will wind up ranked differently than we project, but we see 10 tight ends scoring 177 to 190 PPR points this season, giving you plenty of reasons to wait on the position unless you're bullish on a certain player to flirt with Gronkowski levels of fantasy points.
What's a Tight End Worth?
We can use FireFactor to get a general gauge of what a player is worth if we strip away the name associated with it. What is this season's TE6, for example, going to be worth relative to other positions, assuming a relatively normal distribution of scoring? Let's take a look.
A mid-tier starting tight end is worth a mid-tier starting quarterback or a weak running back or receiver flex based on yearly scoring outputs.
This strongly suggests not valuing tight ends as an equal flex option -- even the TE2 -- as receivers and running backs. Of course, if you land a stud tight end in the draft and somehow have Gronkowski as well, you shouldn't be afraid to flex one. But don't approach your draft with the intent to flex a tight end.
Implementing FireFactor Into Your Season
The best way to use FireFactor is to identify which positions matter in your league prior to your draft. You won't have a flawless draft, so you should be trying to attain the most players at difference-making positions that you can. Based on this, we can see that tight ends (and quarterbacks) aren't worth it in a league with pretty common settings.