Using FireFactor to Dominate Your Fantasy Football League: Tight End Edition

Is Jordan Reed worth reaching for in your drafts? Find out what the math says.

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.

You can find FireFactor scores tailored for your specific league in our customizable cheat sheet and in our brand new draft kit app.

FireFactor Explained

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.

All you need to do is insert your settings into the cheat sheet or draft kit app.

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?

Rank Player Team FireFactorâ„¢
18 Rob Gronkowski NE 99.33
63 Greg Olsen CAR 61.20
80 Jordan Reed WSH 39.63
81 Gary Barnidge CLE 39.62
82 Delanie Walker TEN 39.25
83 Antonio Gates SD 37.65
89 Tyler Eifert CIN 34.81
91 Travis Kelce KC 33.69
93 Coby Fleener NO 33.34
97 Jimmy Graham SEA 31.60
102 Zach Ertz PHI 24.33
104 Jason Witten DAL 23.34

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.

Further, Travis Kelce (66th), Coby Fleener (70th), and Delanie Walker (76th) are all going higher than we think they should.

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.

FireFactor EquivalentQBRBWR

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.

Of course, you need to figure out what the numbers say for your league, so head over to the draft kit or download our draft kit app to find the right path for your draft.