Tight End Streaming
The instability I'm referring to is "tight end streaming," a strategy in which you enter your season knowing you'll be using the best tight end available off the wire each week. People have been streaming defenses for years with success, but tight end streaming is a relatively new option. Why is that? It begins with the proliferation of high-octane passing offenses in the NFL. As more passes are thrown, there are more targets for tight ends, and as those targets increase so does the volume of viable tight end talent in fantasy leagues.
According to our numbers, the projected difference between Jermichael Finley, whose average draft position is Round 7, and Brent Celek, who goes undrafted in an average league, is only eight total points, or about .5 points per game. In standard 10- or 12-team leagues in which most teams roster only one tight end, there will be a ton of useable tight end talent on the waiver wire.
How it Works
Now I'm not telling you to pass on Jimmy Graham if he's sitting there in the fourth round. The idea of any draft strategy is to find value, and there is clear value in Graham if he somehow makes it out of the third round. However, if the Saints tight end is snatched up early, which is likely to happen, sit back and wait until the third-to-last round to pick a tight end. Tight end. Defense. Kicker. Repeat after me. Tight end. Defense. Kicker. Use all of your picks prior to that to stock up at every other offensive position, especially running back. You'll have far better depth somewhere in your lineup than if you picked Vernon Davis in the fifth or Finley in the seventh. Instability can have its advantages.
A One-Night Stand, Not a Girlfriend
So now it's draft day. Graham goes in the second round. You wait till Round 14 to pick a tight end. You have a ton of offensive depth, especially at running back. Man, you are good at this. So now who are you looking to pick? The best tight end available, right? Wrong! This is the most common misconception of people who are streaming tight end. You don't take the best player available; you take the best player available for Week 1. Yes, there is a difference. You are streaming tight ends. The player you draft should be an amazing one-night stand, not a girlfriend. You're not keeping this player for the long term, so don't fall in love. Remember, instability!
Week 1 Projections
Looking for the best tight end to play will be a weekly ritual, and this starts on draft day. Each week, you need to base your decisions on trends, matchups, and prior performance. Here is where you should turn to numberFire.com's weekly projections. Using that data as my guide, I've pinpointed Brandon Myers, Jermaine Gresham, Martellus Bennett, Fred Davis, and Jared Cook as my possible week-one targets - guys you could target during your draft. Each of these players is at most, on average, the tenth tight end off the board. If they don't fall to the third-to-last round, that's fine - selecting them a couple of rounds sooner can still yield success. Myers and Davis respectively take on Cowboys' and Eagles' defenses, which numberFire.com ranks 27th and 22nd overall against the position. We also project .34 touchdowns in Week 1 for Davis, which is the same projection Greg Olsen gets as the sixth-ranked tight end for the opening week. Cook comes in just below that with a projection of .30 touchdowns. All of these tight ends seem to be quite valuable as week one "streamers."
Streaming at tight end needs to be a draft-day strategy to take full advantage of what it has to offer--you get to pick 13 players before you even think about taking a tight end. You essentially get to "max out" your roster while finding value at tight end. Instability. Isn't it fun?