8 Tight Ends With Good Early-Season Fantasy Football Matchups
Imagine you've taken a trip to your favorite local pizza buffet with a friend or loved one, and you're sitting down with your first plate of pizza. You look around, and realize that there are only a few other folks in the restaurant, and notice that someone a table over has a piece of deep dish pepperoni that you missed during your trip through the line.
But you don't need to worry. You look over to the buffet line and see the pizza is still more than half-intact, and can wait for you to snag later.
You enjoy your trip to the buffet, and come back on a Friday night when the place is packed. The staff is cranking out pizzas as fast as they can, but as soon as you step through the door, you see that your prized deep dish is on the line and at risk of being taken from you. Assessing the situation quickly, you dash for a plate and the pie as quickly as you can, and snag the last piece.
Yes, there's a fantasy football lesson to be learned here. Before you enter a draft, you need to scope out the supply and demand of every position, and adjust your draft strategy to match. If your league calls for two running back starters and two flex spots, that means that particular position is like a house favorite pizza on a buffet on Friday night. It's scarce, and it will be gone quickly.
Tight ends, on the other hand, are not in as high of demand in most leagues, as you only start one on your team. That means the position is more like the pizza buffet at 3:00 PM on a Tuesday. No one is there to fight you for the last piece, so you can wait things out and be happy with what's left on the bar when you head up to pick your slices.
That's why waiting on tight end, and even streaming the position (selecting players off of waivers every week or every few weeks who have good matchups) can be very profitable strategies while you fight through the masses to get to the running backs in the earlier rounds of your draft.
And if you want to stream, that means starting off with players who have favorable early matchups. Here are a few tight ends that will go later in your draft - or may not get drafted at all - but will have opportunities to exceed expectations within the first couple of months of the 2014 season.
Luke Willson and Zach Miller | Seattle Seahawks
We'll dive in head-first to the streaming options here with a pair of players you might not have even known about before you opened this article. Luke Willson and Zach Miller are the two top tight ends for the Seahawks, who enjoy some ridiculously good matchups to start the season.
The first game of the season pits the Seahawks against the Packers, who had the sixth-worst passing defense a year ago according to our Adjusted Net Expected Points metric, and enter this season as our eighth-worst defense overall in our team rankings. They follow that up with a game against San Diego, the seventh-worst passing defense last year, and then a matchup with the Broncos, who finished 11th-worst.
A bye week separates the Seahawks from another pair of weak pass defenses, as the middling Redskins (19th last year) and Cowboys (18th and without linebacker Sean Lee) round out a really easy five-game stretch.
The only issue here is figuring out which one you want to roll with. Both Willson and Miller saw time on the field last year, and neither was particularly impressive. Our numbers slightly favored the veteran Miller in 2013, as he had more overall production and did more on a per-target basis. But Willson drew the praise of his offensive coordinator recently for his improvements as a blocker, and as a player who could breakout this season.
You may want to wait until we have more clarity on this battle, but whoever emerges as the top option will be a very streamable tight end to start the season.
Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener | Indianapolis Colts
The Colts start the season with matchups against the same Broncos (Week 1) mentioned above, along with games against the Eagles (ninth worst passing defense last season), Jaguars (third-worst passing defense, second-worst overall defense in our team rankings for 2014) and Titans (12th worst pass defense). A game against the bottom-five Houston defense in Week 6 rounds out a solid first few weeks for Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.
And unlike Willson and Miller, you don't really need to wait to figure out which player "wins" the position battle, as both figure to see the field often enough, and the Colts are a relatively pass-happy team. Our data concludes that Allen is slightly better, but Fleener's height makes him a very attractive red zone option, which may increase his value.
Allen and Fleener don't come quite as cheap as Willson and Miller, but if either makes it out of your draft unselected, you should be ready to scoop them up and start streaming tight ends as they go through the gauntlet of bad pass defenses to start the season.
Richard Rodgers, Brandon Bostick, Andrew Quarless | Green Bay Packers
Like the duo with the Seahawks, the only headaches you'll get with the Packers' trio of tight ends is which one to start, because they have really nice matchups to start the season.
And since those matchups don't start until Week 3, you can draft Allen or Fleener, and drop them for whichever Green Bay tight end sees the field the most over the first couple of weeks. That's because the Packers play the Lions (who were eighth-worst against the pass last year despite a good run defense), Bears (who actually had the 12th best pass defense a year ago, but still provide enough of a matchup to hold onto your Packers tight ends) and Raiders (fourth worst last year).
Rodgers is a rookie with a lot of ability as a receiver and a surprising athletic profile for his size, while Quarless posted rather unimpressive numbers last year, but has the most experience with the offense. Bostick played sparingly in 2013, but is still a participant in the depth chart battle, and may wind up being the player to grab off of waivers after a couple weeks have passed and we get a better idea of how this position will shake out.
Travis Kelce | Kansas City Chiefs
If you miss on the Colts tight ends, and want a bridge to a Week 3 Packers' streaming situation, consider Travis Kelce of the Chiefs.
Kansas City starts against the Broncos and Titans, who had the 12th and 13th worst passing defenses last year according to our data. That means Kelce, who has been impressive this offseason and has a very impressive set of skills, should step right in against not-awesome defenses that won't have a ton of film on him, and might be caught off guard by his size and speed combination.
Kelce is currently a 14th round PPR pick on Fantasy Football Calculator and is going undrafted in standard mocks, so that means you can pick him up late and drop him quickly if he doesn't meet your expectations. But he does have season-long upside, too.