Is This a Bad Year for Tight Ends in Fantasy Football?

Are tight ends having a down year in fantasy, or were we expecting too much?

Each week, it seems like the tight end position in fantasy football is filled with underperforming dad-like runners and ex-basketball players. Perhaps some of this has to do with us fantasy footballers wanting a usually unreliable position to be reliable, but in general, there are always appears to be non-Rob Gronkowski complaints about tight ends in fantasy.

Naturally, I've become curious -- is this an off year for tight ends?

To help answer this question, I dug into our Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, taking a look at the top-20 tight ends each season since 2009. For those of you who haven't read about NEP before, it essentially tells you how many points a player adds for his team based on what's expected on a given play. Reception NEP refers to the number of points added on catches only, so the numbers are rarely low, especially if a player sees volume.

Since this year isn't over, I extrapolated (this is a sin, I know) the remaining numbers for this season's group through the end of the year. The results were pretty boring. Take a look below.

Top-20 Reception NEP1294.691279.941268.941367.211183.741320.05
Top-10 Reception NEP810.35773.53762.58836.12679.31835.48

The top-20 tight ends since 2009 have seen relatively similar NEP, while the same could be said for top-10 tight ends. The numbers for 2014 really show nothing out of the ordinary.

What about fantasy points scored? This may be easier for readers to comprehend, since we all deal with fantasy point data each week. Below is a table showing the top-20 tight end fantasy totals (PPR leagues) through the years, along with top-10 ones. Keep in mind that 2014 numbers are, again, extrapolated.

Top-20 Fantasy Points3409.113427.303343.003594.303147.203470.80
Top-10 Fantasy Points2083.572103.101975.802160.501820.202137.50

Nope, nothing's different.

So is our perception just wrong?

Well, there's a denominator to this equation as well. Though fantasy tight end scoring hasn't changed much, total quarterback scoring has -- it's increased, and it's increased a lot.

Take a look at the table below showing all quarterback fantasy scoring since 2009, with 2014 being extrapolated based on what's happened thus far.


When you use these numbers and overlay the production of top-10 and top-20 tight ends, you begin to see that tight ends in 2014 aren't producing at the same rate as they did in previous seasons.

% From Top-20 TE40.23%41.50%41.96%46.46%42.11%49.34%
% From Top-10 TE24.58%25.47%24.80%27.93%24.35%30.39%

If you've been frustrated with tight ends this year, it's probably because you're just expecting more. But I can't blame you -- with an increased amount of fantasy points being scored by quarterbacks, you would only assume tight ends would benefit more than they have.