Why Tight End Premium Fantasy Football Leagues Shouldn't Drastically Change Tight End Values

If your tight end is rewarded 1.5 points per reception, should you draft him higher?

When your fantasy football league changes scoring settings, it's normal to start thinking about altering your draft strategy.

Often, though, that doesn't need to happen.

Perfect example: last week, I showed why quarterbacks hold the exact same value in leagues that reward four points per touchdown pass versus ones that give signal-callers six points for a touchdown pass. Fantasy owners generally think of the full-season impact it will have on quarterback scoring but, really, these same owners should be focusing more on weekly output.

After all, fantasy football is a weekly game.

The change in scoring is all relative. Sure, Andrew Luck may look better from a value over replacement player standpoint across the entire season, but owners not drafting elite quarterbacks shouldn't be playing the same quarterback each week regardless. That's why weekly numbers can paint a better picture of what's actually happening, and show the true replaceability of the position. Especially because quarterback performance is generally more predictable than any other in fantasy.

The study from last week got me thinking: what about other scoring change scenarios? Specifically, what about tight end premium leagues?

A Season-Long Look

If you're unfamiliar with how tight end premium leagues work, it's pretty simple: rather than giving a full point per reception at the position, leagues reward 1.5 points. Why? Because tight ends don't see as much action as wide receivers, so it's an attempt to make the position a little more valuable in fantasy.

Below is a chart showing our projections among the top-12 tight ends for 2015 in regular PPR leagues, along with their scores in tight end premium ones. The reason I'm referencing top-12 is because these are the hypothetical starters in a 12-team league, where you can start just one tight end. Moreover, keep in mind that projections are going to have less of a range in total outcomes because they're attempting to be realistic -- at season's end, the gap between the top tight end and the 12th-best tight end will actually be larger thanks to anomalies.

PlayerFPFP TE PremiumDifference
Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE)254.08297.1143.04
Jimmy Graham (TE, SEA)231.23273.9442.71
Travis Kelce (TE, KC)198.82237.2138.39
Jason Witten (TE, DAL)188.64222.9434.30
Martellus Bennett (TE, CHI)201.62243.6242.00
Greg Olsen (TE, CAR)187.90224.6436.74
Julius Thomas (TE, JAC)167.83196.4228.59
Antonio Gates (TE, SD)156.67185.9429.28
Zach Ertz (TE, PHI)161.17192.8131.64
Dwayne Allen (TE, IND)129.73147.9118.18
Delanie Walker (TE, TEN)139.27164.9325.66
Owen Daniels (TE, DEN)130.78154.5723.80

As you can see, someone like Rob Gronkowski will see a 43-point boost with this type of scoring, given our projections, while the "worst" tight end in a 12-teamer will only see 23.80 points. And, again, that's just off of projections -- someone like Gronk can far exceed those numbers, as he did last year, while the bottom of the list could end up performing far worse.

The point is, from a value based drafting or value over replacement player angle, it appears as though the elite tight ends gain more of an edge with this scoring.

Do the weekly numbers show the same?

It's a Weekly Game

For simplicity purposes, we're going to assume you can't flex your tight end in this tight end premium league. This may not always be the case, but let's first look at how this impacts tight ends within the position before we go comparing this 1.5-points-per-reception output to how a wideout would perform with a single point per reception. That can certainly change things.

In 2014, 56 tight ends had at least one top-12 (TE1) performance in PPR leagues (omitting Week 17 because it's worthless to fantasy football). Unlike quarterbacks, a majority of these usable performances weren't incredibly predictable, which is why tight end streaming is a more difficult thing to do than quarterback streaming. But that's for another article.

To give you an idea of specific player performances, here's a list of the tight ends who put together three or more TE1 games last year.

Rob Gronkowski14
Greg Olsen11
Antonio Gates9
Jimmy Graham9
Jason Witten8
Martellus Bennett8
Travis Kelce8
Delanie Walker7
Charles Clay6
Dwayne Allen6
Larry Donnell6
Zach Ertz6
Coby Fleener5
Heath Miller5
Jermaine Gresham5
Julius Thomas5
Mychal Rivera5
Scott Chandler5
Jace Amaro4
Jared Cook4
Owen Daniels4
Jordan Reed3
Tim Wright3

Here's the same list, but with the altered 1.5 points per reception scoring.

PlayerOccurrencesOccurrences (Premium)
Rob Gronkowski1414
Greg Olsen1111
Antonio Gates910
Jimmy Graham910
Jason Witten88
Martellus Bennett89
Travis Kelce88
Delanie Walker77
Charles Clay66
Dwayne Allen66
Larry Donnell66
Zach Ertz66
Coby Fleener55
Heath Miller55
Jermaine Gresham56
Julius Thomas55
Mychal Rivera55
Scott Chandler55
Jace Amaro44
Jared Cook44
Owen Daniels45
Jordan Reed33
Tim Wright33

Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham, Martellus Bennett, Jermaine Gresham and Owen Daniels all gained an extra top-12 week with the change, but that was essentially it.

There was, however, a drop in total usable tight ends in a given week, which is different than what we saw at the quarterback position. As noted above, 56 tight ends had at least one top-12 week last season in full-point PPR leagues. When switched to 1.5-point leagues, that fell to 51.

The main reason for this is that receptions correlate stronger to fantasy output at the tight end position in these 1.5-point leagues (r of .86 versus .81), while touchdowns correlate the same (0.69 versus 0.69). Because touchdowns are easier to achieve by bottom-tiered tight ends randomly throughout the season, and because the baseline to become a top-12 tight end is higher in tight end premium leagues, there are fewer of them in these 1.5-points-per-reception leagues.

However, the point here is still the fact that it didn't really change things from week to week.

And the same holds true for top-six, or elite, performances. In regular full-point PPR leagues, 37 tight ends had at least on top-six game last season at the position. In tight end premium leagues, this fell, but not dramatically -- 34 ended up with at least one.

Just like the chart above, there wasn't massive movement within the group. Gronkowski did go from eight of these performances to nine, and Jimmy Graham ended up going from five to six. Everyone else stayed the same.

So, yes, you could make the case -- much easier than at quarterback -- that a tight end premium league should boost elite tight end value. The only problem is that owners tend to overcompensate for this incredibly small change, selecting these tight ends far above their typical average draft position.

And if there's no flex spot, that really isn't smart thinking.