Tight End Streaming in Fantasy Football: 2014 in Review

The tight end position is extremely volatile for fantasy purposes on a week-to-week basis. Here's a review of my recommendations from last season, and a quick peak ahead to 2015.

As a fantasy writer, I believe one of the most important things I can do is be completely forthright with the results of my weekly analysis. Full disclosure not only allows the readers to see the validity of my opinions but also affords me the opportunity to see any potential flaws in my process.

Last season, I profiled weekly streaming picks for both tight ends and team defenses for fantasy football purposes. If you are the type of fantasy owner that pays up for your defense and tight end in either re-draft or DFS, these articles probably didn't have much utility.

But for those who take the opposing route and use week-to-week matchups and Vegas lines as your guiding light when selecting tight ends and defenses, I hope that my work helped you last season.

The Results

Over the span of the 2014 season, there were 58 individual tight ends that finished as top-12 options. Not only is this a ringing endorsement for streaming tight ends, but it also points to the wild variability at the position for fantasy purposes.

In theory, we want to unearth a low-owned option -- my qualifications were under 50 percent ownership in Yahoo and ESPN fantasy leagues -- who can finish as a top-12 fantasy option in that given week (defined as a “startable week”). 

Each week I profiled my top-three options that meet the preset qualifications, with two or three “deeper sleeper” picks. Below are the results.

Top-6 Finishes Top-12 Finishes
Week 1    
Week 2 1 1
Week 3 1 2
Week 4 1  
Week 5    
Week 6    
Week 7    
Week 8    
Week 9 1 1
Week 10 1 3
Week 11 1  
Week 12    
Week 13   1
Week 14 1 1
Week 15   2
Week 16   1
Week 17 1

Early in the season, Travis Kelce was a staple in the weekly write-ups, until he (sort of) blew up, resulting in greater than 50% ownership levels. Through the first four weeks of the season, our hit rate for finding a top-12 option was pretty good. Of all the recommendations during that span, 30 percent turned in startable weeks. 

Weeks five through seven constituted an absolute whiff. Humbling for sure, and frustrating to no end, but ultimately, this barren stretch of streaming calls highlighted the extreme amount of variance at the tight end position in fantasy football. Even when using all the data available, misses are still sure to come.

In the final 10 weeks of the regular season, we had a 10.2 percent hit rate on top-six options, and an 18.4 percent hit rate on top-12 finishers. And while I would have obviously preferred these figures to be larger, it’s clear that during the second-half of the season, the recommendations became more efficient, probably due to a greater volume of usable data.

Looking Forward

Moving forward into 2015, the majority of my approach to finding good options at the tight end position will remain the same:

1. Using Vegas lines to identify the highest weekly team totals
2. Using opposing team matchups to find teams that struggle specifically against the tight end position
3. Always keeping an eye on injury reports and changing depth charts

A few of the possible early-season streaming targets include Tyler Eifert, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Josh Hill. Eifert currently holds a 9.08 average draft position according to Fantasy Football Calculator, but Seferian-Jenkins and Hill can be had in the 11th round and after. All three have the potential to become consistent top-12 performers, a la Kelce in 2014.

In general, this is a solid approach that should point to situations and players that we can exploit. Completely eliminating the variance at the position however, is simply not possible. Outside of Rob Gronkowski, it’s extremely difficult to predict usage.

For those who want to avoid trolling the waiver wire on a weekly basis, it’s probably best to go early at the tight end position in your fantasy drafts. But for those willing to do a little research on Vegas and opposing matchups, there are tremendous amounts of value to be had throughout the season.