Fantasy Football Analysis: TEs



Next up in my summer fantasy analysis is the tight end position (get your mind out of the gutter). I will be analyzing Kickers and Defense together in the next one, and then finishing up with a draft strategy article. If you are interested in my other fantasy analysis posts, check the QBs here, the RBs here and the WRs here. Again, I used the stats at, football and And this analysis assumes an ESPN Standard, 10-team league. So, read on after the jump.

So, just like the WR position, this analysis is going to look at Targets, Catch Rate, Yards Per Reception and TDs. However, thanks to Arif’s suggestion in the comments of the WR analysis, I’m also going to look at Yards After the Catch too. There’s no need to rehash through the same kind of prelude as to why each category is important (check out the WR post for that if need be), so I’ll just get right to the rankings! First up is the Top 15 Tight Ends ranked by average targets per game. In parenthesis are the total targets for the year, and catch percentage. And just for kicks, I’ve added the Vikings two Tight Ends from 2011 for comparison, because, well, you know, this is a Vikings blog and all. Oh, and speaking of Arif Hassan (newly minted Daily Norsemen Contributor!!), check out his excellent analysis of Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph for anyone wanting to read more.

Average Targets Per Game 2011
1. Jimmy Graham NO, 9.31 (149, 66%)
2. Aaron Hernandez NE, 8.07 (113, 70%)
3. Brandon Pettigrew DET, 7.88 (126, 66%)
4. Rob Gronkowski NE, 7.75 (124, 73%)
5. Kellen Winslow TB, 7.56 (121, 63%)
6. Fred Davis WAS, 7.33 (88, 67%)
7. Jason Witten DAL, 7.31 (117, 68%)
8. Tony Gonzalez ATL, 7.25 (116, 69%)
9. Dustin Keller NYJ, 7.19 (115, 57%)
10. Antonio Gates SD, 6.77 (88, 73%)
11. Jermaine Gresham CIN, 6.57 (92, 61%)
12. Brent Celek PHI, 6.06 (97, 64%)
13. Vernon Davis SF, 5.94 (95, 71%)
14. Dallas Clark IND, 5.90 (65, 52%)
15. Jermichael Finley GB, 5.75 (92, 60%)
--. Visanthe Shiancoe MIN, 4.38 (70, 51%)
--. Kyle Rudolph MIN, 2.6 (39, 67%)

In terms of targets, the first place guy, Jimmy Graham, had almost twice as many targets per game as the last place guy Jermichael Finley. But even so, with the exception of a few at the top of the list, generally speaking, TEs received less targets than WR (as you might expect). On the flipside, their catch rates were MUCH more consistent, ranging from 52-73% overall, with the majority of them being over 60%. So, the TEs were able to take better advantage of slightly less opportunity than WR. In terms of targets, Jimmy Graham was in a league all his own getting targeted as frequently as a WR (he would have placed 6th amongst all WR!), and then there is a clear cut-off after the 9th place guy Dustin Keller. Incredibly, both New England Tight Ends made the Top 4 in targets, and surprisingly, Aaron Hernandez was targeted more than stud Rob Gronkowski! Next up is the re-ranking of these same 15 guys in terms of average Yards Per Reception to see what they were able to do with all their targets. I’ve also put their average Yards After the Catch and TDs in parenthesis.

Average Yards per Reception 2011
1. Rob Gronkowsi NE, 14.7 (7.29, 17)
2. Jermichael Finley GB, 13.9 (4.35, 8)
3. Fred Davis WAS, 13.5 (5.98, 3)
4. Jimmy Graham NO, 13.2 (4.74, 11)
5. Brent Celek PHI, 13.1 (7.85, 5)
6. Dustin Keller NYJ, 12.5 (4.92, 5)
7. Antonio Gates SD, 12.2 (4.19, 7)
8. Jason Witten DAL, 11.9 (4.53, 5)
9. Vernon Davis SF, 11.8 (4.90, 6)
10. Aaron Hernandez NE, 11.5 (6.57, 7)
11. Tony Gonzalez ATL, 10.9 (2.90, 7)
12. Jermaine Gresham CIN, 10.6 (3.61, 6)
13. Dallas Clark IND, 10.4 (4.62, 2)
14. Kellen Winslow TB, 10.2 (3.23, 2)
15. Brandon Pettigrew DET. 9.4 (3.90, 5)
--. Visanthe Shiancoe MIN, 11.4 (4.11, 3)
--. Kyle Rudolph MIN, 9.6 (3.92, 3)

A couple of things stand out to me on this list. First, Rob Gronkowski was a beast. His YPR was far and away the best, but even more than that, his YAC and TD totals were incredible. With the exception of Brent Celek in YAC, no one even comes close to Gronkowski in the other categories. Second, the range of YPR is a little lower for the TE than it was for WR, but not by much. For WR the range was 11.1-18.7, and here for the TE it’s 10.2-14.7. So, WR were able to stretch the field a bit more, especially at the top end of the ranking (as you might expect). But what all of this tells me is that if you are able to secure one of the elite TEs for fantasy, it is essentially the same as having another WR on your team. Now let’s look at the overall top 15 TE in fantasy points per game and see how it all comes together:

Average Fantasy Points per Game 2011
1. Rob Gronkowski NE, 15.1
2. Jimmy Graham NO, 12.2
3. Aaron Hernandez NE, 9.7
4. Antonio Gates SD, 9.2
5. Tony Gonzalez ATL, 8.1
6. Fred Davis WAS, 8.0
t7. Jermichael Finley GB, 7.8
t7. Jason Witten DAL, 7.8
9. Vernon Davis SF, 7.0
10. Brent Celek PHI, 6.9
11. Dustin Keller NYJ, 6.8
t12. Brandon Pettigrew DET, 6.7
t12. Jermaine Gresham CIN, 6.7
14. Jake Ballard NYG, 6.0
15. Owen Daniels HOU, 5.7
-- Visanthe Shiancoe MIN, 3.7
--Kyle Rudolph MIN, 2.9

Of the 15 guys on this ranking, only the last 2 are not on the original targets ranking: Jake Ballard and Owen Daniels. Ballard and Daniels weren’t too far off on targets though, as both would have made the top 25. But what really gave them each a boost was their YPR. Ballard had the highest YPR of any TE in the NFL (ranked 20th overall among all pass catchers) at 15.9 (5.03, 4). So, he squeaks onto the list based on his yards. Daniels also had a great YPR, posting a better total than 9 of the TE on the targets list at 12.5 (5.59, 3). They both had decent catch rates with Ballard at 62% and Daniels at 64%, but it is their YPR and YAC that really mattered. At the end of the day, they were able to overcome lower targets by doing very well in the other categories (just like WR!). The guys that fell off the list were Dallas Clark and Kellen Winslow. Clark had a below average catch rate for a TE (52%), but also had a lower YPR, and only scored 2 TDs (he was also injured for half the year, and had the league's worst QB throwing him the ball). Winslow had a decent catch rate (63%), great targets (7.56 per game), but a pretty low YPC (10.2) and only 2 TDs. So once again, Targets are a very good barometer of fantasy success, but they don’t tell the whole story. We have to consider YPR, Catch Rate and TDs (and also YAC). If a player does poorly in one of those 4 main categories, they have to make up for it in the other three, and if they can’t manage do to that, then they aren’t worth owning in fantasy football. As with wide receivers, it matters who is throwing them the ball too. Winslow and Clark had Josh Freeman and Curtis Painter throwing them ball, while Gronkowski and Graham had Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Coincidence?

I want to go more in depth here though, by comparing Brandon Pettigrew and Rob Gronkowski, because they had a similar number of targets last year, but ended up at opposite ends of the spectrum in fantasy points (1st vs 12th). What was the difference? Well, first off, the Gronk had a slightly better catch rate, which translated to him catching 7 more footballs (this could be each players hands, or their QBs or some combination). Secondly, Gronk had a much higher yards per catch rate (14.7 vs 9.7), which was mostly due to his beastly yards after the catch rating (7.29 vs 3.9). Gronkowski is just a bigger and stronger TE than Pettigrew that can fight for yards after the catch better. And then of course, the Gronk caught a lot more TDs too (17 vs 5). In other words, despite the fact that they had a nearly even number of targets, Rob Gronkowski was able to catch the ball more often, caught it farther down the field, and run farther downfield than Brandon Pettigrew. He also had a better QB throwing him the ball and found the endzone 3 times as often, which ultimately explains the huge disparity. Rob Gronkowski is just a better TE than Brandon Pettigrew for fantasy football.

But, for any newcomers to fantasy football, pay attention to what Rob Gronkowski just did as a TE in 2011. He actually scored better than EVERY wide receiver save one: Calvin Johnson. Now most of that was due to his ridiculous 17 TDs, but even so, this kind of production was a complete anomaly, and I don’t think we’ll ever see it again from the TE position. In the past 12 years, only 6 TE’s have averaged more than 10 points per game: Tony Gonzalez (2000, 2004, 2008), Antonio Gates (2004, 2005, 2009, 2010), Vernon Davis (2009), Dallas Clark (2009), Jimmy Graham (2011) and Rob Gronkowski (2011). The highest average any of those guys ever reached prior to 2011, was 13.8 by Antonio Gates in 2010. So, again, Gronkowski had a record-breaking year and this can't be overstated enough. And speaking of New England tight ends, Aaron Hernandez shouldn’t be overlooked as the second TE in New England, because he still came in THIRD overall. Both he and Gronkowski had beastly Yards After the Catch and TD totals and it’s a shame that they totally overshadowed Jimmy Graham, because Graham also had a similarly incredible season. Only four WR scored better than Jimmy Graham in 2011. I would view Gronkowski and Graham in particular as WR playing out of the TE position for the purposes of fantasy football.

So, the tight end position is very deep, and there are more than 10 starters in my mind for 2012. So, with that, here is my top 10 ranking of TEs for 2012.

1. Rob Gronkowski NE
2. Jimmy Graham NO
3. Aaron Hernandez NE
4. Antonio Gates SD
5. Jermichael Finley GB
6. Jason Witten DAL
7. Fred Davis WAS
8. Brent Celek PHI
9. Brandon Pettigrew DET
10. Tony Gonzalez ATL

Other guys to watch: Vernon Davis SF, Dustin Keller NYJ, Jermaine Gresham CIN, and Coby Fleener IND

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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