How an Elite Tight Finish Helps You Win (Fantasy Soccer)
Drafting a tight end early in your fantasy drafts may not be an exciting choice, especially with lots of studs in both the wide receiver and running back positions. However, a top tight end can be the most significant positional advantage in fantasy football. This article looks at tight ends in 2020, why it was so beneficial to have one of the top two players, and why you might want to design a top tight end in your 2021 leagues. All fantasy points and endings referenced in this article are taken from the PPR scoring with a half point.
The “Big 3”
When you think of the “Big 3” at the end, the names Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle probably come to mind. Sure, there are some other talented tight ends like TJ Hockenson and Mark Andrews, but the “Big 3” are the guys you know have a proven record of being at the top of tight ends. Travis Kelce is in a class of its own in my opinion, but Darren Waller and George Kittle offer very similar benefits.
Travis Kelce leads the group with four total TE1 seasons in the past five years. In 2017 he finished TE2 and missed TE1 by less than one point. Darren Waller turned his career around in 2019 for a Raider team that lacked reception options, finishing as TE3 and following with a TE2 finish in 2020. George Kittle dominated 2018 and finished that season as TE3. He followed in 2019 with a TE2 finish. Unfortunately, Kittle had an injury-ridden 2020 season and only played eight games and ended up as TE19. The following table shows the last three seasons of the “Big 3”. Darren Waller didn’t break out until 2019 so I didn’t include his stats for 2018.
|player||2020 THE PPG||2020 TE finish||Overall financial statements 2020||2019 PPG||2019 TE finish||Overall financial statements 2019||2018 THE PPG||2018 TE finish||2018 overall closing|
|17.4 (1.)||1||7th||12.9 (T1.)||1||25th||15.2 (1.)||1||15th|
|14.1 (2.)||2.||16.||11 (6.)||3.||42.||–||–||–|
|12.6 (3.)||19th||123.||12.9 (T1.)||2.||45||13.4 (2.)||3.||25th|
The 2020 season
Travis Kelce had a historic season in 2020. He broke the record for getting yards from a tight finish previously held by George Kittle (2018). Kelce finished with 260.3 Fantasy Points, which would mean 7th place among all players without quarterbacks. Darren Waller finished the race with 225.1 Fantasy points, 35.2 points behind Kelce, 16th overall. As mentioned earlier, Kittle managed to finish as TE19 while only playing eight games. The tight-end game for fantasy purposes fell sharply after Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. Had George Kittle played a full season, he would probably have been up there too, as he had the third highest fantasy points per game among tight ends, Kelce in first place and Waller in second place.
Benefit from week to week
Let’s see how Kelce and Waller helped fantasy managers win weekly. Finishing a week as the top 12 tight end doesn’t necessarily mean a lot when it comes to winning your week. With a top 5 or top 6 tight end, you have a much better chance of winning weekly than those who finish as TE7 or lower.
If we look at the top 6 tight ends from all 17 weeks of the season and get their results on average, you get 16.5 points, while tight ends 7-12 average 10.6 points, a 5.9 difference Points, received. A top 6 tight end will likely give you an edge every week. According to the Ultimate Draft Kit, Travis Kelce was a top 6 tight end 86.7% of the time in 2020. According to Kelce, Darren Waller was the 2nd% consistency percentage for a top 6 finish with 50%.
I took a closer look at the tight ends to see what the average score would be for a top 3 tight end weekend and got 19.1 points. That’s just 2.6 points more than the average for the top 6 tight ends, but 8.5 points higher than the average for the tight ends 7-12. Travis Kelce was ranked the top 3 tight end eight times in 2020 (53% of games played) and averaged 21.4 points in his eight top 3 finishes. It ended up in the top 3 tight ends more often than any other tight ends in the top 6 when you factor in consistency percentages. He finished five of 15 games (33.33%) as TE1 in these weeks and averaged 21.8 points.
Darren Waller took a top 3 tight end place in 5 of 16 games played (31.3%) and was 3 times (18.8%) overall TE1. In the 5 games that Waller finished as the top 3 tight end, he averaged 25.4 points. Waller averaged 28.7 points in the games he finished as TE1. George Kittle was a top 6 tight end in only two weeks out of eight, and both of those games happened to be top 2 finishes (25%). He finished as TE2 with 20.4 points and TE1 with 32.6 points.
Robert Tonyan burst on stage and finished 2020 as TE3 but only had 150.6 Fantasy points which would make the difference between the TE1 (Kelce) and TE3 (Tonyan) 109.7 points. This point difference is comparable to WR1 and WR15 from 2020 (109.4 point difference).
If you finish with the third highest fantasy score among most positions, you usually stand out quite a bit from the competition, but in 2020 the difference between the TE3 and TE12 was only 32.3 points. The difference between TE2 and TE3 was 74.5 points, more than double the point difference between TE3 and TE12. These point differences show how top-heavy the narrow end position is. If we consider running backs and wide receivers, the gap is greater. The difference between WR3 and WR12 was 53.2 points. The difference between RB3 and RB12 was 131.6 points.
Shortage of positions
One of the unwritten rules in fantasy football has always been to get that workhorse going. While that’s undoubtedly true, if you miss out on one of the top running backs it can be a good idea to spin around to catch a top man in a different position with arguably worse options after the top guys are picked.
Only three tight ends finished over 150 fantasy points compared to 25 running backs who hit the 150 point threshold. There were only three running backs with more fantasy points than Kelce and seven running backs with more points than Waller. So I think you can argue that tight ends are less common than running backs.
The wide receiver position is known to be pretty low, but I wanted to see how many receivers hit the 150 point mark, which was 36. Only three wide receivers landed via Kelce and only seven receivers via Waller in 2020. Due to the shortage of location, it could easily be argued that dragging Kelce over every wide receiver and Waller or Kittle over most can be beneficial.
Outlook for 2021
Travis Kelce may not repeat last year’s historic achievement in 2021, but he doesn’t have to break any records to help your fantasy team win. Kelce is in the perfect situation, with arguably the best offense and the best quarterback. With four TE1 totals in five years and three consecutive seasons of at least 200 Fantasy Points, his floor should be considered a top 2 tight end, with the only guys likely to challenge him for the top being Darren Waller and George Kittle are.
Waller is not part of a productive offensive, but is without a doubt number 1 in this passing game. He had 145 goals in 2020, 63 more than Nelson Agholor, who finished second on the team on goals. The Raiders didn’t add anyone, and unless Bryan Edwards or Henry Ruggs make a big jump, Waller will see the same crowd. Kittle may have Aiyuk to remove some extra targets, but he should still be considered the number 1 of the 49ers.
According to the Ultimate Draft Kit, Travis Kelce’s ADP is 2.03 based on 10 team leagues. He’s an excellent late first round or early second round draft pick. George Kittle’s ADP is 3.03 and Darren Waller’s ADP is 4.01. I would consider them all values when you think of how they can help your team win with persistence in a position that is not very deep.
If they are healthy, the “Big 3” should all score around 200 Fantasy points and finish near Waller in 2020 (16th overall). If you can get a top 20-25 overall from your tight end without the quarterbacks, your chances of making the playoffs are much higher. According to Fantasy Pros, Kelce had a playoff squad rate of 72% and Waller had 68%. Drafting any of these players in 2021 should have a very similar outcome!
The weekly consistency and the significant upward trend, the point difference and the shortage of positions indicate that the “Big 3” tight ends are extremely valuable for fantasy teams. Travis Kelce is likely to lead many fantasy managers to the playoffs again in 2021, and behind him I would expect many teams to succeed with Darren Waller and George Kittle. While not the most exciting choice, those tight ends will take you to victories and maybe some championships!