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Tight End By Committee

Finding a Starting Tight End by Committee for 2016

Over the past few years, there have been two very popular articles written by our very own Chase Stuart that look at an interesting approach to building a fantasy team with late value picks. Based upon the theory of using both Strength of Schedule ("SOS") and taking two players as a combination to build one very good player, he has discussed both Team Defense by Committee ("TDBC") and Quarterback by Committee ("QBBC") as a general fantasy league strategy. In general I think that this is a wise move because very early on in fantasy drafts there are a ton of running back and wide receiver prospects to go after to build a great team. While there are a few studs at quarterback and also a few choice defenses, I do not see a huge need in leagues to pursue either too hard in the beginning stages of a fantasy draft.

So with this in mind, I started to think about what else can be done with the committee approach. Wide receiver? Perhaps, but not a WR1. Running back? Maybe. Tight end? Hmmm, that's really intriguing. What if you could grab tight ends later in the draft that could combine to perform on a TE1 level, based solely on their current projections and their schedule? Now we're talking. This really got my attention, so I went after this. Let's take a look at how I went about building this committee and then we can digest and discuss the results.

(TIGHT) END GAME

So how to begin? Defenses and quarterbacks are relatively easy to "committee" together. There's usually only one quarterback and certainly only one team defense per NFL club, so the approach is pretty simple as far as picking out which players / teams to try and pair up. When it comes to tight ends, the line is not quite so easy to draw, but I needed some basis to pick which players it made sense to try and combine for a decent committee. I decided that I would use the following criteria to decide which players to start with for evaluating:

CRITERIA #1 - TE13 AND BEYOND

This seems pretty simple. If we want to have a duo that puts up TE1 numbers, that means we want TE12 or better production - else we would just draft TE12 or higher and forget the whole idea. So here is the list of players with which I started, based on their Average Draft Position (ADP):

ADP Player ADP Player
TE13 Antonio Gates TE23 Kyle Rudolph
TE14 Martellus Bennett TE24 Clive Walford
TE15 Eric Ebron TE25 Hunter Henry
TE16 Dwayne Allen TE26 Richard Rodgers
TE17 Jason Witten TE27 Vance McDonald
TE18 Zach Miller TE28 Ben Watson
TE19 Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE29 Will Tye
TE20 Jordan Cameron TE30 Austin Hooper
TE21 Charles Clay TE31 Cameron Brate
TE22 Jared Cook    

Table 1: Tight Ends TE13-TE31 Based on ADP

I went all the way to TE31 because a few tight ends are definitely worth consideration outside of the Top 24 tight ends, and also because there is a lot of churn and uncertainty in the TE2 category this year.  Green Bay (if Richard Rodgers outperforms Jared Cook) and Cameron Brate (if he continues to be ahead of Austin Seferian-Jenkins) are both worth a look late in drafts.  Even rookies Hunter Henry (TE25) or possibly Austin Hooper (TE30) or Tyler Higbee (outside of the Top 35 tight ends) could have value if they emerge - adding more weight to the tight end by committee approach.  So I took the Top 31 tight ends from the ADP list, removed the Top 12 and that left me with 18 guys to pair up and see how they do. That makes 171 potential committees, so there had better be a decent one (or several, we hope) out of all of those couplets. Now, before I go over the method of how to pair them up and the results, we need one more rule:

CRITERIA #2 - NO MORE THAN ONE TE FROM ROUND 10 AND ONE FROM ROUND 12

This could get tricky here, but understand the overall goal. The point of TEBC is to "free up" the first 9-10 rounds of your fantasy draft to pursue all of the other positions for your team. Grabbing 3-4 running backs and 4-5 receivers after grabbing a stud RB or WR in Round 1 sounds like a good idea to me. This also gives you the flexibility of grabbing a stud QB, depending on your personal preference, or even to get TE1 if there's a huge value play available and have the "TEBC" be your TE2 (although I would only recommend this in very deep leagues with 20+ roster spots). Flexibility is the name of the game here. We all want value in our drafts, and having the ability to grab lots of RBs and WRs in the first 9-10 Rounds gives us that ability.

Here is the good news - all of the tight ends on the list above have ADPs that are Round 10 or higher (later). In fact, only Antonio Gates has an ADP in Round 10, with Martellus Bennett presently going in Round 11.  We will have to keep that in mind when we look at the result because if we decide to wait unit Round 11 to get this pair to make up our TEBC we may be pushing it a little too far and may not get the combination that we want.

So what do we do now to figure out some TE pairs?

CRITERIA #3 - USE FOOTBALLGUYS' TE STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

This sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Just take the TE Strength of Schedule to figure out when certain players are more likely to score well. What I did is similar to what the Projections Dominator and Draft Dominator do for you - take the projected fantasy points and slice them up over 16 weeks based on the strength of schedule. I call this result the "distributed fantasy points" for each receiver.

After I had all 19 tight ends with distributed fantasy points on a weekly basis, I just compared all of the possible TE pairs to find the best duos for TEBC. So here we are - time for some results.

Rank Tight End 1 Tight End 2 Value
1 Martellus Bennett Dwayne Allen 101.5
2 Dwayne Allen Jason Witten 101.3
3 Martellus Bennett Jason Witten 100.9
4 Antonio Gates Jason Witten 100.7
5 Antonio Gates Martellus Bennett 99.5
6 Antonio Gates Dwayne Allen 98.9
7 Eric Ebron Jason Witten 98.7
8 Martellus Bennett Kyle Rudolph 97.9
9 Martellus Bennett Eric Ebron 97.4
10 Martellus Bennett Cameron Brate 97.2
11 Martellus Bennett Charles Clay 96.9
12 Jason Witten Zach Miller 96.8
13 Dwayne Allen Jared Cook 96.6
14 Antonio Gates Eric Ebron 96.5
15 Dwayne Allen Zach Miller 96.4
16 Martellus Bennett Jared Cook 96.4
17 Dwayne Allen Will Tye 96.3
18 Martellus Bennett Will Tye 96.3
19 Jason Witten Kyle Rudolph 96.2
20 Martellus Bennett Richard Rodgers 96
21 Jason Witten Charles Clay 95.9
22 Dwayne Allen Richard Rodgers 95.8
23 Dwayne Allen Jordan Cameron 95.7
24 Dwayne Allen Kyle Rudolph 95.7
25 Dwayne Allen Cameron Brate 95.5
26 Martellus Bennett Clive Walford 95.5
27 Antonio Gates Zach Miller 95.2
28 Martellus Bennett Jordan Cameron 95.1
29 Jason Witten Will Tye 94.9
30 Martellus Bennett Vance McDonald 94.7
31 Martellus Bennett Ben Watson 94.7
32 Antonio Gates Charles Clay 94.6
33 Antonio Gates Kyle Rudolph 94.4
34 Jason Witten Jordan Cameron 94.3
35 Jason Witten Clive Walford 94.2
36 Jason Witten Jared Cook 94
37 Eric Ebron Dwayne Allen 94
38 Dwayne Allen Ben Watson 93.8
39 Martellus Bennett Hunter Henry 93.7
40 Dwayne Allen Vance McDonald 93.5
41 Martellus Bennett Austin Hooper 93.5
42 Jason Witten Richard Rodgers 93.5
43 Jason Witten Cameron Brate 93.4
44 Martellus Bennett Austin Seferian-Jenkins 93.4
45 Dwayne Allen Austin Hooper 93
46 Antonio Gates Cameron Brate 93
47 Antonio Gates Jordan Cameron 92.9
48 Eric Ebron Zach Miller 92.9
49 Dwayne Allen Hunter Henry 92.8
50 Eric Ebron Kyle Rudolph 92.8
51 Dwayne Allen Austin Seferian-Jenkins 92.6
52 Antonio Gates Jared Cook 92.5
53 Antonio Gates Clive Walford 92.5
54 Antonio Gates Will Tye 92.2
55 Jason Witten Ben Watson 92.2
56 Martellus Bennett Zach Miller 92.2
57 Jason Witten Hunter Henry 92.1
58 Jason Witten Vance McDonald 92
59 Antonio Gates Richard Rodgers 91.9
60 Jason Witten Austin Hooper 91.9
61 Dwayne Allen Charles Clay 91.9
62 Jason Witten Austin Seferian-Jenkins 91.2
63 Eric Ebron Jared Cook 90.9
64 Eric Ebron Cameron Brate 90.9
65 Martellus Bennett   90.8

Table 2: Tight End Committee Pairs

As we can see from Table 2, we have some very good pairs to select from for TEBC. There are 64 pairs that are worth more than Martellus Bennett by his lonesome, who is projected to come in with 90.8 points. Let's also take a look at how often some of these guys show up on the table:

Tight End Freq Tight End Freq
Martellus Bennett 18 Jordan Cameron 4
Jason Witten 18 Richard Rodgers 4
Dwayne Allen 17 Will Tye 4
Antonio Gates 13 Austin Hooper 3
Eric Ebron 8 Austin Seferian-Jenkins 3
Cameron Brate 5 Ben Watson 3
Jared Cook 5 Clive Walford 3
Kyle Rudolph 5 Hunter Henry 3
Zach Miller 5 Vance McDonald 3
Charles Clay 4    

Table 3: Tight End Committee Pair Appearances by Player

As we can see from Table 3, the results are dominated by four guys – Martellus Bennett, Jason Witten, Dwayne Allen and Antonio Gates  They appear to be relatively interchangeable with 13-18 appearances each, which strongly hints that the frequency is predominantly tied to bye week alignment (pairs with the same bye week will be lower than Bennett by himself).  Only one other player (Eric Ebron, nine appearances) shows up more than five times, and given the dominance of the top three names, 4-5 appearances is not that significant as they are likely secondary couplings with the Top 4.  It is quite possible that putting two of these four guys together will form this year's best option for TEBC, but we need to look closer at all of the results. .

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Now that we have 64 possible pairs that are better than Martellus Bennett, what exactly does that mean? Should he be the basis of our comparison? Of course not. Remember our goal - find a pair of tight ends that can combine for TE1-type fantasy production. To figure that out we need a better metric, so here are the projections for the Top 12 TEs in standard scoring:

ADP TE Rank Player Team/Bye FPs FP Rank
9 1 Rob Gronkowski NE/9 172.5 1
44 3 Greg Olsen Car/7 120.9 2
51 4 Travis Kelce KC/5 115.1 3
38 2 Jordan Reed Was/9 111.3 4
92 8 Gary Barnidge Cle/13 108.8 5
97 9 Zach Ertz Phi/4 103.8 6
68 6 Coby Fleener NO/5 103 7
67 5 Delanie Walker Ten/13 102.3 8
75 7 Tyler Eifert Cin/9 102.3 9
101 10 Julius Thomas Jac/5 97.6 10
130 14 Martellus Bennett NE/9 90.7 11
143 16 Dwayne Allen Ind/10 90.3 12
147 17 Jason Witten Dal/7 88.9 13
115 13 Antonio Gates SD/11 86.9 14
141 15 Eric Ebron Det/10 83.8 15
108 11 Ladarius Green Pit/8 81.4 16
158 18 Zach Miller Chi/9 79.9 17
112 12 Jimmy Graham Sea/5 75.8 20

Table 4: Projected Fantasy Points for Top 12+ ADP TEs

Based on Table 4, we see that there is some uncertainty after the very elite tight ends.  The second tier names (TE5-TE10) are all jumbled together in the 97-109 projected point range.  The most notable portion of the chart are the names listed after the Top 10 - Bennett, Allen, Witten and Gates - the four names at the top of Table 3.  How about that!  The four TE2s we are considering are actually projected to score more fantasy points than TE11 Ladarius Green and TE12 Jimmy Graham.  Once again, this speaks to the jumbling at the position after the very elite options.

So how best to evaluate the TEBC pairs from Table 2 against the top tight ends? The best way for me is to pick a baseline of the worst projected Top 10 tight end (Julius Thomas, 97.6 points projected) and add 3-4 points for a bye week filler tight end to cover Thomas' bye week.  That creates a baseline score in the 101-103 range.  Casting our gaze back at Table 2, the Top 4 tight end pairs on the list fall right in this range.  This tells us that choosing the correct pair can give us the result we wanted - TE1 production on the cheap.

Considering all of the results, the TEBC committee recipe for 2016 has two options this year.  Plan A is to snap up Martellus Bennett in Round 10, then grab Jason Witten or Dwayne Allen in Round 12.  This plan considers the rising value of Bennett, who presently has an ADP of 130 as TE14 overall, but his stock is rising with lots of positive press in the preseason.  With Tom Brady suspended for four weeks to start the year and Rob Gronkowski owning the tight end spotlight for the Patriots, Bennett could still get overlooked despite the history of Brady, Bill Belichick and New England using two tight end offenses back in the Aaron Hernandez years.  So the best plan here is to take Bennett in Round 10, then snap up either Jason Witten (TE17, ADP 147) or Dwayne Allen (TE16, ADP 143) in Round 12.  A combination of Bennett-Witten or Bennett-Allen gives a Top 3 TEBC this year at a very reasonable price.  Note that I skipped over Antonio Gates due to his age, higher ADP (TE13) and only appearing four times in the Top 20 pairs in Table 2.

Now you might wonder about the second pair on the list on Table 2 - Witten-Allen.  Both should be available in Round 12, but of course you cannot take both.  To secure this pair, you will likely have to take one in Round 11, and given the frequency of Witten in the Top 20 (six appearances) and Witten's lower ADP he represents the safer choice.  That creates the ultimate fallback position of taking eitehr Zach Miller or Kyle Rudolph if Allen is gone by your Round 2 (or if you are daring, Round 13) pick.  As pointed out in my Late Round Tight End article, both Witten and Rudolph are very viable options this season, and so is Miller as the starting tight end for the Bears in 2016.

Three example schedules are provided in Tables 5, 6 and 7 for the top three TEBC options this season.  Here I give you the best weekly plays for each tight end, based on projections. 

Week Suggested Player Opponent
1* Dwayne Allen Detroit
2 Dwayne Allen at Denver
3** Dwayne Allen San Diego
4 Martellus Bennett Buffalo
5*** Dwayne Allen Chicago
6 Martellus Bennett Cincinnati
7**** Martellus Bennett at Pittsburgh
8 Martellus Bennett at Buffalo
9 Dwayne Allen at Green Bay
10 Martellus Bennett Seattle
11 Dwayne Allen Tennessee
12 Dwayne Allen Pittsburgh
13 Martellus Bennett Dallas
14***** Martellus Bennett Baltimore
15 Martellus Bennett Indianapolis
16 Dwayne Allen at Oakland
*Week 1 = Close call with Bennett at Arizona
**Week 3 = Close call with Bennett vs. Houston
***Week 5 = Close call with Bennett at Cleveland
****Week 7 = Close call with Allen at Tennessee
*****Week 14 = Close call with Allen vs. Houston

Table 5: Suggested TEBC Schedule Plan - Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen

Week Suggested Player Opponent
1 Jason Witten New York Giants
2* Dwayne Allen at Denver
3** Dwayne Allen San Diego
4 Dwayne Allen at Jacksonville
5 Jason Witten Cincinnati
6 Jason Witten at Green Bay
7 Dwayne Allen at Tennessee
8 Jason Witten Philadelphia
9 Dwayne Allen at Green Bay
10 Jason Witten at Pittsburgh
11 Dwayne Allen Tennessee
12*** Dwayne Allen Pittsburgh
13 Jason Witten at Minnesota
14 Jason Witten at New York Giants
15**** Jason Witten Tampa Bay
16***** Dwayne Allen Detroit
*Week 2 = Close call with Witten at Washington
**Week 3 = Close call with Witten vs. Chicago
***Week 12 = Close call with Witten vs. Washington
****Week 15 = Close call with Allen at Minnesota
*****Week 16 = Close call with Witten vs. Detroit

Table 6: Suggested TEBC Schedule Plan - Dwayne Allen and Jason Witten

Week Suggested Player Opponent
1 Jason Witten New York Giants
2* Jason Witten at Washington
3** Martellus Bennett Houston
4 Martellus Bennett Buffalo
5*** Jason Witten Cincinnati
6 Martellus Bennett Cincinnati
7 Martellus Bennett at Pittsburgh
8**** Martellus Bennett at Buffalo
9 Jason Witten at Cleveland
10***** Martellus Bennett Seattle
11 Martellus Bennett at San Francisco
12 Jason Witten Washington
13 Martellus Bennett Dallas
14 Jason Witten at New York Giants
15 Martellus Bennett Indianapolis
16 Jason Witten Detroit
*Week 2 = Close call with Bennett vs. Miami
**Week 3 = Close call with Witten vs. Chicago
***Week 5 = Close call with Bennett at Cleveland
****Week 8 = Close call with Witten vs. Philadelphia
*****Week 10 = Close call with Witten at Pittsburgh

Table 7: Suggested TEBC Schedule Plan - Martellus Bennett and Jason Witten

The committee approach is not a perfect one, but having this knowledge prior to your fantasy draft can prove to be invaluable if you decide to adopt this approach.  If all the players on your starter list are gone, goiong with a committee can save your team and help you deal with the loss of bigger names.  The method is also a big help in "Best Ball" leagues, where lineup decisions are not necessary every week.  That's exactly where a committee can do the best, as either player can count for you each week.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.