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Tight End By Committee: PPR

Finding a Starting Tight End in PPR Leagues 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 Jimmy Graham TE22 Kyle Rudolph
TE14 Martellus Bennett TE23 Clive Walford
TE15 Eric Ebron TE24 Jordan Cameron
TE16 Dwayne Allen TE25 Will Tye
TE17 Jason Witten TE26 Vance McDonald
TE18 Zach Miller TE27 Cameron Brate
TE19 Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE28 Hunter Henry
TE20 Charles Clay TE29 Ben Watson
TE21 Jared Cook TE30 Richard Rodgers

Table 1: Tight Ends TE13-TE30 Based on ADP

I went all the way to TE30 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 (TE28) or possibly Austin Hooper (TE33) 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 30 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 153 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 and Jimmy Graham have ADPs 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 18 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 Dwayne Allen Jason Witten 160.7
2 Martellus Bennett Jason Witten 160.1
3 Eric Ebron Jason Witten 159.4
4 Martellus Bennett Dwayne Allen 158.1
5 Jason Witten Zach Miller 156.3
6 Jason Witten Kyle Rudolph 156
7 Jason Witten Charles Clay 155.8
8 Jimmy Graham Jason Witten 155.1
9 Martellus Bennett Kyle Rudolph 154.5
10 Jason Witten Will Tye 153.9
11 Martellus Bennett Eric Ebron 153.2
12 Jason Witten Clive Walford 152.8
13 Jason Witten Jordan Cameron 152.8
14 Martellus Bennett Charles Clay 152.6
15 Martellus Bennett Cameron Brate 152.5
16 Jimmy Graham Dwayne Allen 152.1
17 Jason Witten Jared Cook 151.5
18 Jason Witten Richard Rodgers 151.5
19 Jason Witten Cameron Brate 151.4
20 Jimmy Graham Martellus Bennett 151
21 Dwayne Allen Will Tye 150.9
22 Martellus Bennett Will Tye 150.7
23 Dwayne Allen Zach Miller 150.5
24 Dwayne Allen Kyle Rudolph 150.2
25 Martellus Bennett Jared Cook 149.8
26 Martellus Bennett Richard Rodgers 149.8
27 Jason Witten Ben Watson 149.8
28 Dwayne Allen Cameron Brate 149.5
29 Dwayne Allen Jared Cook 149.5
30 Jason Witten Vance McDonald 149.5
31 Jason Witten Hunter Henry 149.5
32 Eric Ebron Kyle Rudolph 149.4
33 Dwayne Allen Richard Rodgers 149.4
34 Dwayne Allen Jordan Cameron 149.4
35 Martellus Bennett Clive Walford 149.2
36 Martellus Bennett Jordan Cameron 148.7
37 Martellus Bennett Vance McDonald 148.3
38 Martellus Bennett Ben Watson 148.3
39 Jason Witten Austin Seferian-Jenkins 147.8
40 Eric Ebron Zach Miller 147.6
41 Eric Ebron Dwayne Allen 147.3
42 Jimmy Graham Eric Ebron 146.8
43 Dwayne Allen Ben Watson 146.3
44 Martellus Bennett Hunter Henry 146.2
45 Eric Ebron Cameron Brate 146.1
46 Martellus Bennett Austin Seferian-Jenkins 145.8
47 Dwayne Allen Vance McDonald 145.8
48 Eric Ebron Jordan Cameron 145.2
49 Eric Ebron Will Tye 144.9
50 Dwayne Allen Hunter Henry 144.5
51 Jason Witten   144.5

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 50 pairs that are worth more than Jason Witten by his lonesome, who is projected to come in with 144.5 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
Jason Witten 17 Ben Watson 3
Martellus Bennett 16 Hunter Henry 3
Dwayne Allen 14 Jared Cook 3
Eric Ebron 9 Richard Rodgers 3
Cameron Brate 4 Vance McDonald 3
Jimmy Graham 4 Zach Miller 3
Jordan Cameron 4 Austin Seferian-Jenkins 2
Kyle Rudolph 4 Charles Clay 2
Will Tye 4 Clive Walford 2

Table 3: Tight End Committee Pair Appearances by Player

As we can see from Table 3, the results are dominated by three guys – Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen.  They appear to be relatively interchangeable with 14-17 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 Witten by himself).  Only one other player (Eric Ebron, nine appearances) shows up more than four times, and given the dominance of the top three names, 3-4 appearances is not that significant as they are likely secondary couplings with the Top 3.  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 50 possible pairs that are better than Jason Witten, 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
8 1 Rob Gronkowski NE/9 247.7 1
49 3 Greg Olsen Car/7 188.8 2
65 4 Travis Kelce KC/5 180.9 3
39 2 Jordan Reed Was/9 179.2 4
96 9 Zach Ertz Phi/4 170.4 5
98 10 Gary Barnidge Cle/13 166.7 6
69 5 Coby Fleener NO/5 166.3 7
71 6 Delanie Walker Ten/13 160.8 8
74 7 Tyler Eifert Cin/9 156.7 9
95 8 Julius Thomas Jac/5 151.7 10
150 17 Jason Witten Dal/7 144.5 11
127 14 Martellus Bennett NE/9 141.4 12
139 16 Dwayne Allen Ind/10 140.6 13
116 12 Antonio Gates SD/11 134.4 14
135 15 Eric Ebron Det/10 134.4 15
108 11 Ladarius Green Pit/8 128.5 16
119 13 Jimmy Graham Sea/5 122 17

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 150-170 projected point range.  The most notable portion of the chart are the first two names listed after the Top 10 - Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett - followed by Dwyane Allen.  How about that!  The three TE2s we are considering are actually projected to score more fantasy points than TE11 Ladarius Green and TE12 Antonio Gates.  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, 151.7 points projected) and add 5-7 points for a bye week filler tight end to cover Thomas' bye week.  That creates a baseline score in the 156.7-158.7 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 127 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 150) or Dwayne Allen (TE16, ADP 139) in Round 12.  A combination of Bennett-Witten or Bennett-Allen gives a Top 4 TEBC this year at a very reasonable price.

Now you might wonder about the first 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 10 (eight appearances) that would be the safer choice.  That creates the ultimate fallback position of taking either 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.

Two example schedules are provided in Tables 5 and 6 for my favorite two TEBC options this season.  Here I give you the best weekly plays for each tight end, based on projections. 

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 8 = Close call with Witten vs. Philadelphia
****Week 10 = Close call with Witten at Pittsburgh

Table 5: Suggested TEBC Schedule Plan - Martellus Bennett and Jason Witten

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

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.