Whether it be DFS or season long, fantasy football is a decision-making game. We try to use the best processes possible to arrive at weekly lineup decisions, then watch the games to see the results. Although there are sure to be bumps in the road, over the course of time we should see positive results if our decision-making processes are positive.
I've collected data on top weekly fantasy scorers at each position, dating back to 2013. For each position in this series, I'll use a 51-game sample size derived from No. 1 fantasy finishers over the last three seasons. I wanted to come up with a data-driven profile for top weekly scorers at every position of fantasy significance. The hope is that these profiles will increase my chances of identifying candidates to score a lot of -- or ideally, the most -- fantasy points at their positions in a given week.
Weekly TE1 Overall Profile (PPR Scoring):
Accounted for multiple touchdowns: 28/51 (54.9%)
Played on team that won the game: 38/51 (74.5%)
Played on team that was favored: 30/51 (58.8%)
Played at home: 34/51 (66.7%)
Faced defense ranked 15th or worse in FP allowed to TEs: 39/51 (76.5%)
Faced defense ranked 15th or worse in DVOA vs. TEs: 37/51 (72.5%)
Faced defense ranked 10th or better in FP allowed to TEs: 5/51 (9.8%)
Faced defense ranked 10th or better in DVOA vs. TEs: 10/51 (19.6%)
Played in game that went over the Vegas total: 39/51 (76.5%)
Whereas 82.4% of overall RB1s and 68.6% of overall WR1s scored multiple touchdowns, the percentage for multi-TD games dips to 54.9% for overall TE1s. 47-of-51 (92.2%) overall TE1s did hit pay dirt at least once. Still, this is a reminder that tight end is one of fantasy's lowest scoring positions. It's also a reminder of the comparative value in owning a tight end like Rob Gronkowski, who brings multi-score upside into every game he plays. Yet even Gronk has only three overall TE1 finishes over the past two seasons. Jordan Reed had four in 2015 alone.
Favorites and Winners
Overall QB1s (66.7%), RB1s (70.6%), WR1s (64.7%), and TE1s (58.8%) all tended to come from teams that were favored entering the game. Analyzing this in hindsight, it's an understandable stat because players on favored teams are likely to outscore their opponents -- in many cases by a large margin -- and have better quarterback play and better offenses overall. The correlation is especially strong for overall QB1s (90.2%), RB1s (76.5%), WR1s (68.6%), and TE1s (74.5%) who played on actual winning teams.
Exactly two-thirds of overall TE1s have played at home over the past three seasons, a higher rate than QB1s (60.8%), RB1s (60.8%), and WR1s (54.9%) who played at home. I backchecked for 2012 and 13-of-17 (76.5%) overall TE1s played at home that season, further raising the percentage in a four-year sample. One of the main points this series confirmed is that skill-position players who finish atop weekly fantasy scoring tend to play at home. There is no skill position where home games correlate stronger with top-scoring weeks than tight end, however.
There are two data points commonly used to evaluate tight end matchups. The first is fantasy points allowed to tight ends, a bulk stat heavily influenced by the quality of tight ends a defense has faced, and a metric that can be skewed for several weeks by an individual performance against that defense. Less commonly used is DVOA versus tight ends, which Football Outsiders goes out of its way to clarify is not intended for fantasy football use on its website, and which accounts for non-box-score events like defensive pass interference flags earned by tight ends, and interceptions caught by the defense on passes intended for tight ends. Obviously, neither of these metrics is perfect. But I wanted to see just how strongly each correlated with overall TE1 performances to use as a guide for 2016 and perhaps beyond.
76.5% of overall TE1 performances occurred against defenses that ranked 15th or worse in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. The fact that those defenses gave up just one overall TE1 game, of course, strongly impacts how many fantasy points those defenses gave up on a per-week and ultimately season-long basis. A slightly lower percentage (72.5%) of overall TE1 scores came against defenses that Football Outsiders rated 15th or worse at defending tight ends.
Albeit still a noisy stat, fantasy points allowed also had a predictive advantage on DVOA for overall TE1 performances at the backend. Whereas only 5-of-51 (9.8%) overall TE1 games happened against defenses that ranked tenth or better in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, nearly 20% of overall TE1 scores came against defenses that Football Outsiders considered to be top-ten teams in tight end coverage.
The percentages are slightly better for fantasy points allowed when evaluating tight end matchups, but the correlation is also strong for DVOA versus tight ends. Ideally, we would use them in conjunction. Tight ends playing at home have a distinct edge on road tight ends when searching for weekly TE1 finishers. Over the last four years, 69.1% of top-scoring tight ends played at home, a significantly higher rate than any other fantasy-relevant position.