This week, we’ve been running through each position and exploring ideal roster construction for those positions in best ball formats. So far, we’ve covered quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Continuing that approach today, we’re diving into the tight end position.
If you’re new to best ball, they are fantasy football leagues that remove week-to-week management. You draft your team and your optimal lineup automatically gets set for the highest score each week. It’s that easy. No waivers, no trades, and no management in season. When the dust settles, the best team(s) take home the prizes.
The two most popular places to currently compete in best ball leagues are on Fanball BestBall 10s and in FFPC satellite leagues. With those two places being the focal point of popularity, we’re going to dive into some data from the past few seasons for what has been ideal lineup allocation and construction per position just to provide a few guidelines in building successful teams.
You can also check out our 2020 rankings hub for early 2020 rankings that will be updated throughout the offseason to apply to these early drafts.
Number of Total TEs Selected and Win Rate
|# of TE||Fanball Tm%||Win %||FFPC Tm%||Win %|
*Fanball Data is from 2017-2019 **FFPC Data is from 2018-2019 (no SuperFlex)
The tight end position is unique because in FFPC formats, the position receives 1.5 points per reception compared to the regular one point per catch in Fanball leagues. There’s also that added FLEX spot and 28-man rosters in FFPC formats, which allows more room for the position to be more viable altogether.
In Fanball formats, the position can still qualify to fill the FLEX spot, but is still largely handled in a similar fashion as the other “onesie” positions such as quarterback and Team DST in terms of overall roster allotment. Roughly 97% of Fanball drafters are leaving drafts with two or three tight ends with similar success rates. We’ll go further into where those two and three tight end teams are gaining an edge.
At FFPC, you can see there’s more surface area for success among rostering more tight ends. Leaving drafts with just three tight ends there isn’t a death knell, but it does fall below our 8.3% baseline win rate that we’re targeting as a hurdle to clear. 35.9% of drafters there are taking three or fewer tight ends, so it’s not an uncommon approach, but those teams have a combined win rate of 7.6%.
Taking four tight ends is the most popular approach and has yielded the best win rate. Teams taking five tight ends haven’t been as common, but do account for 15.2% of our sample size and have success while six tight end rosters have the same win rate, but fall down to just 2.1% of rosters.
Allocation and Success Rate for First TE Drafted
Surveying the best time to take your first tight end on each site, there’s a distinct edge in getting in at the top of the position early on.
Taking a tight end with your first pick overall isn’t an overly popular strategy, but has been far more successful in FFPC formats with the weighted scoring. Teams taking a first-round tight end only make up 6.5% of the teams overall, but that smaller sample of teams do have a higher win rate than teams that have selected a first-round running back or wide receiver in FFPC leagues. Let’s just be real, this is taking Travis Kelce or not. Kelce has paced the position in overall scoring in four consecutive seasons. Despite having a scoring dip in 2019 compared to his 2018 campaign, Kelce still provided the largest positional edge over the field of tight ends over that four-year run as the TE1 overall a year ago.
Even with Round 1 success at FFPC, the following few rounds are the spike rounds on each site. To be fair, Kelce does account for a number of Round 2 picks, but more so on Fanball than FFPC. Starting off with a running back is still the way to go on Fanball by a wide margin. Starting with a tight end on FFPC has been a winning approach on its own merit and has a higher win rate than taking a running back first, but taking a running back first has been stronger overall in win rate if taking a tight end second.
FFPC teams starting off with TE1 in Round 1 and then RB1 in Round 2 at FFPC have posted a strong 11.1% win rate, but teams going RB1 first and then TE1 in Round 2 have won at a 12.3% rate. If taking a tight end with your first overall pick there, always follow with a running back.
As mentioned, TE1 in the first round teams following up with their RB1 in Round 2 have an 11.1% win rate, but going TE-WR has an 8.4% win rate and going TE-TE has an 8.9% win rate. For additional sake, going RB-WR to open has a 7.8% win rate while RB-RB an 8.6% win rate. Opening WR-RB has a 7.0% win rate and WR-TE a 10.3% win rate. The best approach is taking a top tight end in the second round regardless of your start in FFPC leagues.
You don’t just have to land Kelce, either. Teams at Fanball taking their first tight end over the opening four rounds have notched an 11.1% win rate compared to a 7.5% win rate after, while teams in FFPC formats have posted an 11.0% win rate compared to a 7.4% win rate afterward. There’s no doubt getting one of those top tight ends has provided an advantage.
The mid-tier of tight ends is the danger zone. At Fanball, teams taking their TE1 in Rounds 5-8 have just a 6.9% win rate while that win rate is 8.3% if taking their TE1 after that point. In FFPC leagues, teams taking their TE1 in Rounds 4-8 have just a 7.1% win rate compared to an 8.2% win rate afterward. On both sites, if you miss out on the top tier of the position, you’re better off just going with a later-round approach at the position rather than settling for the middle-tiers of the position.
TE2 Selection for 2TE Teams
As was the case with quarterbacks, the section for 2TE teams is largely pertinent to Fanball. Taking only two tight ends in FFPC formats has not been a winning approach to suggest, but there has been some success there in just taking two top tight ends and logging out at the position if you want to get cute with the small sample size of taking your second and final tight end in the third or fourth round.
Focusing primarily on Fanball from here on out in this section, taking two elite tight ends has also been fruitful, but not a popular approach. Just 1.5% of 2TE teams have taken both in the opening three rounds, but have a 12.2% win rate. Despite that, opening TE-TE and then shutting it down at the position has had just a 2.6% win rate there, so things aren’t always that simple working within just 1.5% of total teams.
Whereas above, you want to avoid the middle tiers of the position if you miss out on a TE1 option, here you want to shop in those aisles for depth if you already have an early-round tight end rostered. The catch is avoiding the immediate tiers right after the top of the position and the very bottom of the barrel. 2TE teams taking their second tight end in Rounds 5-6 have posted just a 7.9% win rate. But teams taking their second tight end in Rounds 7-15 have an 8.8% win rate with a win rate in each round clearing our baseline rate. The densest portion of 2TE teams have selected their second and final tight end 46.8% of the time in Rounds 12-15 for an 8.7% win rate.
Also matching the quarterback position, you don’t want to wait until the very end of the draft to take your final tight end in a 2TE approach. Teams taking their second and final tight end in the final five rounds of the draft have posted a 7.1% win rate compared to an 8.8% prior.
TE3 Selection for 3TE Teams
Here were are looking at the teams that selected three tight ends and their successful spots for taking that third tight end.
This is the most popular and most successful approach at Fanball as highlighted in the open. Given the shorter rosters, it’s not common to see teams load up on three tights prior to Round 12 there, with only 1.6% of 3TE teams going that route. Those teams have a combined 8.1% win rate.
Once again, the key at Fanball is avoiding those final rounds when going with three tight ends. The same as 3QB teams there. Teams taking their third and final tight end over the final three rounds have an 8.0% win rate and below our threshold in each of those rounds despite 50.8% of our 3TE team sample coming from those rounds. Teams taking their third and final tight end after Round 11, but prior to Round 18 registered a combined 9.0% win rate with all of those rounds eclipsing our baseline rate. At Fanball, it is best if you avoid the very bottom of the onesie positions altogether with your final picks despite that being the most common approach at both the tight end and quarterback positions.
In FFPC leagues, the same holds true. Stay out of throwing your late-round picks on your final tight end in the 3TE approach. 3TE teams taking their final tight end in Round 20 or later have had just a 6.9% win rate with a below-average win rate in every one of those rounds despite 56.6% of the 3TE teams going that route. Teams taking their third and final tight end in FFPC formats in Rounds 10-19 have had a 10.1% win rate with an above-average win rate in eight of those 10 rounds.
TE4 Selection for 4TE Teams
Going with four total tight ends is the most popular and profitable approach in FFPC formats and not a viable approach at Fanball. We don’t have a round reach 1.0% of the total 4TE rosters in taking their fourth and final tight end until Round 16. 3.5% of our 4TE teams did take their fourth tight end over the opening 15 rounds despite not reaching that 1.0% mark in an individual round and those teams combined for a 9.5% win rate.
The majority of 4TE teams are waiting until the very end to take their final tight end. 62.6% of our 4TE teams have taken that final tight end over the final four rounds of the draft and unlike the 3TE teams, that has worked out for a combined 8.9% win rate.
The difference here in the 4TE teams having more late-round success than the 3TE ones is that the weight of that third tight end is significant. 4TE teams taking their third tight end prior to the 20th round as highlighted above in the 3TE section have had a 9.2% win rate compared to TE4 teams that take both their third and fourth tight ends Round 20 or later combining for an 8.3% win rate.
You can do better pairing up two very late-round tight ends in a 4TE approach than you can by taking an end of the line TE3 in 3TE approaches, but taking your TE3 prior to the last leg of your draft is the most viable use of your draft picks regardless.
The same holds true for your fourth tight end on 4TE teams. Those teams taking their fourth tight end prior to Round 20 have had a 10.0% win rate (9.1% of the total teams) compared to an 8.7% win rate afterward.