One remaining obstacle we still face in the fantasy community as content providers and consumers is understanding that rankings, projections, tiers, and average draft positions are all different and serve different purposes.

My season-long rankings and projections focus on the probable outcomes for a player based on top-down team production and projected game script.

Then player opportunity production is based on that team volume.

We can tweak volume and efficiency for a range of outcomes per player, but that is the simplest explanation of how the projection sauce is made.

While those projections give us a range of season-long numbers and have implications for listing players in a linear format (rankings), the one thing that is missing is that even when those full-season numbers are accurate, they fail to capture the overall weekly impact and the pockets of production that are relevant to our weekly game of fantasy football.

Projecting Davante Adams for 103 receptions, 1,144 yards, and 8 touchdowns (his 2023 totals) paints a nice picture of his season-long outlook, but any gamer that rostered Adams last season will also tell you that there was a lot of weekly variance.

That is an anecdotal example to make a larger point, but there is a litany of other examples we can lay out that fit into the top-down point I am making.

There are very few players at each position that just smash weekly throughout the fantasy season at the highest level, and we are hopeful to be in on the remainder of players when they strike the hottest.

That is where player tiers come in.

2024 Fantasy Football Tiers

A lot of fantasy football tiers that you will find out there are just rankings chopped up into sections.

While the rankings are more focused on a probable tally of season-long output for a week-to-week game, I prefer to structure my tiers based on how similarly players accrue their fantasy points and by their archetypes.

By doing this, it allows me to notice actionable gaps in player pricing per tier which in turn allows for arbitrage in fantasy drafts while also highlighting some longer-odds players who have more potential than originally perceived.

Arbitrage in fantasy football is driven strongest by how production is accrued, and the order of those players (rankings) is driven by the opportunities (on a player and team level) that each player receives.

Our projections are inherently going to be wrong on those projected opportunities often.

Team situations are influenced by a plethora of things.

The game script, injuries to the player himself, injuries to surrounding teammates, ineffective play, player breakouts, and so on. That is just the game through injuries, performance variance, and fluctuation.

Understanding how a player is used allows us to find prospects who target that variance in performance and opportunities. If we are wrong on the opportunity projection, then a lower-tiered player could be an arbitrage opportunity.

While there is not a direct overlap to the individual player rankings, the order of these tiers is how I prioritize drafting the positions from an archetypical stance.

While that may be confusing for a player ranked highly on a linear list versus a specific tier he is in, I will do my best to incorporate detailed thoughts regarding draft capital in those events throughout the player breakdowns.

One final bit of housekeeping, I will be updating and adding analysis to these tiers all summer long,

With that intro to the methodology used with tiers in place, let us roll into the actual player analysis.

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Tier 1 Fantasy Football TEs:

  • Sam LaPorta
  • Travis Kelce
  • Mark Andrews
  • Trey McBride

Kicking things off with the front-end options at the position.

All of these tight ends are either the first or second target in their passing game, something vital for churning out high-caliber fantasy seasons at the position.

There has not been a TE1 in overall scoring in the past 30 years that was not at worst second on his team in targets.

22 of those 30 TE1 scorers were the top target earners in their offense.

The bottom line is that if you are spending premium capital on a tight end or have visions of grandeur for a later-round player threatening to be the TE1 scorer, he needs to be the first or second target in his passing tree.

Sam LaPorta

Bye: Week 5

Sam LaPorta turned in one the most prescient seasons for a rookie tight end in NFL history.

He caught 86 passes, the most ever by a rookie tight end.

His 889 yards were fourth all-time for a first-year tight end while his 10 touchdowns as a rookie were tied for second all-time.

From a 2023 season context, LaPorta was fourth among all tight ends in receptions, fifth in yards, and first in touchdowns.

LaPorta ran a route on 79.3% of the Detroit dropbacks, which was fourth among all tight ends in the league.

He outright led all tight ends in weekly scoring three different times as a rookie, tied for the league lead at the position.

What we saw from LaPorta as a prospect immediately translated to the NFL.

Coming out of Iowa, LaPorta led last year’s draft class in routes run as an isolation receiver (35.5% of his routes) while he ran a class-high 20.2% of his routes lined up out wide.

As a rookie, he led the position with four touchdowns lined up outside while his 1.39 yards per route run out wide were third behind the ghost of Darren Waller and Travis Kelce.

LaPorta was targeted on 22.5% of his routes out wide (third behind those same two players).

I have LaPorta as TE1 overall based on where he is in terms of career arc paired with Detroit’s favorable schedule of indoor games, something we discussed with Jared Goff in the QB Tiers.

LaPorta and the Lions have the best passing schedule of any tight end I have ranked inside of the top 12.

That said, paying top dollar for LaPorta is not something I am outright recommending this summer.

In auctions, I will be nibbling since that format allows avenues to mitigate the opportunity cost, but the price and format need to be right in snake drafts.

While LaPorta was the TE1 in overall scoring, he was the lowest-scoring overall TE1 in PPR formats since 2017.

He did not provide massive positional leverage despite scoring the most points. All of Evan Engram, Travis Kelce, and T.J. Hockenson matched at least 90% of the production that LaPorta had.

LaPorta was also the only TE1 overall scorer in PPR formats over the past 30 years to not even be first or second in points per game. Both Kelce and Hockenson scored more points per game than him a year ago.

In half-PPR, Kelce matched LaPorta’s points per game.

Now, that career arc still carries weight for LaPorta. He could still get better and build on an already historic start to his career.

We know he is at worst second behind Amon-Ra St. Brown on the target tree in Detroit. This is a team counting on Jameson Williams making a jump in his third season since they let Josh Reynolds (who was fourth on the team in targets last year) walk in free agency while failing to add a viable rookie in the draft.

Williams has been far from a sure thing, meaning the door is wide open for LaPorta to build on the 120 targets he had as a rookie.

Travis Kelce

Bye: Week 6

Gamers have been asking when Travis Kelce would finally start to show signs of slowing down.

Last season may have been the early signs.

After a superb run of staying healthy, Kelce started the 2023 season dealing with a knee injury and then suffered a low-ankle sprain in Week 5.

He battled through 15 regular season games but had career lows in yards per catch (10.6) and yards per target (8.1).

He had never averaged fewer than 12.0 yards per catch in any season of his career.

His 65.6 per game average for receiving yards was his fewest in a season since 2015.

He was only on the field for 71.7% of the team dropbacks, his lowest rate since his first season on the field in 2014.

Kelce played 77% of the team snaps in total.

His overall snap rate has now dropped from the season prior in five consecutive seasons.

That said, while the Chiefs have been more cognizant of getting Kelce snaps off, they are doing so by removing his involvement in the run game.

With Kelce on the field last season, the Chiefs had a 70.7% dropback rate, which would have led the NFL.

With Kelce off the field last season, the Chiefs had only a 51.4% dropback rate, which would have been last in the NFL.

Kelce may be conceding some snaps, but many of those missed snaps were not going to result in fantasy points for him to begin with.

Despite playing through injuries and producing a down season for his career standards, Kelce still was the TE1 in points per game in PPR formats (14.6) and matched LaPorta’s 11.5 points per game in half-PPR formats.

Once we got into the postseason, Kelce turned up the dial and showed the upside he still has.

In four playoff games, he caught 32 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns, posting games of 7-71-0, 5-75-2, 11-116-1, and 9-93-0.

He will turn 35 in October while LaPorta just turned 23 this past January.

If betting on career arcs, it makes sense to split hairs up top with LaPorta as TE1, but anyone taking Kelce as the top tight end is still getting a strong fantasy option in the context of the position with the possibility of landing the overall TE1.

Mark Andrews

Bye: Week 14

Mark Andrews was still an alpha option when on the field last season.

He was third among all tight ends in yards per route run (1.96) and ranked ninth in target rate per route (22.0%).

When on the field in Weeks 2-11, Andrews was third among all tight ends in fantasy points and expected fantasy points.

Despite the addition and success of Zay Flowers, Andrews remained the top target in Baltimore.

When on the field, Andrews commanded a team-high 27.4% of the team targets.

When he was available, Andrews received 43.8% of the Baltimore targets in the red zone and 40.0% of their throws into the end zone.

Andrews has the perfect usage we look from a tight end.

He played in-line on just 12.3% of his snaps, the lowest rate of any tight end that is currently in the top 36 in ADP.

He was also first among that group in rate of snaps from the slot.

Andrews was also targeted on 46.5% of his routes when he was in the slot, the highest rate at the position.

Despite missing a chink of the season, Andrews led the position with five touchdowns from the slot.  Isaiah Likely was second with four.

Andrews is still one of the league’s best tight ends, but he has now missed multiple games in each of the past two seasons and in three of the past four.

Andrews only appeared in 10 games in 2023.

He missed the season opener with a quad injury and then was knocked out for the rest of the regular season with a fractured ankle in November.

Andrews did return for the AFC Championship but was only able to play 31% of the snaps.

He did have tightrope surgery but has a much longer window to get back to full speed for the start of this season as opposed to what we saw from Tony Pollard last offseason.

Trey McBride

Bye: Week 13

After a disappointing rookie season, McBride once again started slowly in 2023, buried on the depth chart behind veteran Zach Ertz.

McBride played fewer snaps than Ertz in each of the opening five games of the season, catching only 8 passes over that span and running 48 pass routes while Ertz had 22 receptions and 140 routes.

He then trickled up in playing time in Week 6 before Ertz suffered an injury that unlocked the full runway for McBride, and he took advantage, showcasing the ability and production that got him selected in the second round and earned him the Mackey Award in his final season in college.

Over the final 11 games of the season, McBride was second among all tight ends in receptions (69), and third in receiving yards (684) with 3 touchdowns.

He led the position in team target share (25.9%) over that period while ranking second in target rate per route run (27.2%).

When Kyler Murray returned in Week 10, McBride led the team with 538 yards receiving while the next closest player on the team had only 278 yards.

McBride will enter 2024 as a core component of this passing game, but he does now have added target competition with the selection of Marvin Harrison Jr.

McBride accounted for a team-high 25.2% of the targets with Murray on the field while the next closest player was at only 14.9%.

Harrison is surely going to chip away and tighten that gap if not outright jump McBride on the target tree.

Tier 2 Fantasy Football TEs:

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