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Fantasy Advice

Streaming Tight Ends in 2014: Is it a Good Idea?

By April 22, 2014 No Comments

So, you’ve been playing fantasy football for a couple years and you finally made an important realization: it’s really difficult to get consistent production from your tight end spot. Unless you owned either Jimmy Graham or Vernon Davis this past year, you probably weren’t entirely happy.

You’ve heard a specific word floating around in association with the tight end position, but you’re not entirely sure what it means and how to do it successfully. What is this magical word? Stream.  It’s a simple word, but its implications can seem complicated and intimidating. But fear not, fellow fantasy football enthusiast! We here at fantasyfootballpros.org are here to help.

What is Streaming?

Streaming refers to choosing what player to start week-to-week based on matchups, hot streaks, injuries, and whatever other factors you choose to include. I know what you’re saying right now: that’s what I do with every position, idiot. Here’s the difference: streaming also involves picking up and dropping your starters just about week. It’s not like you’re benching last week’s starter. You’re dropping him and picking up someone else who’s available on your league’s waiver wire.

It’s most popular with the tight end and defense positions (though some stream quarterbacks as well) because you generally only start one of each, and there are very few of each that provide consistent points. For the sake of this article, though, we’re just going to discuss tight ends.

Why Should I Stream Tight Ends?

There are a few main reasons you should consider streaming tight ends. They include:

  • Streaming your tight ends allows you to make the rest of your team better.

Having Jimmy Graham is great, but you’re probably going to need to use your first or second round pick to get him. If you’re going to stream, you can wait until very late in the draft and snag a TE with a good week 1 matchup. This allows you to spend that second round pick on an RB, WR, or QB that you would’ve missed had you taken Jimmy Graham.

  • Streaming your tight ends mitigates injury risk.  

If you’re relying on one TE to get you through the year, an injury can really derail your season (see Gronkowski, Rob). Now you might say to me “If my TE gets hurt, I’ll just start streaming. What’s the difference?” The difference here goes back to my previous point. You’ve already used that higher draft pick on your injured tight end. If you’re tight end gets hurt, you’re getting no value out of that early draft pick, and you end up right where you were if you had decided to stream in the first place.

  • It Is Very Possible To Get Consistent Points.

Unless you’ve got a top 2 or 3 tight end, you’re not getting consistent production from the position. If you’re playing a different tight end each week, though, it’s possible to get a solid contribution each and every week. As C.D. Carter of xnsports.com points out, “56 tight ends put up at least one top-12 fantasy stat lines last season.”

So that’s 56 different guys who put up startable weeks in 2013. That’s more than enough tight ends to give you a good option on the waiver wire every week. (As a sidenote, C.D. Carter has written a lot on tight end streaming, and I highly recommend reading his work if you’re looking for more details than I provide on the viability of the strategy.)

So I Should Stream Tight Ends Then?

At this point, you may be convinced that streaming is the right option. You can make the rest of your team better, make injuries less of a factor, and put up more points than the average tight end. So why doesn’t everyone stream their tight ends? Simply put, it’s because streaming tight ends is hard. Think about it. Is it easier to draft Jason Witten in the 5th round and play him every week, or draft Tyler Eifert in the 13th round and proceed to make a new decision every week?

Perhaps you’d get a better result from the latter option (perhaps not, though; more on that soon), but it also means putting in the extra hours to figure out exactly which available tight end gives you the best chance of success that week.

If you make the decision to stream, you need to be willing and able to put in the work. That’s the only way to see consistent success.

Now, when I say streaming tight ends is hard, I don’t just mean that it requires more work. I also mean that it is difficult from an intellectual standpoint. Even with all the stats in the world, there’s still a chance that your TE of choice throws up a dud that week. This can be damaging in terms of both wins-and-losses and your psychological well-being.

I’ve committed to streaming in years past and had absolutely terrible seasons from the TE position. I put in the work, did the research, and still made the wrong decisions on Sunday. When Lardarius Green puts up starter numbers 4 out of 5 weeks and you played him that 5th week (where he put up a goose egg), you start to question your decision-making skills. This can have far-reaching implications on your decision-making process, not just for the TE position but for your whole team, but perhaps that’s a discussion for another day. The point I’m trying to make through all this is that streaming tight ends doesn’t always work out.

So I Shouldn't Stream Tight Ends? Come on, Man, You're Just Confusing Me Now.

I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but there is no one right or wrong answer to the question “Should you stream your tight ends?” Instead, you should ask yourself a couple questions about your skill level, dedication, and priorities when it comes to fantasy football and use that information to decide. If you need a little help, though, here’s a couple ideas:

You should NOT stream tight ends IF:

  1. You aren’t confident in your ability to make good decisions on a weekly basis.
  2. You don’t have the time to do the requisite research.
  3. You think you can get a startable tight end for a good value in your draft.
  4. You’re ok with using an early pick to get an elite tight end.

You SHOULD stream tight ends IF:

  1. You don’t want to use an early pick on a tight end.
  2. You’re willing to put in the necessary work to stream tight ends.
  3. You’re confident in your decision-making abilities.
  4. You want to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Fantasy football can be a life-long pursuit, and sometimes trying a different strategy out for a year will make you a better player for the future, even if it doesn’t bring dividends this year.

Personally, I like the idea of streaming, but I need to work on my execution. I’m a believer in the idea that streaming your tight ends allows you to maximize the value of the rest of your team, and I also believe that it is doable. I just haven’t found the correct formula for choosing the best candidates yet.

On the other hand, I’m not opposed to using a relatively early pick on a tight end if I think the value is there. That, I believe, is the key. If you think a move adds value to your team as a whole, then make that move, whether it involves streaming or not. As we get closer to the season, I’ll profile some of the tight ends that I think are solid streaming candidates for 2014.  So if you’re intrigued by the strategy and think it might be for you, keep your eyes peeled.

Got some questions? Think streaming is a bunch of bunk? Think you’ve figured out the perfect formula for streaming tight ends in 2014? Let me know! As always, I’d love to talk fantasy football.

Nick Walsh

Nick Walsh

Director of Operations at Let's Talk Fantasy Football
I'm a New Jersey native currently residing in San Francisco and I'm the commissioner of the little league that we here at Let's Talk Fantasy Football play in. I like my fantasy football how I like my coffee: all the damn time.
Nick Walsh

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