I wrote an article a couple months ago about streaming the tight end position and how it can benefit your team. If you haven’t read it (and don’t feel like reading it now), here’s the gist. Streaming a position basically means that you’re adding and dropping players each week based on their matchups. You live and die on the waiver wire. The advantage to this is that you can wait on the position in your draft. I’ve waited till the 14th round or so to take a tight end before. It allows you to make the rest of your team that much better. Taking a tight end that late also means it doesn’t matter if he performs poorly. You took him in the 14th round, who cares? One bad week, you just drop him and grab yourself a new one.
So if streaming tight ends seems like something you’d be interested in, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to spend the next couple minutes of your life going through the guys who I think are the best tight end streamer options for the upcoming season. In order to come up with this list, I looked at a couple of factors: number of targets, touchdown potential, chance of breakout/progression, and performance against bad passing defenses. I’ll explain that last factor a little bit more.
If a tight end consistently performs better against bad passing defenses, then he’s predictable. You can play him with confidence against any bad passing defense. If he doesn’t have significant splits between good and bad passing defenses, then his good performances are harder to predict. Makes sense, right? Cool. Also, this list is based on guys going outside the top 12 tight ends based on Fantasy Football Calculator's ADP. So don’t come at me with “Where’s Zach Ertz and Kyle Rudolph?!” They’re inside the top 12, dude. Without further ado, then, let’s get into it.
For the life of me, I do not understand why Bennett is currently the 13th TE off the board. It just doesn’t make sense for him to be going so low. We’ll take a look at my four categories. Bennett had 96 targets in 2013, which was 7th among all tight ends. That looks good to me. He also had 16 targets in the red zone, which was 8th among tight ends. With the potency of the Chicago Bears and the fact that Martellus Bennett is 6’6” and 265 pounds, I don’t see that number decreasing in 2014.
I don’t know if Bennett, himself, will progress as a player this year, but I expect Jay Cutler, and therefore this whole offense, to progress in his second year under Marc Trestman. There is definitely room for Bennett to put up better numbers in 2014 than he did in 2013. My one issue with Bennett is that his splits against good and bad pass defenses are basically identical. That makes it a little more difficult to predict his production. That being said, Bennett has the upside to be a tight end that you can start every week, and he’s coming at the price of a bench player.
Heath Miller is not a sexy name in fantasy football. That doesn’t mean he can’t be useful for your team in 2014. He had 78 targets in 2013 over 14 games, which projects to 89 targets in 16 games. He only had 9 red zone targets, but there’s room for that number to go up. The Steelers WR corp consists of Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Lance Moore, none of whom is over 6 feet tall. Yes, Martavis Bryant is there, but he doesn’t seem to be NFL-ready yet. Because of that, Heath Miller stands to see a lot of looks in the red zone for the Steelers this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he catches 6-8 touchdowns.
Finally, from 2008 to 2013, Miller has averaged about 2.4 more fantasy points per game against bottom-half pass defenses than top-half pass defenses. I know that doesn’t seem like much, but it’s definitely something to work with. His average number of targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns all increase against bottom-half defenses. Heath Miller isn’t a guy you want to draft in most leagues, but if you’re streaming tight ends and he has a good matchup on a given week, don’t hesitate to put him in your lineup.
Dwayne Allen missed almost the entire season last year, but he’s back and should be one of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets in 2014. Rookie tight ends are rarely productive, but Allen managed to be just that as a rookie in 2012. He saw 66 targets, which he turned into 45 catches and 521 receiving yards. I know that doesn’t sound insanely productive, but it’s a better rookie season than breakout candidate Zach Ertz had in his rookie year last year. Despite only two touchdowns in his rookie year, it stands to reason that Allen could develop into a redzone threat in 2014.
He’s a big, physical player on a team that doesn’t really have a prototypical redzone wide receiver (outside of Hakeem Nicks, but who the hell knows what you’re getting out of him this year). He also stands to see an increased role in the passing game as a whole. Reports out of training camp have said that the Colts are using a 2 tight end package as their base package, and Allen rarely leaves the field. Furthermore, Allen averages more targets, receptions, and yards against bottom-half defenses. He’s a solid streaming option with a lot of upside who’s currently the 18th tight end off the board. I expect the 24-year-old to pick up right where he left off with Andrew Luck.
I saved Charles Clay for the end of this article because I think he’s the absolute best tight end streaming option for 2014. He excels in all four of my categories discussed above, and he’s currently the 15th tight end off the board. Let’s delve into the details. Clay saw 103 targets last year, which was good for 6th among tight ends (It was also about 20 more than Vernon Davis and Julius Thomas each saw). He had 15 redzone targets, which was 11th among tight ends. He’s also, at 6’3”, the tallest pass catcher that the Dolphins have, so he should be heavily utilized in the redzone. He’s currently 25 years old, still progressing as a player, and in a new offense that should be more fast-paced and effective than the one he was in last year. And for the icing on the cake, check out these splits.
Clay averages roughly 3.5 more fantasy points per game against bottom-half defenses, and it’s not even touchdown-related, which makes it that much more predictable. If I’m streaming tight ends this year, I’m comfortable starting Clay every single game the Dolphins play a bottom-half defense. I also think he has the upside to become an every-week starter, depending on how the Dolphins adapt to Bill Lazor’s new offense. Charles Clay is undervalued, and you can take advantage of it.
Some Other Guys That Could Give You Value
Antonio Gates, in terms of targets, receptions, and yards, had basically the same season as Jordan Cameron last year. I’m not saying I expect that to happen again, but Gates’s fantasy value just doesn’t seem to want to die.
Jared Cook had one great week and then was spectacularly disappointing last year, but I’m not convinced that he’s a total lost cause. 80+ targets is realistic for him in what should be an improved Rams offense. Don’t draft him, but keep an eye on him and monitor his usage.
Guys With Hype Who I’m Not Streaming
I’m kind of cheating here, as he’s TE12 right now, but Ladarius Green is not a streaming target. He’s absolutely a breakout candidate, but his production, up to this point, has been completely touchdown dependent. That’s not predictable at all. If he ends up on the waiver wire in your league, closely monitor his snaps and targets relative to Antonio Gates. If those two stats go up, he’s a viable streamer.
Travis Kelce is another guy I like as a breakout candidate, but I can’t recommend him as a streamer just yet. He profiles as a touchdown/big play dependent guy, which is difficult to predict and therefore difficult to stream. If Kelce starts to see consistent targets, though, stream away.
Eric Ebron should not be drafted in redraft leagues. Plain and simple. Brandon Pettigrew is too good of a blocker to leave the field consistently. There are 4 receivers (Calvin, Tate, and the two RBs) who will get more targets than him. Rookie tight ends are rarely productive. The list of reasons not put your faith in Ebron for 2014 is pretty extensive.
Happy Streaming Guys
I’m not saying you need to stream tight ends, but I think it’s a pretty viable strategy this year and certainly one to be considered. If done well, it can give you productivity at a position where points are hard to come by, and it can get the job done at relatively no cost on draft day. Just set your sights on some of the guys above and work those matchups.
Think streaming is stupid? Love Eric Ebron this year? Thought Antonio Gates retired three years ago? Let me know! I’d love to talk fantasy football.See Our Breakouts and Busts for 2014
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