I think it’s probably time that someone draws a distinction between two important kinds of scarcity that impact fantasy leagues. I’ll call these two kinds of scarcity Structural Scarcity and Temporal Scarcity.
Structural Scarcity is the balance between supply and demand as dictated by the rules of the game. Most fantasy leagues start 2 RBs, while they start just 1 QB and TE (most of the time). So scarcity related to RBs is structural.
But at certain times it can be the case that QBs or TEs are scarce – not because of the rules of the game, but because of quirks in the NFL. In 2011 it was the case that fantasy league winning QBs were actually briefly scarce. But the rules never changed, so in 2012 everyone went into their draft thinking they needed to get one of the top QBs, only to find out that the scarcity involved was not permanent. That’s what I mean by Temporal Scarcity.
I think it’s the case that the current perception as to the scarcity of elite TEs is almost certainly a Temporal Scarcity. Most leagues still start just 1 TE, and while TE premium leagues are becoming more popular, all those leagues do is just give you more options of players to start in a flex. There isn’t a long term structural reason to expect scarcity at the TE position.
This can be illustrated by the fact that the hurdle to get over in terms of becoming an elite TE is actually low. It doesn’t require years of honing the craft. Jimmy Graham, Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas have all parlayed lots of athleticism and very little experience into being top TEs.
So we can’t expect that there is a moat keeping elite athletes out of the elite TE ranks.
The number of elite TEs will be a function of the total universe of elite athletes that can get into that 250 pound range, along with the number of teams willing to develop those players into TEs. Not every physical specimen will work out of course. But that’s fine because there are enough of these types of players that the hit rates can still be low and we can still fill out 12 spots in a fantasy league.
Yeah, but Jimmy Graham was a league winner in 2013, you might say. That’s fine. But that’s why I’m drawing the distinction between the kinds of scarcity. From a structural standpoint there’s nothing to protect his place as a league winner. There are now a bunch of TEs coming through the ranks that have the potential to float into and out of the top 4 or so at the position. The number that actually make that leap will be dependent on offensive scheme, but there isn’t any other factor that can keep them out of that elite tier. Similarly, there isn’t a structural reason like fantasy roster rules or scarcity of available athletes to make TEs scarce.
In fact, you might argue that the basketball player TEs are only lighting a path for teams to follow in terms of TE development. If it’s the case that college and pro teams have just been so horrible at TE development that basketball players actually make better TEs than players with years of experience, eventually someone will figure out what the league is doing wrong and correct it.
Having offered that thought, I give you our composite dynasty TE rankings.
The rankers are: FD = Fantasy Douche, DM = Davis Mattek, MF = Matthew Freedman, SS = Shawn Siegele, SS2 = Scott Smith,WTF = Whisky Tango Foxtrot, BF = Bryan Fontaine, CTK = Coleman Kelly CR = the Composite Ranking
|Graham, Jimmy NOS TE||1||2||1||1||1||1||1||2||1|
|Gronkowski, Rob NEP TE||2||1||2||2||2||2||2||1||2|
|Thomas, Julius DEN TE||3||3||4||3||3||3||3||5||3|
|Cameron, Jordan CLE TE||4||4||3||4||4||5||4||4||4|
|Reed, Jordan WAS TE||5||5||6||11||5||4||5||3||5|
|Green, Ladarius SDC TE||9||9||10||9||8||6||7||7||6|
|Davis, Vernon SFO TE||6||10||17||5||6||7||10||6||7|
|Ebron, Eric DET TE||7||6||9||13||10||8||13||10||8|
|Ertz, Zach PHI TE||8||13||5||10||7||14||16||14||9|
|Rudolph, Kyle MIN TE||12||15||15||12||11||11||11||8||10|
|Pitta, Dennis BAL TE||18||12||7||19||12||10||9||9||11|
|Olsen, Greg CAR TE||13||14||18||7||14||12||8||13||12|
|Eifert, Tyler CIN TE||14||7||8||20||9||15||17||15||13|
|Seferian-Jenkins, Austin TBB TE||10||19||11||8||15||18||12||16||14|
|Amaro, Jace NYJ TE||19||8||16||16||17||17||20||12||15|
|Allen, Dwayne IND TE||15||18||12||15||16||9||19||22||16|
|Witten, Jason DAL TE||20||11||29||6||13||13||15||20||17|
|Clay, Charles MIA TE||16||17||13||14||19||20||18||21||18|
|Bennett, Martellus CHI TE||21||16||14||21||18||16||23||11||19|
|Kelce, Travis KCC TE||22||20||24||18||20||19||25||18||20|
|Fleener, Coby IND TE||17||21||26||22||21||21||24||23||21|
|Walker, Delanie TEN TE||24||23||25||28||22||22||21||17||22|
|Gates, Antonio SDC TE||25||27||30||17||23||26||22||31||23|
|Cook, Jared STL TE||26||28||19||29||25||28||28||32||24|
|Lyerla, Colt GBP TE||27||31||28||26||28||29||14||38||25|
|Miller, Heath PIT TE||28||29||31||30||24||23||29||33||26|
|Fauria, Joseph DET TE||23||22||36||34||31||25||27||34||27|
|Escobar, Gavin DAL TE||29||34||20||24||29||34||35||28||28|
|Finley, Jermichael GBP TE||30||24||33||35||27||27||33||36||29|
|Graham, Garrett HOU TE||32||99||32||36||30||24||30||24||30|
|Robinson, Adrien NYG TE||31||36||21||23||35||35||99||30||31|
|Toilolo, Levine ATL TE||11||32||40||40||32||33||37||27||32|
|McDonald, Vance SFO TE||33||39||22||25||39||99||38||19||33|
|Willson, Luke SEA TE||35||99||27||27||37||30||40||26||34|
|Niklas, Troy ARI TE||34||25||99||99||26||31||32||37||35|
|Fiedorowicz, C.J. HOU TE||36||37||23||99||33||99||99||29||36|
|Wright, Tim TBB TE||37||30||39||37||40||36||31||35||37|
|Gresham, Jermaine CIN TE||38||26||42||39||36||38||99||99||38|
|Rivera, Mychal OAK TE||39||99||37||99||38||99||39||25||39|
|Griffin, Ryan HOU TE||40||99||43||31||99||32||34||40||40|
|Housler, Robert ARI TE||99||40||34||99||34||37||99||99||41|
|Bostick, Brandon GBP TE||99||99||38||32||99||99||99||99||42|
|Pettigrew, Brandon DET TE||99||99||99||38||99||39||36||99||43|
|Celek, Brent PHI TE||99||99||99||33||99||40||99||99||44|
|Daniels, Owen BAL TE||99||38||35||99||99||99||99||99||45|
|Chandler, Scott BUF TE||99||33||99||99||99||99||99||99||46|
|Lewis, Marcedes JAC TE||99||35||99||99||99||99||99||99||47|
|Myers, Brandon TBB TE||99||99||41||99||99||99||99||99||48|
|Keller, Dustin FA TE||99||99||99||99||99||99||99||99||49|
|Miller, Zach SEA TE||99||99||44||99||99||99||99||99||50|
|Quarless, Andrew GBP TE||99||99||46||99||99||99||99||99||51|