Zero Everything Else: The Gunslinging TE-TE Start

I participate in and (sometimes) write-up 2-QB mocks so that I can experiment with my 2-QB draft strategy. I want to find out what works, what doesn’t, and figure out how I can learn from my mistakes. Or build upon something that looks intriguing. I fuck up a lot in mock (and real) drafts. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. Only Peter Dinklage is perfect.

When it comes to standard lineup leagues I can be a bit of a wild card, mainly due to my flexibility and willingness to experiment. If you’re a RotoViz reader you’ve become all too familiar with the experimentation that goes on around here. There’s Zero RB, and Zero WR, and RBx6, and TEx2 (almost TEx3), and DSTx4,1 etc. Don Draper couldn’t hang in this office. Just keep the lawnmower away from me during staff parties.

A recent Apex Fantasy Football Money Leagues draft featuring 11 of the industry’s finest (and this guy) led to me experimenting with my standard fantasy football drafting style.

The fantasy football gods were smiling down on me in this draft, as I was given the great fortune of being stuck between a drafting sandwich of Rich Hribar (see how we can learn from Rich’s mistakes from the same draft) and Shawn Siegele. You may have heard of them?

Pre-draft talk took place on Twitter and Siegele casually mentioned how the end of the draft was prime Zero RB territory.2 Hribar was picking 10th, I drew the 11 spot, and Shawn was doing double duty picking at 1.12/2.01. This was not going to be an easy draft. For anybody.

I had a certain idea in mind that I wanted to try, but didn’t think I’d have the guts to, which was to go TE-TE, and take Jimmy Graham at 1.11 and Rob Gronkowski at 2.02. Saying you’re going to go TE-TE in a draft and following through is like saying you’re going to the gym, but instead you binge watch “Cutthroat Kitchen” while eating a tub of ice cream on your couch. It could go either way.

There are some completely against the idea of drafting a tight end early, let alone two, and there are others who are OK with the idea. Picking at the bottom turn slightly forces your hand as to how you plan to draft, as you have to take what’s given to you.

To find some sort of an advantage I figured having the top two tight ends in a PPR league where I can start both every week would do that. Is it crazy? Yes. Will it work? I honestly do not know, but I was willing to find out.

The first 10 picks went RB, RB, RB, RB, WR, WR, RB, WR, RB, and RB. I was looking at either following the pack, and taking a Le’Veon Bell type as my RB1 or a wideout like Julio Jones as my WR1.

With Graham still on the board though it was time to try out this crazy ass experiment and grab the Saints TE (that’s what his Twitter bio says), hoping Rob Gronkowski would fall. He did, as Siegele double-dipped wide receivers, taking A.J. Green and Jones, beginning his Zero RB journey.3

After selecting Gronk I wondered if this Graham/Gronk strategy was worthwhile. What exactly did I get myself into?

My thinking: It’s PPR and I can start both each week. One at tight end and one at flex.

Gronkowski as your flex player? Sounds awesome, right? Here’s a guy, who in his one season of starting 16 games put up a stat line of 90 catches, 1,327 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns. He scored 330.9 PPR points that season, which would have been good enough for WR3.

One season of starting 16 games should be highlighted, underlined, bolded, and in font size 64. Drafting Gronk at 2.02 (or at any early spot) means you’re OK with taking on his injury history, because at 2.02 you have no safety net if he misses a majority of games. Since entering the league Gronk has started in 44 out of a possible 64 games. On the other hand, already rostering Graham actually mitigates some of the injury risk. If Gronk misses any time, then I still have Graham starting at tight end. If Graham loses time to injury then Gronk can slide into the TE1 spot. If neither gets injured then I could easily have the highest scoring fantasy tight end and flex player combination. When you consider the depth available at running back and wide receiver in Rounds 3-10, such a start goes a long way toward maximizing your starting lineup.

What about taking Gronk at 2.02, you say? Isn’t that way too early? Maybe. In most leagues. But Julius Thomas went at 2.09 and Jordan Cameron was taken with the 3.08 pick in this draft. There was no way Gronk would fall to me at 3.11, which is why I took him at 2.02, instead of waiting. By taking the top two tight ends I’ve limited everyone else’s ability to draft them.

The opportunity cost in grabbing two tight ends with your first two picks over any other position is monumental, and running back is where I took the biggest hit. Perhaps waiting until rounds five and six to grab my starting running backs was a bit too long. Pierre Thomas in a PPR format can be a sneaky RB1 candidate, and Lamar Miller has started to shoot up draft boards. Are they true RB1 types though? You should always be aware of the players you’re bypassing so you can decide if who you are drafting is worth it.

If you decide to go TE-TE or Zero Everything Else prepare yourself for the fact that you’re spending a second-round pick on a flex player. A position you could fill out later, depending on the starting requirements of your draft. Remember, flex means he’s not going up against just other tight ends, but that he could go up against a running back or wide receiver.

The Point Maximization Approach

What it came down to with the TE-TE strategy was building a team littered with as many elite scorers with high projections as possible. Value-based drafters will cringe at this position agnostic approach, but it fits within the general framework of Zero RB and antifragile roster construction.

Since TE-TE is a different route to go if you’re following the Zero RB guide to drafting, it’s easier to compare the tight ends to the top available running backs, rather than wide receivers. Drafting Graham and Gronk over the likes of Le’Veon Bell and Giovani Bernard (next best available RBs) means you believe in their talents enough that they’ll outscore the ball carriers. Here are the PPR projections for all three players using the RotoViz Sim Scores. I’ve removed Gronk’s Week 14 where he was re-injured.

Rob Gronkowski Le’Veon Bell Gio Bernard
Low 13.7 Low 12.1 Low 7.3
Median 15.7 Median 15.7 Median 10.2
High 19.9 High 19.8 High 18.8

Bell’s numbers are very similar and he plays what is generally considered a premium position. In fact, Bell’s projection trumps many of the players selected in the first round, and he’s one of the best values in the draft if you aren’t worried about LeGarrette Blount. I still felt more comfortable going with the player I believed would be a more explosive scorer.

Again trying to add points, I settled on two more pass catchers with my next two picks in Pierre Garcon and his PPR PPG High of 18.5, and Roddy White, who, when you base the numbers on his Week 13-17 stat lines only, spits out a PPR PPG High projection of 20.1.

Final Thoughts

No single draft strategy is better than anyone else’s. At a certain point it comes down to who you believe in, and how you project them to play the year. I would fault no one for taking Bell or Gio, or Julio or A.J. over Graham or Gronk. I’m of the mindset that it’s not out of the question to think Gronk can outscore any other team’s flex player in any given week.

As for Graham and Gronk themselves, we know they can produce. They have in the past, and they most likely will continue to do so in the future. There’s a reason why they are drafted early. Going TE-TE with Graham-Gronk has a feel of winning it all or coming in dead last. I’d lie if I said I didn’t want to win this league. I’d also be lying if I told you I think this team can win it all. But if Siegele believes the flex position wins championships, then #GronkSmash at the flex spot is a good start.

Because I know you care, here’s my final roster.

1.11 11 Graham, Jimmy NOS TE
2.02 14 Gronkowski, Rob NEP TE
3.11 35 Garcon, Pierre WAS WR
4.02 38 White, Roddy ATL WR
5.11 59 Thomas, Pierre NOS RB
6.02 62 Miller, Lamar MIA RB
7.11 83 Luck, Andrew IND QB
8.02 86 Williams, Terrance DAL WR
9.11 107 Boykin, Jarrett GBP WR
10.02 110 Robinson, Khiry NOS RB
11.11 131 Dunbar, Lance DAL RB
12.02 134 Ivory, Chris NYJ RB
13.11 155 Jones, James OAK WR
14.02 158 McCluster, Dexter TEN RB
15.11 179 Cotchery, Jerricho CAR WR
16.02 182 Rams, St. Louis STL Def
17.11 203 Douglas, Harry ATL WR
18.02 206 Prater, Matt DEN PK

Salvatore Stefanile writes about 2-QB fantasy football leagues for and is the content manager for Sportable — an interactive source for bite-sized football news and fantasy football resources. He’s also a friendly chap on the tweetbot @2QBFFB

  1. Not a real strategy. Yet  (back)
  2. That’s gold, Jerry!  (back)
  3. He ended up going with six WRs to start.  (back)