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High Staked: Unwritten Rules of Fantasy, and Troubles at Tight End

In my many years of playing fantasy football, I have come upon a few reliable truths. I shall list them, with the following disclaimer: There are likely plenty of examples that disprove these truths, but, if you’re like me, you don’t remember any of those, because, also if you’re like me, you prefer to be the victim, not the hero.

Truth: The guy who’s been scoring massive points on your bench all season will knife you in the back when you finally start him. For us, it was Tyler Boyd, whom we picked up off waivers after Week 2 and watched as he blew up on our Main Event bench the following two weeks. This week, when we finally started him – salivating at the extra targets he would see with both Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard not in uniform for the Bengals – he got 4 catches for 44 yards.

On the FFPC team I drafted with my 9-year-old son, we have Calvin Ridley, whom my son has been begging to put in our starting lineup, even though we also have Julio Jones. In weeks 3 and 4, Ridley was the highest-scoring guy on our bench. This week: 4 receptions, 38 yards. Way to make my son cry, Calvin.1

Truth: Replacing a starter 15 minutes before kickoff will always be the wrong move. In an FFPC dynasty, I would be undefeated except that I inexplicably decided to bench Jared Cook (31.5 points) for Cameron Brate (zero points) right before the start of games on the opening Sunday. Do I remember all the times I made a similar start/bench move at the last minute and it worked out? Of course not! I only remember pain.

Truth: When you are about to replace a starter at the last minute but decide to leave him in, the bench guy you would have started will always be the higher scorer. Yes, a paradox! This is what I call Schrodinger’s Lineup: when a start/bench decision is simultaneously both right and wrong. The player who best embodies this? Isaiah Crowell, who, no matter what, will have huge games only when he’s on your bench, and the points he scores would have been just enough to give you the win, had you started him.


Out of the top 15 tight ends according to Main Event ADP, seven – Greg Olsen, Trey Burton, Evan Engram, Delanie Walker, Jack Doyle, Tyler Eifert and O.J. Howard – missed this week due to injury or bye. In FFPC scoring, which awards 1.5 points per reception for TEs, this is a full-blown crisis. With weighted TE scoring, it’s not unusual for teams to regularly start two TEs, but many owners are scrambling just to find one.

It’s so bad that Austin Hooper is practically a TE1 by default. While perusing some of the Main Event rosters in the two leagues we’re in, these were some of the combinations of tight ends that teams had rostered:2

  • Tyler Kroft, Jonnu Smith and Mark Andrews.
  • Vance McDonald and Jesse James.
  • Antonio Gates, James and Nick Vannett.
  • Burton (bye), C.J. Uzomah, Geoff Swaim and Ian Thomas.
  • Doyle (out), Ricky Seals-Jones and Jeff Heuerman.

Out of the dozen above TEs who played, the top scorer was Swaim with 10 points. Everyone else scored in single digits. Five scored 5 points or fewer. Three – Kroft, Smith and Seals-Jones – had zero points.

It’s not going to get too much better. Eifert recently joined Walker on injured reserve. Engram is close to returning but since the Giants play Thursday night, he may not see the field again until Week 7. Howard got some rest during the bye but could still miss the next few weeks with a sprained MCL. Doyle seems week-to-week with a hip injury but, in his place, Eric Ebron has been a TE1. One of the lone bright spots is that Olsen practiced and may have a shot at playing next week.

In the meantime, expect to see a few surprisingly high bids this week for Jacksonville TE Niles Paul, who caught 7 balls for 65 yards Sunday, outplaying Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who has struggled. And continue to keep a candle lit for a healthy (for now) Jordan Reed, the patron saint of injured TEs.

  1. Just kidding, I was the one crying.  (back)
  2. Note: These were their only tight ends, meaning they had to choose one of these guys to start.  (back)

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