Shawn Siegele explores the BestBall win rates for tight ends, breaks down heroic seasons from Austin Hooper, Mark Andrews, and Darren Waller, and examines the superstar with a shocking difference in win rate between the FFPC and BestBall10s.
Each week in my adventures down the rabbit hole of the Best Ball Win Rates tool, I like to choose a specific position or question for closer examination. Two weeks ago, we analyzed the RB position and explored the performance of the Dead Zone RBs compared to the Sweet Spot RBs. Last week we discussed the WR position and looked at the mid-season results for our preferred construction from the Best Ball Workshop.
Today we look at the TE position. And just in time to discuss some of the differences between regular formats and TE premium, we have an additional tool at our disposal – FFPC Win Rates.
The 2019 Stars
While tight ends are a crucial part of any winning best ball construction, they haven’t traditionally posted gaudy win rates as individuals. Zach Ertz and George Kittle authored two of the best TE seasons in history last season, and they weren’t overly expensive at ADP 36 and 114 respectively. The two stars finished the season with win rates of 17% and 16%, excellent win rates but not among the top five in 2019. (They ranked No. 7 and No. 10.)
This season the battle to be the Next Kittle has come down to three contenders. One of them had a shot at a truly crazy win rate before a Week 10 injury derailed his season.
Hooper has been a revelation. Using the Weekly Explorer, you can pull up any advanced stat or scoring system over any time frame. In this case we’ll focus on FFPC scoring in 2019 and see that Hooper ties with breakout star Chris Godwin as the No. 6 PPG scorer among the flex-eligible positions.
Moreover, the five players ahead of him were selected much earlier. Aaron Jones was closest with a 49-slot gap. As a result, his win rate sits right there with Dalvin Cook and easily trumps both Michael Thomas and Mike Evans.
Hooper has made steady growth in target share throughout his NFL career, rising steadily every season from 6% as a rookie to 19% in his fourth campaign.
His jump from 15% a year ago to 19% in 2019 has been the result of a consistently high floor. He hasn’t had a game below 14%. Last year he recorded 10 games at or below that level.
Sadly, Hooper is expected to miss the next month with a sprained MCL.
Waller’s performance has fallen off over the last three weeks and he’s only been targeted seven times over the last two games. There’s some risk for Waller owners, as he’s succeeded to this point despite the Raiders’ sluggish offense. Only Baltimore is slower in terms of seconds-to-snap, and that’s translated into an offense that only runs 62 plays per 60 minutes. They’re also one of the NFL’s most run-heavy teams, a deadly combination that results in only 32 passes per 60 minutes.
You can peruse all of the pace statistics and break them down by quarter, point differential, spread, over/under, and more using the NFL Pace Tool.
On a more positive note, Oakland gets a plum matchup with the tanking Bengals this weekend and has the fourth-best remaining schedule for TEs.
Tight End Strength of Schedule – Week 11-16
Andrews may have been on a few seasonal benches for his most recent 26-point explosion after the recent cold spell, but he’s been a best ball weapon, jumping back to a 15.8% win rate after the latest big game.
Andrews’ breakout season is even more impressive when you consider that Baltimore ranks No. 28 in receiving expected points. It’s a low-volume passing attack, but the second-year star has been the focal point. His 25% target share trails only Kittle at the position, and he’s been targeted an average of 3.4 yards deeper than the 49ers weapon.
Andrews has absolutely dominated the center of the field, gaining 297 yards on his 31 targets.
The Strange Case of Travis Kelce
When we look at the three big stars from 2019 and the earliest-drafted players from this season, we find win rates that track fairly closely between BestBall10s and FFPC.
With one big exception.
When we look at Kelce in the FFPC, he posts a sterling 11.3% win rate. That’s the second-best win rate in the first round behind Christian McCaffrey (26.3%). Among the first 15 players drafted, only Michael Thomas (11%) has a win rate within even 3% of Kelce. The Chiefs star is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the TE reception bonus, and the bounce is clear when comparing the raw points. In the FFPC, Kelce is the third-highest scoring player in this group.
When we flip over to the BestBall10s, it’s like entering an alternate universe.
There are likely two partial explanations for this.
Historically, there have been some differences between the two formats in terms of early TE, which you can investigate yourself using our Roster Construction Explorers. Over the last two years, selecting a TE in the first two rounds has returned a 9.7% win rate in FFPC and only an 8.3 win rate in BestBall10s.1
The biggest difference, however, is likely second-round pairing. In the FFPC, Kelce was the fifth player drafted with an ADP of 6.5. That put him in perfect position to land with Cook (ADP 18.1). In BestBall10s, Kelce is stuck in the desert. Between Davante Adams at No. 7 overall and Melvin Gordon at No. 17, Thomas (13.1%) is the only player with a win rate above 7%. Kelce and Julio Jones (6.7%) are the only players above 5.1%.
The catch here is that Kelce is probably not paired with Thomas or even Jones that often. Over the last two years, a start that includes a WR and a TE was half as popular as a start with an RB and a TE. Drafters want their RB1 in the first two rounds, which means that most Kelce teams in BestBall10s were doomed almost regardless of Kelce’s performance.
I’m constantly impressed at the depth and breadth of the information in tools built by Mike Beers, Dave Caban, and Anthony Shook. If you enjoyed some of the visualizations used in this piece, make sure to check out the NFL Stat Explorer, the NFL Pace app, the Best Ball Win Rates tool, the Game Splits app, the RotoViz Screener, and the Weekly Stats tool.
Image Credit: Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Travis Kelce.
- Some of this can be explained simply by the different TEs who are pulled into the first two rounds in each format. On the other hand, BestBall10s favor a 2-TE construction when you draft a TE early, but the FFPC still favors a 4- or 5-TE construction. (Due to differences in total roster spots.) Well-informed drafters would have been more likely to also land one of the other winning TEs in the FFPC. (back)