2020 Best Ball Workshop – George Kittle, Mark Andrews, and Why Unpopular TE Tactics Are the Key to Success
Image Credit: Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: George Kittle.

Thanks to the tools of best-ball guru Mike Beers, the 2019 Best Ball Workshop returned impressive win rates at every position. As we move into Lesson 2 of the 2020 Workshop, Shawn Siegele uses the Roster Construction Explorer to help you dominate your league again at the TE position. 

In Lesson 1, we examined the QB position and located a key hack that provided owners with a win rate above 10% from 2015 to 2018. It paid off for subscribers in a big way as the numbers were even better in 2019.

Today we jump into the TE position where our 2019 lesson was even more successful. With an 11.4% win rate, our recommended TE tactic was a key piece in our overall strategy.

We also explore a second method for winning the TE position, providing you flexibility in your 2020 drafts.

2-TE vs. 3-TE

Historically, 3-TE has held a very slight edge in both win rate and popularity. This was again the case in 2019.

Relatively few owners deviated from these two constructions, and those results were poor enough to discourage further experimentation.

If this were all the RCE can tell us, our TE decisions wouldn’t be overly relevant. Fortunately, the good stuff is still to come.

Elite TE

Elite TE has always been a RotoViz cornerstone. Our Monte Carlo simulations favored this approach back at the birth of best ball, and our research has continued to argue in its favor through the years.

At the extremes, it can get expensive. Selecting a TE in Round 1 has been a difficult proposition. Over the previous four years, it only returned a 5.4% win rate. The numbers were better in 2019 as Travis Kelce led the position in scoring with an ADP of 12.2. His owners won at a rate of 7.2%, but the numbers were worse for owners who grabbed him in the first round.

Of course, Kelce’s struggles also stem from going in a part of the draft that didn’t include exposure to Christian McCaffrey. He wasn’t a bad choice in comparison to most others. Among non-McCaffrey selections in the first 15 picks, only Dalvin Cook and DeAndre Hopkins had better win rates.

By contrast, Zach Ertz (12.6) and George Kittle (15.1) ranked No. 2 and No. 4 at the position in points, and they went in an area of the draft with exposure to McCaffrey. We can follow Ertz’s progression up the leaderboard with the Player Win Rates tool.

With Ertz and Kittle staying healthy and retaining their elite status, they were able to outperform the historical numbers. From 2015 to 2018, TE1s drafted between Round 2 and Round 4 had a 9.9% win rate. That jumped to 12.8% last year.


Once we grab an elite TE1, the preferred construction changes. Two-TE has a better win rate and top-six percentage while also scoring 17 more PPG.

The success of Elite-TE owners comes at the expense of those who grab players from the second tier. Drafting your TE1 in Rounds 5 through 8 had previously returned only a 7.9% win rate. This dropped to 6.5% last season.

If This Is True, How Do I Play 3-TE Successfully?

The 3-TE construction rewards owners with the courage to wait at TE. From 2015-18, 3-TE owners who selected their TE1 between Rounds 8 and 12 earned an 8.8% win rate.

Those numbers jumped to 9.0% in 2019.

Can I Wait on My TE2 and TE3?

Prior to 2019, waiting beyond Round 15 for your TE2 had provided only a 7.5% win rate. Those numbers jumped to only 7.7% even though Darren Waller (17.3%) was often available after that.

Waller’s impact was found later. Historically, it had been preferable to also select your TE3 by the end of Round 15. That was not the case in 2019.

The Two Paths to Glory Remain

In last year’s lesson, we discussed two separate paths to TE success. While the exploits of individual players will always play a big role in any given season, it’s encouraging to see these trends continue in 2019.

  • Path 1: Take advantage of stud TEs for scoring upside and conservation of the roster spot.
  • Path 2: Wait out the compromise choices in the middle rounds and then grab three solid options from the low-end starters and sleeper tier. Don’t wait too long for your second and third TEs.

The TE position provides an easy opportunity to gain an advantage since the popularity of the different approaches works in reverse order of success. That was true historically and continued in 2019.

TE1 2019 Win 2019 Number 15-18 Win 15-18 Number
Round 1-4 11.4 12977 9.4 49879
Round 5-8 6.5 24608 7.9 91598
After Round 8 8.6 14967 8.2 86622

While the scarcity of superstar TEs places a realistic limit on the number of owners who select the Elite-TE approach, it’s worth noting that reaching for a TE became more popular in 2019 at the same time that it was less successful. Finding the guts to break the bank early or the discipline to wait out the second tier will likely be a key to best ball success again in 2020.

FFPC Roster Construction Explorer and Other Tools

Don’t forget to check out the FFPC Roster Construction Explorer and our full suite of FFPC Best Ball tools. The Exposures and ADP tool allows you to track the latest ADP developments and monitor your person player portfolio. The Best Ball Command Center is the ultimate in-draft tool.

Shawn Siegele has won the MFL10 of Death three times in the last five years with top-three finishes in every season. He credits the RotoViz tools for his success and writes the Best Ball Workshop to help you follow the same blueprint in your own drafts. Stay Tuned for Lesson 3, and check in on Lesson 1: The Key QB Hack That Will Boost Your Win Rate.

Image Credit: Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: George Kittle.

Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.
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