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Metrics That Matter: Tight Ends

Finding What Matters: Beating Draft Capital

Mike Gesicki

Many analysts have emphasized the importance of athleticism in the tight end position, and this has proven to be true. Both height adjusted SpeedScore and 3-cone times can tell you an amazing amount about their fantasy ceilings. 

In fact, if you simply isolate Day 1 and 2 draft selections, both of these metrics show a higher correlation to future fantasy points than the actual draft pick. Meaning a player who is more agile and faster, produced more fantasy points regardless if they were taken in the top 16 picks or in the middle of the third round.

Using an extreme example, 63rd overall selection Travis Kelce had a better speedscore and 3-cone time than 10th overall selection Eric Ebron from the year prior. Athleticism was correct in predicting Kelce above Ebron regardless of the relatively large difference in draft capital.

Now comes my favorite metric learned this past season from @HaydenWinks at Rotoworld, and that is competition adjusted market share. This adjusts a player’s production relative to the strength of the team they played on (conference, competing depth chart, wins, etc.) and their strength of schedule. The results are outstanding as it is nearly twice as effective as draft capital alone over the last seven years. Players who produced at elite levels among elite company in college, continue to do so in the NFL.

Projection Model

Putting all these together into a forecasting model suggests that beyond threshold draft capital (Day 1-2 pick vs Day 3), there is more noise than correlation when fine tuning too closely into draft selection. This is contrary to nearly all other positions in fantasy. Draft capital is undeniably still important, but this helps us explain some of the variation in our evaluations of tight ends.

The following model uses athletic testing from the combine, competition adjusted market share, and being a day 2 or earlier draft pick. It is a simple evaluation, but provides a valuable tool to reference going forward with an R-squared of 0.52, albeit a relatively small sample size.

Players to Target: Dynasty and Devy

OJ Howard had one of the best TE profiles in recent history, so there’s still reason to hope. Rob Gronkowski is certainly on the trailing end of his career and Howard is still only 25 years old.

Despite being a very polarizing player in the dynasty community, Mike Gesicki has a glowing profile. He is worth his recent buzz according to projections, especially considering Miami passed at one of the highest rates last year. The low Vegas projected win total suggests more negative scripts are on their way in 2020.

 

See the source image

Jace Sternberger has the sixth best competition adjusted market share in over 7 years of a day 2 or earlier pick. Savvy dynasty owners should make their play now on the Texas A&M product before it’s too late. Green Bay is in desperate need of pass catching options behind Davante Adams, and Sternberger has an immediate opportunity to do so following the departure of Jimmy Graham. 

Kyle Pitts with the Florida Gators has some extremely high potential as a devy target. With no athletic measurables to measure with yet, his competition adjusted market share already marks him above over half of the tight ends taken in the first three rounds over the last seven years. There might not be a cheaper time to acquire him, because if he builds on what he did last year, there’s no doubt that he gets drafted early come April.

Thanks for reading and stay golden! If you like what you learned, follow me @DavidZach16 for more interesting stats and tidbits throughout the year.

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