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Tight End Breakout

In dynasty circles, you know that when you draft a TE in rookie drafts, you may not see a return on investment for 3-4 years. Their approximate timelines are often thrown out there in terms of the delayed TE breakout, with a few exceptions making an earlier impact.I was curious though. How long does it specifically take the average Tight End to breakout and have a TE1 season? I looked into the stats to find my answer. I sampled every TE drafted from 2007 to 2015. I stopped at 2015 so that those players have had at least 3 years in the league. With TE becoming such a thin position, it’s imperative to try and identify prospects whenever possible and important to know when a prospect is no longer likely to pan out.

Over that time span, there have been 134 Tight Ends drafted. Similarly to my QB breakout article, I will break down by draft round.


1st Round:

Over the 8-year timeframe, only 6 TEs were drafted in the 1st round. With that being said, there’s obviously a small sample size. But 4 of those 6 TEs ended up becoming TE1s at least once during their careers so far (66%). Of those 4 TEs that achieved TE1 status, it took them an average of 2.5 years to reach the milestone.


2nd Round:

The 2nd round was surprisingly positive for the TE position and arguably more fruitful than round 1. There were 16 TEs drafted in round 2, with 8 of them becoming TE1s (50%). The average time for them to reach TE1 status was 2.75 years.


3rd Round:

As you would expect, we see a little more TE1 scarcity in the 3rd round. Out of the 21 TEs drafted, 7 became TE1s (33%). The average duration to become a TE1 among those 7 TEs was exactly 3 years.


4th Round and Later:

Round 4 and later, things begin getting really thin, as is common with most positions. There were 91 TEs drafted in the final 4 rounds. Only 7 out of those 91 TEs reached TE1 status (8%). Furthermore, the average time to become a TE1 for those that were able, was 3.6 years.

The data is pretty in line with what is talked about in the community. There’s a clear cutoff between the first 3 rounds and the back half of the draft. The average time for a TE to breakout who is drafted in the first 3 rounds is 2.8 years! It’s very rare for a TE to have a TE1 season if they haven’t in the first 4 years. Only 3 out of the 134 Tight Ends broke out after that (2%).

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