Fantasy Football Tight End Streaming: Schedule Exploitation

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek

Dec 23, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek (87) celebrates a first down catch against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. The Redskins defeated the Eagles, 27-20. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re the planning type, and I think you are, you’re going to want some semblance of a plan for spotting the most mouth-watering tight end matchups if you’ve chosen to stream the position.

To reiterate: streaming, like we (should) do with defenses, is a system in which we draft a tight end or two in the waning rounds of our fantasy football draft and use the waiver wire as our extended bench.

Looking ahead is the key to streaming any position. The owner planning two or three weeks ahead has a decided advantage over the competition.

Below is a table with favorable (blue) and unfavorable (red) tight end matchups over the first half of the NFL season.

This strength of schedule chart was created with a combination of last year’s performance against tight ends and any subsequent offseason changes that might change the way a team defends against the position. I’ve only included 14 teams with tight end options that I consider legitimate streamers.

Team Wk 1 Wk 2 Wk 3 Wk 4 Wk 5 Wk 6 Wk 7 Wk 8
Lions MIN @ARI @WAS CHI @GB @CLE CIN DAL
Bears CIN MIN @PIT @DET NO NYG @WAS BYE
Texans @SD TEN @BAL SEA @SF STL @KC BYE
Dolphins @CLE @IND ATL @NO BAL BYE BUF @NE
Giants @DAL DEN @CAR @KC PHI @CHI MIN @PHI
Chargers HOU @PHI @TEN DAL @OAK IND @JAC BYE
Redskins PHI @GB DET @OAK BYE @DAL CHI @DEN
Colts OAK MIA @SF @JAC SEA @SD DEN BYE
Broncos BAL @NYG OAK PHI @DAL JAC @IND WAS
Ravens @DEN CLE HOU @BUF @MIA GB @PIT BYE
Eagles @WAS SD KC @DEN @NYG @TB DAL NYG
Seahawks @CAR SF JAC @HOU @IND TEN @ARI @STL
Cardinals @STL DET @NO @TB CAR @SF SEA ATL
Bengals @CHI PIT GB @CLE NE @BUF @DET NYJ

This chart could prove very handy, but I’d caution against using it as an infallible document in designing a long-term strategy for exploiting the best weekly tight end matchups.

Streaming, sadly enough, isn’t a science; it’s an art. It requires some independent thought. If, for instance, you’re considering two tight ends – one with a great matchup and one with a decent matchup – the tight end with a bigger offensive role might be your pick, even if he isn’t the option with the preferable matchup.

To put it more simply: If Player X is averaging five targets a game and plays a team allowing nine fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, and Player Y gets eight balls thrown his way per game and goes up against a team allowing 6.5 fantasy points to tight ends, you might lean Player Y.

Think of the above table as another arrow in the quiver of degenerate knowledge that’ll help us stream effectively over the season’s first eight weeks.

  • Brent Celek has emerged from the Eagle’s three-headed tight end monster as the most viable streamer. Celek has reeled in seven of the nine balls that have come his way this preseason for 74 yards. Chip Kelly’s offense is predicated on creating mismatches in part by using tight ends in inventive ways, and Celek gets five favorable matchups in the first eight weeks. Celek is a former fantasy points per route run (FPPRR) all-star, posting a stellar .26 FPPRR (10th best) as recently as 2011. Keep a close eye on Celek, who’s going undrafted in 12-team leagues.
  • Brandon Myers, the guy whose fantasy production in Oakland was entirely reliant on garbage time dump-offs from Carson Palmer, could very well have the softest Week 1-3 schedule of any tight end in the league. Myers has been targeted just three times this preseason. Pairing him with Fred Davis, whose schedule gets tasty in the latter half of the season’s first eight weeks, might not be a terrible idea.
  • Antonio Gates is old and useless and severely overdrafted in the ninth round. I understand. Gates, however – and fellow Chargers’ tight end Ladarius Webb – have a first half schedule directly from the fantasy deities, with just one unfavorable matchup against Philadelphia. Philip Rivers’ dinking and dunking ways combined with the Chargers facing large deficits could result in PPR glory for Gates and/or Webb.
  • Owen Daniels’ schedule is hideous, but the targets will be there. He averaged 7.2 targets a game in 2012 – a number that could grow if the Texans pass more with its running game in serious question.
  • I’m officially and unabashedly intrigued by Zach Miller: Seattle’s 6-5 255-pound tight end, who had a late-season outburst in 2012 with 12 receptions for 190 yards in two playoff games, is expected back from a pesky foot injury. He gets the incredible luxury of four favorable matchups in the first half of the year, and perhaps most importantly: not a single unfavorable matchup. I could see Miller become our streaming golden child by early October.
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C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.
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