Mining For Value In Auctions - TEs
By Jeff Tefertiller
June 21st, 2010

Sold To the Highest Bidder

In the initial article to the series, we suggested that each owner entering an auction should ask themselves a series of questions in order to best chart a plan of action. For the Tight End position, the two questions were:

  • g. Do I want, and need, a stud tight end? If so, who do I consider studs?
  • h. With the drastic drop in cost after the first few tight ends, am I comfortable with the tight ends in the TE8-12 range? If not, who is the lowest tight end I can start with confidence?
  • The answers to these two questions will help shape how we want to attack the auction. In every auction, the focus should be on getting the most total value for the team as a whole. We will offer suggestions and ideas on ways to address the Tight End position that can help maximize the total team value.

    For this series of articles, we will be using a $200 cap and a standard 12 team league that starts 1QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 DEF.

    The chart below gives us an indication as to how fantasy owners view the options for fantasy TE1. It includes Average Auction Values and Average Draft Position (ADP):

    #
    Tight End
    Avg $ Val
    % Of Cap
    ADP
    1
    Dallas Clark
    $17
    8.5%
    TE1
    2
    Vernon Davis
    $15
    7.5%
    TE3
    3
    Antonio Gates
    $15
    7.5%
    TE2
    4
    Jermichael Finley
    $13
    6.5%
    TE5
    5
    Jason Witten
    $12
    6.0%
    TE4
    6
    Brent Celek
    $11
    5.5%
    TE6
    7
    Kellen Winslow
    $8
    4.0%
    TE9
    8
    Owen Daniels
    $7
    3.5%
    TE8
    9
    Tony Gonzalez
    $6
    3.0%
    TE7
    10
    Zach Miller
    $6
    3.0%
    TE12
    11
    Chris Cooley
    $6
    3.0%
    TE10
    12
    John Carlson
    $4
    2.0%
    TE15
    13
    Heath Miller
    $4
    2.0%
    TE16
    14
    Dustin Keller
    $4
    2.0%
    TE14
    15
    Greg Olsen
    $3
    1.5%
    TE13
    16
    Visanthe Shiancoe
    $3
    1.5%
    TE11

    The Tight End position is usually not addressed by many owners until the last. Many auction owners do not have a plan for the position. You are encouraged to decide ahead of time what level of starting tight end you want. Do you want to spend the big bucks on Dallas Clark or target Heath Miller later on? If you are wanting to get a top tight end, there are plenty of choices this year. Clark is coming off a career year and is in a great offense. With Peyton Manning tossing the rock, Clark could put up big numbers once again. Vernon Davis burst on the scene last season. He has a great rapport with quarterback Alex Smith. Smith looks for his big tight end in the red zone. Antonio Gates is a steady producer, finishing as an elite tight end each of the last several seasons. Gates could stand to benefit greatly if wide receiver Vincent Jackson decided to hold out. Jermichael Finley has tremendous upside, but is a bit of a risk. He exploded onto the scene as one of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets. With Finley, the sky is the limit, but he is still a shade unproven and immature. He is truly a boom or bust player at this price. The fans of Jason Witten are happy that his lack of touchdowns last season has resulted in such a discount. Who would have thought he would be so reasonable in relation to the top tight ends? The Cowboy offense will pass often once again. Can he rebound in the touchdown column? The way auction owners are bidding, Brent Celek is breaking into the elite tier. Gone is Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb is taking over as the field leader of the Philadelphia Eagles. In his limited action, Kolb targeted his big tight end. Will this continue over an entire season? Even though he carries a "stud" tight end price, it might be a bit premature to assume Celek can produce similar numbers to the five tight ends ranked above him.

    If going the cheap route, it is probably best to target Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzalez, John Carlson, or Heath Miller. Each is a proven fantasy producer at a good price. Winslow has earned the trust of young quarterback Josh Freeman. The Buccaneers will be starting a pair of rookie wide receivers. With no other proven options, Freeman will look for his veteran tight end for the clutch reception. Gonzalez is an "oldie but goodie". He proved last year that there is still some left in the tank. With the Falcons' void at the WR2 position, quarterback Matt Ryan looks to his proven tight end when he needs a big catch. Carlson has finished as the TE7 and TE11 the past two years. He could have another solid season in the new Seahawk offense. The team has upgraded the offensive line, meaning Carlson will not have to stay in and block as often. He is a young tight end on the rise. Heath Miller finished last season as a good fantasy starter. He is poised to take another step in his development this year. Miller is good at finding the soft spots in the middle of the field. He has earned the trust of both Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich. Of all the Pittsburgh pass catchers, Miller should be the least effected by the Roethlisberger suspension early in the season.

    Daniels is a stud when healthy, but there is so much risk that it is probably best to pass on the former Wisconsin Badger. Also, I would avoid Dustin Keller and Greg Olsen. While their Average Auction Values are reasonable, neither is in a good fantasy situation. Both Zach Miller and Chris Cooley have upside, but carry considerable risk. Miller will be fighting for targets from new quarterback Jason Campbell in the Raider offense. Can you risk relying on a fantasy starter in Oakland? Cooley is an entirely different story. He is a proven producer. But, the veteran is coming off an injury-plagued year and will be splitting time with Fred Davis. Can the Redskins find a way to best utilize the talents of both athletic tight ends? If not, there will be too much inconsistency on a weekly basis. If you miss out on the desirable options, Shiancoe is the tight end to get. While he may never finish among the fantasy elite, Shiancoe will not be a liability, either. It is better to spend the $3 on him as opposed to having Jeremy Shockey, Kevin Boss or Todd Heap as your fantasy starter.

    Unless the rosters are deep, or you feel the need to get a handcuff (Fred Davis for Chris Cooley), there is little need to spend much (if anything) on a backup tight end. Below are the cheap options for reserve tight ends.

    #
    Tight End
    Avg $ Val
    % Of Cap
    ADP
    17
    Brandon Pettigrew
    $2
    1.0%
    TE19
    18
    Jermaine Gresham
    $2
    1.0%
    TE25
    19
    Fred Davis
    $2
    1.0%
    TE22
    20
    Jared Cook
    $2
    1.0%
    TE32
    21
    Jimmy Graham
    $2
    1.0%
    n/a
    22
    Kevin Boss
    $1
    0.5%
    TE18
    23
    Jeremy Shockey
    $1
    0.5%
    TE17
    24
    Rob Gronkowski
    $1
    0.5%
    n/a
    25
    Aaron Hernandez
    $1
    0.5%
    TE29
    26
    Anthony Fasano
    $1
    0.5%
    TE26
    27
    Alge Crumpler
    $1
    0.5%
    n/a
    28
    Todd Heap
    $1
    0.5%
    TE20
    29
    Tony Scheffler
    $1
    0.5%
    TE23
    30
    Ed Dickson
    $1
    0.5%
    n/a

    In a standard 12 team league, only half of the teams are likely to carry a back up. Many times, the same options available at the auction will be available on the waiver wire so why not spend the extra money at a different position during the auction? Boss and Shockey are the only tight ends of the group that are worth bidding on. Hernandez and Graham are good young prospects but are not likely to make a big difference in their first seasons in the NFL.

    Plan ahead and know how much to allocate for the tight end position. If there is a need to save money, it might be best to forgo the backup tight end and spend the extra dollar or two on a fantasy starter. If your stud tight end went down, how much would you really want to rely on the mediocre reserves? Why not just get a better starter and worry about covering the bye week during the season?

    The choices at tight end are more plentiful than most seasons. There are 10 or 12 good fantasy starters, all providing good production for the price. Heath Miller and John Carlson are the two that are real bargains. Both finished the 2010 season much higher than their current Average Auction Values. Plus, each has seen their respective situation improve.

    Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.