The fantasy football season is quickly approaching, and it is time to get your fantasy football cheat sheets together. Although there is still a lot of time before the NFL season kicks off (IF it kicks off), it is never too early to do your homework. These are just the first round of fantasy football Strength of schedule, and there will undoubtedly be some developments during the offseason that will shake up the rankings.
How the SOS is calculated: Every year when we get together to make our fantasy football positional rankings, projections and cheat sheets we have to take a few variables in to mind. We calculate fantasy football strength of schedules for certain players and teams, for example. In years past, we have looked at the average points allowed per position per team to determine whose schedule puts them in position for the most success. This year, we will be going one step further, calculating points against averages based on home and away games.
How does this affect the SOS compared to years past? Take for example, the Dallas Cowboys who allowed nearly 10 more points per game to opposing quarterbacks playing in Dallas. Their secondary must be getting caught checking out the big screen. On the other hand, a team like the Jets was stellar at home, but allowed almost three times as many points to opposing quarterbacks when they are on the road.
As the season progresses, you will be able to see the change in SOS as we continue to tweak the projections. Players will move in free agency and affect the strength of their respective defenses, and that affect will be reflected in the SOS.
Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule: Tight Ends 1.0
A well picked tight end is sometimes the final piece to the championship puzzle. The crop of viable tight ends in fantasy has grown from three worthwhile early picks (Dallas Clark, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates) to include playmaker like Marcedes Lewis, Vernon Davis and either one of the Patriots’ tight ends.
This is actually going to make draft day a little bit easier for you. You won’t have to worry anymore about taking a tight end too early or too late because there are plenty of options. The key to knowing which tight end is going to be most worth the pick is knowing how consistently he will be thrown to.
Take for instance, Vernon Davis of San Francisco. No one will argue he is one of the best tight ends in fantasy. Davis is a likely 900 yard tight end with the upside of double digit touchdowns. So when you see him available, you will likely take him over Kellen Winslow of Tampa Bay. But you shouldn’t. Winslow has the third easiest schedule for a tight end. Over the past two seasons, Winslow has averaged about 150 yards less and two to five touchdowns fewer than Vernon Davis. He also is a proven veteran with an easy schedule. By going with Winslow, you pick up a TE with similar upside being thrown too just as often as Davis, but likely drafted four to five rounds later.
1. Jon Carlson, Seattle Seahawks: Carlson didn’t do much in his first year in the Pete Carroll regime, but has yet to be more than a fifth or sixth option in his fantasy career. Looks like it will be more than just the game plan holding Carlson back in Seattle this year.
2. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers: Heath Miller is a great receiving tight end, but you wouldn’t know it from checking his fantasy stats. The Steelers ineptitude on the offensive line in recent years has forced the Steelers to use Miller as a blocker on passing downs. The Steelers offensive line is getting better, so Miller should get more chances. He will have to prove us right about his skill against a tough schedule.
3. Jeremy Shockey, Carolina Panthers: We already know what’s going to happen. You are going to stumble across Shockey’s name on your cheat sheet and remember his years in New York and waste a pick on him when you shouldn’t. Shockey has a tough schedule, quarterback uncertainty and is at the point in his career where he will either fall off or bounce back. We know how we think it will work out.
4. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles: Under Michael Vick, the Eagles saw their involvement of the tight end drop nearly 10 percent, and it severely hurt Celek’s value. It could be that the Eagle’s receivers are too good, or that Celek isn’t fast enough for Vick, but Celek’s value isn’t half what it used to be.
5. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers: Davis has emerged as an elite tight end in the NFL, so you can expect relatively strong numbers. Davis does face a tough schedule and his quarterback situation isn’t great, it might be asking too much to expect him to live up to his 13 touchdown ’09 campaign.
6. Daniel Fells, St. Louis Rams: The Rams didn’t involve their tight ends all that much before, and now they have Josh McDaniels as their coordinator. Under McDaniels, the Broncos involved their tight ends in only nine percent of their passing plays, the third lowest. See what I’m getting at?
7. Benjamin Watson, Cleveland Browns: The Browns just didn’t have all that many reliable choices to throw to last year. Colt McCoy made Watson and Peyton Hillis his favorite targets while Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi battled injuries. McCoy has a better receiving option in Greg Little, so Watson’s production is bound to drop.
8. Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins: Chris Cooley is a great PPR tight end, and Fred Davis gets his fair share of red zone targets too, but the Redskins face a tougher tight end schedule in 2011. It is still up in the air as to whom the quarterback is, but when Rex Grossman was quarterback Cooley was target almost ten times per game and Fred Davis had two of his three touchdowns.
9. Ben Patrick, Arizona Cardinals: Really, this may be a waste of space to even write about. The Cardinals want blockers out of their tight ends, not receivers.
10. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions: The Lions wanted to get Pettigrew involved early in his NFL career and he quickly became one of the most targeted tight ends in football. The Lions have extremely tough fantasy schedules across the board, and Pettigrew has the easiest. He could be Mo Town’s most valuable fantasy asset.
1. Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have a favorable year in fantasy, as most of their schedules are extremely easy. Don’t get too excited about Fasano, however, because the Dolphins just don’t target their tight ends all that often. Fasano’s upside is only about 600 yards and six to eight touchdowns.
2. Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans: It has been a long time coming, but Cook has finally earned the faith of the coaching staff and should be the starter in 2011. Cook really came on strong at the end of the season and should get even more looks throughout the entirety of 2011.
3. Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers run multiple tight end sets, so Winslow is rarely asked to do the blocking, making him essentially a wide receiver. Winslow is a sleeper candidate this year, though, with a schedule this easy and a quarterback as good as Josh Freeman.
4. Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs: Moeaki was a quality waiver wire addition in PPR leagues. Being the second best option to Dwayne Bowe meant that Moeaki had his fair share of targets. His upside isn’t great, but the schedule helps his chances.
5. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints: The Saints utilized their tight ends more than you probably realized and were confident enough in Jimmy Graham’s progression that they parted ways with Jeremy Shockey. Graham posted four touchdowns in his last three games while never having a catch longer than 18 yards. What does that mean? It means the Saints have a new favorite red zone target.
6. Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders: The Raiders likely won’t re-sign Zach Miller (although there are rumors No. 7 might be interested in his services), if they don’t it will likely be Brandon Myers that is the starter. Both tight ends are better running routes than blocking, and the Raiders utilize their tight ends fairly regularly. Myers could be a surprise TE prospect.
7. Kevin Boss, New York Giants: The Giants don’t ask much from Kevin Boss, but it wasn’t all that long ago that the Giants had a 700 yard, seven touchdown tight end on their offense. Boss is more likely a 500 yard, five touchdown tight end.
8. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: If Gates can take the field every week, he should be fantasy’s best again this year. It will be interesting to see how having Vincent Jackson in the lineup affects his fantasy value.
9. Daniel Graham, Denver Broncos: Last year, the Broncos only involved their tight ends in nine percent of their passing plays, and new head coach John Fox has never had a tight end finish in the top 15 in fantasy. Graham should spend the majority of the time as a blocker.
10. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts: Clark will at least have the schedule on his side as he bounces back from a wrist injury that ended his 2010 season prematurely. Peyton still involved his tight ends at high rate without Clark, so 2011 should be a good bounce back year for the Colts’ TE.