Many things broke right in helping Eric Ebron and Jared Cook to surprising fantasy success last year. But it didn’t hurt either top-5 TE to face 5 opponents that finished among the bottom 9 in TE points allowed.
Jimmy Graham, on the other hand, met 5 defenses that ranked among the top 9 in halting TEs. He faced none from the bottom 9. He wound up 20th in PPR points per game.
Who might find some help or hindrance in his 2019 schedule? We’ll get to that below, but let’s dig through some numbers to get there.
Effects on TE Scoring
You might recognize the chart below from other articles in this series, either this year’s edition or last year’s. I started with the median points allowed for each season and then compared each spot in that year’s rankings to that median. The resulting percentage shows how much the defense at each ranking spot added or removed from TD scoring vs. the league median.
Here, I’ve combined all 11 seasons to find the median percentage for each spot in the rankings over the full span. The “Diff” column shows the difference between each pair of ranking spots (by percentage points, rather than true percentages).
Just like the other positions, the top and bottom of the rankings find bigger gaps in scoring impact. Going with median rather than average shaved a few percentage points but didn’t significantly change the results.
We’re still looking at the top 9 defenses taking away 10+% of TE points, while the bottom 9 defenses add about 10+% to TE scoring. So we’ll continue to use those ranges for defenses to target or avoid.
How are the Points Scored?
We tend to think of TDs being particularly important to TE scoring, but that category hasn’t actually stood out beyond the other 3 stats tested here for fantasy TEs.
This graph represents the correlations between each of the 4 categories listed and total PPR points allowed:
As you can probably see, yards and receptions consistently show the strongest connection with PPR scoring. That’s no shock. Yardage builds the base for fantasy output at each of these positions. And receptions obviously factor heavily into “point per reception” scoring.
It’s interesting to note, however, that 3 of the categories correlate more closely with fantasy scoring for TEs than they do for WRs -- while yardage comes out well ahead for wideouts.
The gap on yardage makes sense. WRs gain significantly more yards per catch as a group than do TEs. For TEs, though, the closeness between targets and TDs makes it easier for us to chase volume as we’re deciding which TEs to use week to week, whether we’re streaming or playing DFS.
See, TDs will always be important sources of fantasy points, but they’re also difficult to predict. But we should have an easier time projecting an offense that’s likely to throw the ball more in a given week, as well as a TE who’s more likely to be a focal point or draw a better matchup.
As we get into the season, we can seek out defenses yielding the most targets, catches and yards to TEs -- while trying to look past points-allowed totals inflated by TDs.