2021 Fantasy Football Best Ball TE Hit Rate

by Preston White
2021 Fantasy Football Best Ball TE

Welcome back for another 2021 Fantasy Football Best Ball article. This time we are focusing on TE hit rate.

If you're new to Best Ball and aren't quite sure what it is, I gave a brief introduction to the game in my previous article.

As we continue on with Best Ball season, my plan is to run through a mini-series on positional hit rates. These hit rates can help us identify better draft strategies and in turn, help us win more leagues.

For the purposes of this Best Ball article, I'll be focusing on two platforms: RTSports and Underdog.

I'll break down the individual formats and key differences later on in the article. On that note, for those of you who haven't played on Underdog before, if you use this link you'll get a Best Ball II draft on us.

Now let's jump into some tight end analytics.

2021 Fantasy Football Best Ball TE Hit Rate

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You might be asking what is a hit rate. A hit rate is simply a metric used to determine how often a player meets a threshold. In the case of Fantasy Football, this is often evaluated through weekly finishes, or how often a player scores "X" amount of points on a weekly basis.

Positional hit rate can be an extremely useful tool aside from simply looking at the total points a player scored at the end of a season. This metric isn't just for Best Ball either, but it's useful across all formats. My initial interest in this analytics device arose from me wanting to better understand the value of the tight end position, and the weight the top-3 players hold, in season-long fantasy.

I originally wanted to compare how much of a difference spending precious draft capital on a player like Travis Kelce or George Kittle would make on a weekly basis. As opposed to rolling with a Hunter Henry type player. After beginning my journey on this path of analytics, I quickly had the realization that this may be even more trivial in Best Ball.

When I first got into Best Ball, it immediately seemed like the best-case scenario was simply to grab three tight ends in the double-digit rounds. Between the three players, at least one should be able to score comparable numbers to the top-3 guys on a given week. At the very least, I wouldn't have to make the decision on which tight end to start. But how does this actually play out?

The Analysis - RTSports (PPR)

First and foremost, we must identify what threshold we want to evaluate in terms of establishing a hit rate. For the sake of this article, I will be focusing on two different Best Ball formats. The first being RTSports, which includes 10 teams, and utilizes PPR scoring. Based on those parameters, my established hit rate will be the average weekly score of the TE10.

This will allow the metric to be focused on how often a player scores enough points to be considered a TE1 on the week. For the purpose of further examination into player ceilings, I will also utilize hit rates for the top-5 and top-3 tight ends. The sample data will be compiled from the weekly scores from the 2020 Season, and the results are shown below.

RankPoints (PPR)
Top-10 (TE1)12.2

Based on the data, in 2020 the average tight end in Fantasy Football needed to score at least 12.2 points on the given week to achieve TE1 status. On the other hand, the true ceiling was achieved by scoring 19.0 points or more.

The Analysis - Underdog (Half-PPR)

Establishing the Underdog threshold will be relatively similar to the RTSports method from above, with two exceptions. The first being that the scoring format is half-PPR, and the second being that contests are centered around 12 teams. Based on this, the established hit rate for Underdog will be the average weekly score of the TE12.

RankPoints (Half PPR)
Top-12 (TE1)9.3

Based on these established thresholds, a weekly TE1 finish in Underdog requires an average score of 9.3 points. Likewise, to achieve that top-3 ceiling, it requires a score of 16.1 points.

Hit Rate Results - RTSports

With these thresholds determined, we can now take a look at how often the top-10 tight ends on the season reached this mark. Or in better terms, their hit rate. One thing to note is that I utilized George Kittle's weekly scores from 2018, as this was the last full season for Kittle. Plus, Kittle is constantly in the mix as one of the "Big 3" tight ends, which makes him necessary to evaluate.

PlayerTE RankTotal PointsTop 3 HitTop 5 HitTop 10 Hit
Travis Kelce1312.76101113
Darren Waller2278.65611
George Kittlen/a258.75611
Logan Thomas3176.62228
Robert Tonyan4176.60127
TJ Hockenson5175.30037
Mark Andrews6170.10358
Mike Gesicki7159.30334
Rob Gronkowski8149.30146
Noah Fant9149.30234
Hayden Hurst10149.10016

For starters, there's a clear drop-off after the Big 3. Not so much with their floor in terms of their top-10 hit rate, but more so with their ceilings. Moreover, Travis Kelce hit top-3 production more times than any other player, outside of the Big 3, managed to reach top-10 production. Kelce's floor is quite literally every other tight end's ceiling. Nonetheless, I decided to take this venture one step further and included some tight ends that finished outside of the TE1 range.

PlayerTE RankTotal PointsTop 3 HitTop 5 HitTop 10 Hit
Travis Kelce1312.76101113
Darren Waller2278.65611
George Kittlen/a258.75611
TJ Hockenson5175.3037
Hayden Hurst10149.1016
Evan Engram15141.0001
Jared Cook18127.4010
Dan Arnold2396.8100

It's clear that once you get to around TE10, the ceiling disappears. By the time you've reached TE15, it's just an absolute wasteland. You might get one, maybe two, viable weeks out of that player.

Hit Rate Results - Underdog

Similar to the RTSports hit rates, we can now examine the hit rates for the top-12 tight ends on Underdog. Likewise, Georgie Kittle's 2018 season was utilized in order to compare his production and hit rate.

PlayerTE RankTotal PointsTop 3 HitTop 6 HitTop 12 Hit
Travis Kelce1260.26101113
Darren Waller2225.15811
George Kittlen/a214.75611
Robert Tonyan3150.6149
TJ Hockenson4141.80038
Mark Andrews5141.10358
Logan Thomas6140.62238
Mike Gesicki7132.80335
Rob Gronkowski8126.80246
Hayden Hurst9121.10037
Jonnu Smith10119.70226
Jimmy Graham11118.60236
Noah Fant12118.30234

The first difference I see is the divide in floor vs ceiling games in this half PPR format. Tight ends outside of the Big 3 more frequently hit the top-12 mark (TE1). At the same time, those other tight ends hit top-3 performance slightly more frequently. Essentially, the gap narrows ever so slightly in half PPR. However, this is the opposite of what I expected based on the fact that these other tight ends aren't reliant on consistent volume, but rather boom/bust touchdown-dependent weeks.


Embed from Getty Images
A potential rebuttal argument to these sizeable differences in hit rates is that in Best Ball your tight ends could combine to match the hit rates of the Big 3. For instance, if you had Robert Tonyan and Noah Fant, they could combine for 11 (PPR) TE1 weekly finishes, equivalent to that of Waller or Kittle.

While that may be true, that is a best-case scenario outlook. Under those circumstances, you're accounting for Tonyan and Fant's TE1 performances to come on different weeks. If both players' hits occur on the same weeks, then the total finishes would still only be seven. This is essentially the worst-case scenario.

Basically, if you take two TE1s, outside of the Big 3, you have the chance to replicate the production of Kelce, Kittle, or Waller. On the contrary, this no longer becomes a simple draft capital trade off of taking a tight end in rounds 1 or 2 vs taking one in rounds 5-to-9. The hypothetical now includes using two picks in rounds 5-to-9. Whereas, those picks are prime real estate in Best Ball.

The Risk and Reward

Continuing with this draft capital issue of drafting a Big 3 tight end, let's consider their value in other terms. By taking one of those tight ends in one of the first two rounds, you could be sacrificing a top wide receiver. With that being said, how do Kelce, Kittle, and Waller compare to wide receivers in Fantasy Football?

PlayerTE Finish (PPR)WR Finish (PPR)TE Finish (Half PPR)WR Finish (Half PPR)
Travis KelceTE1WR4TE1WR4
Darren WallerTE2WR6TE2WR8
George Kittle (2018)n/aWR10n/aWR10
Robert TonyanTE4WR38TE3WR37
Hayden HurstTE10WR51TE9WR52

It's evident, at least in terms of Kelce and Waller, they have the potential to match the production of the wide receivers drafted around them. Kittle's value is slightly lower than the other two, but he's still equivalent to a WR1. On the other hand, the drop-off is absurd. Robert Tonyan (TE4 in PPR), was hardly a viable flex play.

This is a huge point because not only are you not sacrificing value at that draft pick, but it's a cheat code. You're basically starting a wide receiver at tight end, while you can then fill out your wide receiver spots in solid value rounds that you would otherwise be reaching for other tight ends in.

For me, it's clear that the top-3 tight ends make a big difference in an otherwise wasteland of a position. Whether it's season-long Fantasy Football, RTSports or Underdog Best Ball, drafting a top-3 tight end is a top strategy. I'm consistently molding my draft strategies around getting Kelce, Kittle, or Waller.

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