In this weeks strategy article we wanted to take a look at the tight end position. For some time I have been thinking that if you do not have an elite tight end this could be a position to stream weekly, similar to defenses and kickers. While this article will not answer that specific question, it will serve as a step in that direction. The goal here is to explore the concept that tight ends going against defenses that extensively utilize the blitz are caught up in max-protect blocking schemes and see less pass catching opportunities than they do against more conservative defenses.
If one plots fantasy points allowed to the tight end against sacks where each data point represents an NFL defense and the x-axis is the number of sacks that defense has thus far in the 2009 season you will see a direct correlation between sacks allowed and points allowed. For this analysis sacks are used as a proxy for blitz frequency.
The y-axis is the average number of FFL points the Cà Khịa TV defense has yielded to opposing tight ends. Taken together each data point represents the relationship between how often a defense blitzes and how many point they allow to the tight end position. Contrary to our assumption above, this data confirms that there is in fact a linear relationship between defenses that blitz heavily and points allowed to the TE. Essentially, as a defense increases its utilization of the blitz we can expect the opposing fantasy tight end to see an increase in production.
It makes sense if you think about it. Quarterbacks under heavy pressure are forced to quickly dump the ball off. In most cases the quick read is to a running back out of the backfield or to the TE over the middle. The data seems to suggest that offensive coordinators prefer to leak the TE as a counter to the blitz rather than employ a max protect blocking scheme.
Lets look at a few specific examples. Zach Miller is having a fairly decent year for the Oakland Raiders and his biggest games of the season have come against the Eagles and the Chargers, two teams which utilize the blitz extensively. Likewise, Antonio Gates had his biggest game of the year against the blitz happy Steelers.
In summary, it appears that for fantasy football purposes tight ends seem to perform best against defenses that employ the blitz. While we would like to do further analysis before recommending a streaming TEs strategy it appears it may make sense if you do not have an elite TE on your team.