Different defenses cause an offense to adjust week-to-week to have the most scoring opportunities. When playing against a 3-4, it’s good to overload one side of the offense to run the ball and ensure you pick up all blocking assignments in the passing game.
Against a 4-3 defense, attacks come from the inside running lanes and timed, precision routes can move the chains through the air. Depending on the base defense a team faces in a given week, that can determine if a tight end is effective to score fantasy points. This article will jump into metrics for how tight ends performed in 2017 against various base defenses. Afterward, those numbers can help project how tight ends will fare in the upcoming season. First things first, let’s take a closer look at the numbers of tight ends against base defenses in 2017.
2017 Tight End Base Defense Stats
|Name (Team)||Base Defense||Games||Targets||Receptions||Yards||Touchdowns||Fantasy Points||Total Fantasy Points||Rank|
|Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota Vikings)||4–3||6||24||19||181||5||67.1|
|Jack Doyle (Indianapolis Colts)||4–3||7||41||30||228||2||64.8|
|Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys)||4–3||9||47||38||346||3||90.6|
|Austin Hooper (Atlanta Falcons)||4–3||8||37||29||226||1||57.6|
|Eric Ebron (Detroit Lions)||4–3||7||42||30||328||3||80.8|
|Jermaine Gresham (Arizona Cardinals)||4–3||10||48||37||344||2||83.4|
|Coby Fleener (New Orleans Saints)||4–3||8||25||19||215||1||46.5|
|Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs)||4–3||9||71||48||525||4||124.5|
|Stephen Anderson (Houston Texans)||4–3||6||18||7||58||0||12.8|
|Cameron Brate (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)||4–3||7||30||21||251||2||58.1|
|Delanie Walker (Tennessee Titans)||4–3||8||58||39||375||1||82.5|
|Ed Dickson (Carolina Panthers)||4–3||10||33||20||316||1||57.6|
|George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers)||4–3||6||13||9||107||1||25.7|
|Jimmy Graham (Seattle Seahawks)||4–3||7||32||18||173||5||65.3|
|Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)||4–3||8||45||30||441||4||98.1|
|Martellus Bennett (Green Bay Packers)||4–3||10||31||19||192||0||38.2|
|Hunter Henry (Los Angeles Chargers)||4–3||9||46||32||417||3||91.7|
|Charles Clay (Buffalo Bills)||4–3||7||31||21||302||0||51.2|
|Vernon Davis (Washington Redskins)||4–3||11||51||33||419||2||86.9|
|Marcedes Lewis (Jacksonville Jaguars)||4–3||5||16||8||126||1||26.6|
|David Njoku (Cleveland Browns)||4–3||6||26||14||167||1||36.7|
|Tyler Higbee (Los Angeles Rams)||4–3||9||28||12||174||1||35.4|
|Evan Engram (New York Giants)||4–3||10||83||50||531||4||127.1|
|Benjamin Watson (Baltimore Ravens)||4–3||9||44||34||308||4||88.8|
|Jesse James (Pittsburgh Steelers)||4–3||7||24||18||156||2||45.6|
|Julius Thomas (Miami Dolphins)||4–3||6||24||18||177||1||41.7|
|Austin Seferian-Jenkins (New York Jets)||4–3||10||47||35||263||2||73.3|
|Zach Ertz (Philadelphia Eagles)||4–3||8||58||38||363||3||92.3|
|Tyler Kroft (Cincinnati Bengals)||4–3||6||27||18||203||3||56.3|
|Jared Cook (Oakland Raiders)||4–3||7||32||21||273||0||48.3|
|Zach Miller (Chicago Bears)||4–3||10||22||13||120||1||31|
|Virgil Green (Denver Broncos)||4–3||10||18||12||169||1||34.9|
- Jimmy Graham is a great tight end, but against a 3-4 defense he is beastly. In almost the same amount of games versus the 4-3 (7 against 4-3 to 9 against 3-4), Graham had close to double the stats going against the 3-4. The alignment of a 3-4 defense just can’t match-up well with Graham’s ability to get down the field and his size is a problem for the average linebacker.
- Evan Engram was also a beast, but he did his damage against the 4-3 defense. In 10 games against the 4-3, Engram averaged 12.7 fantasy points per game. Also, he averaged at least eight targets and five receptions in that span as well.
- Vernon Davis stepped up for the Redskins offense during Jordan Reed’s absence. He may not have been a must-start every week, but his performance against a hybrid defense was better than against a standard 4-3 or 3-4. So, while the defense might have been adjusting against the other personnel on the field, Davis was able to get free and turn in a solid performance. Take this information with a grain of salt as it is a sample size of one game, last year.
- Marcedes Lewis is far from the player he was in 2010, his lone Pro Bowl appearance. In 10 games against the 3-4, Lewis posted a paltry 31 total fantasy points. His numbers against the 4-3 were not any better as he totaled 16 targets, 8 receptions, 126 yards, and a touchdown in 5 games. Lewis is not going to be turning back the clock anytime soon and these numbers confirm that he is not relevant in fantasy football at all.
- Travis Kelce is one of the premier tight ends in the NFL. Against a hybrid defense though, he looks a lot more run-of-the-mill. Granted this is a one-game sample size, but he totaled only nine points in that game. Against the 4-3, he averaged 13.8 fantasy points per game and against the 3-4 he averaged 16.9 fantasy points per game. So, he plays two games against a hybrid defense this season and this could possibly be a trend to be wary of.
This is all based on 2017. Looking into 2018, the schedule changes and these tight ends may see their numbers rise or fall based on who they face. Seeing how many times they face a certain base defense though can help you stay clear of costly decisions. Let’s dive into those 2018 projection rankings.
2018 Tight End Base Defense Totals
|Name (Team)||Base Defense||Games||Targets||Receptions||Yards||Touchdowns||Fantasy Points||Defence Rank||Total Points|
|Zach Ertz (Philadelphia Eagles)||4–3||7||60||51||549||5||135.9||2|
|Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs)||4–3||10||79||53||556||4||132.6||4|
|Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)||3–4||8||56||38||567||5||124.7||1|
|Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers)||Hybrid||4||21||17||194||2||48.4||1|
|Jimmy Graham (Green Bay Packers)||4–3||8||49||38||400||4||102||6|
|Evan Engram (New York Giants)||4–3||9||75||50||607||5||140.7||1|
|Delanie Walker (Tennessee Titans)||4–3||9||64||45||375||3||100.5||7|
|Jack Doyle (Indianapolis Colts)||3–4||7||60||47||449||3||109.9||3|
|Trey Burton (Chicago Bears)||4–3||8||54||42||425||3||102.5||5|
|Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota Vikings)||Hybrid||4||22||14||134||1||33.4||4|
|Benjamin Watson (New Orleans Saints)||3–4||6||35||27||214||3||66.4||9|
|Hayden Hurst (Baltimore Ravens)||4–3||9||50||38||422||3||98.2||8|
|Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati Bengals)||Hybrid||3||16||10||176||1||33.6||3|
|O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)||Hybrid||3||21||15||142||1||35.2||2|
|Charles Clay (Buffalo Bills)||Hybrid||4||18||9||112||1||26.2||7|
|George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers)||3–4||7||40||34||379||3||89.9||5|
|Vernon Davis (Washington Redskins)||4–3||9||45||30||380||3||86||10|
|David Njoku (Cleveland Browns)||3–4||7||35||24||236||3||65.6||10|
|Jared Cook (Oakland Raiders)||Hybrid||1||6||5||79||1||18.9||15|
|Mike Gesicki (Miami Dolphins)||Hybrid||3||17||9||106||1||25.6||8|
|Dalton Schultz (Dallas Cowboys)||4–3||7||32||24||288||2||64.8||16|
|Austin Hooper (Atlanta Falcons)||3–4||6||21||15||246||1||45.6||17|
|Jordan Leggett (New York Jets)||Hybrid||3||10||8||90||1||23||13|
|Jake Butt (Denver Broncos)||4–3||9||25||21||198||2||52.8||22|
|Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Jacksonville Jaguars)||3–4||9||35||21||196||1||46.6||15|
|Ricky Seals-Jones (Arizona Cardinals)||4–3||8||40||28||251||2||65.1||15|
|Levine Toilolo (Detroit Lions)||Hybrid||1||4||4||35||1||13.5||21|
|Jesse James (Pittsburgh Steelers)||Hybrid||4||12||10||121||1||28.1||5|
|Ed Dickson (Seattle Seahawks)||4–3||8||30||17||164||2||45.4||27|
|Ryan Griffin (Houston Texans)||3–4||6||24||13||219||1||40.9||22|
|Tyler Higbee (Los Angeles Rams)||Hybrid||2||4||4||48||0||8.8||25|
|Virgil Green (Los Angeles Chargers)||Hybrid||1||5||3||34||0||6.4||30|
2018 Fantasy Tight End Rankings – Base Defense
- Even with a target monster in Jarvis Landry on the team, the Cleveland Browns will need to spread the ball to have a good offense. Whether Tyrod Taylor or rookie Baker Mayfield is under center, they will have a good safety blanket in David Njoku to hit for crucial conversions. Njoku is a gifted athlete and will be more utilized in the offense with some additional weapons across the board. Especially against the 3-4 defense, Njoku will be a worthy sleeper pick in your fantasy draft.
- Like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski is a clear mismatch against a 3-4 defense. He is still a must-start every week, but against teams with a base 3-4 defense is a no question start. With eight of his games being against the 3-4 defense, Gronkowski could be on his way to another stellar year in the fantasy world.
- Rookie Dalton Schultz could be a sneaky fantasy star, as the Cowboys are looking to replace their all-pro tight end in Jason Witten. He faces an even mix of teams with a 3-4 and 4-3 defense and is projected to do well against both. His athletic ability and soft hands will make him rise to the top of the depth chart sooner than later. Keep an eye on this guy as the season progresses.
- Another rookie tight end that will have a good season is Hayden Hurst. Hurst is in an offense where the tight end is used often to move the chains. Joe Flacco is not afraid to ring that bell multiple times in a game and this could pay off for Hurst. If you use him wisely and spot start him against 4-3 defenses, he should be racking up points for your team weekly. Pair him up with a tight end like Jack Doyle (projected to score 109.9 fantasy points in 7 games against the 3-4) and you could have one the best point totals at the tight end position.
- Russell Wilson took full advantage of having Jimmy Graham in his offense, but that doesn’t mean it will translate to Ed Dickson this season. Although Dickson was a serviceable replacement for an injured Greg Olsen last season in Carolina, be cautious with picking him up during the regular season. He will not be worth a draft pick in your draft, but he could be a viable option for a BYE week replacement, but that would be his ceiling.
Making sure that your fantasy team has the best match-ups week-to-week is how you win. Using these rankings can benefit you in making sure you are starting the right tight end on a weekly basis. The difference between knowing if Jack Doyle is playing a team with a 4-3, 3-4, or hybrid defense can make a huge difference on whether you start him or not.
Jack Doyle 2018 Base Defense
|Name (Team)||Base Defense||Games||Targets||Receptions||Yards||Touchdowns||Fantasy Points|
|Jack Doyle (Indianapolis Colts)||3–4||7||60||47||449||3||109.9|
As always, these rankings are not a guarantee by any means that this will win you your fantasy league. Using these rankings in conjunction with other rankings can help ensure your probability of winning will increase. Best of luck drafting!