There is a new term that has entered the fantasy football lexicon in recent years – the “onesie positions”. This often refers to quarterback and tight end but can also include kicker and defense/special teams as positions where you only start one player (as opposed to running back or wide receiver which most leagues have two or three). 

In your seasonal redraft leagues, that often leads fantasy gamers to draft just one guy to fill that spot. If they are sharp, maybe some folks might use our Yin & Yang Tight End Strategy and draft two, though that is still far from the norm. 

In best ball formats, however, the strategy changes completely. You HAVE to draft at least two or three tight ends and, on certain occasions, sometimes FOUR even makes sense. It’s a different beast entirely because there’s no waiver wire, no trades, no IR. You need to account for bye weeks and injuries on draft day.

We’ve already touched on how to approach the quarterback position in best ball. Today, we are going to share some tips on how to attack the other best ball onesie position – tight end. Armed with the strategy from this article and the tiered fantasy football rankings in our best ball cheat sheet as a guide, you should be able to crush best ball drafts this year and walk away with a nice little profit. So, let’s dig into what kind of players we want to target and when to draft them.




Fantasy Football TEs To Draft In Best Ball

Top Two Targets

We already know from the extensive research we have done on What Makes An Elite Tight End that the number one indicator of success is being a top two target on your team. It’s nice to lead the team in targets, but it’s not necessary for elite upside. 

In fact, the top fantasy tight end season of all time was by Rob Gronkowski in a year his teammate, Wes Welker, got 173 targets. It helped that Gronk scored 17 touchdowns, but he also had 124 targets himself which was second on the team. All that matters is being top two.

In the early rounds, these guys aren’t hard to find. Some teams have already built the offense around players like Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews. In the later rounds, you have to use your imagination. Look for teams that don’t have obvious target hog wide receivers at the top. Or teams that just made changes at quarterback or offensive coordinator. That uncertainty can generate upside. A team like the Patriots, for instance, fits the bill on both.

Target Consolidation

In redraft leagues, there are enough guys with “top two target” in their range of outcomes that we can focus on them. We obviously want to draft target hogs in best ball as well. But there simply aren’t enough of those guys for each team in a best ball draft to have two or three so you need to look elsewhere. The next factor we consider is target consolidation.

Not every offense is created equally or runs the same scheme, as we know. Some, like the Rams, have three WRs on the field for a huge chunk of snaps. Some will have one or even no wide receivers that play every snap, like the Ravens did for years under Greg Roman. What we are looking for next are tight ends that play a full-time snap share with as many other players taking up snaps that don’t soak up a lot of targets.

Take the 49ers for instance. Kyle Juszczyk played 46.4% of the snaps on the season and blocking tight end Charlie Woerner played 29%. They combined for only 20 targets on the season. What that does is take the WR3 off the field and highly consolidate the targets among guys like Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle

Kittle technically finished as the second target on the team, but he only had one more target than Deebo Samuel and 7 more than Christian McCaffrey. That consolidation was key.





The other factor that separates a guy like George Kittle from the pack is his athleticism. Kittle runs a 4.52 forty yard dash which is 96th percentile for the position. Let’s take a look at some stats/metrics from two tight ends courtesy of Player Profiler and Pro Football Focus:







George Kittle






Tyler Conklin






Now, the 49ers offense certainly put Kittle in a better situation to succeed than Conklin was in. But we know Kittle is a flat out better athlete and most would agree that he’s the better tight end. He can do less with more and he has consistently done it – over the last seven years, he leads all tight ends with 16 plays of 40+ yards. Over that span, only Kittle and Travis Kelce (14) have more than 7. And Kittle is the only tight end with multiple 70+ and 80+ yard touchdowns.

Handcuff Upside

To win these big best ball tournaments, you need to get a little lucky. And, as they say, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. There are two types of “handcuffs” that can help us gain leverage:

Direct Handcuff

This one is obvious. Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz and Luke Musgrave were all the top tight end targets on their team last year. They all got hurt at some point and that allowed guys like Isaiah Likely, Trey McBride and Tucker Kraft to shine. It’s hard to predict where/when injury could occur, but there’s no denying there is upside there.

Indirect Handcuff

This one is a little less obvious and there are certainly spots where it works better than others. For instance, think about a team like the Eagles. If EITHER AJ Brown or DeVonta Smith go down, Dallas Goedert takes a step forward. And the numbers absolutely reflect that. 

Guys like George Kittle, Jonnu Smith or Cade Otton also are seemingly the next in line if either top WR goes down. If we have handcuff running backs and also the “running back plus” with standalone value, there are actually “double handcuff pluses” at tight end that have standalone value and get a big boost if either top WR gets hurt.

Last year, Dalton Schultz was averaging around ~4.4 targets per game when everyone was healthy. That jumped to 7 targets per game when either Nico Collins or Tank Dell were hurt. This year, however, they have added Stefon Diggs. So now, he’s likely two injuries away from the same sort of upside. 

It’s important to know what your “outs” are when choosing who to draft. If there are three or more pass catchers ahead, like on the Texans, Seahawks, Bears, etc., that’s a lot more “luck” than we like to bank on.




When To Draft Best Ball Fantasy Football TEs

How To Allocate Resources

There’s no one right way to do things. That’s half the fun. But there are some general rules of thumb that I adhere to in drafts to ensure that I’m correctly allocating my resources. For instance, I rarely draft three high level tight ends. If I get one stud tight end, I’m either drafting two (that have different bye weeks) or I’m going to wait and finish my draft with two tight ends. 

If you spend up on Travis Kelce, you have already placed your bet that he’s going to be a star. And, by using that capital that high on a tight end, you need to make up for it with other spots. I will, however, draft three tight ends if I wait on the position (heck, if the value is there I’ll even wait and draft four at times). 

Having late round targets at the onesie positions that you really like can help you “reverse engineer” your draft and focus on league winning RBs and WRs early. So don’t be afraid to hang tight end load up at tight end later. The highest advance rates typically see teams drafting two or three tight ends but there’s a percentage of teams with four that do well – and I’ve done it myself.  

The Ultimate Cheat Code

What’s the cheat code for identifying which tight ends to draft AND when? Well, that’s pretty simple: it’s our 2024 Best Ball Cheat Sheet! That includes TWO versions of my rankings: both linear rankings and a tiered draft grid that really helps you visualize when to strike. 

And, if you grab our All Pro Membership now (which is 40% off annually), you’ll get access to the Best Ball Cheat Sheet, our NFL Draft Guide that comes out later this month, ALL of our content for all sports and our premium Discord to get direct advice. It doesn’t get better than that!