On the surface, every tight end is just a normal tight end. To the average fantasy football player, a TE is an extra blocker at worst and at best a below-average wide receiver. On many levels, that is a fine set of assumptions. Many fantasy players will get by with this attitude in re-draft leagues and will never learn any different.
However, when approaching dynasty leagues and especially dynasty TEs, it is important to know how teams utilize their "TEs." There are two generic approaches, with most teams falling somewhere in between.
- In-Line TE
Many teams utilize a mix of these two systems. Some prefer to run their TEs on routes despite lining them up in-line (Steelers, Chiefs, Chargers). While some teams prefer to ignore the formality of an in-line TE (Colts, occasionally Redskins). Obviously, productive TEs can come from both systems. But in the end, most of the top-rated TEs in fantasy football are lined up in both spots while utilized in the spirit of an H-Back.
Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez are all very productive lining up in both spots. Their teams recognize this and utilize them at both positions to create mismatches specially for their TEs. Productive TEs will see occasional time spread out wide. The less your TE gets split wide, it is safe to assume the less they will be utilized in the passing game.
This information is helpful when evaluating the land position of rookie TEs or TEs that change systems/teams.