In recent years, the term “tight end landscape” has been synonymous with “dumpster fire” in regard to fantasy football. Injuries have wrecked the position and offensive play calls can completely phase out the position from fantasy production. This has left a gaping hole between players like Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle compared to pretty much the rest of the league.
Either way, most of our leagues still have a TE position to fill on our roster and you may not be willing to spend a 1st – 3rd Round pick. Luckily, with some much-needed changes going into 2019, there may be hope for a productive TE you can snag in the middle to later rounds of your draft.
Hunter Henry – Los Angeles Chargers – ADP 6.05
Henry may be considered too expensive going in the middle of the 6th Round in half PPR drafts and I will admit, there is some risk involved at his current ADP. However, this season Henry has some distinct advantages he did not have previously with the Chargers. Most notably, his biggest advantage – he is now the TE1 in the depth chart with Antonio Gates officially a free agent.
A big argument against Henry is that he has yet to play a full season since entering the league in 2016. While that is accurate, he did play 15 games in 2016 and 14 games in 2017, while guys like O.J. Howard played 14 games in 2017 and only 8 in 2018. Howard is going a full round ahead of Henry in half-PPR drafts despite sharing the TE position with Cameron Brate.
Despite being in a committee with Gates, Henry’s production and snap count percentage has steadily increased since 2016 until his ACL injury last year. Speaking of injury, in 2017, Henry played two fewer games than Gates yet out snapped him by 9.22%. Henry also had 15 more receptions, over 250 more yards, and an additional touchdown, again, on 2 fewer games.
Coming into 2019, Henry is leading the tight end charge with guys like Virgil Green and Sean Culkin as his TE1 competition. For the sake of argument, let’s take a look at how other big-name tight ends like Travis Kelce and Zack Ertz finished while being the dominant TE1 for their teams.
Combined targets, receptions, yards, TDs, and averaged snap counts from 2016 – 2017
It’s not surprising to see the targets at over 100 fewer, half of the receptions, and well over 1,000 yards shy of Kelce and Ertz. However, check out those 12 touchdowns each. That is also on far fewer snaps percentages and sharing time with a veteran tight end who has built up years of rapport with Philip Rivers.
I’m not saying that Henry is going to be in the elite category of Kelce and Ertz, but this is to demonstrate that he can be productive while sharing the workload. Now that he has the position all to himself, he should see more opportunity with Gates gone and deep-threat Tyrell Williams in Oakland.
If the 6th Round draft price is too steep, do not be afraid to target him in a trade bundle or eventually snag him off the waiver wire if he is available.
David Njoku – Cleveland Browns – ADP 7.12
The Cleveland Browns are all the rage this season with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr., especially after Baker Mayfield lit up the NFL in the second half of last season under Freddie Kitchens. While Kitchens improves the offense as a whole, thus helping every positional player on the Browns, it is the addition of Todd Monken as the offensive coordinator that makes Njoku an exciting prospect this season.
Monken is the former OC for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2016 through 2018. The aforementioned O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate rose to fantasy relevance under his play calling.
Howard numbers from 2017 – 2018 and Brate numbers from 2015 – 2018
Again, Howard only started eight games out of ten in 2108 and 14 total in 2017. Brate started a total of 28 games out of the 47 he played. Monken clearly likes his big, able-bodied tight ends. Njoku, at 6’4” and 246 lbs, fits right into Monken’s idea of a large, athletic TE.
Kitchens and Monken both prescribe to the “Air Raid” style offense that Mayfield flourished under during his time in Oklahoma. During that time, TE Mark Andrews had 112 receptions for 1,765 yards and 22 touchdowns. Andrews was so prolific in the offense and with Mayfield that he is the 12th leading receiver in Sooner history behind names like Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook. All other players ranked 1st through 11th are wide receivers. He is the only tight end in the top-12.
The Browns look to be explosive this year and Njoku should be no exception with OJB and Jarvis Landry drawing coverage and defensive lines stacking the box against Nick Chubb, leaving opportunity for Njoku. Combining Monken’s tight end production, a starlet quarterback, and Njoku’s sheer athleticism, he is a name to remember near the end of the 7th Round and possibly falling in the 8th.
For More Information on David Njoku read Fantasy Football: Writing Narratives for David Njoku
Chris Herndon – New York Jets – ADP 14.03
Players drafting with Herndon: Justice Hill, Daesean Hamilton, Ryquell Armstead
Herndon may be the sneakiest pick up at tight end in 2019. He had a slow start in his rookie year playing only three games in the first five weeks. During those three games, Herndon saw only seven targets and five receptions for 57 yards. Then came Week 6 against the Indianapolis Colts where he went caught both of his targets for 56 yards and a TD, putting Herndon on the outskirts of the TE radar.
He finished the year playing 62.44% of the snaps that amounted to 56 total targets, 39 receptions, 502 yards, and four touchdowns, finishing as the TE15 in half-PPR formats Weeks 1 through 16. In fact, he finished ahead of names like Evan Engram and Cameron Brate. The Jets threw to the tight end position over 20% of the time last year and Herndon was quietly there to gobble up the targets. Herndon finished as the 2nd leading receiver for the Jets with 39 receptions behind Robby Anderson with 50.
The new addition of head coach Adam Gase should have fantasy owners and Jets fans excited about the future of these players. According to NYJets.com, Gase said of Herndon, “He’s a unicorn type of player. You don’t see a lot of these players that can do all three phases of the game. I don’t think you’ll find a lot of tight ends that are able to be on the field all three downs,” Gase said during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “Obviously, he’s a very good receiver, he’s very good in the run game, and he did a really good job in pass protection last year.”
With other shiny new toys like Le’Veon Bell there to draw coverage, Herndon can continue to be a heavily-relied-upon tight end used in all facets of the offense. With a year of experience under Sam Darnold’s belt, Gase may open the offense and unleash his quarterback’s arm.
If you are not fortunate enough to have Kelce, Ertz, or Kittle to rollover into 2019 in a keeper league, don’t fret. You may still get value out of the TE position with players like Henry, Njoku, and Herndon. Remember to have a solid strategy going into your draft and keep the Ultimate Draft Kit‘s Tier Breakdowns handy to avoid the dreaded draft tilt if you miss out on your player.
Haven’t purchased the Ultimate Draft Kit yet? You’re missing out on a ton of helpful tools and exclusive content you can ONLY find in the UDK. You can find a description of just some of those incredible features in Fantasy Football: Ultimate Draft Tips 2019.