Most owners don’t want to hear any complaining from Travis Kelce and Hunter Henry owners, but with both of them on bye this week their owners have the same predicament this week that most of their competition has dealt with all season. To that point, there are still those still in competition digging around for a competent tight end who were either burned by O.J. Howard, don’t know if Evan Engram or Austin Hooper can play this week, or one of several other different scenarios.
Let’s introduce you to Jacob Hollister. Seattle thought it had its answer at tight end with Will Dissly, but that unfortunately came to an end in October when he went down with a season-ending injury. Hollister was elevated from the Seattle practice squad the following week and has seen his role steadily increase since. He found the end zone twice against Tampa Bay then was rewarded with 10 targets the following week against San Francisco, which he turned into eight catches for 62 yards and another touchdown. Sure, this role was born out of necessity, but this sudden emergence has some history to draw back on.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder went undrafted in 2017, but was quickly signed by New England for substantially more than what’s often offered to undrafted free agents. He quickly earned attention with a 116 yard performance in his first preseason game and became a hot topic in the dynasty community. He continued to impress thereafter and earned the third string tight end role, which he held onto through the 2018 season. Like many unlikely August darlings, his dynasty star faded as time went on and he didn’t produce, but he periodically surfaced as someone to consider if something were to happen to current starter Rob Gronkowski. That never came to fruition, as he was unceremoniously shipped out to Seattle for a seventh-round pick during the 2019 draft, and he became forgotten about in our game. Why New England for all intents and purposes gave up on him we’ll never know. Hollister is proving that us forgetting about him for New England giving up on him is proving to be a mistake though.
Health and availability played a role in his ouster from New England. Perhaps that and his weakness as a blocker are the only reasons they moved on. Sure, those are important traits to last in the NFL, but they’re not a requirement in our game. Is the player getting snaps? Targets? And what’s he doing with them? That’s what we care about. And Hollister is checking all of those boxes. He was one of Josh Allen’s favorite red zone targets in college and it’s noteworthy how much Allen’s performance deteriorated once Hollister (and Tanner Gentry) moved onto the NFL. Those red zone skills have been on display as he’s turned the five looks he’s gotten in their last two games into three touchdowns and he’s blown by Luke Willson on the depth chart, netting 79 percent of the team’s snaps in the two games leading into the bye.
That said, statistically the upcoming schedule does not appear to be friendly. These are the ranks of their upcoming opponents in fantasy points against the tight end: Philadelphia (10), Minnesota (14), Los Angeles Rams (17), Carolina (5), Arizona (32). Yes, that Week 16 pot of gold against Arizona looms out there, but you need to get there first. Carolina is a legit nightmare against the tight end, but I think the numbers lie against its three opponents between now and then. Besides that for many, you’re only concerned about him filling in this week, so I’ll just focus on the matchup against Philadelphia. Yes, Philadelphia is 10th in points against the tight end, but the only Top 10 tight end Philadelphia has faced this season was Austin Hooper all the way back in Week 2. Since Philadelphia has performed so poorly against wide receivers (25th), that’s what the opposition has attacked. Seattle enters this contest with issues at wide receiver with Tyler Lockett recovering from injury and new acquisition Josh Gordon still getting up to speed on offense, so there’s reason to believe that weakness of Philadelphia won’t be attacked like it normally would. Additionally, Philadelphia’s strength is on the defensive line and rushing the quarterback. While the middle of its defense is far from poor, it is better against the run and its best asset against the pass is Rodney McLeod as a center fielder; not manning up against the tight end. Will Seattle’s game plan to feature Hollister again? I don’t know, but there’s reason to believe it will and a similar story can be written about their opponents that follow as well.
This week’s Flavor of the Week: that unknown craft beer. Hollister calls Bend, Ore., home (a.k.a. Beer Town USA). It’s a craft beer drinkers mecca. The thing with craft beers is you never know if you’re going to find a gem, something forgettable, or one you’re not even going to finish until after you take that first sip. That’s what you’re doing with Hollister this week. We’ll see come Sunday where he falls on that wide range of potential outcomes.