Ever since I got involved in fantasy football over 20 years ago, I’ve had a bit of an affinity for the tight end position. While my fellow owners were boasting about which running back or wide receiver they landed on draft day, I was looking for that hidden gem on my tight end cheat sheet. I remember drafting Antonio Gates before his second season, after watching him have a breakout game the year before against my Green Bay Packers. Talk about planning ahead! To follow my lead and find that hidden nugget of a tight end, file away the names listed below and take pride in landing one come draft day:
Hunter Henry (LAC) – Although his current ADP (mid 6th round) may be a bit high, I’m OK with it…mainly because he no longer has to battle for touches with free agent (and likely retiree) Antonio Gates. Henry does come with a little baggage, mainly a concerning injury history. He has yet to play a full season since entering the league in 2016; he played 15 games his rookie year, 14 games in 2017, then just eight games last year.
Projected Totals: 50 Rec/ 650 Yds/12 TDs
David Njoku (CLE) – The Cleveland Browns have been grabbing a good number of the football headlines during the off season, and with good reason. A new head coach in Freddie Kitchens, signing former Chief Kareem Hunt, and most notably, trading for former Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham. Add to that haul running back Nick Chubb, and wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway, and you can see why many would think that there are not enough balls to go around, rendering Njoku irrelevant. Quite the contrary.
It is because all those players are around that Njoku stands to reap the benefits. Some believe that Beckham, Landry and company will draw enough attention that Njoku could often find himself open for touches, thus increasing his chances of a breakout year. Lastly, the Browns brought offensive coordinator Todd Monken on board, and Monken has long been a strong proponent of using the tight end in the passing game, having used both O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate effectively during his tenure as OC for the Buccaneers.
Projected Totals: 63 Rec/720 Yds/7 TDs
Chris Herndon (NYJ) – The Jets are dealing with a boatload of frontoffice turmoil these days, but if they can rein that stuff in and keep it off the field, the Jets might actually surprise a few people, and second year tight end Chris Herndon should be there to reap the benefits.
Although his rookie season started off slow, the second-half saw Herndon developing some good chemistry with quarterback and fellow rookie Sam Darnold. I’m expecting that chemistry to continue into the upcoming season making Herndon one sneaky addition to your line up. While wide receiver Robby Anderson and running back Le’Veon Bell attract the majority of attention, Herndon should find himself open more often and has the hands to convert touches into points.
Projected Totals: 65 Rec/800 Yds/6 TDs
Mike Gesicki (MIA) – Looking at Gesicki’s 2018 rookie stat line (22 Rec/202 Yds/0 TDs), you might think I’m off my rocker when I place his name on this list but he has the skills needed to be a quality pass catcher for the Dolphins. If he has one weakness, it lies in his blocking ability and improving that part of his game should help him to become more involved with the Dolphin passing game.
The Dolphins said goodbye to pedestrian quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler after last season. They brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick via free agency, and traded for Cardinals cast off Josh Rosen. “Fitz” is expected to serve as either a one-year stop gap, or more likely as a mentor to Rosen. No matter which QB they go with as the starter, they should be much better off in 2019.
Finally, the roster of wide receivers employed by the Dolphins (DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Albert Wilson) doesn’t exactly strike a lot of fear into opposing defenses, meaning that Gesicki could end up being the benefactor of more touches this season, and more touches should lead to more yards and more scoring.
Projected Totals: 45 Rec/500 Yds/5 TDs