Rookie tight ends are historically a bad fantasy bet; add to that a draft class considered subpar and there’s not much here to generate excitement. But that doesn’t mean to avoid this crop entirely. Here’s a rundown of the short- and long-term fantasy potential for this year’s rookie crop of tight ends.
HUNTER HENRY, CHARGERS 2.4 (ARKANSAS)
The good news is, the draft’s top tight end lands in an offense that’s traditionally produced gaudy fantasy stats at the position. The bad news is, Henry is stuck behind Antonio Gates for at least the coming season. That said, Gates is hardly a bastion of health and former understudy Ladarius Green cobbled together some fantasy value in this role in the past. Long-term Henry can capitalize on learning from one of the best to every play the game before sliding into his job and continuing to make San Diego a fantasy tight end mecca.
AUSTIN HOOPER, FALCONS 3.18 (STANFORD)
The Falcons’ offense has been crying out for a tight end since Tony Gonzalez hung up his cleats, and in Hooper Atlanta may have found a suitable fantasy replacement. He’ll need to hit the weight room and shore up his route-running, but Hooper could make an impact right now in a “move” tight end role as an alternative to Julio Jones in the Falcons’ passing game.
NICK VANNETT, SEAHAWKS 3.32 (OHIO STATE)
Vannett enters the NFL much like his Ohio State predecessor Jeff Heuerman: a promising prospect who was lightly used in college. Clearly the Seahawks were intrigued by his size, speed and football IQ, though he’s unlikely to threaten Jimmy Graham as a fantasy factor any time soon. The upside to Vannett is a Jason Witten type of every-down tight end, but he’s more likely to remind Seattle fans of John Carlson—and barring a shift in the Seahawks’ offensive scheme that lowers Vannett’s fantasy ceiling substantially.
TYLER HIGBEE, RAMS 4.12 (WESTERN KENTUCKY)
On the field, Higbee was considered by some scouts to be the best pass-catching tight end in his class. Off the field, he’ll need to answer for an April 10 incident that includes charges of assault, evading police and alcohol intoxication and also carries hate crime overtones. Even if the latter is resolved and the Rams can focus on the former, does he bring more to the table than Jared Cook or Lance Kendricks—neither of whom delivered more than sporadic fantasy help?
SETH DEVALVE, BROWNS 4.40 (PRINCETON)
The Browns went off the proverbial board to select Devalve early on Day Three. The former Ivy League wideout has prototypical NFL tight end size and is a solid route runner, but his blocking needs a ton of work. The short-term fantasy outlook behind Gary Barnidge is exceedingly dim, but perhaps Hue Jackson wants to develop him as the heir to Cleveland’s tight end throne.
TEMARRICK HEMINGWAY, RAMS 6.2 (SOUTH CAROLINA STATE)
If Tyler Higbee’s off-the-field issues prevent him from living up to expectations, Hemingway provides the Rams with a fallback plan. He’s a similar type of player to Los Angeles’ other TE draftee, tall and rangy and primarily a pass-catcher who lacks the strength to be an effective blocker. With Jared Cook gone there’s room for a tight end on the Rams’ roster, and Higbee may be too tied up with the legal system to beat out Hemingway for the spot. However, making the roster and being a fantasy factor in the Rams’ run-first offense—with a rookie QB, no less—are two different things entirely.
JERELL ADAMS, GIANTS 6.9 (SOUTH CAROLINA)
The Giants have made a living off of late-round/UDFA tight ends, wringing production from Larry Donnell and Will Tye the past two seasons. Adams enters the league with a similar pedigree but perhaps a stronger resume as a receiver. At minimum he’ll compete with Donnell and Tye for snaps, and if he emerges as the red zone guy—the Giants’ biggest target amongst “regular-sized” receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard—there’s sneaky fantasy value to be had here.
DAVID MORGAN, VIKINGS 6.13 (TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO)
Morgan impressed during the Vikings’ rookie minicamp, but with Kyle Rudolph as the team’s incumbent tight end and MyCole Pruitt as their potential pass-catching TE of the future his fantasy upside is limited. Morgan likely represents Minnesota’s fallback plan if versatile blocking tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison can’t make it all the way back from his knee injury.
RICO GATHERS, COWBOYS 6.42 (BAYLOR)
*Stats are from basketball career at Baylor
Gathers hasn’t played organized football since he was 13 years old, so this would have to be a long-term dynasty investment. The former Baylor basketball player has all the physical tools, but temper those visions of Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas start dancing in your head with the reality that his learning curve will be extremely steep.
THOMAS DUARTE, DOLPHINS 7.10 (UCLA)
Duarte is a pure “tweener”–too small to be a true tight end, too slow to be a legitimate wide receiver–who carved out productivity in a college offense suited for his skills. Whether or not he can do the same in Miami depends heavily on how much his route-running improves, and if Adam Gase sees him in the same light as the Bruins’ coaching staff did. With a stacked wide receiver depth chart and Jordan Cameron blocking his path at tight end, that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
BEAU SANDLAND, PANTHERS 7.31 (MONTANA STATE)
*2013 at Miami (FLA)
Sandland’s journey took him from junior college to Miami (Fla), then back to FCS Montana State for an All-American final season. He has the size and speed to be a pass-catching threat plus the willingness to handle the less glamorous tight end work of blocking. His upside is as a developmental heir to Greg Olsen in Carolina, which certainly holds some fantasy value on larger dynasty rosters.