Fantasy football rookie preview: Tight ends

Fantasy football rookie preview: Tight ends

Rookie Analysis

Fantasy football rookie preview: Tight ends

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Now that we have had some time to digest the NFL draft and its aftermath, us fantasy footballers are excitedly waiting to add some of the rookies to our fake teams.

Deciding which players have fantasy worth in 2019 comes down to assessing the likelihood of meaningful playing time. The following players are ranked in order of anticipated opportunity and corresponding value.

Rookie previews: QB | RB | WR

Tight ends

(Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports)

T.J. Hockenson | Detroit Lions | 6-5, 250 | Iowa

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2017
Iowa
13
24
320
3
2018
Iowa
13
49
760
6

It isn’t too often a rookie tight end is productive enough to matter in fantasy. In the last five seasons, we’ve seen Evan Engram and Hunter Henry buck the trend, but their final lines were not that good. In those five years, the top tight end per season averaged 43.8 catches, 502.2 yards and 4.6 scores. This factors to 121.6 PPR points, or good for 15th place among all 2018 tight ends. Remove Engram and Henry: The output falls to 19th.

Hockenson is a legitimate NFL starter, and he’ll be given every chance to stand out as a rookie. Kenny Golladay is the primary target in the passing game, and the offense will throw often to the running backs. There is a modest role for Marvin Jones, but he’s not a possession hog. Hockenson realistically could catch somewhere near Engram’s 64 as a rookie, which ranked tops on among the position in that five-year window.

Detroit is transitioning to a ground-control system that will look much more like New England than the Lions of pre-Matt Patricia years. Rob Gronkowski comparisons will be unfairly made; Hockenson is more like Jason Witten with hints of Travis Kelce — strong comps, of course. There are maybe five or six tight ends gamers can be fairly sure will finish in the top 12 of the position. This volatility will give Hockenson a chance to flirt with starter status with a stat line around 50-600-4. He’ll be inconsistently productive.

(Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports)

Noah Fant | Denver Broncos | 6-5, 241 | Iowa

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2016
Iowa
10
9
70
1
2017
Iowa
13
30
494
11
2018
Iowa
12
39
519
7

Fant is extremely talented and offers Joe Flacco an athletic outlet capable of being lined up all over. In fact, the rookie is at his best flexed into the slot. He needs to improve drastically as a blocker, which will keep him relegated to passing situations more often than not.

There isn’t a great deal of competition for touches among the tight ends, and he’s a better receiver than any of Denver’s other players at his position. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) returns from a major injury, and he’s on the wrong side of 30. Denver has a pair of second-year wideouts offering promise but remaining mostly unproven in Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.

Fant should have a sizeable role in the way San Francisco utilized George Kittle last year. While he won’t be as productive, the Iowa rookie is a similar player and enters former 49ers quarterbacks coach Rich Scangrello’s system. Take a flier on him as a TE2 in deeper leagues and keep your expectations at a minimum.

(Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports)

Irv Smith | Minnesota Vikings | 6-4, 241 | Alabama

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2017
Alabama
14
14
128
3
2018
Alabama
15
44
710
7

Smith has the talent to succeed but has only one year of proven success in college. The Vikings still have Kyle Rudolph on the roster, even though he is rumored to be available via trade. This offense has many mouths to feed, especially if Rudolph remains, so Smith is most likely facing a learning year with a few flash moments sprinkled throughout.

The rookie’s role is solely tied to what happens with Rudolph. If Smith is granted the starting role and the vet is cast away, we’re looking at TE2 upside in traditional leagues and a possible matchup play for daring DFS gamers.

Josh Oliver | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-5, 253 | San Jose State

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2015
San Jose State
13
4
36
1
2016
San Jose State
12
3
26
1
2017
San Jose State
12
35
296
1
2018
San Jose State
12
56
709
4

Oliver is a talented receiver but comes from a small program and is somewhat raw. He struggles as a blocker and will be primarily utilized away from the line of scrimmage. This could drastically limit how much he’ll be on the field in an offense that will look to set the tone on the ground. Jacksonville needs a pass-catching tight end, and he fits the bill. The offensive system is favorable for the position to find success — think Philadelphia, and we’ve seen quarterback Nick Foles’ comfort level looking to the position.

Watch Oliver’s progression through the summer. He has the tools to flirt with 50 grabs, so there’s an off-chance he becomes a fringe starter in deeper leagues. Draft him late as a flier since this offense lacks standout weapons in the aerial attack.

Foster Moreau | Oakland Raiders | 6-4, 253 | LSU

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2016
LSU
11
6
79
1
2017
LSU
13
24
278
3
2018
LSU
10
22
272
2

Derek Carrier and Luke Willson sit ahead of Moreau on the depth chart at this point, and the rookie wasn’t exactly a receiving powerhouse at LSU. There is an opportunity for more, though, simply because of the tight ends ahead of him are just dudes.

Jace Sternberger | Green Bay Packers | 6-4, 250 | Texas A&M

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2016
Kansas
10
1
5
0
2018
Texas A&M
13
48
832
10

One year of collegiate production and the presence of Jimmy Graham likely makes this a redshirt year for Sternberger. He’ll learn the ropes behind one of the best at his position in the last decade, and the rookie’s future as quite luminous. Barring an injury to Graham, Sternberger won’t be a factor in 2019 fantasy leagues.

Dawson Knox | Buffalo Bills | 6-4, 257 | Ole Miss

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2017
Ole Miss
10
24
321
0
2018
Ole Miss
9
15
284
0

Knox didn’t score once in 19 games, spanning 39 receptions at Ole Miss. He wasn’t in a tight end-friendly situation, and the lack of touchdowns shouldn’t be held over his head. That stated, the Bills brought in Tyler Kroft from Cincinnati in free agency, suggesting the former Bengal will be given every chance to own the starting spot. Knox is closer to a project than a fantasy property.

Kaden Smith | San Francisco 49ers | 6-5, 253 | Stanford

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2017
Stanford
14
23
414
5
2018
Stanford
9
47
635
2

As long as George Kittle is alive and well, there will be nothing but scraps for Smith. Wideout Jalen Hurd also can play tight end, further complicating Smith’s 2019 chances of producing worthwhile stats.

Kahale Warring | Houston Texans | 6-6, 250 | San Diego State

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2016
San Diego State
4
2
17
2
2017
San Diego State
13
18
248
3
2018
San Diego State
9
31
372
3

Warring has receiving skills and could be worked in as the year progresses. Houston’s stable of tight ends is rather weak, which offers a glimmer of hope for Warring. Keep tabs on his offseason maturation before expecting anything near TE2 territory.

Zach Gentry | Pittsburgh Steelers | 6-7, 260 | Michigan

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2017
Michigan
13
17
303
2
2018
Michigan
12
32
514
2

Long-term upside is on his side. The massive Gentry is rather nimble for his gigantic frame but is also mostly unbaked as an NFL-caliber tight end. The Steelers will focus on grooming him for the future, but there’s always a coin-flip scenario of him scoring in the red zone.

Alize Mack | New Orleans Saints | 6-5, 240 | Notre Dame

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2015
Notre Dame
13
13
190
0
2017
Notre Dame
10
19
166
1
2018
Notre Dame
12
36
360
3

In the future, Mack could find himself contributing within this offense and for fantasy gamers. It is unlikely to come in 2019 with Jared Cook and Josh Hill on the roster.

Drew Sample | Cincinnati Bengals | 6-5, 259 | Washington

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2015
Washington
13
5
45
2
2016
Washington
14
9
106
0
2017
Washington
10
7
84
0
2018
Washington
13
25
252
3

Cincinnati re-signed Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah after letting Tyler Kroft walk in free agency. Sample is more of an inline blocker but has decent enough hands. He’ll be a long shot to contribute in fantasy in 2019, even with Eifert’s extensive injury history suggesting an opportunity could be present.

Caleb Wilson | Arizona Cardinals | 6-5, 240 | UCLA

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2016
UCLA
12
16
220
0
2017
UCLA
5
38
490
1
2018
UCLA
11
60
965
4

The Air Raid isn’t exactly known for its use of tight ends given the amount of “00” and “01” packages it deploys. Ricky Seals-Jones, Charles Clay and Maxx Williams all figure to open ahead of the rookie on training camp’s unofficial depth chart.

Trevon Wesco | New York Jets | 6-3, 266 | West Virginia

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2016
West Virginia
10
1
6
1
2017
West Virginia
13
1
1
0
2018
West Virginia
10
26
366
1

Remember this name if you play in long-range leagues. He has considerable potential but needs plenty of time to percolate, and it is questionable if he’d even have a spot in 2019’s pecking order.

Isaac Nauta | Detroit Lions | 6-4, 246 | Georgia

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2016
Georgia
13
29
361
3
2017
Georgia
15
9
114
2
2018
Georgia
14
30
430
3

He’s a classic H-back mold and could be used in a sneaky fashion at times. Fantasy gamers should want nothing to do with him.

Tommy Sweeney | Buffalo Bills | 6-5, 259 | Boston College

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2015
Boston College
12
5
68
0
2016
Boston College
13
26
353
3
2017
Boston College
13
36
512
4
2018
Boston College
11
32
348
3

The No. 2 spot is up for grabs in Buffalo. There’s just not enough meat on that bone for any consistent fantasy returns. Look just about everywhere else at the position.

Travis Fulgham | Detroit Lions | 6-2, 214 | Old Dominion

Year
Team
GP
Rec
Yards
TD
2015
Old Dominion
10
6
89
0
2016
Old Dominion
13
29
478
8
2017
Old Dominion
12
30
394
1
2018
Old Dominion
12
63
1083
9

Is he a receiver or a tight end? Does it matter? Fulgham is on the outside looking in and is a project player at the next level. He’ll be fortunate to make it out of camp.

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