Forecasting fantasy football free-agent tight ends

Forecasting fantasy football free-agent tight ends

NFL free agents and fantasy football impact

Forecasting fantasy football free-agent tight ends


When the NFL’s 2020 free agency period opens March 18, we’ll see several familiar faces switching teams, including one star who may be in a new uniform for the first time in 20 years.

In fantasy football, forecasting statistical production largely hinges on where said player winds up, of course, and the nature of this being a team game means the supporting cast is an intertwining factor in developing a sound projection.

Looking at the key fantasy contributors facing free agency generates plenty of questions. Let’s try to wager some educated guesses as to where these guys will land.

(Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)

Tight ends

Austin Hooper: Barring some unexpected turn of events, Hooper should hit the open market and is more likely than not to play for a new team in 2020. Atlanta has just under $5 million available in cap space, and that’s nowhere near enough money to ink rookies plus re-sign the premier free agent at his position. Several major cuts could boost the figure to somewhere near $24 million, however. Hooper would be an awesome addition for any number of teams. New England is often tossed out as a prime option, but Indianapolis, Miami, Dallas, Houston and Washington also have the need and more money to burn. Green Bay would make sense, yet money is a factor working against it happening. Chicago is a possibility, too, and the Bears freed up $13.5 million in cap space with two releases this week. Hooper is a No. 1 fantasy option in any city or system.

Hunter Henry: Despite several significant injuries in his young career, Henry will be a prized free-agent addition in March. The primary candidates for his services appear to be New England, Indianapolis and Washington, while a handful of other teams will make a bid for him if their existing plans fall through. Henry would make so much sense in Indianapolis for both sides. Jack Doyle can help keep him fresh, and most signs point to Philip Rivers joining the Colts. New England is a commonly circulated landing spot, and it would go a long way in helping convince Tom Brady where to sign. Henry even could return to the Los Angeles Chargers, so almost anything is still on the table. My favorite dark horse is the Green Bay Packers, although money may be an issue. On talent alone, Henry is a midrange No. 1 fantasy tight end. It’s tough to envision a setting in which he isn’t at least a fringe starting option.

Eric Ebron: Looking for his third team in four seasons, Ebron has lived up to his potential just once and will be among the tougher player evaluations for personnel departments. Is he really a TE1 for an NFL franchise? Injuries have plagued him for the better part of his career, and the overall level of disappointing play cannot be ignored. Ebron is an intriguing puzzle piece for a few teams that won’t have to rely heavily on him. Tennessee, Houston, Dallas and the New York Giants are leading possibilities with cap space. Several teams are in play, however, including Jacksonville, Washington, New England, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Arizona, the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets. My inclination is he signs a one-year deal with either Dallas or Chicago. Ebron’s 2018 season was his ceiling, and he’s a perilous TE1 in any fantasy setting.

(David Kohl, USA TODAY Sports)

Tyler Eifert: It took seven years, but Eifert quietly played all 16 games in 2019 for the first time in his NFL career. The results weren’t exactly inspiring, but a quarterback carousel and a rookie head coach shouldn’t be held against Eifert. He has a chance to explore the open market and could find himself in a better situation. He has opted in the past to stick with Cincinnati, making this time basically a coin flip. His worth would increase in a proven system that is conducive to his position seeing more of the target share, and who knows what kind of instability may occur with a rookie quarterback slated to be under center for the Bengals in 2020. For now, regardless of his 2020 home, Eifert is a major risk for limited reward.

Jason Witten: The door isn’t closed yet on Witten’s return to the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, yet it seems more likely than not he will end up in a different jersey for the first time in his storied career. A handful of relevant stat lines can be expected, and there’s little to be excited about, regardless of where he lands. Don’t count out him signing with New England, and perhaps Jason Garrett can convince both the New York Giants and Witten to come to terms as insurance for the oft-injured Evan Engram. Witten surely would help in the blocking game. Anywhere he goes, the cagey vet is a weak TE2 in fantasy.

Jordan Reed: Washington released the always-injured talent, and he’s free to sign anywhere before the March 18 opening of free agency. His sheer inability to stay healthy, and an inflated risk of suffering another concussion, makes Reed unworthy of a roster spot in conventional fantasy leagues. To the owners who are a glutton for punishment, Reed could be on the radar in the right situation. Jacksonville could be a landing spot to reunite him with Jay Gruden.

Darren Fells: It took four teams before Fells finally made enough of a mark to matter in fantasy football leagues. He caught a career-high 34 passes for 341 yards and seven TDs in 2019 with the Houston Texans. Fells re-signing with Houston shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, although it is not a lock. Sporadic touchdown dependency makes for an inconsistent option in fantasy. Fells is an overachiever and is more of a waiver target than a draftable asset.


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