Fantasy football rookie preview: Tight ends

Fantasy football rookie preview: Tight ends

Fantasy Football 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 2020 comes down to assessing the likelihood of meaningful playing time. The following players are ranked in order of anticipated opportunity and corresponding value.

(Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports)

Most immediate impact

Dalton Keene | New England Patriots | 6-4, 253 | Virginia Tech

Tight ends rarely contribute draft-worthy in fantasy football as rookies. Exceptions can be found, sure, but they required the right balance between player-system-personnel to be successful. What confluence tends to create a valuable rookie tight end? A quarterback either so good he can run through his progressions to find the open player, or he’s the exact opposite (inexperienced) and bails on his reads to lean on a safety blanket. Next, the system has to incorporate the position in routes and not rely on him as merely a blocker. Emphasizing the position as a top-two read helps eliminate the need for the passer to be able to quickly progress through the targets. Finally, personnel options — are the other receiving targets so capable that the position gets overshadowed, regardless of talent?

New England can check boxes for all three: Inexperienced quarterback, an emphasis on the position via system designs, and limited talent among the other receiving assets. Keene has the athletic traits to stand out as a rookie, and the Pats have a need for him. His status vaults from late-round flier to strong TE2 if there is a full training camp.

Cole Kmet | Chicago Bears | 6-6, 262 | Notre Dame

Pointing to the recipe for success at tight end once again, Kmet enters a situation that sort of offers what he would need to impress as a rookie. The quarterback situation (either Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles) works in his favor. The system’s root model heavily leans on the position, although we haven’t yet seen it from Matt Nagy’s team. Personnel … well, that doesn’t favor Kmet so much. He’s all but guaranteed to open behind Jimmy Graham. It’s pretty clear the once-dominant tight end should have retired at least a year ago, which helps Kmet’s chances, but Bears general manager Ryan Pace’s suspect eye for talent continues to haunt the team.

Furthermore, from the personnel column, it’s not just Graham working against the rookie. Allen Robinson rebounded nicely last year. Anthony Miller has the makings of a fine WR2. Cordarrelle Patterson and Ted Ginn are now in the fold. Running back Tarik Cohen catches the rock. Bill Lazor is the newest OC in the Windy City, and his track record — let’s just say it hasn’t been great. Kmet has a brilliant future and reminds of Jason Witten in many ways — blue-collar blocker with plus-hands and the right attitude. Even the future Hall of Famer stunk as a fantasy rookie…

(Sam Greene)

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Devin Asiasi | New England Patriots | 6-3, 257 | UCLA

The former Bruin was selected higher than Keene by 10 spots in Round 3 and offers some intriguing traits. Asiasi entered the 2019 season with only eight total catches and then tacked on a line of 44-641-4. He’s quite raw but offers so many physical traits to get excited about — but not in 2020 drafts. He’s at least a year away from being a meaningful contributor. There is an outside chance of utility in the upcoming season as he battles Keene for the primary receiving work at tight end. Asiasi has fought weight fluctuations, and no offseason program could be problematic from a number of angles. Tuck his name away in the old memory bank for now.

Josiah Deguara | Green Bay Packers | 6-2, 242 | Cincinnati

More of an H-back with the ability to even play a conventional fullback role, Deguara leaves the Bearcats after a prolific career. Green Bay seems to like what second-year tight end Jace Sternberger could offer, and veteran Marcedes Lewis is hanging around but is more of a blocker. Deguara may have a role like San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, according to head coach Matt LaFleur. That’s not ideal for fantasy — a receiving fullback who can move around but has no prominent role in the offense.

Colby Parkinson | Seattle Seahawks | 6-7, 252 | Stanford

Given Seattle’s problems with keeping tight ends healthy in the last few years, one has to at least question if Parkinson will get a shot as a rookie. He’s obvious bright as a Stanford guy, and he is an imposing figure in the red zone. Nevertheless, he’ll enter the offseason behind some combination of Will Dissly (Achilles), Luke Willson, Jacob Hollister and, of course, Greg Olsen. A lot will change. Who knows if Dissly returns to form, Willson isn’t much of a receiver, Hollister is a journeyman, and Olsen is fragile. Watch how it plays out if we get a training camp this offseason.

Adam Trautman | New Orleans Saints | 6-5, 255 | Dayton

Crazy upside, but he’s coming from a small school and enters a loaded offense with two extremely capable veterans ahead of him. There is little chance we see Trautman garner enough action to matter in 2020. His long-term outlook is quite enticing at least.

Albert Okwuegbunam | Denver Broncos | 6-5, 258 | Missouri

“Albert O,” as he is known, was reunited with one of his college quarterbacks, Drew Lock. The athletic tight end has an intriguing upside about him but is raw and will need time to develop. Unless something happens to cost Noah Fant significant time, Okwuegbunam shouldn’t see much action behind veteran backups Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett in this suddenly talent-laden offense.

Harrison Bryant | Cleveland Browns | 6-5, 243 | Florida Atlantic

All of these terms aptly describe Bryant: Fluid, athletic, raw, dangerous. He’s built in the same mold as George Kittle, which is a lofty comparison, but it took the star tight end a year to really get his feet wet. In 2020, Bryant enters behind the highest-paid tight end in NFL history in newcomer Austin Hooper, and veteran David Njoku also returns. This will be mostly a redshirt year for Bryant without help from that nasty injury bug.

(Nikos Frazier, Journal & Courier)

Roster fodder?

Brycen Hopkins | Los Angeles Rams | 6-4, 245 | Purdue

The son of an NFL tackle, Hopkins gets an opportunity to learn the ropes behind two serviceable tight ends in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. The former really came into his own last year down the stretch. In an ideal situation for the Rams, Hopkins will observe from the sidelines and play special teams.

Charlie Woerner | San Francisco 49ers | 6-5, 244 | Georgia

The former Bulldog has a shot to move up to third on the depth chart behind Kittle and Ross Dwelley. It’s unlikely he touches the ball more than a few times all season.

Tyler Davis | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-4, 250 | Georgia Tech

Davis has some chops and will have a shot to showcase them eventually. No offseason program really hurts his cause. Worse, Jacksonville added Tyler Eifert in the offseason and drafted pass-catching tight end Josh Oliver last year.

Stephen Sullivan | Seattle Seahawks | 6-5, 248 | LSU

Seattle drafted a Parkinson three rounds ahead of Sullivan, and this will probably be a practice squad year for the tight end trapped in a receiver’s body.

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