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Is there a rookie tight end with great talent but stuck in a bad situation? The bad situation could be anything from a bad coaching staff to being behind an entrenched starter to having subpar surrounding talent.
None of the premier tight ends got "Goederted" this year. Recall Dallas Goedert landed in Philadelphia and now plays second fiddle to Zach Ertz. Goedert would be an offensive focal point on most other teams. Among this rookie crop, the only name that fits this bill -- albeit marginally -- is Noah Fant. Fant is a bit overhyped as a prospect, but he is a talented receiver. Unfortunately, he'll be playing for a Joe Flacco-led Broncos unit.
That's Fant and Hockenson. Rich Scangarello might be a great offensive mind and Mike Munchak can build a great offensive line, but Joe Flacco and Drew Lock are not really the passers you want your fantasy tight end's value to hinge on. Hockenson is on a run first team and his offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's offense destroyed the fantasy value of Jimmy Graham and Zach Miller in Seattle. Irv Smith's spot isn't great with a run-first offense brewing and two great receivers in their primes.
Noah Fant earns this designation easily. Both the short and long term look miserable for Fant in terms of quarterbacks that can help him to reach his fantasy potential. Joe Flacco may throw a great many short passes, but touchdowns and yardage will be hard to come by with a not-so-elite quarterback on the back end of his career running the show. Drew Lock has a big arm, but not much else going on for him. It’s easy to envision Flacco failing early on and the team thrusting Lock into starting sooner than is better for his development. It was a real bummer of a landing spot for Fant, all things considered.
Irv Smith could be stuck for a spell in Minnesota considering their wide receiver talent and if Kyle Rudolph sticks around with a new contract. The ceiling is tempered considering the competition for targets and Day 2 tight ends typically become starters in their opening years, but they are not locks like their Round 1 positional counterparts.
Jace Sternberger is the answer here. The Packers still have Jimmy Graham on the team, plus Marcedes Lewis. Sternberger is a talented tight end who can make an impact in the league. His place in the depth chart is unfortunate, and his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers has a propensity to target wide receivers in the red zone. Sternberger's talent may win out, but it's also possible that he will struggle to rise to fantasy relevance. His outlook would be much different on a team like Denver, Buffalo, New England, or Seattle.
As Jeff pointed out, I worry about Aaron Rodgers and his use of the tight end position. Jace Sternberger should see off Jimmy Graham within a year or two, but then what? For all the hype that Jermichael Finley presented he only had one season as a starting tight end, while Richard Rodgers fluke season in 2015 was high in touchdowns, but low in all round numbers. Maybe a new coaching philosophy makes use of the position, but when players like Jimmy Graham and Jared Cook can’t sniff starting fantasy production in Green Bay there is a serious concern.
Dawson Knox is a freaky athlete with a lot of physical potential. The landing spot in Buffalo isn’t awful and Knox could earn snaps quickly, especially with Tyler Kroft missing some time with injury. However, it is hard to see Josh Allen as the type of passer who is going to pepper his tight ends with targets. The Bills offense should be run heavy moving forward with a lot of play-action deep shots to keep opposing defenses honest.
I am here to ghost-bust my buddy Bloom's thoughts on Darrell Bevell. Type Bevell's name into the search bar at Footballguys and you'll see a record of his 12-year career as an offensive coordinator. Move your cursor over the figures for the tight ends, and you'll see a picture of Bloom in a pilgrim's outfit conducting a witch hunt and Bevell is the undeserved boogyman.
Jimmy Graham was TE2 and TE4 in fantasy football in 2016 and 2017. He was a stud at the position for two of the three years he was in town and while Bevell and--more important--the Seahawks brass who asked Bevell to make Graham a blocker in 2015 failed there, Graham also only played 11 games and wasn't far from top-12 production.
Our favorite FBG's horror writer has turned one injured-curtailed season into a three-year urban legend about Bevell and Graham.
And Bevell has had success with lesser talents at the position in other places. His offenses supported TE4 and TE5 production from Visanthe Shiancoe in 2008 and 2009.
When Bevell had talent at the position, he made use of it. Zach Miller was a slow, overrated player who had slowed down even more before he arrived in Seattle. The Vikings' cupboard was bare at tight end after Shiancoe.
Hockenson is a versatile tight end who will push for playing time immediately and it's not Detroit's fault that Eric Ebron had numerous untimely drops. When Matt Stafford earned his career-best season, he did it with his fellow first-round pick, Brandon Pettigrew as his tight end. Pettigrew had two years of top-12 fantasy production.
Stafford finally gets a worthwhile tight end in Detroit and Bevell finally gets a tight end who can catch and block. In the immortal words of Ray Parker, Jr., "I ain't afraid of no ghosts."
If there's a situation that concerns me, it's Houston. Kahale Warring is a promising athlete with the baseline skills to develop into an every-down tight end of fantasy worth. He's also on a Texans squad that already has two promising tight ends that can catch the ball and have similar potential as blockers.
Then there's Bill O'Brien's offensive scheme that has not yielded a top-15 fantasy tight end during his four-year tenure. Until this scheme shows that tight end is a priority position in the passing game, Warring is about to be unjustly imprisoned.
Kahale Warring oozes natural ability. He's a great all-around athlete who excelled at multiple sports in high school, showing just enough juice at San Diego State (and at the combine) to intrigue. That's why I wish he'd landed in an offense more likely to develop and utilize him than Bill O'Brien's Texans. Over his 5 years in town, tight ends have drawn just 18.5% of Houston targets, with a season-best line of 54-559-4 (C.J. Fiedorowicz in 2016). DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller will keep dominating targets from the outside, and ascendant slot man Keke Coutee gobbles them up over the middle. Warring could surprise but will have to work against history to do so.