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It’s time to do one last round of dynasty moves before camps open next month (fingers crossed) and values start to move on news and injuries. Tight end is a position where hope springs eternal, but potential rarely turns into best-case scenario production.
Buy Low or Sell High?
Chris Herndon, NYJ
Herndon is a boom/bust gamble, but it’s possible that he won’t be available once we see him on an NFL field again. He struggled through a 2019 season that never got out of the driveway because of a suspension and injuries. Herndon will also be attempting to become fantasy relevant through the Adam Gase headwind that has thrown many careers off course, and the team could use Ryan Griffin a lot more than Herndon’s fantasy teams want, especially in light of the chemistry he and Sam Darnold developed last year. The case for buying him now is that he looked like a future stud as a rookie in 2018 and the Jets have one of the weakest wide receiver rooms in the league. The Jets do start with a rough stretch against Buffalo, San Francisco, and Indianapolis, which could make being patient if you want to buy and impatient if you want to sell the wiser strategies. Either way, In a few months Herndon’s value should be greatly changed.
Tyler Higbee, LAR
Higbee presents one of the tougher calls in dynasty and redraft leagues right now. He was the #1 fantasy tight end from Week 12-17 last year, but that coincided with a Gerald Everett injury. Everett is back this year and the Rams drafting receiving tight end Brycen Hopkins (Purdue) in the fourth round this year, but will that put the productivity and chemistry between Jared Goff and Higbee back in the bottle? Higbee was quietly signed to an extension last summer, so the Rams had clarity on him being a big part of their future, and then the offense trended towards a more two-tight end and less three wide receiver sets in the second half of the year. I would bet on performance, but if Higbee just blends into the passing game instead of standing out in September, a golden sell high opportunity will be lost. If Higbee picks up where he left off in the season opener against Dallas, who he put up 12-111 in a 44-21 blowout loss last year, then the buy-low window will be closed.
Blake Jarwin, DAL
Jarwin is in line for a big opportunity with Jason Witten gone to Las Vegas. He made explosive plays (20+ yards or a touchdown) at a higher rate per target than any other tight end than Jared Cook and all but eight wide receivers. Jarwin will surely get more targets this year and his explosive play rate could actually increase playing against defenses that are stressed out by having to slow down Ezekiel Elliott and cover the best wide receiver trio in the league. He was unheralded coming into the league and perhaps his usage will be closer to the 41 targets he got last year than the 83 Witten got last year. Jarwin got signed to a four-year, $22 million deal in the offseason, so the Cowboys expect his role to grow.
Kaden Smith, NYG
The 49ers will look back at their 2019 sixth-round pick as “the one that got away”. He already proved he can be fantasy relevant as a rookie and Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com wrote that Smith “could play a bigger role this season than many realize”. It will be an upset if Evan Engram doesn’t miss time this year, giving Smith a direct path to having value. Engram was also linked to trade rumors this offseason. The team did pick up Engram’s inexpensive fifth-year option, but Golden Tate is a likely 2021 cap cut at an 8.475 million dollar price tag, so more snaps are coming for Smith as long as he carries over the momentum from his rookie year.
Dan Arnold, ARI
Arnold immediately won a role with the Cardinals after the Saints released him, culminating in a 4-76-1 line in Week 17. He has little to no competition for targets at tight end in the Cardinals offense, and he flashed the skills and traits to be a preferred red zone target for Kyler Murray (who said he has “never had a guy that big that can do what he can do”). The bar is low for fantasy relevance at tight end and Arnold has the situation and ability to clear it this season.
Cole Kmet, CHI
It’s a bit odd to sell a rookie right after drafting him and this advice might really boil down to “pass in rookie drafts”, but if he is coveted by anyone in your league, getting commensurate value now might be your best outcome. The Bears don’t exactly have a bright future in the passing game and Kmet is probably a lesser talent in the passing game than Devin Asiasi, Adam Trautman, or Albert Okwuegbunam even though they went well after him in the draft.
Hayden Hurst, ATL
It’s possible that we will look back at this offseason as the best sell-high moment of Hurst’s career in the wake of his trade to Atlanta, but the profit you can gain trading for him now is much greater than the profit you’ll pocket if Hurst can fill Austin Hooper’s shoes. Matt Ryan has already commented on the athleticism Hurst brings to the table. He’s an upgrade from Hooper in big-play ability and might well be Hooper’s equal in terms of hands and dependability as a target. It’s possible that Hurst actually adds value to tight end targets above and beyond Hooper and that Hooper’s value was a function of the tight end role in the Falcons offense with two top-flight receivers holding the attention of opposing secondaries. If Hurst stays healthy, he should finish the season as a Top 5-8 tight end, if not higher.
Sell Low (If You Can)
Eric Ebron, PIT
Ebron got a two-year, $12 million dollar deal from Pittsburgh that creates an expectation of him getting the majority of the tight end targets in a pass offense that should be a lot better with the return of Ben Roethlisberger. His trade value in dynasty leagues could be more theoretical than actual, but he is currently in the same dynasty rankings range as Blake Jarwin, David Njoku, and Dawson Knox, who all are more attractive holds right now, and Rob Gronkowski and Jared Cook, who are better for win-now teams that don’t have a stud at tight end.
Jack Doyle, IND
Like Ebron, Doyle’s dynasty value on the trade market might be soft if you dangle him out there, but he is the same range as Knox, Jace Sternberger, Gerald Everett, Adam Trautman and Devin Asiasi, all of which are much more likely to give you future value, and maybe even present value. Doyle is steady but has not been durable and even if he returns to fantasy relevance with Philip Rivers, it is likely to be short-lived.
Get Out While the Gettin's Good?
T.J. Hockenson, DET
Hockenson is in the same mold as fellow Hawkeye George Kittle, great blocker and skilled athletic receiver. While there was some worry that Darrell Bevell would ruin his fantasy value the way he did Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham in Seattle, Detroit used him in the passing game right away, especially in the red zone. Hockenson had trouble converting his opportunities, languished on redraft waiver wires, and then had his season ended on Thanksgiving with an ankle injury that still has him working to get back to 100%. If he struggles to sustain fantasy relevance this year, he could be on the David Njoku/OJ Howard value track soon.
Noah Fant, DEN
Fant displayed the high-end athletic gifts that made him a first-round pick last year, whetting the appetites of fantasy players for a second-year breakout in 2020, but since then the team added Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, and perhaps most importantly Albert Okwuegbunam in the draft. The target tree is getting a lot wider, and even at Fant’s tight end position, the Broncos have another top-flight athlete, and this one was quarterback Drew Lock’s favorite touchdown target when they played together at Missouri. Much like Hockenson, Fant is in danger of underperforming his first-round pedigree and undermining the confidence in his growth as a fantasy commodity, which will come with the same whiplash (over?) correction in dynasty value dragging down David Njoku and O.J. Howard right now.
Players who are ranked close to each other in dynasty leagues can have wildly different values to teams that are situated differently. If you are in a win-now window and don’t have an obvious TE1, Rob Gronkowski and Jared Cook should be at the top of your trade target list. If you have Gronk or Cook AND a Kelce/Kittle/Ertz/Andrews, unless you are very circumspect about injury depth, you should be looking to deal Gronkowski or Cook to a win-now team. If you are into 1-for-1 position trades, O.J. Howard and David Njoku are excellent counterparts for Gronkowski/Cook. A team that doesn’t need the win now tight end should be angling for the potential future growth of these late-arriving first-round tight ends. Win-now teams that are holding Howard/Njoku should be more interested in dealing them for Gronkowski/Cook. The best trades are often win-win and a Cook for Howard or Gronkowski for Njoku trade could easily be wins for both sides in hindsight. As you review your dynasty rosters during the last downtime in the fantasy football calendar, try to find these equivalencies that hinge on whether a team is in a win-now window or looking to rebuild.
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