It’s hard to believe we’re a week away from the NFL regular season. After spending more than four months focusing on every bit of minutiae, every tidbit, every coach’s quote, and adjusting our rankings and projections, accordingly, a lot can change from our original expectations. Here’s a quick look at some of the most significant changes from my initial thoughts back in early May.
On Second Thought…
Dan Arnold (ARI) is the deepest sleeper worth knowing
Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying; Dan Arnold shouldn’t be drafted in most 10- and 12-team redraft leagues. But if your rosters go deeper than most, Arnold is worth knowing. No one other than DeAndre Hopkins elicited more praise in Cardinals camp, and if he’s the giant red-zone target he seems to be, it won’t take many touchdown grabs to become fantasy relevant.
Mark Andrews (BAL) is the riskiest of the top-5 tight ends
Mark Andrews and Darren Waller were league-winning draft picks last year because both were available late and yet delivered top-5 seasons. Both could maintain that form, but Andrews has much more risk than his top-5 counterparts. He played less than 45% of the Ravens snaps last season and scored ten times on 98 targets. History isn’t kind to players who rely on that kind of touchdown conversion rate, and it’s unclear whether Andrews’ target share can and will increase. As a Type-1 Diabetic, he’s also at higher risk of Covid-19 related complications.
Blake Jarwin (DAL) is a legitimate sleeper
In May, I saw Jarwin as the guy Dallas had to plug into Jason Witten’s spot for lack of an alternative, but not someone who would be an intentional part of the offensive game plan. But Mike McCarthy sang his praises, particularly as a weapon on deep slant routes, and then Jarwin put on a clinic during training camp. I’m now on board the Jarwin Express.
Jace Sternberger (GB) isn’t the guy in Green Bay
Someday Aaron Rodgers will have a studly tight end to throw to every week. But it’s not going to be this season despite our hopes Sternberger may emerge. There has been no buzz from the beat writers about the second-year pro, and it’s not even clear he’ll have a regular role offensively as Robert Tonyan Jr has looked much better.
Tyler Eifert (JAX) found a new lease on life, but you shouldn’t care
If you thought Eifert was approaching 40 years old, I wouldn’t fault you. But he’s only 29 years old and has survived a war of attrition to emerge as the Jaguars starter. He was a fantasy star at his best in Cincinnati, but it’s been five years and a lot of back injuries since he was at his best.
Tyler Higbee (LAR) may live up to the hype
Tyler Higbee did nothing for 3.5 seasons and then became Travis Kelce for the final two months of 2019. I’m still not confident what we saw late last year is more predictive than his entire career, but Higbee was a stand out throughout camp. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a fantasy star.
Mike Gesicki (MIA) could be this year’s Mark Andrews
Mark Andrews was inconsistent in 2018 but flashed enough to warrant drafting as a boom-or-bust lottery ticket. In 2019 he helped people win their leagues. Mike Gesicki was similarly inconsistent last year on a poor Dolphins team, but he showed enough to get excited about his future. If the Dolphins can field a consistent offense, likely with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, Gesicki could join the Lion’s T.J. Hockenson as late-round tight ends who finish the season as top-10 values.
Dallas Goedert (PHI) remains the league’s most valuable No. 2 tight end
Philadelphia doesn’t want to run as much 12-personnel as they did last year, but it was by necessity. And while Goedert has top-3 talent, it’s hard to roster a guy who’s the No 2 tight end on his own team unless you’re sure the 12-personnel look will be the baseline offensive set. But the Eagles are star-crossed, and Jalen Reagor is hurt, as is Alshon Jeffery. That means Goedert will be on the field almost as much as Zach Ertz, and so he’ll have sporadic fantasy value.
Eric Ebron (PIT) isn’t going to play enough snaps to matter
When the Steelers signed Ebron, I suspected it was the end of Vance McDonald’s tenure in Pittsburgh. I was wrong. Neither Ebron nor McDonald is going to play enough to trust in weekly lineups.
Logan Thomas (WAS) is an NFL starter finally, on his sixth team
Logan Thomas is a former quarterback who converted to tight end in an attempt to stick around the league. Washington is his sixth team in seven seasons, yet somehow he’s earned the starting job. Let’s be clear, Thomas wouldn’t make most team’s rosters, so this is as much a condemnation of Washington’s talent as a testament to his own. But it’s still a great human interest story worth rooting for in a year when we could all use some feel-good moments.