Draft Prep: Four Tight End Busts in 2019
The 2019 fantasy football season is almost here, and as we get ready for it, we’re taking a look at some sleepers and busts at each position.
I’ve already taken a look at four sleepers for the tight end position, now we’ll take a look at four potential busts. It’s worth noting that I’m not saying these guys shouldn’t be drafted, nor am I saying they’re guaranteed busts. Rather, I’m saying I have some serious concerns about their fantasy potential, and might be hesitant to draft them.
Anyways, let’s get to it!
David Njoku (Cleveland Browns)
I’ve actually generally thought David Njoku is a pretty talented tight end, but I’m really worried about his fantasy potential. He did alright last year, finishing the season with 56 catches on 83 targets for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
All things considered, that’s not a terrible season, but it was a roller coaster, as he finished with five top-10 fantasy finishes and eight finishes outside the top-20. Basically, he was either excellent or terrible.
And when you look at his metrics last year, he wasn’t exactly great. He had a pretty disappointing 65.3 ProFootballFocus receiving grade last year, which was 42nd in the league among tight ends, behind such fantasy studs as Ed Dickson and Jake Butt. He also had the sixth-worst Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) among tight ends at -63, and the ninth-worst Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) at -18.1%.
So where did his value come from? Targets. Last year, Njoku had the seventh-highest target share among tight ends last year, raking in 16% of all targets. The Browns offense looks like it could be really great this year, and that’s a good and bad thing.
It’s good because it’s always good to have a solid quarterback like Baker Mayfield throwing the ball to you. But it’s bad because there are a lot of mouths to feed on that offense. With the additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt, I think it’s safe to say Njoku is going to see a fair share of his targets disappear, especially since he’s a much better blocker than he is a pass-catcher.
So let’s review—Njoku’s value mostly came from target share, and he showed last year he’s not a particularly special pass-catcher. Now, those targets are likely to diminish. That makes him very risky.
Eric Ebron (Indianapolis Colts)
Probably the most obvious potential bust on the list, Eric Ebron garnered the vast majority of his fantasy points from being Andrew Luck‘s favorite red zone target. He finished last year with 66 catches on 108 targets and a ridiculous 13 touchdowns.
He also led the tight end position in red zone targets, with 32, 17 of which he caught, which means that 25.8% of his total catches last year were in the red zone. That’s not going to happen again for a couple reasons. First, that’s just a crazy season and would be due for regression regardless of his situation, and second, and perhaps most importantly, Jack Doyle will be back and healthy.
Doyle spent a lot of last year hurt, and when he wasn’t hurt, he was definitely involved in the offense. He’s healthy now, and as long as he stays healthy, he’s absolutely going to eat into Ebron’s targets.
Not only that, but the Colts signed Devin Funchess in the offseason, who could easily eat into Ebron’s red zone targets, and it’s expected that Mo Alie-Cox is going to be more involved in the offense.
Now, all that being said, Ebron will still likely be a favorite red zone target of Luck’s, and how could he not be? The guy is 6’4″, 253 pounds, he’s a great target in the red zone. But with the return of Doyle, the addition of Funchess, and the likelihood that Alie-Cox is more involved in the offense, that could mean some noticeable regression for Ebron. He still has plenty of touchdown upside, but you can’t expect what happened last year to happen again, barring a significant injury for Doyle.
Hunter Henry (Los Angeles Chargers)
Hunter Henry has been a popular sleeper pick for years now, and unfortunately he missed out on his 2018 season following an ACL tear. Now, he’s back from the injury and is likely going to be the starting tight end for the Chargers now that Antonio Gates has finally left the team.
I’m generally a more conservative drafter in fantasy, and I don’t really like grabbing guys with a lot of question marks. Henry has loads of question marks. Yes, he flashed some talent with three-straight top-five fantasy finishes in his rookie season, and five top-10 finishes last year.
But here’s the thing—we have absolutely no idea what Henry is going to look like this year. None whatsoever. He’s coming off an ACL tear, that’s a very significant injury. Now, thankfully, he’s had a lot of time to recover, but you don’t know how that injury will affect him.
We also have no idea how he’ll look as a fantasy starter. The guy has never had 600 yards in a single season, and drafting him as a top-five tight end solely based on potential makes me very nervous. I get it, the ceiling is high, but it’s a major risk, and it could come crashing down pretty hard.
Jared Cook (New Orleans Saints)
Jared Cook had a nice resurgence last year with the Oakland Raiders, catching 68 balls on 99 targets for 896 yards and six touchdowns. He also had five top-five fantasy finishes, including two number-one finishes. He was pretty solid last year, up until a three-week skid the last three weeks of the season that saw him finish 31st, 28th, and 19th.
Now he’s with the Saints, and if your first thought is “sweet, he gets to have Drew Brees throw him the ball,” I totally get it. However, similar to Njoku’s problem, Cook is going to be in a Saints offense that has a lot of offensive weapons, and I think Saints tight ends since Jimmy Graham have shown that there’s not always much fantasy value to be had in New Orleans.
Take Benjamin Watson for example—last year he started all 16 of the Saints’ games at tight end, and how was his season? He ended up with 35 catches on 46 targets for 400 yards and two touchdowns. And 2017? That was a combination of Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui, who combined for 32 catches on 34 targets for 237 yards and two touchdowns.
It’s pretty clear, too, that the Saints are going for a more run-heavy offense, and why not? When you have Alvin Kamara, you use him as much as you can. And when they do throw the ball, they’re going to be throwing to Kamara, Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Ted Ginn, and probably Latavius Murray. That doesn’t leave a ton of work left for Cook.
So considering the bad slip he had at the end of last year, plus the fact that he isn’t likely to be heavily involved in the offense, and the fact that he’s 32-years-old and wasn’t exactly a great fantasy tight end for the couple years prior to last year, Jared Cook seems like a pretty risky, likely volatile guy to own.
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