Five Legitimate Fantasy Football Sleepers At Tight End
If you are able to win the fantasy football sleepers battle at tight end, the chances of you winning your league increase exponentially. Only five tight ends saw more than 100 targets last season and really only four tight ends (Kelce, Ertz, Kittle, Ebron) were true difference makers. With the NFL transitioning more completely to the spread offense and three/four wide receiver sets, there are less tight ends seeing fewer targets than ever. The value of the studs has gone up while the difficulty in projecting the third and four tiers of fantasy football sleepers tight ends has also risen. While most of us plan on streaming tight ends throughout the 2019 season, if you are able to draft a tight end who breakouts and enters the top six at the position, you don’t have to stream. These five players have a real chance at becoming weekly starters in fantasy football leagues in 2019.
Fantasy Football Sleepers At Tight End
We have already covered Hernon in Three Impending Fantasy Football Breakout Candidates, but he is worth re-iterating as a sleeper here. Herndon is one of only 14 tight ends in the last 20 years to have more than 50 targets and 4 touchdowns as a rookie. He also fits the criteria of what ends up determining a sleeper. Herndon is a young player in an ascending offense who is not getting the benefit of the doubt from fantasy football markets. His current ADP on FantasyPros (which is an aggregate of several sites) places him as the TE15 and at 137th overall. The Jets offense doesn’t feature a real redzone threat other than Herndon and in reality, that is what places a sleeper at the tight end position: the ability to score touchdowns. If we accept that in general, it is a lower-volume position, we are able to narrow down the sorts of players that we are targeting. Herndon has a better ceiling than Delanie Walker and T.J Hockenson who are both being drafted ahead of him in most drafts. I’m fairly comfortable leaving most drafts with Herndon as my only tight end and in sharper markets (such as the DRAFT Best Ball’s) his ADP is higher than in more casual leagues which would indicate that I am correct in feeling that way.
You can’t really log on to fantasy football twitter without hearing about Dallas Goedert these days. While he is only being drafted at TE24 and 211th overall per the FantasyPros composite ADP, he’s getting a fair amount of hype from the community. Beat writers who have been at Eagles OTA practices have specifically mentioned the second-year tight end’s progress. Jeff McLane from the Philadelphia Enquirer noted “Asked Monday for players who have stood out, Doug Pederson named Agholor, Wentz and tight end Dallas Goedert on offense. Aside from Wentz, I’d have Goedert as my top guy among that group. He’s yet to do anything that could be labeled spectacular. I think there needs to be more contact for Goedert to drop jaws, but he already does nearly everything with such ease that it may be taken for granted. Sudfeld threw short of the goal line during red-zone drills, and Goedert, perhaps frustrated by the restrictions, bounced off a defender and carried another into the end zone. He later snatched a low Wentz toss with his fingertips.”
If we are going off of overly-positive offseason news, these are the sorts of things that we want to hear. Finding enough targets for Goedert to be a weekly start in fantasy football leagues might be tough but there are a few ways he could get there. The first is, of course, an injury to Zach Ertz. There has also been some talk about the fact that Ertz was Nick Foles’ binky and his target volume will be scaled back in 2019 which should benefit Goedert. Goedert actually played 419 snaps as an inline tight end in 2018 which is massive for a rookie. He played over 150 snaps as slot/boundary/H-back receiver as well which is another positive addendum to his rookie resume. I’m bullish on Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson and the Eagles in general. Goedert is the cheapest meaningful part of this offense available in drafts and fills a hard-to-fill position.
Stephen Anderson/Matt LaCosse
With the news that Austin Sefarin-Jenkins has been released by the Patriots breaking on June 4th, our attention should turn to the other young tight ends on the Patriots roster. Stephen Anderson played in 25 games for the Texans before being let go after two seasons and actually found his way to 52 targets on an oft-injured roster last season. Matt LaCosse has bounced around from the New York Giants to the Denver Broncos and has only recorded 41 career targets. LaCosse was given a sizable contract from the Patriots which has guaranteed money for two years, whereas Anderson’s deal expires after 2019. Ben Watson, the ageless wonder, is also on the roster and could factor into this discussion. The point is: we know that New England is going to use their tight ends and possibly even more than one. With Rob Gronkowski retiring, Josh Gordon suspended and Chris Hogan off the roster, the team is looking to replace 195 targets from last season.
N’Keal Harry figures to take a decent portion of the departed Hogan and Gordon targets but there is still a sizable chunk to be made up by Anderson or LaCosse. While LaCosse seems to fit what we think of as a Patriot (capable blocker, sure hands), the upside here lies with Anderson to me. Anderson ran a 4.65 40 at 230 pounds at the combine while registering 75th percentile SPARQ athleticism at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. He also had 13.7 yards per reception as a Texan last season and has more capability than either LaCosse or Ben Watson to play in the slot or even on the boundary. The odds are in all likelihood that Anderson/LaCosse/Watson all split targets for a majority of 2019 but Anderson has the best chances of being a legitimate breakout player.
Give me all the available Arizona Cardinals players that I can have in drafts in 2019. If you simply tried to identify fantasy football sleepers from offenses that were bad in a prior year that project to be better in future years, you’d come out ahead. Despite playing in an offense that ran more up-the-middle rush attempts than any other team, Ricky Seals-Jones was still top 12 amongst the tight end position in Air Yards. RSJ ran over 20 pass routes in just seven games last season and we are projecting that rate to rise exponentially in 2019. Arizona ran the second-fewest plays of any NFL team last season and was the league’s worst offense on a per play basis with Josh Rosen and Mike McCoy at the controls. Upgrading those positions to Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury is like dropping 8 shots of espresso into a glass of chamomile tea.
Kyler and Seals-Jones played together at Texas A&M and the Cardinals offense is reportedly going into almost 100% shotgun formations. Seals-Jones is a better fit as a shotgun tight end than ancient inline tight end Charles Clay. RSJ also has more NFL experience than the trio of Cardinals rookie wide receivers and should receive playing time as a tight end/wide receiver hybrid from week one on. Of all of these tight ends, I actually feel the best about RSJ’s fantasy value if we are projecting his playing time out correctly. A 75% snap share in this Cardinals offense might be more valuable than 100% snap share in the New York Jets offense. We’ve seen with the Bears and Rams the last two seasons the difference that an offensive, pass-first coach can have on a formerly-middling team. Ricky Seals-Jones is my favorite fantasy football sleepers candidate on the Cardinals.
It was not that long ago that the fantasy football community was in love with Shaheen as a sleeper. Despite the team signing Trey Burton in free agency in 2018, there was still an expectation that the Bears would run a lot of 12 personnel and that Shaheen would be heavily involved in the redzone. Instead, Shaheen started out the 2018 season on the designated for return IR. He played in only six games for the Bears with six targets and one touchdown. With an entire offseason to re-configure his offense, I expect that Matt Nagy and the Bears have a more effective plan on how to use former Ashland college product.
Trey Burton finished only behind Anthony Miller on the Bears in receiving touchdowns in 2018 but the team threw only 24 passing touchdowns. We have a significantly higher number than that projected for Mitch Trubisky in 2019 (over 30, in fact) and Shaheen should play a role in that. Taylor Gabriel is best used a bit player (as is Tarik Cohen) which should place more emphasis on Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Trey Burton, and Shaheen as every-down players in 2019. If Matt Nagy is really as inventive and creative as he is perceived than finding more uses for the 6’6, 280 pound Shaheen with 78th percentile SPARQ-athleticism should be well within his wheelhouse. Much like Seals-Jones, buying into Shaheen is buying into playing time in what projects to be a good NFL offense.
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