It’s important to come to drafts with a plan regarding the tight end position. Selecting a blue chip tight end in the first 20 picks can greatly alter your roster construction. As can choosing to abstain and taking shots on late-round targets long after Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle have been selected. Here are three higher-upside, late-round options based on advanced stats, metrics and analytics.
Chris Herndon, New York Jets
Fresh off a productive rookie season, Chris Herndon is among the most obvious breakout tight ends heading into 2019. It’s rare for rookie tight ends to be fantasy factors. Herndon went so far as playing runner-up to Robby Anderson in every important receiving category last year. He came in second on the team in catches, receiving yards and yards per target. His 92.6-percent True Catch Rate was best in the NFL at his position per PlayerProfiler. Sam Darnold came on with a fantasy points explosion in the last month of 2018. Proving that he and his pass-catchers can be viable fantasy options.
Check out Chris Herndon on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:
While Anderson and newcomer Le’Veon Bell are locked into healthy target shares, the remaining target distribution is up in the air. That leaves room for the big-bodied Herndon to make an impact. He will be especially useful in the red zone, where the Jets will likely be visiting more frequently in 2019. While Herndon will serve a four-game suspension to start the year, he will return to a talent-starved receiving group. His presence will be a welcome return for an offense that’s sporting an improved offensive line, a developing Darnold and a running back who can distract defenses. Herndon is among the most upside-friendly late-round TE targets out there.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals
The Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray experience goes live in a few short weeks. Yet the offense’s explosive tight end in Ricky Seals-Jones is an afterthought. He’s currently being drafted in best ball leagues around Mike Gesicki, Geoff Swaim, and Noah Fant. These three players don’t have anywhere near as much upside as RSJ. Playing in the league’s most dysfunctional offense undoubtedly triggered this ADP disconnect. Thankfully, those days are over. While Kingsbury has stocked the cupboard with several new weapons for Murray to play with, Jones sticks out as the biggest body for him to target. Whether it be in the middle of the field, down the seam or in the red zone. Even in a lost season, RSJ sported a 15-percent Hog Rate, a top five mark among tight ends.
In the Cards’ preseason opener, the team played in plenty of 11 personnel (one tight end, one running back). It’s clear the new head coach won’t completely phase out his tight end. Even while running a healthy amount of four-receiver sets. Even with the talent injection of Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson, RSJ’s explosiveness when he’s on the field creates an instant mismatch for opposing defenses. Kingsbury will be wise to take advantage, resulting in copious fantasy points for your late round tight end pick.
Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers
Robert Tonyan is a name that even seasoned dynasty vets might be unaware of. Currently nestled behind basically-washed Jimmy Graham on the Packers depth chart, Tonyan looks to make a palpable impact in 2019. His play in the preseason opener brought attention to his work ethic and athleticism. Anecdotal evidence is rarely founded, but if there is any player in the league who has an actual opinion-of-you to in-game-production ratio, it’s Aaron Rodgers. The wispy ghost of Jeff Janis agrees.
Tonyan is a bonafide athletic freak. He sports a 97th-percentile College Dominator Rating and upper-percentile workout metrics across the board. Including a 4.63 (86th-percentile) 40-yard dash and a 123.8 (82nd-percentile) Burst Score. With Graham’s durability a perennial question mark and the wide receiver situation in full flux, there’s room for a George Kittle-esque surprise breakout in Green Bay. It doesn’t hurt that Rodgers is already calling him a great teammate and pro, and saying there’s never a question about his dedication. While he isn’t lined up for a week one impact, he needs to be stashed in deep leagues.