Last week I dove deep on the wide receivers who changed teams – including some interesting and intriguing players like Allen Lazard, Parris Campbell and Trent Sherfield – but this week we switch gears to the tight end position. It’s not as bad as you think, really! This is ultimately a noteworthy NFL offseason when it comes to the tight end position in fantasy football. Let’s get in the car, buckle up and ride.
Austin Hooper, Las Vegas Raiders: It’s boring to always start with the “obvious” guys, so why not shake it up a little here? Personally, I’m definitely not a “Hooper guy” at this stage of his enigmatic career, but what about the Darren Waller trade to the New York Giants? Hooper will have Jimmy Garoppolo under center in Las Vegas – a guy who obviously established a great relationship with his tight end in San Francisco – with Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers drawing major defensive attention at the wide receiver position. I highly doubt Hooper will be made a shutdown priority for opposing defenses. Plus, his fantasy price point will be super low or non-existent. He’ll be worth a look in redraft at the very end of drafts, nice and quiet.
Hayden Hurst, Carolina Panthers: Obviously, the Panthers are “going for it” right away, even with a rookie quarterback. (And of course, the possibility still remains that CJ Stroud, Bryce Young, Will Levis or Anthony Richardson could play behind Andy Dalton in the early going of the 2023 season.) Either way, I’m getting a little worried about fantasy price points for all of these Panthers: Miles Sanders, Adam Thielen, DJ Chark and Hurst. The Panthers are becoming a major hype team, and that always inflates ADPs. Maybe I’ll end up having some shares of Sanders, but I’m probably staying away from Thielen, Chark and Hurst. There will be fluctuation at the quarterback position – Dalton and then the rookie – as well as a new offensive system and major changes across the board. It’s a very unpredictable offensive situation, honestly.
Dalton Schultz, Houston Texans: Now, here’s a low-key version of the same thing going on in Houston: They’ll have a rookie quarterback – most likely Bryce Young in my opinion – and new offensive contributors in Devin Singletary, Mike Boone, Robert Woods, Noah Brown and potentially John Metchie III. But here’s the thing… I don’t think people are “buying” this team transition as much as they are when it comes to the Carolina Panthers – and that’s a good thing for us in fantasy football. With Schultz, people might think, well, he’s taking a major step down from the Cowboys’ offense to the Texans, but I actually think a rookie QB would love Schultz as a safety blanket at the tight end position. As I wrote last week, I don’t think Woods has much left in the tank, so that makes Schultz and Brown intriguing fantasy options to me at their respective ADPs.
Mike Gesicki, New England Patriots: Back in the days of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, there was a time I trusted Bill Belichick when it came to the tight end position. But then came Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry (the latter has been okay, I guess). As I’ve written many times recently, I just think Belichick is out of touch at this point in his lengthy coaching career. Gesicki has loads of individual talent, but will the Patriots actually find repeatable ways to utilize it? I can’t have any trust in this overall fantasy situation, but I suppose a late, late flier in Redraft is approvable.
Jordan Akins, Cleveland Browns: This is one of those good for the real team, not so great for fantasy situations. I’m honestly surprised Akins couldn’t find a TE1 spot elsewhere. He’s a very gifted young man, but unfortunately for fantasy managers, he’ll be playing behind improving David Njoku in Cleveland. I suppose Akins is worth a shot in 16-team leagues, but I can’t see the reasoning anywhere else. I actually would have liked to have seen the Raiders try him over Hooper this offseason.
Robert Tonyan, Chicago Bears: Very similar situation to Akins here, as Tonyan heads to Chicago to play behind the also-improving Cole Kmet. Tonyan hasn’t been able to stay healthy, so between the two, I’m more likely to take a flier on Akins than Tonyan in super deep leagues.
OJ Howard, Raiders: A moment ago, I mentioned that I would have liked to have seen the Raiders try Akins; instead, they went for potential upside here with Howard. There’s definitely untapped potential remaining here with Howard, but how will his snaps be managed in relativity to the veteran Hooper? Howard could be one of those guys who pops off in Week 1, then becomes an immediate waiver wire darling prior to Week 2. He’s just a complete wild card at this point, honestly.
Josh Oliver, Minnesota Vikings: Wait, is this guy really that good? Three years, $21 million, when Akins only gets two years for $3.9? Only one year, $2.6 mil for Tonyan? I must have completely missed something in Baltimore, as all eyes were on Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely at the fantasy tight end position. It must be all blocking when it comes to Oliver because TJ Hockenson is obviously the fantasy stud in Minny.
Chris Manhertz, Denver Broncos: We have to watch everything Sean Payton is doing very closely these days. He seems to be handpicking “his” guys this offseason. Guys with untapped potential on tape. Manhertz certainly showed flashes of good things playing with Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville, but he never quite put it all together. Now in Denver, Greg Dulcich – who broke out quietly last season – definitely has a leg up on him, but perhaps Payton could cook up some value for Manhertz? It’s a long shot, but the reality is we don’t quite know how things will shake out with this new Broncos’ regime.
I’ll see ya right back here next week!
John Frascella is a published sports author who has been covering the NFL for 19 years. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy football, baseball and basketball.