Fantasy football is a numbers game. You need to find the optimal lineup of players that will yield the highest number of points. That is where positional value comes into play. Let me explain exactly what I mean by that.
The discrepancy between the top three tight ends to the rest of the field is very substantial. Last season, Rob Gronkowski averaged 12.2 fantasy points per game. The fourth best tight end by average points was impressive rookie Evan Engram with just 7.3 ppg. That means that even in a ten-team league, seven teams will find themselves with at least a 4.9 point disadvantage if they’re facing the team with Gronk.
There’s just not enough supply of consistently productive tight ends to make up for those points. Tight end has the biggest gap in points from the top three at the position, and the wasteland that exists beneath them. That’s why Gronk and Travis Kelce have been selected relatively high in fantasy drafts.
So how can you put yourself at an advantage against these teams? Find the next guy who had a shot to leap into the elite category. Last season, sharp fantasy players who identified the potential for a Zach Ertz to have a breakout season reaped the benefits. They didn’t use a high pick on their tight end, which means they likely had studs in other positions. And they were rewarded with high-end production that for the most part contended with the point totals of Gronk and Kelce.
This year, my money is on Hunter Henry joining the cream of the tight end crop. Henry is in a great spot this season. The Chargers finally look ready to utilize his big-play ability. Philip Rivers loves throwing to his tight ends, and Henry should see plenty of looks in the red zone and between the 20s.
With Antonio Gates no longer on the team, Henry is in a prime spot for success. Last season, Rivers targeted Henry a total of 62 times. Henry turned those targets into 45 receptions for 579 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Rivers also targeted Gates 52 times on the year. If that is a direct result of the offensive system, Henry could potentially be looking at 100 or more targets this year. That could mean really big numbers for him, and I believe he takes advantage and even threatens the big three at the position.
It is also noteworthy that Henry has a lot of room for positive regression in the touchdown department. As mentioned, he caught just four touchdowns on 62 targets last year. Compare that to his 2016 rookie season, in which he scored eight times on just 53 targets. In total, Rivers threw just seven total TDs to his tight ends last season, relative to 15(!) in 2016. Look for Rivers to correct this trend, and for Henry to be a touchdown machine.
This all is starting to look like a perfect storm for Henry’s breakout campaign. Henry is more than capable of putting up a 1,000 yard season with double digit touchdowns. If that’s the case, he would be a major value pick in upcoming fantasy drafts. He could be this year’s wildcard player, leading your squad to potential fantasy glory.