Finding a viable tight end in fantasy is one of the most challenging aspects of fantasy sports. Whether they’re drafted early or late, absolutely nothing is guaranteed. Last year only one of the top three TEs in ADP (according to fantasypros.com) finished in the top 8 at the end of the year. Even if you do draft a top ten TE, their production is by no means consistent. TE1 Travis Kelce averaged 8.8 points per game which would rank 16th and 22nd among RBs and WRs respectively.
These stats combined with his ranking of 116th on ESPN’s big board make Hunter Henry criminally underrated. Last year, though he shared time with future HOF TE Antonio Gates, he put up record numbers for a rookie tight end. In just ten starts Henry reeled in eight touchdowns and 478 yards, ranking 11th positionally for fantasy. Fantasy guru Matthew Berry stated that Henry would be receiving the vast majority of both snaps and targets compared to his counterpart Gates.
Last year, Henry played 40% of the snaps among the TEs in San Diego. I expect that number to jump to at least 70% in 2017.
An increase in snaps will obviously cause an increase in virtually every other statistic. Henry could receive upwards of 100 targets (Gates had 93 while playing 50% of the team’s snaps) which would be double the amount from the previous year.
Henry is also a threat in every aspect of his game. The second-year TE is one of the best route running TEs in the NFL, causing him to get open along the seams far too often for the defense’s liking. Alongside that, he had just one drop in his first season and has an insane catch rate of 68%.
After the catch he excels, with 36% of his yards coming following the reception. Rarely does Henry fall due to a solo tackle. In the red zone, his route running savvy and reliable hands help him reel in touchdown after touchdown.
Historically, Chargers QB Philip Rivers has relied on TEs. The veteran QB’s TD reception leader is Antonio Gates (84) who almost has 50 more TDs than the next closest option. With Gates entering the season at 37 years old, a changing of the guard at TE will ensue shortly. Additionally, over the past two seasons, Rivers’ % of TDs within the ten-yard line raised to 48% in comparison to 35% from the two seasons before that.
Given Henry’s talent, track record, and his perfect fit in San Diego’s offense, there is no way he finishes outside the top 5 TEs in 2017.