Best Draft Value Tight End: Hunter Henry
This is part of my 2019 Best Draft Value series I am writing before 2019 fantasy draft season.
The fantasy community may be losing the perennial number one fantasy tight end Rob Gronkowski, but all is well. The Chargers have one of their young difference makers, Hunter Henry, returning and hungry to take up that mantle. With Henry’s talent, ample opportunity, and a budget-friendly ADP, Henry will be the top value at tight end in this year’s upcoming fantasy football drafts.
Hunter Henry is Good at Football
The Chargers only brought in Antonio Gates at tight end after Henry tore his ACL in OTAs last year. So it is safe to assume Henry will be the Chargers go-to weapon at tight end for the 2019 season. The way he was supposed to inherit that role for 2018. And why not considering how Henry started off his NFL career.
In his first 23 games as a starter in the pros, splitting time with Gates, Henry was able to gobble up 81 receptions on 115 targets at a clip of 13 yards-per-reception and found the end zone 12 times.
With young tight ends typically having a slower learning curve, these are very positive numbers. Henry’s first two seasons rank among the top rookie and sophomore campaigns for TEs since 2010. He is 12th in receptions, eighth in yards, and fourth in touchdowns among all TEs first two seasons. Let me reiterate, over that time he was splitting snaps with longtime Philip Rivers man-crush, Gates.
Moving forward the job now belongs to Henry alone. At 6-foot-5 and 250-pounds who ran a 4.72 40-yard dash, Henry can cause a lot of mismatches for defenses. Looking at their combine metrics, Zach Ertz compares well with Henry’s athleticism.
With Keenan Allen on the field, Henry will never be the number one target in the way Ertz is in Philadelphia. Nonetheless, that shows how dangerous a weapon Henry can be in the middle of the field.
We can demonstrate this by looking back at 2017 when Henry last played. In that season Henry was one of Rivers best weapons. Rivers posted his second-best passer rating, 121.6, when targeting Henry that season. You can see where that would have ranked him among the Chargers targets last season on the passer rating by target chart below.
I already mentioned that Henry is now the clear cut TE1 in Los Angeles. But that is not by any means the only reason his opportunities are plentiful next season.
First off, let us start with who is under center for the Chargers, Philip Rivers. Over the course of Rivers career, he has been a champion for TEs in fantasy, targeting the position the fifth most among all projected starting quarterbacks with more than one season as a starter on the books. On average, Rivers targets the TE1 position 81 times a season over the course of his career.
Secondly, the fight for targets just got a little less crowded. Tyrell Williams left for Oakland and Antonio Gates is once again a free agent. Williams reeled off 65 targets last season and Gates another 45, freeing up 110 targets from 2018. Each entering their third years (I am not counting 2018 for Henry), Mike Williams and Henry are going to get first dibs at those vacated targets. Especially since Keenan Allen cannot take on much more than the 136 targets he already saw last season.
Let us project Rivers targets Henry 80 times next season. If Hunter produces similarly to his first two seasons, he would have 56 receptions, 733 yards, and eight touchdowns. That would be good for 151.5 fantasy points in half-point PPR scoring. That would have put him ahead of Austin Hooper and in the sixth spot among all tight ends for 2018. Between Rivers affinity for TEs and the targets up for grabs, that stat line seems completely within Henry’s grasp.
The Price is Right
It is all about the price when it comes to what is considered a “value”. Henry’s current ADP is why he is my top value at tight end. As I write this, he is currently being drafted as the ninth tight end off the board. That is a bargain for a guy who can realistically finish in the top-5 at the position, and arguably the top-3. His ACL tear is to blame for the suppression of his current draft price. You should take advantage of that. Since he tore his ACL during OTAs, he has had more than an entire year to recover which means he should be fully healthy to start 2019. Ethan Turner, @EturnerFF_PT, our own in house injury expert, had this to say about Henry;
“When it comes best case scenario for NFL players returning from ACL tears, it doesn’t get much better than Hunter Henry. Fifteen months of recovery combined with his young age make Henry the perfect bounce back candidate in 2019.”
Capitalize on others’ caution due to his injury and snag Henry later in the draft after lesser tight ends are gobbled up by your league-mates.
Why Henry Should be Drafted Higher
For example, let us just take a look at the three other tight ends going into their third seasons, currently being drafted ahead of Henry. Evan Engram, David Njoku, and O.J. Howard.
|Player||Start||End||Games||Receptions||Rec/Game||Targets||Rec Yards||Rec TDs||TD/Game|
As you can see, not too much separates this group of tight ends. But none of the three offer as much upside as Henry. Engram is stuck on an offense with an aging, struggling quarterback that is transitioning to a run-first approach behind Saquon Barkley. Barkley’s 261 rush attempts and 121 targets accounted for a monster 40.8% of the teams offensive opportunities. That was with Odell Beckham still on the team. If Barkley is going to get that much work or more in his second season, it leaves little upside for Engram. With Beckham gone, secondaries are able to focus on Engram as a receiver, making his job that much harder. Speaking of Beckham, Njoku is going to hemorrhage target share with the additions of Beckham and Demetrius Harris who is an underrated receiving weapon.
Opportunity Ratio for Demetrius Harris, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz (above)
Howard has Bruce Arians taking over the offense. Arians TE1 fantasy ranks 26th on average according to our own QB History tool.
Henry is arguably the better pick over all three of those players even before those arguments. But since you can snag him much later, and have a realistic possibility he finishes around the likes of Eric Ebron or Jared Cook of last year, why not wait on Henry and get the most bang for your buck in the draft.