We asked our staff to make a call on a tight end. Who will surprise - either good or bad?
My pick is O.J. Howard. Not only do I think Howard will be heavily used along with Rob Gronkowski in Tampa Bay, but he may also be the primary source for tight end targets in a Tom Brady-led offense. Is it that much of a stretch to think that a grade-A tight end with 4.5 speed in the prime of his career could have success in a potent offense, led by a future Hall of Fame quarterback? Even if Rob Gronkowski is just as good as he was four years ago, there is still room for Howard to be a fantasy-relevant option. Personally, my gut says that Gronkowski will see reduced snaps and be more of a red-zone presence on the team.
The best part about Howard is that he can be drafted as a TE2 or maybe even TE3 depending on how deep your rosters are. He has disappointed the previous three years compared to the lofty expectations set when he was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The reality is that he has two seasons with five or more touchdowns and two top-16 finishes, all with Jameis Winston at quarterback. If Howard and his immense talent can't be productive with Tom Brady then it just wasn't meant to be. The alternative is a breakout season that finally gives us what we expected from him all along.
From a pure volume and overachieving their draft cost perspective, the Colts tight ends are a team position to leverage this season. The Colts tight ends are fourth in the NFL over the past three seasons in total targets, behind only the Eagles, Chiefs, and Ravens. The Colts tight ends had a robust 141 targets in 2019 and Eric Ebron (52 targets in 11 games) is gone in free agency. Jack Doyle is the projected TE1 after seeing 72 targets last year despite a firm committee in those 11 games of dual activity. Also, the Colts wide receivers beyond T.Y. Hilton are question marks with their NFL track record. Parris Campbell saw just 24 targets last year as a minimally-playing rookie and Michael Pittman Jr is an incoming rookie this year. Jack Doyle can be had as a mid-TE2 in drafts and Trey Burton in a true late-round (or waiver wire) dart throw.
For a late-round or waiver wire target in deeper, dynasty, and/or TE 1.5 PPR leagues, take a look at Donald Parham of Los Angeles Chargers. Hunter Henry is the undisputed TE1, but he's also never made it through a complete 16 game season healthy. TE2 is Virgil Green, a dependable but, at this point, unexciting ten-year veteran.
Meanwhile, scouts called Parham the most dominant player in the XFL at any position. He's 6-foot-8 and 243 with a 7-foot wingspan, "and speed."
As the Chargers are starting Tyrod Taylor at QB1, Parham has been building confidence in training camp as a red-zone, chain-moving target with fellow "rookie" Justin Herbert as they both are running with the second team. It's possible Parham has supplanted Green on the depth chart. At 22 years old, he has the upside of an extra draft pick.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, but Jared Cook will again be a value. Only three tight ends have posted top-12 seasonal finishes each of the past three seasons: Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and Cook. Cook has finished TE7 and TE5 the past two seasons, with only Kelce, Ertz, and George Kittle finishing in the Top 7 tight ends each of the past two seasons. The best part of Cook is the cost, as he offers top-five upside at a cost closer to TE12. That’s a five-round or more discount on Kelce, Ertz, and Kittle. The offense should look largely the same in 2020, which bodes well for another under-the-radar Cook value season.
I think you all know where I'm going on this one.
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