Fantasy Football: Tight End Sleepers

Austin Hooper Atlanta Falcons

Now less than two weeks away, fantasy draft season has arrived. With Covid-19 preventing preseason and limiting information from training camp, 2020 remains a unique challenge for fantasy owners. Securing solid players in the back half of drafts remains crucial to success in 2020. With that said, here are a few sleepers at the tight end position in the back half of drafts.

Hayden Hurst

After letting Austin Hooper walk in free agency the Atlanta Falcons traded a second-round pick for Baltimore’s Hayden Hurst. Formerly a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, Hurst battled for production with Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle in Baltimore. Now locked into a feature role in Atlanta, Hurst looks like a solid sleeper at the tight end position.

Looking at Atlanta’s offense, Hooper vacated 97 targets at the tight end position. Improving matters further, Atlanta leads the NFL with 258 available targets ahead of the 2020 season. On top of the available opportunity, Atlanta’s style of offense remains fantasy-friendly. Last year, the Falcons tied for the most plays per game (68.5) and passed at the highest rate in football (67.0-percent).

Despite only playing on 39-percent of Baltimore’s snaps last year, Hurst showed impressive on-field efficiency. He racked up 30 receptions for 349 receiving yards and a pair of scores last year. He also notched 8.7 yards per target, which ranked seventh in all of football.

Likely to see an expanded role in Atlanta, Hurst remains a mid-round sleeper at the tight end position.

Mike Gesicki

Now entering his third season with the Dolphins, Mike Gesicki continues to display growth at the tight end position. Last year, Gesicki recorded 570 yards and five scores on 51 catches for Miami. More impressive yet, Gesicki did not take on a full-time role till mid-season. Now set to take on an expanded role, Gesicki remains a tight end sleeper to target in 2020.

Prior to training camp, Miami found themselves hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Both Albert Wilson and Allen Hurd decided to opt-out of the season. With Preston Williams still working his way back from a torn ACL, Gesicki looks poised to take on additional targets. The Dolphins threw the ball at the second-highest rate last year (65.9-percent, making this an environment to target.

Gesicki also showed growth as a player throughout 2019. Over the final seven weeks of the season, he played on 76-percent of Miami’s snaps. He spent 78-percent of those snaps in the slot or out wide. Standing 6-6, 247-pounds, with a 4.54 40-yard dash, Gesicki’s athleticism provides a versatile weapon across the formation in this offense.

With the Dolphins slated for another losing record across sportsbooks, Miami looks likely to air it out again in 2020. With potential elevated target volume here, Gesicki remains a prime sleeper candidate.

TJ Hockenson

After dealing with injury through most of his rookie season, TJ Hockenson remains the star of training camp. In a limited season Hockenson still racked up 367 yards and a pair of scores on 32 catches in just 12 games. With Matthew Stafford also set to return from injury, Hockenson offers sleeper in appeal in an offense set for positive regression.

Breaking down Detroit’s entire offense, the Lions’ season fell apart without Matthew Stafford in 2019. Prior to the injury, Stafford threw for 2,499 yards and 19 scores in eight games. Over a full season, these stats extrapolate to 4,998 passing yards and 38 scores. With Stafford on the field, the Lions held a 3-4-1 record. Without Stafford, the team went 0-8 to close the year.

Looking specifically at Hockenson, he remains a physical specimen at the tight end position. At the NFL Combine, he clocked a 4.70 40-yard dash at 6-5, 251-pounds. Using his solid size-adjusted athleticism, Detroit actually ran Hockenson out of the slot on 32.4-percent of his routes last year.

With Detroit set to improve offensively, Hockenson offers elite upside as a tight end sleeper in fantasy football.

Chris Herndon

Coming off a breakout rookie season in 2018, Chris Herndon missed almost all of 2019 with a suspension and a season-ending injury. Now entering his third season, Herndon remains a post-hype sleeper as a focal point of the Jets’ offense.

Isolating Herndon’s rookie season, the 2018 fourth-round pick notched 502 receiving yards and four scores on 39 catches in his debut. Even more impressive, Herndon did not crest a 70-percent snap share until Week 9. Herndon also showed versatility, by playing about a quarter of his snaps from the slot.

More importantly, a slew of injuries could thrust Herndon into a significant role. Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman have both battled injuries already during camp. Only Jamison Crowder and Chris Herndon possess any rapport with Sam Darnold at this point.

Still only 24-years old, Herndon’s sleep appeal continues to climb with the Jets’ skill players continually hurt.

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