The New England Patriots continued their shopping spree, snagging both top tight ends on the market. They added Hunter Henry and his 60 catches for 650 yards career average for three years and $37.5 million dollars. They gave him $25 million guaranteed, as well. This was all to be their starting tight end… about 24 hours after giving Jonnu Smith a bunch of guaranteed money to be their starting tight end. What does this mean for fantasy football in 2021?
First of all, hello to all the haters who told me that Jonnu Smith was locked and loaded for TE1 volume in New England. And a special hello to everyone who notched him in as a top-five tight end. How are you feeling this morning? Bad? Well, let me tell you, I feel great. It’s wonderful to have your priors confirmed, and my priors are that Jonnu Smith isn’t a top-ten TE for fantasy football purposes. And buddy, those are confirmed. The Patriots tossed Hunter Henry—who has been undoubtedly more productive in the NFL than Jonnu—on the pile of free agency acquisitions, and you have a complete mess in New England’s passing game.
Well, first and foremost, this absolutely crushes Jonnu Smith’s value. He’s back to what he was before: a part-time tight end in a low-volume passing offense who won’t garner enough looks, and he won’t be efficient enough with those looks, for him to have consistent weekly fantasy football value. That is to say, you can ignore him in standard redraft league drafts at this point. The Patriots threw the ball 440 times last season with Cam Newton, and are a run-first squad at their core. In short: there’s not a lot to go around, and the slices of the pie just shrank.
Here’s the thing though: this really hurts Hunter Henry, as well. Henry, the annual disappointment in fantasy football circles, can’t stay healthy, and while he’s flashed a lot of opportunities, his volume was king. And now, his volume is gone. By “his volume is king” I mean “Hunter Henry spent his whole career in the offense that threw the ball 585 times per game.” Cam Newton’s career-high in pass attempts was in 2011 when he threw the ball 517 times. Cam passed 500 pass attempts in a season just twice in his career. That doesn’t spell very good things for Hunter Henry.If Henry gets his career-high in target rate and Cam has his career-high in targets it comes out to… 80 targets for Hunter Henry (12th last year). Ultimately, this makes him a touchdown-or-bust tight end with unreliable volume.
But, and you knew there was a but coming… tight end stinks. It’s really bad. Adding Hunter Henry to the Patriots makes the position for fantasy football even worse, but it also makes him a part of the tight end blob. Ultimately, Henry is now at the front of the blob, with your Haydens Hurst and your Logans Thomas and Roberts Tonyan. I’m not interested in Hunter Henry, and it makes me definitely not interested in Jonnu Smith. In the end, we should thank the Patriots for signing both Jonnu and Hunter Henry. Could you imagine a situation where both ended up in places where we would hype them endlessly… only to see them remain a part of the tight end blob? Horrifying.
Ultimately, Cam Newton is not Tom Brady. Moreover, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are not Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Most importantly, it’s 2021, not 2012.
In short, don’t act like this is good for either of them; it is actively terrible. Finally, my biggest takeaway?
In short: I am getting Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or Darren Waller in every single one of my drafts.
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