Heading into free agency, we all thought two tight ends could do great things in new places. Unfortunately, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith both signed with the same team. Sheesh! Let’s explore the free agency winners and losers so far at the tight end position.
Tight End Winner: Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
Travis Kelce led all tight ends in ten zone targets last season, of course, with 13 such targets. Who came in second, with 12? Well, if you’re paying attention, you already know that it’s Jimmy Graham. Jimmy Graham is gone from Chicago but that role in the Bears’ offense remains. Who better to fill that role than all 6’6” of Cole Kmet? The Bears took him 43rd overall last season, and his calling card in college was his pass-catching abilities. And by “calling card” I mean, “please don’t let this guy block.”
Kmet didn’t do much as a rookie, but rookie tight ends rarely do anything. And with the Bears bringing in literally… nobody to catch footballs, it’s likely that he takes a step forward in the target department next season. He’s a decent sleeper candidate at the top of the TE2 ranks of the tight end blob.
Tight End Winner: Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints
Just like Cole Kmet, we didn’t hear Adam Trautman’s name much last season. The sophomore pro out of Dayton went 105th-overall last season to the Saints. He managed just 16 targets (on 171 snaps) in his first season of action. But, if you watch him in college, he’s eerily reminiscent of the 49ers’ superstar tight end George Kittle. He’s extremely athletic, shifty, and hard to bring down. Granted, he played at Dayton. Who knows if it was just a case of a man against boys. Either way, he remains a man. Trautman will fill the tight end role vacated by Jared Cook and Josh Hill departing and Taysom Hill converting to quarterback. The Saints also let Emmanuel Sanders walk; this leaves Trautman as the presumptive #3 player in targets behind Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in the New Orleans passing game.
Tight End Winner: Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles love to throw to the tight end, and they built their team around Zach Ertz for the better part of a decade. The prior administration is gone, but they placed a Doug Pederson acolyte in their place, meaning that the tight end will remain an important part of the squad. The Eagles did little in free agency to address wide receiver, letting DeSean Jackson walk, parting ways with Alshon Jeffery, and allowing Zach Ertz to seek a trade. That leaves Jalen Reagor and Dallas Goedert as the one-two punch in Philadelphia. Goedert is entering his fourth year and set a new career-high in yards per target last season (8.1) as well as ranking sixth in tight end target depth, and true catch rate. The Eagles’ QBs targeted him 65 times and he had nary a drop in 2020.
Tight End Loser: Jonnu Smith & Hunter Henry, New England Patriots
This is a double dose since they’re now Batman and Robin in New England, but nobody has any idea who is Batman and who is Robin. The two biggest names in tight end free agency both ended up in New England, and they crush each other’s value in the process. I went into a deeper dive on both these guys signing with New England already, so I don’t need to do it again.
Tight End Loser: Kyle Rudolph, New York Giants
The Minnesota Vikings released Kyle Rudolph in a move that you could see coming a mile away if you paid attention to Rotoworld (err, NBC Sports Edge?). He said he wasn’t happy with his role in Minnesota given his salary, and that they needed to play him more or cut him. Long story short, he’s on the Giants now. The Giants also snagged Kenny Golladay in free agency, meaning that Kyle Rudolph probably isn’t getting many targets this season. That is, unless Kenny Golladay, Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton all get hurt. His time as a fantasy football-relevant tight end is over.
Tight End Loser: Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
I love my boy Michael J Gesicki (the J stands for justscoresfantasypoints). But, unfortunately, that pass-catcher room filled up in a hurry this offseason, or rather, will fill up. Will Fuller is in town, and it’s looking very likely that another receiver (or Kyle Pitts) pushes Gesicki down the depth chart. Last year’s TE7 (and 2019’s TE10) likely falls back into the TE blob for 2021, though I see him at the top-end of the blob. Maybe I am trying to protect myself from getting hurt this season, but I don’t feel as good about Mike Gesicki as I did the last two seasons. I just hope I am wrong about Gesicki.
If you don’t want to be on the biggest loser list, then hit the links below:
[Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dallas_Goedert_TD_catch.jpg, cropped under CC BY SA 2.0]