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2019 Rookie Fantasy Recap: Tight Ends

by Kyle Yates | @KyleYNFL | Featured Writer
Feb 15, 2020

Let’s rewind for a moment. At this point last year, we were beginning the conversation of analyzing these incoming rookies. Just like this year, there’s no shortage of people doing their homework on these players and inspecting the tape and reviewing the numbers that they put up in college.

For a few months, this is what all of the NFL’s attention is turned towards. When you turn on NFL Network, it’s all they’re talking about. In addition, all the other major sports news outlets are covering these players and it’s all in anticipation of those few days in April where we find out where these players will end up.

After the NFL Draft, there’s a few weeks of discussing the landing spots and recapping the event. But then the conversation about these rookies falls off a cliff. Specifically in Fantasy Football, there’s very little review on these rookies and how they performed. Whether this is in-season or at the year’s end, we fall victim to the mindset of constantly looking forward.

However, for Fantasy Football, looking back can be extremely beneficial. There are players that may be immediate contributors in 2020, but their situation wasn’t perfect in 2019 and they failed to maximize their potential.

We have short-term memory in Fantasy Football and it’s important to remember that and strive to remedy it. In this article, we’ll look at the 2019 RB rookies and how they performed, while also looking forward to next year and how they can contribute in 2020.

(Players will be listed below in order of where they were drafted)

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1. T.J. Hockenson (DET)
T.J. Hockenson was drafted with the 8th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Known for his dominance in the run game, Hockenson can also contribute in the receiving game at a high level. While we saw flashes from Hockenson, it was an inconsistent 2019 season due to injuries. Hockenson only played in 12 games total and reeled in 32 receptions for 367 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. The Lions offense was doomed from the moment that Matthew Stafford went down with an injury and he and Hockenson never got the opportunity to develop chemistry. Hockenson remains an intriguing option for Dynasty leagues though. The Lions offense should get back on track with everyone healthy this next year and Hockenson will be used due to his draft capital. I’m not expecting much as a weekly contributor in redraft leagues right away, but we’ll have to see what his utilization is in the preseason. Hopefully he can finish much higher than his TE30 performance of 2019.

2. Noah Fant (DEN)
Noah Fant was my No. 1 rated rookie Tight End coming into the 2019 season and he showed why on several occasions. His blazing speed and athleticism were on display for a few highlight reel plays and he now has a QB who he can “grow up with”. Drew Lock and Fant project to take a step forward next season and build upon their performances in 2019. Fant finished as the TE16 in 2019 and put up decent numbers for a rookie TE, as he reeled in 40 receptions for 562 yards and 3 touchdowns. While those don’t look like fantastic numbers on the surface, rookie TEs typically do not perform very well. They are one of the hardest positions to jump from CFB to the NFL and produce statistically right away. Fant showed a ton of promise in 2019 and there’s no reason to not project a step forward for this offense in 2020. I wouldn’t be shocked at all to be talking about Fant as a Top-12 fantasy TE next season when it’s all said and done…

3. Irv Smith Jr. (MIN)
Irv Smith Jr. was a bit of a projection coming out of Alabama in 2019, but he landed in a good spot for his skillset. Playing behind Kyle Rudolph, Smith hauled in 36 receptions for 311 yards and 2 touchdowns. This was good enough for a TE34 fantasy finish last season. While Smith’s upside is capped due to Rudolph’s presence ahead of him on the depth chart, Smith played well enough to deserve more snaps in 2020. However, it’s unlikely that Smith will be a valuable fantasy contributor unless Rudolph gets injured. Smith can stay on your waiver wires in redraft leagues.

4. Drew Sample (CIN)
Drew Sample was a puzzling selection for the Bengals in 2019 with the No. 52 overall selection and it still is today. Sample was drafted to be a blocking Tight End and it’s unlikely that that changes any time soon. Sample finished 2019 with only 5 receptions for 30 yards. Even with uncertainty above him on the depth chart in Cincinnati, Sample’s nowhere near being fantasy relevant and belongs on your waiver wires in every format.

5. Josh Oliver (JAX)
Josh Oliver was a projection/upside pick for the Jaguars in 2019 with the 69th overall pick and it didn’t amount to much production. Oliver only played in 4 games and finished the season with 3 receptions for 15 yards. The Jaguars are likely to draft/sign someone else to compete with him at the position, which makes him a long-term hold (if anything). I’m avoiding Oliver in Dynasty leagues and letting someone else deal with holding him on their roster in the small likelihood that he turns into something special at the position. There are better places I can spend my roster spots…

6. Jace Sternberger (GB)
Jace Sternberger was my No. 3 rated rookie Tight End coming into the 2019 season, but Jimmy Graham ahead of him on the depth chart made it unlikely that he would do anything for Fantasy Football in year one. Graham’s presence and an injury prevented Sternberger from getting significant playing time. After appearing in 6 games, Sternberger finished the season without registering a single reception. Graham is expected to be released this offseason, which could open the door for Sternberger and his receiving ability to make an impact in this offense. While I’m not looking Sternberger’s way in redraft leagues next year, he’s an intriguing Dynasty hold until we see how this offseason shakes out.

7 . Kahale Warring (HOU)
Kahale Warring was a project at the Tight End position when he was drafted with the No. 86 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, he got injured early on and never saw the field this past season. Warring is purely a long-term Dynasty hold as a dart throw, but it will take a lot to go his way for him to make an impact for Fantasy Football. I’m comfortable leaving him on my Dynasty waiver wire or dropping him when I make my cuts for incoming rookies.

8 . Dawson Knox (BUF)
Dawson Knox was one of the more pleasant surprises when it came to the rookie Tight End position, as he finished as TE29 in 2019. While Knox wasn’t exactly consistent week to week, he did deliver a few performances that helped your team if you started him. Knox finished with 28 receptions for 388 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season. There’s upside for Knox in 2020, but I fully expect the Buffalo Bills to bring in bodies at the WR position, which could limit the amount of targets Knox sees. Projecting Knox for 2020 is difficult right now due to the uncertainty with that offense, but he’s an intriguing hold in Dynasty leagues until we have more clarity.

9 . Foster Moreau (OAK/LVR)
Foster Moreau was a 4th round pick in 2019, but he didn’t play like it. Moreau played extremely well in the role carved out for him in the Raiders offense last season. Moreau was known for his blocking acumen coming out of LSU, but he showed up in the receiving game and showed that he could be a red zone threat. Moreau reeled in 21 receptions for 174 yards and 5 touchdowns, which was good enough for first among all rookie Tight Ends. While this only translated to a TE36 fantasy finish, his involvement in the red zone was encouraging to see. Moreau’s upside is capped with Darren Waller on the depth chart ahead of him, but if Waller ever gets injured, Moreau’s a perfect plug-and-play option off the waiver wires due to the way the position is utilized in Jon Gruden’s offense.

2019 Fantasy Rookie Recap: Wide Receivers

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