Ultimate 2020 NFL Free Agency TE Primer: Rankings, Predictions, Ideal Fantasy Spots - Roto Street Journal
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Ultimate 2020 NFL Free Agency TE Primer: Rankings, Predictions, Ideal Fantasy Spots

Rejoice! We’re about a week away from 2020 NFL Free Agency. We’ve already covered the loaded positions that are running back and quarterback, but tight ends are just as intriguing. We’ve got a couple of young studs ready to reset the market, along with a couple of fantasy-relevant guys who can easily make a splash in 2020.

Below, we rank the top free agent tight ends, predict where they’ll land, and list the ideal “Value Holes.”

2020 NFL Free Agency Fantasy TE Rankings

Tier 1

1) Austin Hooper

2) Hunter Henry Franchise Tagged by Chargers

Tier 2

3) Eric Ebron

Tier 3

4) Tyler Eifert

5) Jacob Hollister

6) Darren Fells Signed 2-year extension with Texans

Potential trade candidates:

Hayden Hurst, Evan Engram, OJ Howard

2020 Top 5 “Value Holes”

Value Hole (noun)  – Your filthy mind could probably define this in an unlimited number of ways. In fantasy football, we use “Value Hole” to describe a (seemingly) open depth chart spot that will offer significant fantasy value to whoever fills it (via draft or free agency).

We judge “Value Holes” by assessing the Available Usage, Surrounding Talent and Coaching Scheme surrounding the hole. For tight ends, the quarterback (surrounding talent) and coaching scheme are the two most important keys to success. Does this coach scheme up ways to get the tight end free? And if so, will the quarterback look his way?

With these factors in mind, here are our Top 10 “Value Holes” for this 2020 crop.

Elite Value Holes

1) Atlanta Falcons (if no Hooper)

The main reason why the Falcons are the No. 1 Value Hole is because of their play-caller, Dirk Koetter. Straight up, the guy loves tight ends.

When asked about the historic success of tight ends in his scheme, Koetter cut right to it:

“I’m the first to admit that I like tight ends.”

The numbers don’t lie. Last season, Austin Hooper exploded for a career year, finishing as the TE6, despite missing three games. Hooper caught 75 balls for 787 yards and six touchdowns — just in time to reset the tight end market as a free agent.

When Koetter was in Tampa, Cameron Brate and OJ Howard combined for 11 and 12 TDs in 2017 and 2018. Prior to Howard’s arrival, Brate scored 8 TDs in 2016, while Austin Seferian-Jenkins was on pace for 90 targets and 9 scores in 2015.

Koetter often sends his TE on deep crosses, vertical seam routes, and corner fades for major chunk plays, especially within the 20. If Hooper moves on, the tight end who grabs the starting gig is in line for a career season. If the Falcons retain Hooper, then expect a top five season out of the young stud.

2) New England Patriots (if Brady returns)

The Patriots offense under Josh McDaniels is always evolving. When they had Rob Gronkowski and either Aaron Hernandez or Martellus Bennett, they ran a ton of two tight end sets. This past season when they did nothing to replace Gronk, Tom Brady never looked to the tight end — who could blame him? With the quarterback spot a complete mystery, the Patriots could either be a juicy spot (if there’s talent and Brady returns), or a shitty spot (if they don’t add talent and Brady departs).

Add this position to the long list of things that will be impacted if Brady stays or goes in free agency.

3) Los Angeles Chargers (if no Henry) Chargers Tag Hooper

Although they are separating themselves from the gunslinger that is Philip Rivers, the team will continue to be aggressive with Shane Steichen at offensive coordinator, who took over at midseason. This offense should once again be a fantasy goldmine, especially at tight end where Hunter Henry finished at TE9, despite missing four games and getting inconsistent play from Rivers.

The surrounding talent of Austin EkelerKeenan Allen, and Mike Williams forces defenses into a tough spot to always cover the tight end, leaving a high ceiling for touchdowns and targets at that position.

Solid Value Holes

4) Dallas Cowboys

This isn’t necessarily a great Value Hole, but it’s solid. Mike McCarthy isn’t know to scheme up for the tight end, yet there’s a ton of talent on the roster (if Amari Cooper returns) and Dak Prescott will always make his weapons better. It’s tough to necessarily gauge how Prescott would utilize a legitimate tight end since he’s never had one in his prime (sorry Witten), but one would expect the talent to rise to the occasion. With McCarthy taking over for Jason Garrett and a more experienced Kellen Moore calling plays, expect the Cowboys to add someone of relevance at the tight end spot.

5) Buffalo Bills

Just like the Cowboys, this is more of a surrounding talent and “need” spot, rather than a true “value hole.” Brian Daboll is not one to utilize the tight end. In his lone season of calling plays at Alabama in 2017, Irv Smith only caught 14 passes. Then the last two seasons with the Bills, there has been little talent for him to work with besides a broken down Charles Clay in 2018 and Dawson Knox. Yawn.

Honorable Mention: Washington Redskins, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears

NFL Free Agency TE Predictions

1) Austin Hooper

Ideal spot: Atlanta Falcons

Predicted spot: Green Bay Packers

Wildcard: New England Patriots, Washington Redskins

As noted above, Hooper experienced a career year at just the right time. Under Koetter, the tight end whisperer, caught 75 balls for 787 yards and six touchdowns — just in time to reset the tight end market as a free agent.

Hooper is coming off back-to-back 70-plus reception seasons and is a weapon in the seams. Hooper will command the most money at his position and with many teams having ample cap space, it shouldn’t suprise anyone to see Hooper go to the highest bidder.

With the Packers releasing Jimmy Graham, expect them to make a run at the stud tight end. Although Aaron Rodgers doesn’t pepper the tight end, Hooper’s skill-set allows him to line up anywhere. The Falcons are the obvious ideal spot with Koetter calling plays, but he might have priced himself out of Atlanta. Then, there’s the Patriots who might have to do anything to keep Tom Brady around, and who would be a better option to replace Gronk than Hooper? There’s also the Redskins who have a boatload of money to spend and the team wants to address that vacant position in a big way.

2) Hunter Henry Franchise Tagged by Chargers

Ideal spot: LA Chargers

Predicted spot: LA Chargers

Wildcard: Washington Redskins

Henry is crazy talented, yet he’s yet to put together a full season of dominance. Whether it be injury (missed all of 2018), or a lack of targets (career high 76 in 2019), Henry has not had a reliable fantasy season during his four year career.

With the team looking to tag him, it seems like it’s all but a lock for Henry to remain in LA. But, it would be interesting to see what his options would be if Hooper were to set the market and sign first. Henry is the more talented of the two, imo, he’s just had to battle a bunch of talented players in Los Angeles for targets throughout his short career.

A new quarterback and a full, healthy offseason should do the trick.

3) Eric Ebron

Ideal spot: Atlanta Falcons

Predicted spot: New England Patriots

Wildcard: Dallas Cowboys

The former first rounder is the definition of inconsistency between the 20s, but is a reliable redzone and end zone target. Coming off an outlier 2018 season where he found pay dirt 13 times, Ebron battled through injuries in 2019 and only had three touchdowns. Ebron isn’t a true three-down tight end, but he can line up in the slot and make plays. Pair him with TB12 in New England or under Koetter in Atlanta and watch him flourish.

4) Tyler Eifert

Ideal spot: LA Chargers

Predicted spot: Buffalo Bills

Wildcard: New England Patriots

Realistically, Eifert hasn’t done shit since 2015, when he corralled 52 passes for 13 touchdowns. Since then, he’s been an injured mess who’s done next to nothing until last season, when he played in all 16 games and had 43 receptions for 436 yards and three scores. Eifert’s floor is dangerously low, but if he can manage his snaps somewhere and be a key redzone cog, it could possibly work again. 

5) Jacob Hollister (Restricted Free Agent)

Ideal spot: Atlanta Falcons

Predicted spot: Seattle Seahawks

Wildcard: Buffalo Bills

The Seahawks have added Greg Olsen to the mix with Will Disly, but it looks like they will retain Hollister (RFA), who broke out for 41 catches for 349 yards and three touchdowns in only 11 games last season. Seattle helped Hollister finally land on the NFL map after flaming out/ being exiled in New England for a few seasons and is a good compliment to both Disly and Olsen. But, imagine his skill-set in Atlanta under Koetter? Sign us up if the Seahawks let him free.

6) Jason Witten

Ideal spot: New England Patriots

Predicted spot: New Orleans Saints

Wildcard: New York Giants

Witten isn’t expected to re-sign with the Cowboys, leaving only a handful of teams where he could be a solid veteran presence and a TE2. Coming out of the booth, the old man had a very solid season, catching 63 balls for 529 yards and four scores. Let’s get Witten a ring in 2020, he deserves it.

7) Darren Fells Signed 2-year extension with Texans

The legal tampering period begins March 16th, with Free Agency opening only two days later. Track all the wild value swings in the cleanest form possible with the RSJ Stock Watch Fantasy App (or bookmark our Web Stock Watch here).

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