Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith Combo is a Positive for Patriots, Negative for 2021 Fantasy Football - Roto Street Journal
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Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith Combo is a Positive for Patriots, Negative for 2021 Fantasy Football

When looking through the lens of real-life football, the additions of both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are massive signings that should provide a huge boost to a struggling Patriots passing attack. However, when it comes to fantasy football, it seems pretty clear that the new Patriots’ tight end duo should be in for a letdown compared to their respective Chargers and Titans seasons.

Last year in Los Angeles, Henry totaled career highs in targets (93) and receptions (60) while falling just 39 yards short of his career-high yardage numbers. Justin Herbert was transcendent at the position for such a young player and gave Henry a 15 percent target share in the Chargers offense.

On the other hand, Smith set career highs in all receiving categories last year in Tennessee with 41 catches for 448 yards and 8 touchdowns on 65 targets. Smith also had a 14 percent target share in the Titans passing attack behind only AJ Brown and Corey Davis.

Now with both Henry and Smith coming to New England, the first thought going through Patriots fan’s minds are the old two tight end sets featuring Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The size, strength, and overall greatness of Gronkowski balanced perfectly with the speed and skill-set of Hernandez, made one of, if not the greatest tight end duo in league history. While these two helped the Patriots reach great heights, the reality was that the duo tight end grouping was not very fantasy viable outside of one absurd season in 2011.

Per Pro Football Focus, there were really only two groups of tight ends who were both somewhat fantasy reliable over the last decade:

Patriots TE fantasy finishes | 2010-2012
2010  2011  2012 
Aaron Hernandez  TE14 TE3 TE19
Rob Gronkowski  TE11 TE1 TE5
Eagles TE fantasy finishes | 2018-2020
2018  2019  2020 
Zach Ertz  TE2 TE4 TE20
Dallas Goedert  TE20 TE8 TE33

While each duo produced one elite fantasy season, the general consensus is that one tight end will have a significantly better year or just there will be two average results.

Based on New England’s playstyle last year with Hack…I’m sorry, Cam Newton under center, I wouldn’t expect either Henry or Smith to be putting up top-five fantasy seasons at the position. New England ran the ball on 53 percent of their offensive snaps last season — which was among the top of the league. The Patriots were at their best pounding the ball with Damien Harris and they will likely rely on the duo of Harris and Sony Michel to pound the rock again in 2021.

If there’s any fantasy upgrade from this news, it has to go to Newton, assuming he’ll remain QB1 in New England (please lord don’t let this happen). The major upgrade at the TE position (WRs as well) is a significant improvement from the embarrassing combined production of Ryan Izzo, Dalton Keene, and Devin Asiasi going a combined18-254-1.

But while the additions of Henry and Smith will provide much better weaponry for Newton, the new tight end duo will be limited by Newton’s lack of passing ability. If there’s a chance for fantasy relevance it will likely be in the red zone due to the lack of other elite pass catchers. But in the event that New England brings in a new quarterback this offseason, that new addition could impact both tight ends in a very positive way.

Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith check-in at TE19 and TE20, respectively, on The Wolf’s 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings.

Author

  • THE Inaugural 2016 RSJ Fantasy Football League Champion. Owner of a #bigbrain, and lover of football, baseball and college hoops. When not grinding for the RSJ, can be found captaining his beer league softball team.

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