In this piece I take a look at some of the early risers and fallers at the TE position in the NFL fantasy landscape. We’ll begin by examining the risers.
Dan Arnold, Arizona Cardinals
Entering his age 25 season and first full one with the Cardinals, Dan Arnold has drawn rave reviews in training camp. For those unfamiliar with Arnold, he’s a former member of the Saints who went undrafted out of Wisconsin Platteville where he posted a 38.4% (97th) dominator rating. Athletically speaking, Arnold managed to test out quite well as we can see below.
|40-Yard Dash||Speed Score||Burst Score||Agility Score||Catch Radius|
|4.68 (78th)||93.3 (40th)||132.6 (97th)||11.11 (94th)||10.37 (95th)|
Claimed off waivers last season by the Cardinals, Arnold appeared in only three games but saw his snap share rise steadily in each one, topping out at 41.7% in Week 17. In that game, Arnold ran 13 routes, saw 6 targets and added 4 receptions for 76 yards and a score. While it’s unlikely we see Arnold consistently put up those numbers in 2020, it’s a sign of what he can do given the opportunity.
This season, Arnold will enter as the primary receiving tight end and will get the opportunity to carve out a red zone role for himself. If he’s able to do that, there’s a good possibility he begins to command a more consistent target share.
As it stands, Arnold is better suited to dynasty players, deeper redraft leagues or those in multiple tight end formats.
Harrison Bryant, Cleveland Browns
An unlikely option for redraft players this season, Harrison Bryant is an exciting dynasty stash for those willing to exercise patience. Admittedly, Bryant doesn’t boast the athletic profile that many of the “exciting” TE stashes do. Having said that, Bryant is a well-rounded tight end who could earn the trust of his coaches sooner and see his snap share rise as a result.
In college, Bryant spent four years at FAU where he consistently improved upon his receiving totals and posted a 91st percentile breakout age (19.4). Below are his stats through those four years.
Initially, being drafted by the Browns (4.09) was considered a poor landing spot for Bryant. However, the well-documented struggles and discontent of Njoku have begun to alter perception on that front. For many, it’s easy to envision a scenario where Njoku leaves Cleveland within the next year and Bryant slides in as the #2 TE in a Stefanski offense that utilizes plenty of 12 personnel.
While it’s unreasonable to expect fantasy relevance from Bryant during his rookie campaign, his stock is on the rise and he has the ability to carve out a role in the Browns offense over the coming years.
Logan Thomas, Washington Redskins
Here’s a name veteran fantasy players will recognize and likely have a good chuckle at (I know I did). Veteran TE and former QB convert Logan Thomas has suddenly re-emerged onto the fantasy scene, this time as a member of the Washington Football Team.
The catalyst behind Thomas’ rise shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a change in his ability as a player but a tribute to Washington’s depth (or lack thereof) at TE. The reports out of training camp have been very favorable citing Thomas’ connection with sophomore QB Dwayne Haskins. Given how depleted the pass catchers are in Washington, there’s a solid chance he returns streamable volume.
For what it’s worth, Thomas does boast above average athleticism and has seen an increase in targets, receptions and yards each year since his conversion to TE three seasons ago.
Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars
Could we be on the precipice of a Tyler Eifert red zone resurgence this season? While I’m not optimistic that’s the case, it’s undeniable that Eifert’s stock has shot up over the past couple weeks.
To start, Eifert always had some streamer appeal as the top receiving tight end on a team that should enjoy plenty of fantasy friendly game script this year. Next, he saw his only positional competition for snaps and targets bow out following Oliver’s placement on IR. As a result, Eifert is locked into the starting TE role and should see as many snaps as he can handle. Encouragingly, Eifert played a full 16 games for the first time in his career last season.
It’s also been reported that Eifert has shown a strong connection with new QB Gardner Minshew thus far. With a clear path to heavy snaps, excellent game script and red zone usage, Eifert’s a low cost name that could resurface in a big way at the TE position this year.
David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
Why not start with something obvious? As the reciprocal of Bryant’s rise, Njoku’s fall is common knowledge to many by now. For Njoku’s fantasy outlook as a Brown, the Hooper signing may have been the final nail in the coffin. If that wasn’t enough, the Bryant selection surely did it. Unsurprisingly, Njoku requested a trade in July, however, when nothing materialized he recommitted to Cleveland for the 2020 season.
From a talent perspective, there’s no denying Njoku has the tools necessary to succeed as a tight end in the NFL as he showed in 2018. Unfortunately, his situation in Cleveland lacks much to be desired and will remain that way until some sort of departure is facilitated. Hopefully, that turns out to be sooner rather than later.
Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers
A fourth round pick out of Indiana in 2018, Thomas was one of the trendy breakout tight end picks this offseason. The hype, did not stem directly from Thomas’ play but rather his situation following the departure of long-time incumbent Greg Olsen. This far into training camp, it would appear as if Thomas’ fantasy momentum has stalled out.
While not particularly impressive during his time at Indiana (11 GP, 28 Recs, 404 yds), Thomas flashed during his rookie season in limited opportunity. Unfortunately, he now enters his third NFL season with his third different QB. To make matters more uncertain, there is some real competition for targets among Carolina pass catchers this year. Not only will McCaffrey be there but Moore, Anderson and Samuel figure to see plenty of opportunities themselves.
In the 11 instances where Thomas has seen over a 45% snap share but received 9 or fewer targets he surpassed 50 yards on one occasion. An average of those 11 games would yield the following: 4.55 targets, 2.82 receptions and 28.36 receiving yards. Furthermore, in four games with Bridgewater as the starter last season, Jared Cook posted receiving totals of 7, 21, 41 and 37. That was on a New Orleans team that many would say featured considerably less competition for targets at the time.
Jace Sternberger, Green Bay Packers
There were high hopes for last year’s third round pick following the departure of Jimmy Graham and the general lack of competition at TE in Green Bay. Unfortunately, it appears Sternberger is squandering his chance to carve out a role as the primary pass catching TE. Recently, reports out of Green Bay have suggested that undrafted journeyman Robert Tonyan “absolutely” has a chance to start at tight end.
In his rookie season, Sternberger failed to make an impact playing behind totally washed up Jimmy Graham. To make matters worse, the Packers elected to draft Cincinnati TE Josiah Deguara with their third round pick (94) in this year’s draft. On the bright side, Deguara likely fits better as an H-back and there’s a chance he never directly threatens Sternberger as a receiver.
While these developments are by no means a death sentence for Sternberger’s fantasy prospects, they’ve inevitably led to a decline in his stock.
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