The dynasty offseason can be a trying time for fantasy GMs as league activity slows down between the Super Bowl and NFL Draft. While some owners remain active, others are content turning their attention elsewhere. Understanding that, it’s only logical those who continue to put the time in can give themselves an edge.
One of my favorite things to do during this period is to seek out players who are entering or nearing a potential inflection point in their career. Ideally, these players will be in the early stages of their career and not heavily owned across dynasty leagues. As a result, their respective price tags (hopefully free) should be favorable compared to their upside.
In this article, we’ll examine three tight end risers who fit the criteria entering their second NFL season.
Brycen Hopkins, 23, Los Angeles Rams
Hopkins was selected by the Rams 136th overall (4/30) in the 2020 NFL Draft. Entering the draft, it was consensus knowledge that Hopkins’ primary strengths lay in the receiving game. It was also widely known that Hopkins would see little, if any playing time behind Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee in his rookie season.
Inflection: Gerald Everett will be departing the Rams as a free agent this offseason. By way of his departure, Everett leaves behind 636 snaps, 62 targets, 41 receptions and 417 receiving yards. Additionally, the Rams just upgraded at quarterback with the addition of Matthew Stafford.
Should we expect Hopkins to soak up a majority of Everett’s 2020 production with an outside chance at eclipsing it? My answer is yes.
As mentioned earlier, Hopkins is more of a receiving tight end who steadily increased his production each season at Purdue. Below, we can see he also has a solid athletic profile for the position.
On top of his athleticism, Hopkins is a very capable route runner who consistently demonstrated his separation skills in the Big Ten. He possesses some juice and after the catch ability with the toughness required to work the middle of the field. By no means was he a flawless prospect, but having a full season to refine his game and adjust to the NFL will benefit him this season.
While his late 4th round draft capital doesn’t speak volumes, it’s well within reason to assume the Rams drafted him with Everett’s impending departure in mind. With Sean McVay, and now Matthew Stafford in town, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about Hopkins’ prospects moving forward.
Currently, Hopkins finds himself rostered in 25% of leagues on Sleeper. At that price, he’s most likely a free flier who can be cut at a moment’s notice should a better opportunity present itself or the thesis prove wrong.
Adam Trautman, 24, New Orleans Saints
Trautman is another exciting sophomore tight end who fits most of the criteria but is more widely owned than we’d like at 80% in Sleeper leagues. On that note, check to see if he’s owned in your league(s) right away.
Trautman was drafted out of Dayton University with the 105th (3/41) overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Saints traded picks 130, 169, 203 and 244 to move up in the draft and acquire Trautman. Clearly, Sean Payton and co. envisioned him as a future contributor to the franchise.
Inflection: Jared Cook will be departing in free agency, leaving Trautman as the team’s starter barring any changes. In 2020, Cook turned 466 snaps into 60 targets, 37 receptions and 504 receiving yards. At this moment in time, the most likely scenario is Trautman soaking up the majority of Cook’s usage with a strong possibility of building on it.
Trautman is a big, versatile target with an excellent catch radius. Not only can he be moved around the formation, his agility allows him to threaten defenses at multiple levels of the field. His athletic profile can be viewed below.
Trautman thrived at Dayton, breaking out as a RS freshman and increasing his production each season. While there he showcased strong ball skills and an understanding of how to size to his advantage. He’ll undoubtedly be a factor in the red zone next season.
In addition to his skill set, Trautman showed well during his rookie season, catching 15 of 16 targets for 171 yards and a score. Sean Payton has proven himself to be one of the best coaches in the game and it’s unwise to doubt he can utilize Trautman’s strengths.
Look for Trautman to be one dynasty’s biggest tight end risers this offseason and find his way into the redraft conversation.
Donald Parham, 23, Los Angeles Chargers
Parham was an undrafted free agent out of Stetson University who earned his roster spot by shining in the XFL. A hulking 6’8”, 240 lbs, Parham latched on with the Chargers this offseason and produced surprisingly well in limited action as a rookie (20/10/159/3).
Presently, Parham is rostered in just 8% of Sleeper leagues yet finds himself in a situation oozing with potential upside.
Inflection: With an already limited core of pass catchers, Chargers starting tight end Hunter Henry is an unrestricted free agent. Oft-injured throughout his career, Henry played 14 games in 2020, logging 913 snaps and posting a 93/60/613/4 receiving line. If Henry is to depart via free agency, which there’s a chance he will, Parham immediately becomes the next man up.
Outside of his size, Parham also sports a 94th percentile breakout age (19.4) and posted a 99th percentile dominator rating (48.9%) in college. He operated as the primary target in the Stetson passing attack and posted over 1,300 yards in just 9 games as a senior. As a converted wide receiver, his athletic profile is solid.
Parham has a great set of hands on him and rarely resorts to body catching. His high-point ability is exceptional, and he possesses the toughness to win in contested situations. Furthermore, his unique size and athleticism enable him to thrive inside the red zone, and it’s no question he’ll remain a threat in that area regardless of if he’s the starter.
If Henry officially signs elsewhere, Parham’s value will immediately see a significant bump. Even if the Chargers bring back Henry or add a tight end, Parham carries virtually no risk with his 8% ownership. He’s an asymmetric bet at this point in the offseason.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this article on Tight End Risers. If you enjoyed it, my other content can be viewed in the Articles section and you can follow me on Twitter @FantasyFuru