Quick, raise your hand: Who likes gas station sushi?
No one? Well, I guess that makes sense.
OK, quick: Which fantasy football owners like rookie tight ends?
Wait a minute. There seems to be a few of you. Maybe you need a reminder. Finding a rookie tight end is a lot like finding good gas-station sushi: Sure, it might exist, and maybe you even stumbled upon it on occasion, but it certainly is not the norm. In fact, it doesn’t even reach quality-shrimp-at-the-strip-club-buffet standards.
Let’s look at how rookie tight ends have fared in the past from a fantasy perspective. The first name off many tongues will be Evan Engram. Yes, he did have the best rookie season for a tight end since the Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez duo in 2010. Gronk and Hernandez ranked second and fourth in their 2010 rookie seasons. Engram ranked fifth last year.
But let’s look a little deeper. He benefited from injury to Odell Beckham Jr. that limited the top Giants receiver to just four games. Brandon Marshall played just five games. Sterling Shepard missed five games. The Giants often played from behind and had no consistent running game. It took a lot to force Engram into the top five.
Other rookie tight end standouts? John Carlson in 2008 ranked third among all tight ends. Who doesn’t remember that? You don’t? Neither did we. We had to look it up. Hunter Henry ranked 11th in his 2016 rookie season. Break out the pom-poms and confetti.
Two of the most popular rookie tight ends are Baltimore’s Hayden Hurst and Miami’s Mike Gesicki. Neither have quarterbacks that inspire confidence – neither the Joe Flacco/Lamar Jackson combo or Ryan Tannehill. Particularly the Ravens look like they have busted on recent tight end picks – with Maxx Williams and Crocket Gillmore.
The Dolphins, they couldn’t make use of Julius Thomas or Jordan Cameron, who both enjoyed success elsewhere, and Dion Sims hasn’t materialized. Some feel the personnel branch will require coaches to force-feed their second-round pick for job security reasons.
There are all kinds of problems with such an approach, particularly if the player isn’t ready or just isn’t good enough. Volume is good, but it isn’t synonymous with fantasy success. Sure, it helps, but you still need production, and coaches will be fighting for jobs as well – undermining the force-feed theory if Gesicki doesn’t deliver.
The point is this: Don’t rely on a rookie tight end. If you stumble upon one, it is like winning the lottery. If you choose to have a backup, and go with an upside rookie, just understand the limited history of upside at that position, and make sure the player he is backing up is a steady, reliable contributor – i.e., don’t use a rookie to backup a flier like, say, Trey Burton. Sure, we like Burton’s value and hope he can deliver his potential production, but if he doesn’t we don’t want to be handcuffed to a rookie.
Particularly when dealing with this year’s rookie tight end class, consider these guys streaming waiver options, not draftable options.