The season-ending injury to Hunter Henry, suffered before the 2018 season even got started, was one of the more upsetting both for fans of the Los Angeles Chargers and fantasy football players. It is a truism of football, however, that you must not linger, and you must move on. I wrote around the time of the injury about players within the Chargers camp who should benefit from Henry’s absence. But what have fantasy players done to fill his void?
Using the RotoViz MFL10 ADP app, I looked at the five TEs who have seen the biggest rise in ADP since May 22nd, the date that Henry suffered his injury. While none of the five have shot up draft boards, the five all have intriguing situations heading into the season. This is especially true of two who may directly look to benefit on the very same stage that Henry will not be able to perform on.
Virgil Green (ADP Rise of 6.69, May 22nd – June 16th)
Virgil Green was one of the three players that I believed would directly benefit from the loss of Henry. It seems that he is a name that is being increasingly considered in the later rounds of drafts. The Chargers have not brought any other TEs in since they lost Henry, leaving Green ostensibly atop the depth chart.
But second-year player Braedon Bowman has attracted some attention for his performances this offseason, while a reunion with a former Charger has not been ruled out (more on him later). Green has never posted more than 22 receptions in a season, never enjoying a market share greater than 7 percent. His current ADP suggests that best ball players may hope for the occasional week of relevance.
Mike Gesicki (3.17)
Given the absence of any real competition within his own offense, many are already inking in Mike Gesicki as this season’s Evan Engram. This is high praise indeed when one considers how good a season Engram enjoyed as a rookie TE.
Gesicki’s cumulative ADP has gone up by almost a full round since Henry’s injury, with him now going off the board somewhere near the 15th round.
Gesicki has enjoyed a mixed spring, according to reports. The Miami Herald reported that the former Penn State player “looked lost” at times, with his reps being taken with the backups. However, the same paper reported last week that Gesicki had “come on strong” as mini camp wound down. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase remarked that it had been “fun to watch him develop”.
Gesicki has the easiest road to playing time, and therefore fantasy relevance, of any rookie TE in 2018. His current ADP, while it may seem a little high, could by the end of the season be seen as an excellent value.
Hayden Hurst (2.47)
Hayden Hurst, a first-round selection by the Ravens, has enjoyed a quietly impressive spring with the team. According to ESPN, Hurst has been the team’s “best pass-catching tight end” this offseason. This may not sound that great, considering the less than stellar competition on the team’s TE depth chart. But it is encouraging given that many would have made fellow rookie Mark Andrews the favorite to make the most noise on the team in 2018.
Since the Ravens won the Super Bowl, they have made the TE a key part of their passing offense, as the chart below indicates. Therefore, as long as Joe Flacco is the quarterback of the Ravens, one would assume that a Ravens TE will have some appeal purely from a volume standpoint.
However, the Ravens invested a lot of resources into their wide receivers this offseason. With the likelihood that Flacco may not last the season, a rookie TE is something of an unstable element to include in your best ball roster construction for my money. There are other options I would be looking into, even around Hurst’s less than costly current price.
Jake Butt (1.96)
While still not fully capturing the imagination of best ball players, Jake Butt has seen his stock increase ever so slightly in the last month. While the next NFL snap he takes will be his first, he does seem to have few obstacles in his path to playing time for the Broncos.
The Broncos have been excited by Butt’s progress this offseason, with head coach Vance Joseph remarking that the second year player is “going to be a great addition to our offense.” Butt has been helped by rookie Troy Fumagalli missing all of the Broncos OTAs. With only uninspiring vets like Jeff Heuerman and Austin Traylor ahead of him on the depth chart, Butt’s current ADP makes him look like a player well worth a dart throw.
The Broncos newest QB, Case Keenum, enjoyed an excellent partnership when targeting his main TE Kyle Rudolph last season. If Keenum can develop similar chemistry with Butt, owners taking advantage of Butt’s current ADP will be praised as geniuses come the seasons’ end.
Antonio Gates (1.75)
As soon as Henry was injured, one name came to everyone’s lips regarding a roster move that the Chargers would make. That name was, of course, Antonio Gates. After being told that the Chargers no longer required his services following the 2017 season, Gates seemed to attract little attention from the other 31 teams. While the Chargers GM Tom Telesco remarked that Gates is “a natural fit,” they have not yet signed him.
As romantic a notion as Gates returning to fill in for the player that replaced him is, we should be realistic in our expectations. Gates didn’t appear to have a whole lot left in the tank last season. Plus the Chargers offense looked much better once he gave way to Henry. However, it is doubtful that the Chargers, if they were to re-sign him, would be looking to use him as an every-down player. He would, one would assume, be rolled out in obvious passing situations, as well as inside the red zone. Gates, in his career, has been quite useful inside the scoring area.
His prowess in high leverage situations makes him worth a very late-round dart throw. But if you are going to invest in Gates, please make sure your roster has adequate reserves at the TE spot. You could look very clever in Week 8 when he inexplicably catches three touchdowns. But you could look ridiculous if the Chargers, or any other team for that fact, don’t sign him.