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2019 Rookies and Redraft Leagues: Why You Need to Pass on T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant

In part 1 of this series, we concluded that rookies drafted outside of Round 3 of the NFL draft have very low odds of being “usable” in redraft leagues. In the overwhelming majority of cases, they should be avoided on draft day. As a reminder, a usable player is one who scored 160 or more PPR points over the course of their rookie season.

Even those drafted in the high-leverage rounds have trouble surpassing this threshold. Between 2008 and 2018, 302 players at the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions were drafted prior to pick 97 of the NFL Draft. Of these 302 players, only 71 mustered 160 points.

The Usability of Rookie TEs

Draft Picks Total Players Above 160 Threshold %
1 – 32 10 1 10%
33 – 64 20 0 0%
65 – 96 14 0 0%
97 – 128 28 0 0%
129 -161 20 0 0%
162 – 193 14 0 0%
194 + 87 0 0%
Total 193 1 1%

Since 2008, 193 tight ends were selected in the NFL draft. Only a single player in this group, Evan Engram, scored more than 160 points as a rookie. In the five seasons spanning 2014 to 2018, an average of nine TEs scored 160 or more points per season. Taking this into account, we can adjust for TE specific output by using a top-12 positional finish as a benchmark for usability.

Damning for the position is the fact that only three rookie ends, Engram, John Carlson, and Rob Gronkowski finished inside the top-12 of TE rankings in their first NFL season.

The position is one of the most difficult to acclimate to at the professional level and as a result players need multiple years to develop. In fact, in the last 10 years, only five rookies eclipsed 160 points in their second NFL season — future Hall of Famers Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, as well as George Kittle, Aaron Hernandez, and Brandon Pettigrew.

Engram failed to repeat in year-two and scored just 124 points. This was unsurprising given that Odell Beckham Jr. returned to the Giants’ lineup and Sterling Shepard played a full season.1

2019 Implications

Four TEs were drafted in the first two rounds of the 2019 NFL draft, but these players should not be considered viable targets in redraft leagues.

  • While the RotoViz Dynasty Team expects great things from T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, it’s unrealistic to expect their greatness to commence in 2019.
  • Both were drafted in Round 1 and could find themselves in starting roles, but they’re not in situations that are optimal for historical seasons.
    • Engram was thrust into a role that immediately made him his team’s featured and best offensive player.
  • Fant ranks 21st in our TE rankings and Hockenson 23rd.
  • Unless the Lions are snake-bit in 2019, the RotoViz Redraft Team doesn’t expect either player to be a season-long contributor.
    • Irv Smith Jr., who will be playing behind Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota, ranks 33rd and Drew Sample is unranked.2
  • In most leagues, TE is a position that can be waited on and doesn’t require multiple players to be rostered.
    • Do yourself a favor and occupy that roster spot with a veteran.
Image Credit: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: T.J. Hockenson.

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  1. In 2017, Beckham in four games and Shepard 11.  (back)
  2. Our redraft rankings only include 240 players.  (back)

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