What Happens, for Fantasy Football, if the Patriots DO NOT Select Noah Fant (or T.J. Hockenson)? *Part II
*Part 2.5 (update)
Just an hour+ after I posted the 'Part 2' of this look into the Patriots tight end situation, they signed Austin Seferian Jenkins. I will post my thoughts on that below the Part 2 update, and Part 1 is below all that.
I posted an last week with some thoughts on the New England tight end situation (that article is attached/displayed below this update). I was then asked a question about Jacob Hollister’s place in all this, and I have to admit…I looked totally past Hollister. Because I did, I felt like I needed to admit and correct that error.
First, who is/why should we care about Jacob Hollister?
Hollister is a UDFA tight end out of Wyoming who rose up to the main roster in 2017 as a rookie and then made the team in 2018. He didn’t do much in 2018, despite Gronk’s ups and downs and injuries. Hollister played 14 snaps in Week 2 and 22 snaps in Week 10…and otherwise barely played. He eventually went on I.R. with a hamstring late in the season.
Hollister was a productive, ‘sleeper’ TE prospect out of Wyoming in 2017…a ‘C’ grade type of TE prospect. Decent but not ‘wow’, but not terrible. We thought he was a bit of a ‘sleeper’-ish draft tight end, as did others.
He impressed Bill Belichick enough to catch on as a rookie and stay on for year two. They could’ve cut him to use his roster spot…but they never did. My sources say Belichick likes him, but no word on if they love him or see him as the future. His sparing usage in 2018 lends me to believe he’s not being groomed to be a breakout star in place of Gronk. If he was, the Pats wouldn’t have pushed an attempt to sign Jared Cook.
And if they do like Hollister more than we think…the push for Cook shows they want a veteran tight end for now. They aren’t going all-in on Hollister 2019.
I shouldn’t rule Hollister out of this 2019 equation, but I still think he’s got to battle a physically bigger Matt LaCosse…and they both have to battle the mystery tight end Belichick is about to pull…Noah Fant, Justin Moreau, Cameron Brate, etc.
If the Pats don’t draft a tight end of any intrigue and they don’t sign or trade for any veteran tight ends in the next few weeks…then the Hollister story starts to heat up. He’s a name in the sweepstakes but battling with Matt LaCosse to be that guy who gets Roto-note pushes this summer.
My current ranking of New England Patriots tight ends I’m projecting there/discussing…
1) Noah Fant
2) Cameron Brate
3) Justin Moreau
4) Matt LaCosse
5) Jacob Hollister
OK, it's not Cameron Brate (yet) but Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
The depth chart would be, today...ASJ, then Hollister/LaCosse, and then Stephen Anderson (who I think will be gone soon).
I wouldn't be shocked if the Patriots now bypassed Noah Fant (or any TE) in the 1st-round and just took a Day Two tight end. Like I mentioned in Part 1 of this 'series'...the Patriots have shown little/no concern for replacing Gronk for years. Belichick is very comfortable just taking discarded parts and cleaning them up and using them for their gain.
Is this a revival for ASJ? Maybe. He's only 26, but he's been a disappointment most of his five seasons in the NFL...now, on his 4th team. I think the Pats working with ASJ means they will like pass on Cameron Brate, if/when he shakes loose. And it likely means no need for a Fant-Hockenson reach at tight end...there's better value in Day Two at tight end.
With this signing, I suspect the Patriots TE depth chart will soon be...
2) LaCosse/Hollister (the loser of this battle is cut)
3) Day Two draft TE, Justin Moreau or equivalent...and eventually this tight end becomes the guy to have.
Week 1 for fantasy 2019...you'll want ASJ, but he's going to be vastly FF-overrated due to being 'a Patriot'. I'd add him today just to sell him off if the Pats don't draft Fant. He'll be a #8-14 ranked fantasy TE if Fant (or Hockenson) are not added.
Week 1 fantasy 2020...you'd rather have the rookie drafted in 2019.
The ASJ signing also means Irv Smith is in play for the Patriots, as they can use him in a specific role plus he's a helluva blocker (and Belichick + Saban, sitting in a tree, K-I-S...).
Unless Fant is drafted, I don't see a real TE1 from the Patriots now for fantasy 2019. ASJ will be TE1-ish because he's a starting TE with Brady, but no different than Jesse James, or Delanie Walker, Vance McDonald, Trey Burton, Austin Hooper, etc, types...guys who play/start and see decent-ish targets and have spikes of output. They could get hot and have a nice stretch, but over time they are not real top 3-5 'wow' performers. ASJ won't be close to Gronk output at all.
I guess Part 3 of this series will be post-NFL Draft...
What happens if the New England Patriots do NOT take a tight end in the 1st-round…per everyone’s Noah Fant mock draft predictions?
Think about it – what in the past 2-3-4 years has shown us that the Patriots are even sweating not having Gronk?
Gronk has been injury prone and missing games for years, and the Pats keep winning, won a Super Bowl without him in 2016 (and with him in 2018)…and they keep NOT addressing (with any long-term mindset) the tight end position for the past few years. I mean…Dwayne Allen, seriously? Martellus Bennett?
The last time the Patriots drafted a tight end, with all the Gronk injuries and retirement rumors…2015, 6th-round A.J. Derby. Before that, it was Lee Smith in the 5th-round of 2011. Before that…Gronk/Hernandez in 2010.
When the Patriots got Allen and Bennett for instant-use…their individual fantasy values were instantly boosted, nearly to TE1 levels for stretches of time. And then what happened? Neither did much for fantasy, in reality. Allen was a ghost and Bennett had a good game or two, but mostly was a random TE1-2 guy when Gronk was hurt…but nothing close to Gronk-like output.
Rob Gronkowski was one of a kind, somewhat like Aaron Hernandez. This is not the running back position where the backup does whatever the starter does, coming in to snaps in an emergency. Tight ends are not easily interchangeable…but that won’t stop fantasy analysts and fantasy GMs from going bananas anytime a tight end is associated with New England. Remember the summer UDFA Zach Sudfeld became a TE1 preseason 2013-ish? Remember when A.J. Derby had a sweet preseason (he was later traded)?
All these drafted or signed or traded for on-Gronk tight ends got boosted in hype value by being the supposed ‘guy’ for the Pats. AND they all were never close to such in reality.
It’s going to happen again, the same pattern, in 2019. The question is – what tight end will it be that gets the boost? If it’s Noah Fant, then the answer is obvious -- but if they miss Fant or pass on him…then what?
1) They draft a mid-round value tight end like a Justin Moreau or Dawson Knox, etc.
2) They trade for a tight end.
3) They use discarded-by-others tight ends and cobble together a TE depth chart.
Let’s examine the ripple effects and likelihood of these three scenarios…
1) If the Patriots draft a day-two tight end prospect, the enthusiasm will be down compared to them nabbing Fant (or Hockenson), but it will still be a boost to that name…whomever it is.
But, seriously, are the Patriots really going to draft a 3rd-round tight end and jam them into the starting lineup in 2019 – this is not the Jets or Dolphins…this is the Patriots, a team about to go to the Super Bowl AGAIN. Highly unlikely a 3rd+ round rookie tight end walks in and starts…and becomes a fantasy star. Rookie TEs struggle enough in fantasy as it is…especially mediocre ones.
However, if/when they draft this day-two TE…he would be the guy. But not if…
2) The Patriots trade for a tight end.
But who will they trade for? Not a big-name guy, most likely, but a bargain. That being the case…what decent TE is just out there for the Patriots to nab? I’ve scoured the NFL rosters, I couldn’t find the obvious name.
The Pats made a run at signing Jared Cook…which is why I don’t think they’ll rely on the draft to fill this tight end need. They may draft one for the future/depth, but not taking one to be seen as a Week 1 starter…Fant likely wouldn’t start right away.
Delanie Walker via trade, maybe?
There’s not much out there at all to consider.
3) The most likely scenario…the Week 1 starter at tight end for the Pats this season is coming from the discard pile. Or, even more likely, the startERS (rotational) will come from the discard pile.
The clubhouse leader today…they already, quietly, grabbed Matt LaCosse from Denver – a guy who I thought ‘popped’ a little with Denver last year when the Broncos lost a ton of TEs to injury, and were forced to roll with LaCosse…and he looked good/promising for 2-3 games and then he got hurt himself and missed the last few games.
LaCosse is 6’5”+. He was 257 pounds entering the league but it looks like he’s cut weight and thus/maybe gotten faster than his 4.71 40-time at his Pro Day in 2015 (and 1.60 10-yard). LaCosse might be 6’5”+ and running in the 4.6s now with a nice burst in a slightly slimmed body. Not a bad profile.
LaCosse has experience (4+ years in the league)…and he’s, currently, the team’s #1 tight end by default.
I doubt it will be LaCosse alone Week 1. Could be a 3rd-round TE grabbed working with him, but I could see another TE coming off the discard pile. I’m watching two names to fit the bill here…
1 = Cameron Brate, when he gets cut by Tampa Bay (and he will because of salary…unless they re-negotiate, but that’s doubtful with the new regime)
2 = Seth DeValve, if he gets cut in the on-going Moneyball draft purge in Cleveland. The Browns have Njoku and keep adding veteran TEs via free agency. It’s only a matter of time before DeValve is cut loose.
If it’s LaCosse as the seeming leader after the draft…imagine how his FF-value will shoot? All it will take is one Rotoworld headline/silly blurb about how the Pats see LaCosse as Gronk-like, and BOOM he’s a fringe TE1 overnight.
Why am I telling you all this?
Depending on how deep your Dynasty rosters go…you might want to take a position in LaCosse, and/or Brate (DeValve only if the Pats get him) and wait for the inevitable Roto-headline that pushes them (assuming no Fant). THEN…you flip them in a deal that moment/week. A non-Gronk Patriots’ tight end is never more valuable than his preseason hype peak.
For the investment of a last roster spot on 1-2 of these guys, you could strike gold…a tradable asset, getting the Pats’ hype tight end for Week 1 in 2019. If you’re wrong (however it plays out that it’s not LaCosse or Brate, etc.)…you cut the fool. Low cost gamble…possible sweet ROI if you’re right.
How many existing NFL tight ends are a Roto story away from going from TE18 to fringe TE1 in 24 hours?
Note – I am not convinced the Pats will draft a tight end 1st-round. Depends upon what fell to them or they just trade out of the first. ‘Fans’/analysts are thinking it’s a given, but the Patriots never operate like the fans/analysts think. Nothing the Patriots have done for the past five years has indicated they’re super worried about how to backfill Gronk…and when they have planned around it, it’s been with cheap veteran-ish players not rookies.