Welcome to the Stock Watch. While the picture above might make you worried you’ve stumbled into a financial advice column, have no fear, this is about our fantasy football stock. Each year in dynasty leagues we look forward to rookie drafts, snatching up all the prospects we know will lead to glory. But it doesn’t always happen right away. Over the next few pieces, as this off-season draws to a close, I’ll be taking stock of prospects at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 draft class. This isn’t about the stars that we already know are great, it’s about the players taken in the first three rounds that haven’t hit yet—and might never hit.
Today we come to the end of the Class of 2018 as we turn the gaze to tight ends. It can often take a few years for tight ends to mature, and such might be the case with the quartet here. In fact one, Hayden Hurst, has had some good years, but finds himself in this discussion because of his roster misfortune. Should you invest in these tight ends or is it time to move on? Let’s consider.
Drafted: No. 25 overall by the Baltimore Ravens
Situation: When you take a tight end in the first round, you typically have high hopes. Hurst was one of two tight ends taken by the Ravens in 2018 in the first three rounds. He had the misfortune of seeing his fellow draft class selection, Mark Andrews, develop into a favorite target of Lamar Jackson and one of the best tight ends in the game. For two seasons, Hurst was in a complementary role in Baltimore, catching 43 passes on 64 targets for 512 yards and three TDs. But he became an expendable asset, one that was traded to the Falcons prior to the 2020 season.
After a slow start, Hurst thrived as a primary target in Atlanta. He saw 88 targets, catching 56 for 571 yards and six TDs. That was good enough to have him as TE10 in 2020. So, why is he on this list? The Falcons spent the fourth overall pick on tight end Kyle Pitts and declined Hurst’s fifth-year option. That means he’s only in Atlanta for one more season and, for the third year in four, no longer the best tight end on his own team. But with Julio Jones moving on, it’s quite possible Hurst plays a lot with Pitts in two tight end sets for a re-worked Atlanta passing game. So, there is some hope.
Stock Value: Holding. Hurst won’t disappear in 2021, though he could see his opportunities take a hit. While he won’t be in Atlanta in 2022, his work in 2020 should make him an attractive free-agent target next off-season. His value might not be what it was heading into the 2020 season, but it’s hardly evaporated.
Drafted: No. 49 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles
Situation: Goedert was taken by the Eagles in the second round of the 2018 draft and has been a strong contributor. He’s caught 137 passes for 1,465 yards and 12 TDs in three seasons. The problem is, he hasn’t been the only or even the primary TE on his team. He was drafted to play alongside Zach Ertz, who has remained the top TE on the team and one of the best-regarded TEs in the league. But the tide may be changing.
Goedert stepped up when on the field in 2020. While limited to just 11 games and nine starts, it appeared the Eagles saw enough to begin the changing of the guard. Due to age and cost as the Eagles begin rebuilding, Ertz has been the subject of persistent trade rumors this off-season. Many expect him to land on a new team—possibly the Bills—before the start of the 2021 season. That would leave Goedert as the man at tight end for Jalen Hurts and a young Eagles’ offense.
Stock Value: Rising. Goedert’s time as a focal point in Philadelphia seems to be nearing. Even if Ertz remains, it feels like Goedert has shifted to the primary tight end, which has him poised for a Top-10 finish. If you can, get him at value before he explodes.
Drafted: No. 98 overall by the Houston Texans
Situation: Akins was nabbed near the end of the third round by the Texans and has had some decent showings in his three years. He’s seen 129 targets, catching 90 passes for 1,046 yards and three TDs. The past two seasons, he’s seen at least 36 receptions and 400-plus yards. But it doesn’t seem like his position in the Texans offense has grown, and now the situation has taken a turn in Houston. The Texans’ offense is a quagmire, beginning with uncertainty over who will play quarterback. In addition, the Texans spent a fifth-round pick on tight end prospect Brevin Jordan out of Miami, and return tight end prospect Kahale Warring, a 2020 third round selection.
Stock Value: Stagnant. At this point, Akins is what he is. Given the past two drafts’ investment in pass-catching tight ends, I’d suspect this will be his final season with Houston. Barring a big break out this year, it’s hard to see him being an in-demand option in free agency. It’s hard to see him generating much fantasy value or being a reliable starter.
Drafted: No. 107 overall by the New York Jets
Situation: I reached into the fourth round for this one, but it felt like a necessary addition. Herndon was taken by the Jets in 2018 and flashed to conclude his rookie year. He caught 39 passes for 502 yards and four TDs. That led to plenty of buzz heading into 2019, but a suspension and injury wiped out the entire campaign. Then, in 2020, playing in a stagnant offense with Adam Gase pre-season buzz went unfulfilled yet again. Herndon appeared in all 16 games but saw just 45 targets, catching 31 passes for 287 yards and three TDs. Entering his fourth season with a new coach and a rookie quarterback, hope springs high again for Herndon. Some can’t let go of that rookie year and hope that a fresh start with a new regime will see Herndon finally achieve his fantasy breakout.
Stock Value: In Flux. It’s hard to believe that Herndon is going to be a huge value in 2021, but it’s possible. The offensive scheme, which is used in San Francisco, has produced big value from the tight end position. Personally, if there is still a true believer in your league, I’m selling high. I think we’ve seen Herndon’s best season with the Jets, and I’m not sold he gets a lot of good offers in free agency.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton network.