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Hunter Henry Could Turn the Elite Tight End Tier Into a Quartet

Hunter Henry is a breakout candidate at the tight end position.

The fantasy community had high hopes for Hunter Henry last season, but sadly his ACL had other plans. The Chargers tight end missed the entire 2018 regular season and he returned for just 14 snaps during the team’s playoff loss to New England, missing out on what could have been a breakout campaign.

Yet, everything that made Henry an attractive target last year is still in place this year. With the tight end position as thin as it is, Henry could be in its top-five, but with a much more affordable price tag than Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle.

Philip Rivers is, of course, no novice when it comes to getting the most out of his tight ends. Antonio Gates holds the NFL record for career touchdowns by a tight end, and his 116 scores rank 12th regardless of position. During their long and productive tenure together, Gates was second among tight ends to only Jason Witten in targets.

Gates’ target share was among the top in the Chargers offense during his entire career, both in sum and individually each season. In the first two years of Henry’s career, during which he played alongside Gates, he scored 12 touchdowns and finished both seasons in the top 10 in red-zone targets. Gates joined him on that list in 2016. With Henry at 100%, he’s finally ready to take the torch from the future Hall of Famer.

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The depatures of Tyrell Williams and Gates vacated 110 targets from last season. Mike Williams should have an increased role in the offense, as well, but Henry is in a perfect spot to step up and secure a significant target share in this offense in 2019. He’s been a matchup nightmare since coming into the NFL, showing an ability to win on both deeper routes and shorter patterns in the middle of the field.

Henry is experiencing a touch of the forgotten man syndrome, which is a good thing for those wanting to draft him. In redraft leagues, he’s currently being selected in the mid-sixth round, as the seventh tight end off the board on average. He’s a bit more coveted in best-ball leagues, coming off the board after only the position’s obvious great triumvirate, Kelce, Ertz and Kittle, somewhere in the mid-fifth round.

There’s a line of demarcation at tight end that doesn’t exist at deeper positions. Managers either need to pay the price of for one of the position’s elite, wait a few more rounds to grab a decent prospect with obvious flaws, or totally punt the position and hope to get a bit lucky.

Henry’s the best target in that second group of tight ends. He’s a solid playmaker in an offense that, over the last three seasons, has ranked 10th in total offense on average. With ample opportunity to produce, especially in the red zone, Henry could be your guy for those not wanting to punt, but also unwilling or unable to secure the services of Kelce, Ertz or Kittle.