Tight End Shuffle Up: Chris Herndon looks like a fantasy draft steal

Scott Pianowski
·6 mins read

Before the salaries, we add the boiler-plate disclaimer section:

A few caveats upfront. The salaries are unscientific in nature, merely used as a way to compare players within their position. I do not compare salaries outside of position — the salary of a tight end is only meant to be considered within his positional class. I am generally far less expectant with injury-returning players, so don’t be surprised when I like them less than you do.

Every Shuffle Up is done from scratch. I think it’s counterproductive to justify an old, dated list.

Previously, we shuffled the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

Players with the same salary are considered even. Assume a half-point PPR scoring system.

The TL;DR Takeaway for Tight Ends: You can do well at almost any salary. I believe in Tyler Higbee more than most, Gronk less than most. Do a deep studying of the guys outside the Top 10; there are tons of young, emerging, breakout candidates.

The Big Tickets

$33 Travis Kelce

$33 George Kittle

$28 Mark Andrews

$27 Zach Ertz

If I make a plan for a vanity tight end, I’m more likely to go modified rip with Andrews, whose salary is a little cheaper than the two undeniable gods listed above him. Every so often you’ll see Andrews roaming uncovered down a seam or in a secondary, wondering how he got so wide open. That’s OC Greg Roman at work, and the dual-threat wizardry of Lamar Jackson certainly doesn’t hurt. Andrews had a modest snap share and unreal efficiency metrics last year; even if the latter goes down, a snap bump should cover the difference. A highly recommended target.

Plausible upside, but they’re not cheap

$21 Darren Waller

$18 Tyler Higbee

$18 Jared Cook

$16 Evan Engram

$16 Hunter Henry

Although Waller is technically the TE5 on this list, I hope his salary is low enough that you understand my reluctance with him. I don’t trust Jon Gruden or Derek Carr, and Oakland has an overflowing group of pass-catchers. Waller likely is due a touchdown bump after an unlucky year there, but Carr has never struck me as any kind of king-maker . . . I’ve talked up Higbee plenty this summer; there’s signature significance to his late-season run, and I trust Sean McVay is not putting the genie back in the bottle. A shift in the Rams offense was signaled when they traded Brandin Cooks, setting a curious league record (dead money absorbed through a trade) in the process . . . Cook’s a tricky guy to evaluate when you consider the upside-down shape of his career; his two best seasons came in his 30s. I wish his quarterback were a little younger, but the continuity of the Saints is enough to allay fears and keep Cook in my reasonable draft plans . . . Engram’s been a high-attrition player through his career, and he’s really more of a jumbo wideout than a true tight end. That last trait could be spun as a feature, not a “but,” but the Giants also have a crowded group of talented wideouts . . . Henry had a special connection with the departed Philip Rivers. Now he hooks up with Tyrod Taylor, who doesn’t have a history of elevating his tight ends.

Choose your own mid-round adventure

Chris Herndon offers exciting fantasy upside for 2020. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Chris Herndon offers exciting fantasy upside for 2020. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

$13 Mike Gesicki

$11 Rob Gronkowski

$11 Hayden Hurst

$11 Austin Hooper

$10 Noah Fant

$10 Chris Herndon

$9 Jonnu Smith

$9 T.J. Hockenson

You might be concerned about Norv Turner’s modest history with tight ends, but Gesicki could turn into a de-facto wideout as the Dolphins deal with an injury and opt-out-depleted depth chart. And Gesicki’s elite athleticism was on full display during his strong finish in 2019 . . . Fading Gronkowski comes with a tinge of sadness, but he hasn’t seen a full season since 2011, and obviously he didn’t play at all last year. The Bucs have plenty on the flanks; they’ll probably let Gronkowski focus on blocking and goal-line work. He’ll need a healthy touchdown season to return his likely ADP, but that’s no sure thing. He only had three spikes in 2018. Most of the time, I will be reluctant to buy into a 30-something player heading into a reboot season . . . I understand all the Adam Gase angst and I’ve written a few words on that, too. But Sam Darnold still shows plenty of promise, and he’s got all sorts of room for improvement — heck, he’s younger than Joe Burrow. And the Jets offense turned journeyman Ryan Griffin into a fantasy staple late last year. Nothing fell right for Herndon in his second year — some of it his own fault — but every upside piece we wrote about him last year still applies now. The ADP has been appealing. Go get him . . . Fant is going to be a Pro Bowler someday, but Denver’s usage tree looks crowded and no one knows if they solved their quarterback problem. I might be a year late on him, but you can’t overlook the surroundings . . . Smith’s improvement has been gradual, but the Titans are weak at receiver after A.J. Brown, which expands opportunity. You can talk yourself into a fourth-year breakout here; Delanie Walker is gone, and OC Arthur Smith looks like a rising star.

Plausible upside, but might need a break

$8 Dallas Goedert

$8 Blake Jarwin

$6 Eric Ebron

$5 Jack Doyle

$4 Ian Thomas

$4 Irv Smith

I feel like Smith could be a 2021 breakout, but maybe the cycle will come a year ahead of time. The Vikings will give him every opportunity to show he’s more hybrid wideout than true tight end . . . I would be more interested in Thomas if not for the three dynamic pass catchers (McCaffrey, Moore, Samuel) already on the roster. Carolina looks like a carnival team for 2020; a young and lousy defense will probably force a lot of second-half passing volume on the offense.

Bargain Bin

$3 Greg Olsen

$3 Dawson Knox

$3 O.J. Howard

$2 Jace Sternberger

$2 Jimmy Graham

$2 Tyler Eifert

$1 Kyle Rudolph

$1 Will Dissly

$1 Gerald Everett

$1 David Njoku

$1 Vance McDonald

$1 Cameron Brate

$1 Darren Fells

$1 C.J. Uzomah

$0 Devin Asiasi

$0 Cole Kmet

$0 Dan Arnold

$0 Jason Witten

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