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Biggest Busts of 2019: Tight End


2019 was not the record-breaking season for tight ends 2018 was. San Francisco’s George Kittle (most receiving yards for a TE in a season) and Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz (most receptions for a TE in a season) did not break the records they set last season, although both were fine for fantasy players. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Oakland’s Darren Waller had 1,000-yard years, while Baltimore’s Mark Andrews was surprisingly the only tight end with double-digit touchdowns.

But while many tight ends had fantastic years for their fantasy owners, there were others at the position who probably cost fantasy players league championships and hundreds of dollars in DFS contests.

Without further ado, here are fantasy football’s biggest busts of 2019 at tight end.

 

Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts

2019 Stats: 31 receptions, 375 yards, 3 TD

Ebron was just one year removed from leading all tight ends in touchdowns when he scored 13 in 2018, a year where he also set career-highs in receptions and receiving yards as well. But there were warning signs entering the 2019 campaign that Ebron would have trouble duplicating those numbers. Quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly retired, and tight end teammate Jack Doyle was 100-percent healthy and ready to split time and targets with Ebron. Astute fantasy players knew that Ebron would be hard-pressed to post another sparkling season with all this going against him.

Ebron finished the season with just a fraction of the fantasy value he has the season prior, and he ended on the worst note possible when he had to get surgery on both of his ankles. Ebron is a talented tight end when healthy and focused since he possesses the skills of a wide receiver but has a tight end body. He should make multimillions on the free agent market, but he will be a fantasy risk no matter where he ends up considering he has only had one great year during his six-season NFL career. His 2020 fantasy value will depend heavily on where he ends up.

 

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 Stats:  34 receptions, 459 yards, 1 TD

Most fantasy players and pundits assumed Howard was about to ascend to lofty fantasy heights in his third professional season after an injury-shortened 2018. He would have finished with 900 yards and eight touchdowns if he has stayed healthy for 16 games. Howard’s size-speed combo along with the skilled players surrounding him made Howard a sure top-10 tight end on fantasy cheat sheets entering the season. Yet Howard had the worst year of his short career because new head honcho Bruce Arians decided to have his passing attack revolve around wonderful wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin while Howard was an afterthought in the offense.

The offseason will be interesting, to say the least, for Howard. It is painfully obvious that he does not fit into Arians’ offensive plans and the Buccaneers could trade their top tight end to help bolster other areas where they are weak. The Bucs also have Cameron Brate on the roster, which could make Howard even more expendable. Hopefully, Howard finds his way to a team that utilizes him properly, because Arians ruined his season with the way he and quarterback Jameis Winston constantly ignored him.

 

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

2019 Stats:  5 receptions, 41 yards, 1 TD

2019 was supposed to be Njoku’s breakthrough season. He was primed to build off a sophomore season where he had 56 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns, Baker Mayfield was ready to take the next step towards being a franchise quarterback, and Cleveland had acquired Odell Beckham Jr. to play alongside Jarvis Landry outside, which was going to free Njoku up against opposing secondaries. Instead, Njoku fractured his wrist in Week 2 and missed three months. When he returned Njoku was unceremoniously benched by one of the worst coaches of 2019, Freddie Kitchens, and forced to sit on the sidelines as a healthy scratch like he was the seventh defenseman on an NHL squad.

Njoku will have a clean slate with a new coaching staff in 2020, so he will likely be on the lists of many fantasy experts who expect him to have a bounce-back season. He has seem-breaking speed and has shown the ability to make plays downfield and in the red zone. New head coach Kevin Stefanski knows how to involve tight ends in his offensive scheme as he was able to get both Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. opportunities this past season in Minnesota, so Njoku should be able to right his ship. That does not help fantasy players who used Njoku this past year, however.

 

Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers

2019 Stats:  38 receptions, 447 yards, 3 TD

The longtime veteran and fantasy stalwart has probably won millions for his fantasy players over his illustrious career. Graham belongs in the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame one day. That said, 2019 will go down as the worst year since his rookie campaign a decade ago. Despite having Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, no real threat behind him on the tight end totem pole, and the Packers receiving corps being made up of Davante Adams and not much else, Graham still stunk on most Sundays for his fantasy owners. He did not have more than 65 yards in any game and did not reach the end zone over his last nine contests of the season.

Father Time and a couple of knee injuries have sapped the speed out of Graham's legs. Gone are the days where he can race down the seems of defenses for chunk plays or outleap defensive backs for jump balls in the end zone. Now all fantasy owners can hope for is 50 yards and the chance for a one-yard TD grab after a play-action fake to Aaron Jones. Graham might not be in a Green Bay jersey next year, or any jersey at all depending on the market and how banged-up his body is.

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