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Is Hunter Henry or Jonnu Smith The TE1 For The New England Patriots?

New England Patriots tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith continue to split snaps with the first offense in training camp, leaving fantasy managers asking, who is New England's primary starting tight end?

The Patriots signed Henry and Smith to lucrative multi-year deals during the 2021 offseason to provide quarterback Mac Jones offensive weapons. Henry caught 50 passes for 603 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns on 17 red zone targets across 17 games in 2021. While Smith finished with 28 catches on 45 targets for 294 yards and a touchdown to go along with nine carries for 40 yards over 16 games.

New England plans on using two-tight end sets and envisions Henry and Smith forming a 1-2 TE combination. Which Patriots tight end should fantasy managers draft? Read the breakdown below.

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Who is the starting tight end for the Patriots? Henry or Smith?

Henry and Smith started and only played in the preseason finale together against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Henry and Smith both logged 16 snaps a piece and were two tight end sets eight times during the preseason loss to the Raiders. Henry secured both targets for 23 yards, while Smith caught his only target for five yards in the preseason finale.

New England continues to utilize both tight ends, capping their fantasy value in 2022. Henry was a favorite of Mac Jones in the red zone last season, evidenced by his 17 red zone targets last year. The Patriots are expanding Smith's role and reportedly plan on manufacturing touches for the former Tennessee Titan; he could see rushing attempts as the fullback/H-back on top of being utilized more in two-tight end sets. The 27-year-old appears more comfortable in New England's offense so far and will look to improve in 2022 after disappointing in his first campaign with the Patriots. 

 

Where Should Fantasy Football Managers Draft Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in 2022?

Hunter Henry has an ADP of 135.92 overall and is 15th in the latest RotoBaller tight end rankings. He is being selected in the middle rounds, with tight ends such as Gerald Everett, Albert Okwuegbunam, David Njoku, and Noah Fant being selected right around his ADP. Smith is going undrafted in most league formats with an ADP of 329.79 and is Rotoballer's 31st ranked tight end. Dan Arnold, C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, and Cameron Brate are other tight ends selected in deep-league formats where Smith is currently going in fantasy drafts.

If the Patriots continue split time, both tight ends would be streaming options at best in most leagues. Henry would be the better option of the two due to his red zone presence, but he will be touchdown dependent in most given weeks, while Smith is basically a streamer in deep-league formats. Both will be boom-or-bust options with the split snaps, limiting their fantasy upside in 2022.

Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith 2022 Fantasy Football Outlook

Henry is expected to see some touchdown regression and is projected to catch 50 passes for 500 yards and five touchdowns in 2022. Expect Smith to see an uptick in his stats as New England looks to get him more involved in the offense in 2022. Last year the timeshare between the two tight ends favored Henry; with the additional opportunities, Smith should be able to improve on his 2021 stats.

Fantasy managers can draft Henry as a borderline TE1 but should be prepared to have another option with the potential of inconsistent production throughout the year. Smith is mainly a late-round flier in deep-league and premium tight-end formats in 2022. It's a situation managers might want to avoid and should look to take David Njoku, Mike Gesicki, and Robert Tonyan instead of Henry in upcoming 2022 fantasy drafts.



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