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Fool Me Once... Sophomore Tight Ends Set to Bust Again


If there is something volatile in fantasy football, that is the tight end position.

But here I am, trying to identify busts on their rookie season that are expected not to do much better this year. I have limited myself to rookies that were drafted in real-life. Those were mostly the ones to hold somehow "valuable" ADPs last year and therefore the ones that ultimately didn't fulfill their ROI expectations. And no, for the most part, there are no rebounds expected here, folks, so keep your expectations low.

You may have fooled me once, but I've learned from my mistakes!

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Hayden Hurst, Baltimore Ravens

The 2018 tight end class wasn't that good to start with. Hurst projected as one of the best available TEs and Baltimore picked him in the first round of the draft. Perhaps they already knew Hurst could be in for an upsetting season when they drafted Mark Andrews barely 60 picks later.

From a first-round talent, production is expected from day one. Turns out, Hurst was a plain negative for the Ravens. He missed the start of the season with a foot-related injury, but that is no excuse for what came later. He finished the season averaging a paltry 2.94 PPR/G, fourth-worst among rookie TEs with at least 20 targets. He had a really low 57% catch rate and if he's targeted more, that value could get even lower. When he caught the ball, he produced, finishing with 12.54 Yds/R but only a total of 163 Yds on the season.

If Hurst had it hard last season, imagine this year in a team that will feature Lamar Jackson (scrambling QB) from day one, an already-established TE in Mark Andrews that could be the next great thing at the position and surpassed him all the way, and will also see Mark Ingram join the running back corps. It doesn't look very promising for Hurst to leapfrog Andrews and become fantasy-relevant.

 

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

Gesicki was able to sneak into the early second round of last year's draft but his production never caught up to the expectations. Miami used him equally both in the slot and out wide. In total, they targeted him 32 times, and he was able to catch 22 passes for a total 202 yards on the season (he played every week as the Dolphins leading TE). All of those yards, though, ended with one single TD: the same amount as times he fumbled the ball.

Of tight ends to feature in all 16 games during the 2018 season (min. 20 targets), he finished with the lowest number of fantasy points in standard leagues and second-lowest in PPR (Jordan Akins, also a rookie, finished last but only 0.7 points behind...).

The new season can bring an improvement to Gesicki's production. Miami has changed coaches, will feature a new QB in Rosen/Fitzpatrick (complete booms or busts), has lost his most used RB in Frank Gore, and will keep slotting Gesicki as the No. 1 TE. Even with a jump in production, though, things could turn into a completely different story for Gesicki to even be rosterable once we reach late September.

 

Jordan Leggett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pretty much following the same model Baltimore employed, the Jets also opted to draft two TEs in 2018. Only in this case, the first one to hear his name (Chris Herndon) demolished Leggett at basically everything. Of course, they didn't have the same amount of chances. Leggett was never the first option in the Jets' offensive scheme, while Herndon was. Even with that, he played in 15 games and was targeted 24 times. The problem for Leggett were his hands. He caught only 56% of the passes thrown his way, and although he converted a TD he finished the season with only 114 yards.

Legget finished the season as the rookie with the worst Yds/Tgt mark (4.75). It resulted in the Jets getting rid of him this postseason. He is now part of the Bucs and the situation doesn't look much better in Tampa. If he lost snaps and targets to Herndon in 2018, imagine what will happen this season when he has to look up to OJ Howard, not to mention the presence of Cameron Brate.

Tampa Bay wasn't dumb picking him off waivers, though. If there is anyone with upside it must be Leggett. Another injury for Howard and Leggett could find his place and improve on his poor first season. Sadly for fantasy owners, that is too much to gamble in early on. Maybe betting on a breakout rookie season was passable last year, but I'm afraid I wouldn't bite on what Leggett has to offer again.

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