With the NFL season quickly approaching, fantasy draft season has arrived. Examining the tight end position, here are a few breakout candidates to add to fantasy rosters. While each candidate has yet to breakout into that elite tight end category, these players provide the requisite upside to finish as an TE1 in 2020. For full access to Awesemo’s tight end projections, check out the Awesemo Fantasy Football Draft Kit. Let’s get into some Fantasy Football Breakouts for your 2020 NFL fantasy drafts.
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Fantasy Football Breakouts, #1: Hayden Hurst
After losing Austin Hooper earlier this offseason, the Falcons traded a second-round pick to Baltimore for Hurst. A former first-round pick, Hurst’s production suffered in a crowded Baltimore tight end room with Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. Now slated for a full-time role, Hurst looks like a premier breakout candidate at the tight end position.
Examining the available opportunity in Atlanta, Hooper’s departure vacates 97 targets from the tight end position alone. Atlanta overall leads the NFL with 258 available targets ahead of the 2020 season. From a team perspective, Atlanta already looked like an offense to target. Last year, they tied for the most plays per game (68.5) and passed at the highest rate in football (67.0%).
While Hurst only played on 39% of Baltimore’s snaps last year, he still proved efficient when on the field. Hurst racked up 30 receptions for 349 receiving yards and a pair of scores last year. He also notched 8.7 yards per target, which ranked seventh in all of football.
With increased opportunity on the horizon, Hurst remains a strong breakout candidate for fantasy football in 2020.
Fantasy Football Breakouts, #2: Mike Gesicki
Now entering his third season with the Dolphins, Gesicki looks poised to take another step towards his elite tight end ceiling. Last year, Gesicki recorded 570 yards and five scores on 51 catches for Miami. This occurred with Gesicki playing a part time role at the beginning of the season. With available opportunity, Gesicki remains a tight end breakout to target in fantasy drafts.
Hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, Miami saw Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson opt out of the 2020 season. With Preston Williams also rehabilitating a torn ACL, Gesicki remains a favorite for early targets in the Miami offense. Already a pass-first offense, the Dolphins threw the ball at the second-highest rate last year (65.9%).
Gesicki also took on a major role down the stretch in 2019. Over the final seven weeks of the season, he played on 76% of Miami’s snaps. He spent 78% of those snaps in the slot or out wide. Standing 6-foot-6, 247-pounds with a 4.54 40-yard dash, Gesicki’s athleticism provides a versatile weapon across the formation in this offense.
Projected for 6.5-wins across sportsbooks, Miami looks likely to air it out again in 2020. With potential elevated target volume here, Gesicki looks primed for a breakout season.
Fantasy Football Breakouts, #3: T.J. Hockenson
Now entering his second season with the Lions, Hockenson remains the star of training camp. Battling injuries through most of his rookie season, Hockenson still racked up 367 yards and a pair of scores on 32 catches in just 12 games. Now healthy in an ascending offense, Hockenson offers breakout potential in the late rounds of drafts.
Breaking down Detroit’s entire offense, the Lions completely stagnated without Matthew Stafford in 2019. Prior to the injury, Stafford threw for 2,499 yards and 19 scores in eight games. Over a full season, these stats extrapolate to 4,998 passing yards and 38 scores. Simply put, the Lions remain more effective with Stafford on the field.
Looking specifically at Hockenson, he remains an intriguing prospect from a physical standpoint. Hockenson clocked a 4.70 40-yard dash at 6-foot-5, 251-pounds at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. Offering solid size-adjusted athleticism, Detroit actually ran Hockenson out of the slot on 32.4% of his routes last year.
Now healthy in an offense expected to see positive regression, Hockenson’s breakout potential remains worth targeting in the later rounds.
Fantasy Football Breakouts, #4: Chris Herndon
After looking like a potential 2019 breakout tight end, Herndon missed almost the entire season with a suspension and a season-ending injury. Now entering his third season, Herndon remains New York’s primary tight end with a fraction of the hype.
Isolating Herndon’s rookie season, the 2018 fourth-round pick notched 502 receiving yards and four scores on 39 catches as a rookie. Even more impressive, Herndon did not crest a 70% snap share until Week 9. Also playing a quarter of his snaps from the slot, Herndon’s versatility brings an added dimension to this Jets offense.
More importantly, a rash on injuries could thrust Herndon into a significant role. Denzel Mims remains sidelined with soft tissue injuries and Breshad Perriman has battled knee soreness during camp. This leaves just Jamison Crowder and Herndon as pass catchers familiar with Sam Darnold.
Still only 24 years old, Herndon looks like an enticing late round breakout candidate at the tight end position.
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