Due to the emphasis on passing, tight end breakouts have become more common. However, some of those players are tight ends in name only. Some of these players can be matchup nightmares in the slot and are rarely used on the line to block. The results of my breakout picks in 2017 were hit and miss, but the league’s in good hands with the influx of talent that has emerged at the position. What I wrote about these tight ends leading up to this past season can be found here.
Hunter Henry, Chargers: After a rookie season where he really flashed as a receiver, Henry seemed likely to have an expanded role in year two. Even with Antonio Gates lingering, Henry’s saw an increased role seeing nine more targets despite missing two games. For the year, he finished with 45 catches 579 yards and four touchdowns (not surprisingly the percentage of catches that went for touchdowns went down). After parting with Gates, Henry was expected to see an even bigger role in 2018 but he tore his ACL in mini camp which ended his season.
The Chargers seem to have some awful injury luck, but Henry’s absence is one that could really be felt this upcoming season. Assuming a healthy recovery, look for Henry to take his game to new heights in 2019.
Hit or miss: Push
Jack Doyle, Colts: 2016 was the first year Doyle was really involved in the Colts passing game, but I expected bigger things from him in 2017. With Andrew Luck’s absence, I saw 100 plus targets as a possibility, and that’s exactly what happened. Doyle responded with 80 receptions, 690 yards and four touchdowns and made his first career Pro Bowl. The addition of Eric Ebron will cut into Doyle’s targets, but new head coach Frank Reich’s use of multiple tight ends means Doyle should still have a role.
Hit or miss: Hit
Austin Hooper, Falcons: While the Falcons offense was a bit of a mess in 2017, Hooper saw the uptick in production that many expected. For the year, Hooper more than doubled his reception and yardage totals from his rookie year with 49 and 526 respectively, and added three touchdowns. One thing to pay attention to this year, is if Hooper works on the drops that plagued him in 2017. Pro Football Focus had Hooper dropping 6 of his 55 catchable targets, with a drop percentage of 10.91. That figure ranked in the lower third of qualifying tight ends.
Hooper might never put up accolade worthy numbers with the Falcons’ array of weapons, but an increase in that regard would boost his total production.
Hit or miss: Push