2021 NFL Draft Guide Player Profiles: Hunter Henry
Published: Aug 14, 2021
After a couple of productive years in Los Angeles, tight end Hunter Henry got his big deal and will head to New England to form a 1-2 punch with Jonnu Smith. Henry entered the National Football League with a bang, catching eight touchdowns in his rookie season. He was a TE1 each of the past two years since tearing his ACL, but can he make it a third straight season in his new digs? Let’s examine.
Spoiler alert: I’m skeptical. Very skeptical.
Since catching eight touchdowns during his rookie year, the results haven’t exactly been overwhelming. To his credit, he’s been relatively consistent, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together for a monster fantasy campaign yet. In 2020, Henry caught 60 of 93 targets for 613 yards and four touchdowns. Of tight ends that had at least 100 expected fantasy points, Henry was the fifth-largest under performer at -8.4 FPOE, per RotoViz. Not ideal.
The Chargers had plenty of weapons during Henry’s tenure with the team, but he played with two quarterbacks who frequently looked at the tight end. Remember Philip Rivers? Remember Justin Herbert last year? Here were the Chargers’ ranks in passing attempts and yards the last three years Henry was with the team.
|Year||Pass Attempts Rank||Passing Yards Rank|
Courtesy of Pro Football Reference
Maybe it will turn around with his new team? I’m skeptical. The Patriots ranked 31st in pass attempts and 30th in passing yards last year. Yikes.
Oh, you think that’s bad? It gets worse.
His 93 targets last year in the high-flying Chargers passing attack were pretty good, and the tight end position with Herbert under center had a league average 20 percent target share, per Sharp Football Stats. In 2020, New England tight ends combined for a target share of a measly eight percent. EIGHT PERCENT. In 2019, it was just nine percent. Going back to 2018, which was Rob Gronkowski’s last year with the team, it was still just 15 percent, which remained below the league average.
Sure, the lack of talent in 2019 and 2020 at tight end for New England played a part, but they were a large afterthought, and the quarterback play isn’t exactly inspiring. The Patriots also beefed up their receiving core through free agency, adding more mouths to feed.
The biggest issue I have with Henry is that even if New England pushes the tight end target share up to 20 percent, hell, even 25 percent in 2021, an even split for Henry and Smith puts them in the 10-13 percent target share range. Here were the target shares for the top 12 tight ends (PPR) in 2020:
|Tight End||Target Share|
Courtesy of RotoViz
Only two tight ends (Gronkowski, Tonyan) posted a TE1 season with 13 percent or less of the targets. They rode a high touchdown total and extreme efficiency per touch to get there. To this point in his career, as mentioned earlier, it has eluded Henry. Unless Cam Newton is actually completely healthy or Mac Jones is a savant from the time he comes into the lineup, I’m just not sure there’s enough to go around, or enough juice in the passing game to sustain multiple players at their current draft price.
“BUT colBY, tHe pAtRIOTs MadE It WoRK WITh Rob Gronkowski aNd AaRon HernaNDEZ and both OF THem weRE produCtiVe In fAnTAsY!”
I’m glad you mentioned that. During that 2011 season where they thrived, they had Tom Brady under center and the third-most passing attempts in the league. Moving on.
Henry was in a good offensive system as the clear-cut TE1 for his team and was a back-end TE1. He now goes to an offense that will look to spread the ball around in a low-volume passing attack with below average quarterback play. Also, Henry isn’t even the clear-cut top tight end on his own team, as Jonnu Smith is incredibly athletic in his own right.
Henry is currently the TE14 per NFFC data but there is too much volatility at that price. He’s going to need touchdowns to save his fantasy value, but I don’t expect New England to transform into one of the league’s more prolific offenses in 2021.