Can Hunter Henry Make The Leap?
The year is 2016 and Hunter Henry entered the draft as the consensus number one Tight End. Hailing from the University of Arkansas, his final season in college consisted of 51 receptions for 739 yards and three Touchdowns. He averaged a respectable 14.3 yards a catch and helped Arkansas to win back to back bowl games in 2014 against the Texas Longhorns and 2016 against Kansas State Wildcats.
He was drafted in the second round, 35th overall, by the San Diego Chargers. Henry was named the San Diego Chargers’ third Tight End on their depth chart to begin the regular season, behind longtime Pro-bowl veteran Antonio Gates and Sean McGrath.
Hunter Makes A Splash In The NFL!
In his Rookie season in 2016, Henry scored the second-most touchdowns by a rookie Tight End in the last decade (only behind Rob Gronkowski), and scored the fifth most Touchdowns by a rookie Tight End in NFL history. He was still behind Gates on the depth chart at this point.
In his 2017 Sophomore season he played 15 games. However he left the 15th game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a lacerated kidney that ended his season. He finished the season with 45 receptions for 579 yards and four Touchdowns.
Although Henry was slated as the starter on the depth chart, he basically split catches and snaps with Gates. Henry had 62 targets to Gates’s 52. Gates was a thorn in the side of Henry that whole season and stopped the breakout from happening. It is Antonio Gates we are talking about however; A lock for the Hall of Fame.
Then came the 2018 season. The Hunter Henry hype train exploded and with Gates gone to it was about to be the Henry show. Then in OTA’s he blew out his ACL and was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Whilst he missed the whole regular season it meant he could return in the playoffs. He did so against the Patriots no less. After a season out it was no surprise that he looked a little rusty.
What Next For Henry?
Now fully healed and recovered from the ACL, 2019 is the year of Henry once again. His pre-season numbers aren’t stella, catching just 5 balls so far. Two in Week One, two in Week Two and one solitary target in Week Three. This isn’t a shock due to the Chargers wanting to keep him in bubble wrap until the season starts. They also didn’t play many of their starters at all in the Week Three loss to the New Orleans Saints.
With Keenan Allen nursing an injury, Henry has the chance to be the team’s main offensive weapon. Not only in the red zone but also between the 20’s. Get to the stats I hear you cry! Well here goes.
Hunter Henry has averaged nine yards per target in his career. Neither Antonio Gates nor Keenan Allen can boast that figure. Henry also runs a route on 88% of his snaps proving that his main use is as an offensive weapon and not a blocker.
Phillip Rivers loves to target the Tight End position. He ranks third-best in the league in passer rating when targeting Tight Ends (115.9), which makes sense given the impressive Tight End talent he has had throughout his career.
Since 2010 Rivers has averaged 508.6 pass attempts per year. This equates to 117 pass attempts to the Tight End position.
Stats To Back This Up!
In the two seasons (2016/2017) that Henry has played over 14 games, the Tight Ends have been targeted an average of 135 times. Hunter Henry averaged 41% of these targets. These targets made up 23.42% of Phillip Rivers attempts over the same period (2016/2017).
During the Antonio Gates era and at his highest peaks he was targeted by Rivers on average 96 times a season. There were some years where Ladarius Green and Randy McMichael caught around 30 targets and sucked up some of Gates targets.
It isn’t impossible to believe that Henry sees around 90-92% of Tight End targets. That is the range which Gates fell into when he was the main weapon for the Chargers in the Tight End room.
Hunter Henry’s career stats are 115 targets, 81 receptions, 1057 yards and 12 touchdowns. This was over 23 games and only receiving 41% of the Tight End targets.
By going with the 90-92% of Tight End targets to the main Tight End, it’s reasonable to see Henry getting 123 targets this season. (Can you explain how you got to this? You mentioned 117 attempts on average to TE, so how does 90-92% make 123?) His catch percentage is 70% of his targets. That means he is projected by my count to have 86 receptions. He averages 9.2 yards per catch which means his season yardage should be around 791 yards. The Chargers Tight Ends average 9 touchdowns a season so Henry could see this number repeating for him too.
These conservative numbers would have seen Henry finished as the Tight End 4 last year in half-point PPR leagues. He would have been third in Receptions, fourth in Targets, 4th in Yards and third in Touchdowns.
But Wait! It Gets Better!
If you take Henry’s Sophomore season numbers, which was better than his rookie season, his numbers look even better. Over a 16 game pace (remember he only played 13 games) his numbers look outstanding. He would have had 76 targets, 55 receptions, 712 yards and 5 touchdowns. Now remember that these numbers are on 56% of the total Tight End targets.
Now for the magic. Here’s Hunter Henry’s 2017 numbers but using the usual 90-92% of Chargers Tight End targets. This works out at 135 targets, 98 receptions, 1328 yards and 9 touchdowns. These however are at 100% catch percentage.
Using the catch percentage of his 2017 season he would have had 121 targets and 98 catches. Using his 2017 yards per catch of 12.9 he would then have had 1264 yards and the Chargers average of 9 touchdowns per the Tight End position.
Henry now stats out against the 2018 Tight End class as the Tight End two in fantasy. He would have been the Tight End four in targets, third in Receptions, third in Yards and third in ouchdowns. Now these numbers haven’t changed much compared to his career average using the 90% average of Tight End targets. However what does happen is Henry gets significantly closer to Kelce and Kittle. Very close in fact.
Kelce, and then soon after Kittle, set the record for Tight End yards in a single season. Henry was just 113 yards shy of Kittle and 72 yards short of Kelce. He would in fact only be 5 receptions behind Kelce and 10 ahead of Kittle. Kittle’s YAC is unsustainable and Kelce is generational in his talent.
Take Hunter Henry’s Value!
Now here’s the clincher. Henry’s current ADP is 6.02 in half-point PPR leagues. A full 3.11 rounds behind Kelce and 2.8 rounds behind Kittle. I haven’t even mentioned Zach Ertz as I think he takes a significant step backward this year. There are just too many mouths in Philly.
The possibility of getting the Tight End 1 that late in your fantasy drafts is a salivating prospect. Jump on the Hunter Henry wagon whilst you still can.
Until next time, Keep Rushing.
– Stocks (@5yardrush)