New England certainly raised some eyebrows when ended up going double TE in free agency, but what is the fantasy impact? That’s what we look to unpick here.
Smith being signed by Bill Belichick isn’t a massive surprise, given his admiration of him in the past. However, the size of the deal was a little surprising considering that Smith hasn’t had a blockbuster season yet.
Limited opportunity, and having a top-tier receiver in A.J. Brown took a large chunk of the attempts away. With other mouths in the offense too, it’s just a case that Smith was given enough opportunities to succeed. However, when he has had the ball he has been able to be effective- especially for fantasy.
Smith started the 2020 season really strongly, in the early weeks of the season he was TE3! Unfortunately, those opportunities dried up. By the end of the season, he finished with 65 targets, 41 receptions for 448 yards, and 8 TDs. Ultimately, that put him in at TE15 on the season. If he is able to get some more targets, then he is going to be fantastic. Which leads us to the leading question.
Smith joins a team that works in a similar way to the Patriots. Limited pass attempts, and needing to be efficient with the opportunity he is given. I’m expecting Smith to be used in a similar way as he was for the the Titans. The difference could be that Smith could step up as that alpha receiver. QB Cam Newton however has massive success with Greg Olsen in Carolina. Smith has the ability to catch a pass close to the line and then create yards after, as well as having a big body for the red-zone.
After Smith was signed by the Patriots, you’d be forgiven if you thought that they were unlikely to sign another TE. Let alone another top option the next day!
Unlike Smith, Henry has spent the majority of his career on a pass-heavy offense. Henry missed the 2018 season, but skipping that season his last three years finished with him with over 500 yards. However, considering the opportunity that he has had he has been a little disappointing for fantasy.
Henry is joining a team that is going to operate differently on offense than he is used to. I’m not convinced that Henry can thrive in an offense that he has to be extremely efficient in. Henry might go in that middle tier of TE, but I think he will struggle to meet that expectation.
Overall Fantasy Impact
It’s easy to say this could be a return to the successful time that the team had with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But it’s hard to project that. For starters in that time the team had a far more accurate QB (Tom Brady), and they passed the ball far more. The team have also signed Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, to add to the current roster.
So, ultimately what is the fantasy impact of the double TE in New England? Honestly, right now I’m not sure I want either of them on my roster. I feel like they are likely to be overdrafted currently. They are both likely to have good weeks, but they could be few and far between. Of the two I’d be more confident in Smith, as he has worked in a similar offense previously and performed. But I wouldn’t be rushing to draft either of them.
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Image Credit: Steve Roberts – USA TODAY Sports