Austin-Seferian Jenkins signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots last week and the signing naturally set the fantasy community ablaze with speculation about the dynasty implications.
Rob Gronkowski stepped away from the Patriots last month when he announced retirement from his Hall of Fame career. With both his and Dwayne Allen’s departure, there remained few options at the position prior to Seferian-Jenkins signing.
At face value, this presents an incredible opportunity for Seferian-Jenkins to fill the void left by Gronkowski and enter into the top-12 tight end discussion if he performs.
Seferian-Jenkins entered the NFL coming off a productive college career at Washington. His measurables were impressive, with the balance of an 82nd-percentile speed score and 87th-percentile agility. He was in the 96th percentile for breakout age (18.9) among tight ends and had a 29.5% college dominator percentage.
He was selected with the sixth pick in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It is difficult to view his NFL career as anything but a disappointment. Between 2014 and 2016 with the Buccaneers, he did not start more than nine games in a season because of numerous injuries.
He failed to surpass 40 targets or 21 receptions in a single season, with his most productive campaign in Tampa Bay coming in 2015 when he had merely 338 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
The Buccaneers decided to move on from Seferian-Jenkins following the 2016 season when news broke he had been arrested for his second DUI in four years. Reports later revealed Jenkins had battled alcohol abuse throughout his early career, but that he was in recovery and no longer engaged in problematic use.
Shortly thereafter, he signed with the New York Jets and had the best season of his career. He played in 13 games (two lost to suspension from DUI) and had 74 targets for 357 yards on 50 receptions and three touchdowns (and I could swear there were another two or three touchdowns overturned by bad calls).
He then signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018 and had another abbreviated season (five games) before being placed on Injured Reserve.
A dream fit?
Gronkowski and Allen leaving the Patriots creates a window of opportunity on a team that has historically produced a top tight end. There are some concerns that suggest this may not be the case moving forward though.
Namely, the 2018 season showed a shift in scheme and usage from previous seasons where Gronkowski and the position were featured. Gronkowski had a down season with 47 receptions on 72 targets for 784 yards and three touchdowns. The tight end position as a group commanded only a 14% target share.
This makes sense when taken in the context of the team’s changed personnel usage. New England used two tight end sets only 11% of plays (1-2 on 3% and 2-2 on 8%). This is a massive reduction from 27% and 25% two tight end usage in 2017 and 2016, respectively.
Teams that heavily utilize a pass-catching tight end typically rank among league leaders in two tight end sets, such as the Kansas City Chiefs (34%) and the Philadelphia Eagles (35%). This data, paired with Gronkowski’s low production in 2018, suggests that Bill Belichick began tailoring the offense towards other strengths and reducing tight end usage as receivers.
All this being said, Seferian-Jenkins is entering a system where 76 targets have left during the off-season and he has an opportunity to vie for the starting job. The Patriots are heavily rumored to be targeting a tight end (or two) in this draft class and are stacked with 12 total picks.
Seferian-Jenkins’ athleticism remains intriguing and he showed in 2017 that he can contribute. But between injury, scheme changes, and potential competition from a rookie, there will be an uphill battle for him to find consistent production.
Dynasty Value (by Josh Brickner (@joshbrickner))
— Josh Brickner (@joshbrickner) April 11, 2019
— Josh Brickner (@joshbrickner) April 11, 2019
The GIF featuring WWE superstar The Undertaker emerging back to life from his casket is often overused on dynasty Twitter (guilty) to describe a sudden rise in a player’s value due to an injury, trade, landing spot, etc. Yet, there is not a more apt comparison to describe Jenkins’ price in the last week.
The former Jaguar had no ADP data just two months ago as he went undrafted in all of February’s DLF mock startup drafts. While his new valuation of a future third/fourth-round rookie pick might be disappointing, it’s a massive improvement.
My knee-jerk reaction after hearing of this new deal was to sell-high on my favorite athletic, underachieving tight end. If someone wants to send a second round pick for the UW alum, then, by all means, accept immediately. Unfortunately, this price seems to be the exception as opposed to the rule – making Jenkins a hold and possible buy-low.
Is this a risky strategy? You bet! However, if the Patriots don’t draft one of the big three tight ends (Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson, Irv Smith Jr.), then the ex-Jaguar’s value improves. A mini/training camp quote from a New England coach or Tom Brady raving about Jenkin’s “athleticism” or “red-zone abilities,” the climb continues. A touchdown catch from Brady in a preseason game… Bingo! You have a player whose perceived value will be much higher than his actual value and a tight end needy squad should overpay.
A Different Perspective
There’s another line of thinking to consider. What are you hoping to land with a late third and fourth-round rookie picks? A high-upside player in a great situation who could return high-end production at a discounted price. A tight end full of ability now catching passes from the GOAT after a career full of Blake Bortles and Josh McCown fits that bill.
Chances are if Jenkins is on your current dynasty roster, you either overpaid last summer because a certain analyst’s overzealous predictions (sorry) or bought him for peanuts post-injury to stash. While said injury history is worrisome, I’ll hold onto the big-bodied tight end as a lottery ticket I’ll be looking to cash later in the year.
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