Dynasty League Football


Dynasty Battle: Hunter Henry vs Jonnu Smith

Which of the two newest New England Patriots tight ends should you be targeting?

Hunter Henry

One of my favorite situations in dynasty fantasy football is when there are two similarly valued players on the same team at the same position. Often, each player has his supporters in the dynasty community, and there’s a debate about which player should carry more value. I want to look at a few of these situations, breaking them down from statistical, ADP/trade value, and future situation angles. If you’re interested in my previous entries in this series, I provided the links at the bottom of this article.

Now, I want to break down the Patriots’ new tight end duo: Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. They signed both players in free agency, but it’s not clear who will stand out for fantasy football. Let’s jump into it and try to get to the bottom of that very question!

Statistical Duel

Hunter Henry

Henry was a second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Arkansas. The Chargers had longtime starter Antonio Gates as their tight end, although he was already 36 years old. The Chargers likely saw Henry as the long-term replacement for Gates and a potential situational red-zone weapon early in his career.

In 2016 and 2017, Henry flashed his potential while splitting time with Gates. He scored an impressive eight touchdowns as a rookie, immediately putting him on the dynasty radar. He regressed to only four touchdowns in his second season, but he improved in receptions and receiving yards.

Unfortunately, Henry’s ascent took a detour when he tore his ACL during the 2018 off-season. He missed the entire 2018 season, although he returned to full health by 2019. By 2019, the Chargers had a solid set of receiving weapons with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler. However, Henry formed an excellent duo with Philip Rivers, and he built on his 2017 numbers.

Then in 2020, Henry became a true every-down tight end. He saw a massive increase in snaps, and he set career-highs in targets and receptions. However, rookie quarterback Justin Herbert seemed to lock onto Keenan Allen. Therefore, Henry had fewer yards and receiving touchdowns, even though he had a higher snap count.

The DLF Player Scoring History app helps visually display Henry’s career thus far.

As you can see, Henry has never truly entered the upper echelon of the tight end position. He peaked at TE9 in 2019, but even that isn’t extremely impressive. Low-end TE1s are one of the most replaceable positions in fantasy football from year to year. Hayden Hurst and Dalton Schultz finished as TE1s in 2020, and Jason Witten was a TE1 in 2019. It’s not exactly challenging to have a TE1 season if you play all the games.

Henry has never played an entire 16-game season, though. However, his struggles with health aren’t the whole story behind why he’s yet to have a top-five fantasy finish.

This chart tells Henry’s true story as a fantasy tight end. He has six total games as a top-five weekly tight end in his career, accounting for a measly 10.91% of his career appearances. In over half of his games, he didn’t even finish as a TE1. Therefore, Henry is what he is, which is a somewhat replaceable, low-end TE1, at least in his Chargers’ career.

Jonnu Smith

The Titans drafted Smith in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He found himself in a similar situation to Henry, as the long-term successor to an older incumbent tight end in Delanie Walker. Unfortunately, Smith didn’t flash as much as Henry, at least earlier in his career.

In 2017, Smith barely did anything behind Walker. Then in 2018, Walker suffered an injury and missed most of the season, only playing in one game. Smith saw an increase in snaps, but he barely upgraded his production at all, with only one additional target across the season. He lost playing time to Luke Stocker and Anthony Firkser, who both produced similar receiving numbers to Smith.

Walker returned to the lineup to open 2019, although he once again struggled with injuries. He missed most of the 2019 season, but Smith failed to capitalize on his opportunity. 35 receptions for 439 yards and three touchdowns was an unimpressive stat line, especially since he played 15 of a possible 16 games.

Going into 2020, Walker finally departed the Titans, leaving Smith as the every-down tight end. However, he failed to gain significant additional playing time, although he did manage a large increase in targets. But his efficiency declined, and he didn’t improve much on his 2019 reception and receiving yard totals. The only reason that Smith saw any hype was his eight touchdowns. Outside of touchdowns, Smith’s receiving lines were remarkably similar to Firkser’s, despite having far more targets.

As this graph shows, Firkser and Smith finished with similar receptions in 2018 and 2020, despite Smith’s far superior draft capital. Now, let’s look at Smith’s fantasy finishes thus far in his career.

Smith topped out at TE16 in 2020, although he has increased his fantasy finish every season in his career. However, he has never truly provided consistent fantasy value for dynasty managers at any point in his career. He’s flashed athletic upside from time to time, but it so far has not translated to fantasy production.

Smith’s weekly fantasy point distribution is even worse than Henry’s. He’s finished as a top-five tight end in a miserable three games throughout his career, which surprised me. I thought he had more massive performances, given his touchdown and big-play upside. Even worse, he only broke into the TE1 range in 23.33% of his total games, which is abysmal. He also finished outside the top-36 in 45% of his appearances, so he was essentially worthless almost half the time. I hope these charts help dynasty managers realize that Smith is all potential with no actual fantasy production yet.

ADP Comparison

Chart courtesy of DLF ADP Comparison Tool.

Since January 2020, Henry held a significant ADP lead over Smith for most of that time. Smith closed the gap during the 2020 season, but he lost value throughout the off-season. Then, once both players signed with the Patriots, they’ve held similar value in April and May’s ADP data.

However, over their entire careers, Henry has a far different ADP journey from Smith.

Henry was a top-100 dynasty asset for most of his career, while Smith fell outside the top 200 during the 2019 off-season. Considering that Smith looked like a bust after two seasons, it makes sense that he lost value, although perhaps dynasty managers gave up on Smith too soon.

The Future

Even though Henry had more previous production, the Patriots targeted Smith first in free agency, signing him to a four-year, $50 million contract with $31.25 million guaranteed. Then, on day two of free agency, they signed Henry to a three-year, $37.5 million contract with $25 million in guarantees. Both players received the same average annual value, although Smith had more total guaranteed money. Smith’s contract is truly a three-year deal with an out after 2023, while Henry’s contract is really a two-year agreement.

If either player had signed to the Patriots by themselves, they would be an instant TE1. The Patriots’ offense has few wide receivers, with only Nelson Agholor, N’Keal Harry, Kendrick Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers. I have little to no faith in any of those players, so I believe the tight end position will play a massive role in their offense. While Cam Newton has nothing left as a passer, the Patriots drafted Mac Jones as their long-term starter. Jones should prop up the Patriots’ receivers, especially compared to Newton.

Unfortunately, with both Henry and Smith on the roster, it’s hard to say who will produce for fantasy. The two players will cap each others’ ceilings, making them difficult to predict for the 2021 season. They both fall as high-end TE2s in my redraft rankings.


To summarize, neither Henry nor Smith truly has been a fantasy producer in their careers. But if I had to choose, I’ll lean toward the player I preferred before the Patriots signed them. I agree with Henry’s higher ADP throughout the early part of this off-season, as he had more production. Yes, Smith has more impressive athleticism, and he was the first signing.

Overall, though, I tend to lean on statistical production as the most significant factor when choosing between players, and Henry has a clear edge there. However, the two players are back-to-back in my dynasty rankings, and this battle likely needs to be settled on the field. In this case, I think it will be evident after a few weeks whether one player stands above the other or if they will cannibalize each other long-term.

Previous Entries: Sutton vs. Jeudy, Jones vs. Fournette, Davis vs. Mims

Dynasty Battle: Hunter Henry vs Jonnu Smith
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