Dynasty Stash: Tight Ends

Dynasty Stash: Tight Ends

The Dynasty Stash House series is about examining the players that might not be household names, but can help round out the bottom of your roster. This is a less appreciated, but important process for constructing your dynasty team. Other than the top few guys, this list of players is for really deep leagues, but it can also be useful for watch list information. The best-case scenario, when adding lesser known prospects is that they exceed expectations and develop into starters. While that outcome is rarely the case, if any of these players end up becoming relevant enough to use as a spot start or as a trade addition, then you’ve done well. Hitting on bottom roster players can be just as gratifying as hitting on draft picks, especially when you factor in the low cost.

HIGH-END STASH

The players on this list might already be owned, but could still be considered as a stash.

Donald Parham (LAC)

Parham has been trending for a while now and may seem to be a player that shouldn’t be on this list, but he is still a long shot to make it in the NFL. Not to pat myself on the back, but I feel justified to put him here because I wrote about him in my 2019 rookie sleeper article over ten months ago, well before he was the breakout receiver of the XFL. He is 6’8”, 240 pounds and ran a 4.67 forty at his pro day. He dominated at the small school Stetson, with 85 receptions for 1,319 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018. He went undrafted and bounced around a few NFL teams before signing with the XFL’s Dallas Renegades, where he had 24 receptions for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns in a shortened season. He has since signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. The Bolts plan will most likely be to keep Hunter Henry as the “in-line” tight end and use Parham as their “move” tight end. Meaning Henry will mostly line up in a three-point stance on the line of scrimmage with Parham lining up in the slot. Their goals for Parham and whether he will be able to adjust to the NFL are two very different things though.

Kaden Smith (NYG)

Smith is another player that is likely owned in deeper leagues because of his late season surge for the Giants. He was drafted in the sixth-round last year out of Stanford by the San Francisco 49ers. He originally made the 49ers roster, but was released soon after the season started. The Giants wasted no time putting a waiver claim on the seemingly dud tight end. Evan Engram might be the #1 tight end in New York, but he has had a difficult time staying healthy. When Engram got injured again, Smith’s path went from being the fifth tight end on the roster, to eventually becoming the starter where he produced 23 receptions, 170 yards, and 3 touchdowns in the final eight games of the season. Smith is not the flashiest guy, but he’s proved himself to be reliable enough as a blocker and as a pass catcher to be the full-time handcuff to Engram. He has without a doubt earned himself more snaps in 2020.

Dan Arnold (ARZ)

In Kliff Kingsbury’s first year as head coach for the Arizona Cardinals, the team signed Charles Clay and Maxx Williams, but they did not heavily involve the tight end position. As the season went on, they started to use the tight ends more and it was the blocking tight end Williams that proved to be the better signing. After extending Williams mid-season, the Cardinals decided to claim Dan Arnold off waivers after the Saints released him. Arnold, a 6’6, 220 pound, converted wide receiver, was signed by the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He had been a developmental project in their system for his entire career, with his struggles as a blocker limiting his playing time. It turns out that Arnold might be the perfect fit for Kingsbury’s “air raid” offense. In the final three weeks of the season, Kyler Murray connected with his new weapon for 6 receptions on 10 targets, for 102 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The Cards have already decided not to re-sign Clay, so it looks as if they might go into 2020 with Williams and Arnold as their top two tight ends.

Foster Moreau (LVR)

The Raiders had a lost season last year to say the least, but not without a decent number of bright spots. The silver and black shocked the draft experts when they opted to not select pass rusher Josh Allen and instead take Clemson pass rusher Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall pick. That might have been a mistake, but they also drafted running back Josh Jacobs, defensive end Maxx Crosby, cornerback Trayvon Mullen, and former LSU Tiger, blocking tight end Foster Moreau. Gruden and Mayock decided to let starting tight end Jared Cook walk because they believed the former Raven disappointment Darren Waller was primed for stardom, and they were right. What nobody was expecting was how efficient their fourth-round pick, Foster Moreau would be in the passing game. He played in thirteen games and had 21 catches on 25 targets for 174 yards and 5 touchdowns before being placed on IR with a knee injury. Because he hauled in 91.3% of his targets, Moreau graded out as the highest rated rookie tight end by Pro Football Focus. In 2020, the Raiders will have Darren Waller and newly signed Jason Witten in a crowded tight end group, but Moreau is a good stash for a player that should be able to stick around for a long time.

Anthony Firkser (TEN)

Hopefully players on the bottom of this list will be the Anthony Firkser’s of this list next year. Meaning, Firkser fits on this list, but also could’ve made this list last year with his production in 2018. He graduated from Harvard in 2017, where he played as a wide receiver, with a degree in applied mathematics, but he wanted to continue playing football. He was signed as a free agent by the Jets, was cut, picked up by the Chiefs, cut again, and finally picked up by the Titans. Firkser never stopped working on his game and was activated from the practice squad in 2018. In his first season on the active roster, he finished with 19 catches, 225 yards, and 1 touchdown. He followed that up with 14 catches, 204 yards, and 1 touchdown last season, and added 45 yards and 2 touchdowns in the playoffs. The Titans recently cut fan favorite, legendary tight end Delanie Walker. As of now, the starter is Jonnu Smith with Firkser and blocking tight end MyCole Pruitt as the backups.

Drew Sample (CIN)

Sample is the fourth 2019 rookie to make this list, and the highest drafted one. I could have put fellow second year player Kahale Warring (HOU), who missed the entire season on injured reserve, here as well, but I decided to go with Sample instead. Even though Sample was a second-round pick, he was not well received by the Bengals fans. Projected as a late day three pick, Cincinnati surprisingly reached for Sample, a run-blocking tight end who posted only 46 receptions, for 487 yards, and 5 touchdowns in his four-year career at Washington. Last season didn’t seem any better, after he only had 5 catches for 30 yards and no touchdowns and was placed on injured reserve after suffering a high-ankle sprain in week ten. Drew made this list based on opportunity in 2020. He is going into his second year along with the Bengals coaching staff who believed in him enough to select him in the second round. In 2020, Sample will most likely start the season as the number two tight end behind only C.J. Uzomah, after long time Bengal Tyler Eifert signed with the Jaguars. Coach Taylor didn’t run a lot of two tight end sets in 2019, so if Sample’s blocking can earn him the starting job, he may be on the field a lot with a potential explosive offensive unit consisting of quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Joe Mixon, and wide receivers A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross. That’s a coverage nightmare for opposing defenses. He is never going to light up the league with his receiving ability, but he could develop into a nice safety valve option for a young quarterback.

DEEP-END STASH

These players are the real deep stashes. Unless you are in the deepest of leagues, these players are most likely available in your free agency pool.

Tommy Sweeney (BUF)

Sweeney was taken in the seventh round and was the second tight end selected by the Bills in the 2019 draft after Dawson Knox. Seen as more of a blocking tight end, the Boston College graduate proved to have soft hands and a knack for getting open. Sweeney was able to get on the field early in the season with injuries to Knox and Tyler Kroft, but was inconsistent. He was mostly a healthy scratch for the season, but with a playoff seed locked up, Sweeney got game time action in week 17, and showed that he can be productive when given the chance. He finished the game with 5 receptions on 5 targets for 76 yards. Sweeney will still probably have to fight for a roster spot next season, but he does possess the skills necessary to stay in the league.

Tanner Hudson (TBB)

Hudson began his college career as a quarterback and punter at Memphis. He transferred to Southern Arkansas, where he changed his position to wide receiver and then eventually to tight end. In his final two seasons, he had a combined 91 receptions for 1,387 yards. He signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted rookie in 2018 and landed on the practice squad. In 2019, Hudson was a preseason darling, hauling in 19 passes for 245 yards and 3 touchdowns in four preseason games. He played in nine games including one start this past season, but only caught 2 passes for 26 yards. The Bucs have signed Hudson to a one-year exclusive rights deal for 2020.

Isaac Nauta (DET)

Nauta was the top-ranked tight end recruit and the No. 9 overall prospect coming out of high school in 2016. He committed to the University of Georgia, and was considered the best true freshman tight end in the country. He had a solid college career, but wasn’t expected to be a game changer in the NFL. Nauta’s draft profile graded him as a good blocker, with soft hands, but lacking in speed and explosiveness. The Lions drafted tight end phenom, T.J. Hockenson with the eighth overall pick and then double downed with Nauta in the seventh round. He didn’t make the 53-man roster, but was signed to the practice squad. He was brought up in week 12, and only had 2 catches for 13 yards on the season. Nauta is signed through 2020, and will still have to make the team again in the offseason.

THE PRINCETON 3

The 2018 Princeton Tigers had a historic season, going undefeated for the first time since 1964. Under head coach Bob Surace, the 10-0 Tigers boasted the most prolific offense in Ivy League history, outscoring their opponents 470-130. While there are many incredible storylines that led to the culmination of the 2018 Princeton season, the focus for this piece is going to be on their three best offensive players and ironically none of them played tight end.

Jesper Horsted (CHI)

Jesper Horsted arguably, but not really that arguably had the greatest career ever for a Princeton wide receiver. He finished his career with 196 receptions for 2,703 yards and 28 touchdowns. No other Princeton receiver has ever caught 20 career touchdowns. In the final game of the season, to protect their undefeated record, Horsted secured his legendary status by catching three touchdowns and rushing for one. Coming out of high school, he was an exceptional two-sport athlete, with baseball being his other passion. He chose Princeton over other schools because they were willing to let him play both sports. As a freshman, Horsted had an intestinal illness and spent most of the football season on the sideline, but was able to play on the baseball team that ended up winning a thrilling Ivy League Championship series over Yale. 

Horsted was not drafted last year, but was signed by the Chicago Bears and given the chance to try and make the team. They decided to convert the 6’3, 237-pound wide receiver to tight end. While learning a new position, Horsted had 8 catches for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns in only two preseason games. He still did not make the final 53-man roster, but he was signed to the practice squad. After a massive amount of injuries and poor tight end play for the Bears, Horsted was promoted from the practice squad in week 12. In his second game on Thanksgiving Day, he caught an impressive touchdown. He finished the season catching 8 out of 10 passes thrown his way with the 1 touchdown. Horsted is behind Jimmy Graham, Trey Burton, Demetrius Harris, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, and J.P. Holtz for tight ends on the roster. He is still a developmental project, but I believe he has more upside than any of those players. If he doesn’t make the team again in 2020, I wouldn’t be surprised if another team plucks him off the Bear’s practice squad.

John Lovett (KCC)

Like Jesper Horsted, John Lovett had a storied career at Princeton University. Through my journey of researching players for MDF, I have come to learn things about players that otherwise I would have never known anything about. When stumbling across players like Lovett and Horsted it reminds of how great the sport of football is. John Lovett played quarterback for the Princeton Tigers. His athleticism and toughness made him a lethal dual-threat option. The coaching staff at Princeton was very creative with Lovett and there were times that he lined up at fullback, tight end, and wide receiver. He played the entire 2016 season with a shoulder injury, but elected to have offseason surgery which caused him to miss the 2017 season. In 2018, he came back as the unquestioned starter at quarterback and led the Tigers to their first undefeated season since 1964.

In 2015, in 7 games, Lovett rushed 43 times, for 284 yards, and 9 touchdowns. He had 25 catches, for 318 yards, and 1 touchdown. He threw 11 completions, for 94 passing yards, and 3 touchdowns. 

In 2016, in 10 games, he rushed 98 times, for 411 yards, and 20 touchdowns. He had 26 catches for 235 yards, and 1 touchdown. He threw 51 completions, for 582 passing yards, with 10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He earned both First-Team All-America honors and Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, leading the Tigers to the Ivy League Championship. His 31 touchdowns, was more than five Ivy League teams scored all season. He scored seven touchdowns (4 pass, 2 rush, 1 receiving), completing 10-11 passes for 194 yards, in a 56-7 win at Cornell. He had at least 1 rushing touchdown in every game on his way to breaking the single-season Princeton record with 20.

In 2018, in 9 games, he rushed 141 times, for 894 yards, and 13 touchdowns. He threw 146 completions, for 1,833 yards, with 18 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He became Princeton’s first two-time first-team All-American since Keith Elias in 1964 (last unbeaten season). He led the highest-scoring offense in Ivy League history. They ranked #2 nationally in scoring offense, #3 in total offense, and #6 in rushing offense. In Lovett’s career, he led Princeton to a 23-4 record in games he started at quarterback in between 2015-2018. He finished second in rushing touchdowns all-time for the Tigers with 41. The Ivy League is no powerhouse, but Lovett was a special player in college with a good attitude that paid off for him in the end.

It was no surprise when Lovett’s name wasn’t called in the 2019 draft. The Chiefs signed him with the idea of trying to develop him into a fullback/tight end hybrid. He is an unrefined prospect with a chance to learn under the tutelage of the Chief’s great coaching staff and players. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the first preseason game. John Lovett may be a man without a position in the NFL, but he is a football player through and through. Keep an eye out on him because if anyone has a chance to defy the odds, it’s this kid.

Stephen Carlson (CLE)

Opposite from Jesper Horsted was another large man at wide receiver, in 6’4, and 230 pounds, Stephen Carlson. Horsted might have been the #1 guy, but Carlson was no slouch. In 2017, he had 71 catches, for 935 yards, and 11 touchdowns. In 2018, there was a little bit of a dip, but still respectable with 51 catches, for 683 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Carlson’s career ended with him ranked third all-time on the team in touchdown catches (16), eighth in receiving yards (1,632), and tenth in receptions (125). After the draft, Carlson signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent where they, you guessed it, converted him to tight end. Eventually he was signed to the practice squad after not surviving final cuts. Carlson was promoted to the active roster for week 9 last season, and finished the year with 5 catches on 7 targets, for 51 yards, and 1 touchdown. The Browns signed top of the market tight end Austin Hooper and they still have former first round pick David Njoku. Cleveland has a new coaching staff to work with and they have new toys to play with, making Carlson a true deep sleeper. All in all, The Princeton 3, in Jesper Horsted, John Lovett, and Stephen Carlson, all being signed in free agency, and all changing positions to tight end is one of my favorite of the little-known stories of the NFL. These three players are all on my watch list for guys that I would love to see have success in the league.

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