I’ve put together a list of possible dynasty tight end additions that will help teams that are building for the 2019 season and beyond. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive nor in order of preference, instead, highlight a mix of players with various price tags and range of outcomes. This is part four of four in this summer series.
Dynasty Tight End Targets
Lou Dorsey, True Sophomore, Illinois
Lou (formerly Louis) Dorsey was one of Illinois’ best players in an otherwise disappointing 2017 season. He entered the summer as a backup and emerged as the top dog. Dorsey was targeted 45 times and hauled in 22 of them for 395 yards and scored three touchdowns. While that catch rate is unimpressive, no player on their roster that was targeted more than three times-per-game managed a catch rate above 50%. The quarterback play was abysmal, but Dorsey still managed to show off his big-play ability. The Illini will benefit from stabilized quarterback play over the next few seasons and a new offensive coordinator. Rod Smith comes from the Rich Rodriguez coaching tree which isn’t always a good thing for tight ends. The good news is he is likely to be more involved this season. In an interview with Illinois Scoops, “My final question was geared towards the coaching change of Garrick McGee and Rod Smith and the contrast of their different types of offense. I asked his feelings on the new wide open, fast-paced spread Rod Smith will implement. Louis Dorsey: “I’m very excited for the new offense. It’s built around the tight end for the most part. You’ll see me getting a lot of action this upcoming season.” While Dorsey is listed as a TE, he is essentially a wide receiver. At 6’6” and 235 pounds, he is a matchup nightmare for most defenders. He has excellent speed for a big man and boasts a 35-inch vertical. I anticipate that Dorsey will see significant improvement this season on his 2017 numbers and can be one of the top dynasty options at his position before heading to the NFL.
— Gordon Voit (@GordonVoit) September 3, 2017
Jake Hescock, Redshirt Sophomore, UCF
From UCF Sports, “This is a big spring for UCF’s tight ends. With Jordan Akins, Jordan Franks and Michael Colubiale (He has since been granted a sixth year) moving on, the Knights’ 2018 depth chart will consist entirely of new faces. One player looking to emerge from the group is Jake Hescock, a 6-foot-7 Massachusetts native who transferred into the program last August following his freshman season at Wisconsin. Now a redshirt sophomore with three remaining years of eligibility, Hescock has been practicing with the first team and looks to earn a starting spot on an offense that will heavily utilize the tight end…During the offseason we didn’t have any film on ourselves, we were all Missouri and watching Albert Okwuegbunam, No. 81, what he did as a freshman. He was a special player. We got a chance to learn from those guys also. They did a good job up there last year so we’re hoping we can continue it.” I’ve never seen a player score more easy touchdowns than the Aqua Man did in 2017. This staff did an incredible job scheming to get him open for easy scores. The hope will be that Hescock will be the next beneficiary with the Missouri staff taking over at UCF. There is a chance that Hescock may have to wait one more season before his breakout, but even so, he could be one of the top tight ends in 2019 and 2020.
Jake Ferguson, Redshirt Freshman, Wisconsin
From 247Sports, “The redshirt freshman was arguably the biggest breakout player during spring practice. There’s a long way to go in his career, but Ferguson looks like a star in the making. At this stage, he certainly compares favorably to some of the better tight ends who have come through Madison in recent memory. “He’s flashed in all the right ways,” tight ends coach Mickey Turner told Badger247. “He’s got really good ball skills. He’s got all the talent.”
The best part? Ferguson is still scratching the surface in a lot of ways. Ferguson has a lot of things you can’t teach, specifically his jump ball ability and knack for hauling in passes against tight coverage. But keep in mind this is a converted linebacker and wide receiver. At Madison Memorial High School, Ferguson didn’t spend a lot of time with his hand in the dirt and is still picking up on all the little nuances that go with the position. “There’s still parts he’s very inconsistent on,” Turner said “He’s gotta get his pads lower. He’s got to keep trusting the technique. If he gets tired or it’s a play he doesn’t know as well, that stuff goes out the window. “As long as he keeps buying into the little details, the rest of it’s going to come.” Ferguson isn’t currently very well known, and there doesn’t appear to be much interest in any Wisconsin tight ends. That is bizarre. Since 2010, here is how the Badgers’ top TE has performed each season: 43-663-5, 30-356-8, 27-355-4, 39-551-3, 29-387-4, 28-313-1, 47-580-2, 46-547-4. Just about any of those years represent a “rosterable” TE. Some of the good years represent a potential Top-10 finish. Kyle Penniston, a junior, represents his biggest threat as the TE1. Fall camp will seemingly be crucial, but Ferguson has the look of a pro-TE and is in a system where he’s almost certain to claim a very high target share.
T.J. Hockenson, Redshirt Sophomore, Iowa
From Black Heart Gold Pants, “During Kirk Ferentz’s tenure, six Iowa tight ends have been drafted into the NFL. At least five others made rosters and practice squads in the professional league. That draftee number just might be eight in the not-so-distant future. Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson both blew up last year, posting incredible seasons in an ultimately successful season for the Hawkeyes. Their stats were impressive (Fant: 30 catches, 494 yards, 11 touchdowns; Hockenson: 24 catches, 320 yards, three touchdowns) but their impact was all over the field. Not to mention, they were durable too. Each played in all 13 of Iowa’s games and they were on the field quite a bit. Hockenson averaged right around 51.5 snaps per game while Fant averaged approximately 38.5. Outside of the lineman, Akrum Wadley, Nick Easley and Nate Stanley, no one was on the field more than them…If there’s something to harp on Hockenson as a receiver, it might be his inconsistency. He had three games with no catches and two with just one. With Fant in the offense with him (remember, Iowa ran double tight end sets a massive amount of the time) this makes sense. Next year will bring more of the same, but without VandeBerg, there might be a few more catches to go around. This depends on how much wide receivers Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith have developed, of course, and Nick Easley returns as well. Iowa, however, got real creative with its formations last season and as I mentioned before, there’s not a whole lot of players who were on the field more than Hockenson. Iowa has one of the most dangerous combinations of tight ends in not only the Big Ten, but the nation. Considering the Hawkeye history of making the most of these players, we just might see even more big plays from each of these guys this season.” Noah Fant is a lock to head to the NFL following the 2018 season, and that will create a terrific opportunity for T.J. Hockenson to be their TE1 in 2019 and 2020. Similar to Wisconsin, Iowa has featured some productive tight ends. Since 2010, their TE1 has put up: 42-460-2, 16-167-3, 45-433-1, 30-299-6, 36-392-3, 35-405-1, 22-314-2, and 30-494-11.
Travis Vokolek, True Sophomore, Rutgers
If you can’t tell I’m growing weary in my previews, I’m relying on beat writers to tell a player’s tale, and I will here, again. From NJ.com, “Rutgers’ No. 1 tight end has been limited for all of spring practice after offseason shoulder surgery. The Scarlet Knights may have discovered their No. 1A as a result. With Jerome Washington sidelined, Travis Vokolek has been one of Rutgers’ spring stars. The sophomore has taken advantage of his increased reps and has the look of a player who may be about to break out. “Travis has had an outstanding go here,” tight ends coach Vince Okruch said. “It’s been a great situation. I’m not happy that Jerome is injured, but the fact Jerome is [out] has given all those reps he would be getting to Travis, which has allowed Travis to develop and progress at a rate that we’re really pleased with. … He’ll be a big part of what we do. “Vokolek has been a go-to target for the quarterbacks this spring, but his blocking presence is what has impressed the staff the most. A defensive back in high school before he hit a growth spurt, Vokolek was a raw tight end prospect when he arrived at Rutgers as a three-star recruit from Kickapoo High in Springfield, Missouri. “He’s an excellent ball catcher, but what he’s improved on is his blocking,” said Okruch, whose relationship with Vokolek’s father, a long-time college coach, was key to Rutgers landing the tight end. “When he came to us, he hadn’t been a tight end. Putting his hand on the ground and doing some of the things that a tight end does, especially blocking-wise, has all been new to him.” Rutgers doesn’t have many dynamic skill players on the roster right now, aside from WR Bo Melton. As a result, I think there is a real opportunity for Vokolek to be CFF relevant in 2019 and 2020. Rutgers’ new offensive coordinator spent the past two seasons coaching Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry for the Los Angeles Chargers, so I’m optimistic that he will find a way to involve an athlete like Vokolek in the receiving game. In 2017, those Charger tight ends were targeted on 21.2 percent of quarterback Philip Rivers’ pass attempts. While Henry tallied 579 yards and four touchdowns on 45 receptions, Gates hauled in 30 catches for 316 yards and three scores. Vokolek is probably rostered in zero (0) leagues right now, so if you have space to claim and hold, I think he could be worth a spot, at least late in the 2018 season, as a potential breakout candidate in 2019.