The New England Patriots have lost the Polar bear in pads that is Rob Gronkowski, and the fantasy world is anxious to lock in the next tight end to catch passes from Tom Brady. We’ve been wondering, who could possibly replace Gronk? The answer is no one, but the Patriots need to find a difference maker at the position, and just last week they signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins. While unlikely to change the betting odds of the Patriots winning another Super Bowl, can ASJ be a viable fantasy asset?
Seferian-Jenkins comes in at 6’5”, 262 lbs. per Pro Football Reference, that’s right in between the last two meaningful NE tight ends (Gronkowski, 6’6”, 265 lbs. and Martellus Bennett 6’62, 275 lbs.) With comparable size and speed (4.73-sec. 40-yard dash) to Gronk and Bennett who excelled in NE, he provides another massive target for Brady. His catch radius score ranks in the 91st percentile with the likes of Jimmy Graham, making him a matchup nightmare in the red zone.
This guy has all the athletic ability you could ask for in a tight end, but what can he do on the field? In 2015 he only started three of seven games he played in catching 21 of his 39 targets, somehow managing 338 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 16.4 yards per reception and 11.8 fantasy points per game (top 10 TE in fantasy points per game) that would be 188.8 points on the season, good for a top 10 TE fantasy finish.
Since 2015, when he had Jameis Winston throwing him the rock, he hasn’t been in the best situation for a tight end. In 2016 the Jets claimed him off waivers mid-season and never really got much going. He missed the first two weeks of the following season for violating the NFL Substance Abuse Policy, but with a full offseason under his belt, he caught 50 of 74 targets for 357 yards and 3 touchdowns finishing as a top 20 tight end per FantasyPros.
He then found himself on the Jaguars who, to be concise, had Blake Bortles. Not good. His one year for the Jaguars was a miserable campaign capped off with 11 catches for 90 yards and one score.
Landing in New England might turn things around though. Over the last three years, the Patriots tight end received 19% of the team’s targets and holds the highest pass success rate (57%) of the position groups. They utilize the position with regularity and do so successfully.
We forget Jenkins is only 26 years old. He is a super athletic, young talent and the Patriots have snagged him for virtually nothing. We’ve all seen this story before, Patriots get JAG (just a guy) and spin them into high-level production (see Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Brandon Lloyd).
The #Patriots gave TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins a $50K signing bonus on his one-year deal, source said. Another $40K in bonuses available later. It's a minimum salary benefit contract. He wanted to be a Patriot. Chance to produce and hit market again next year at age 27.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 10, 2019
However, we can’t ignore the NFL Draft; rumors are the Patriots will be targeting a tight end. Some say they will trade up for T.J. Hockenson and others are talking about Jace Sternberger, who will likely be a Day 2 selection. One thing is for sure; the Patriots are drafting a tight end, the only question is when they will do it. Regardless of whom they draft and when they do so, they are unlikely to start immediately or have a huge fantasy impact in year one. For that reason, we need to focus on the veteran talent they brought in this year.
As @MikeGiardi said, Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger is one of a handful of draft prospects visiting the Patriots today. Sternberger (6-4, 251) led all TEs in TD catches (10) in '18, while averaging 17.3 yards per catch. The Patriots are 1 of 9 teams he's scheduled to visit.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) April 8, 2019
The only concerns with Seferian-Jenkins are health-related. He missed nine games in 2015 with a shoulder strain, three from an ankle and hamstring in 2016, and five games due to a core injury in 2018. Maybe Alex Guerrero can whip him into shape? Who knows, but in all seriousness, we know the Patriots can do some creative recycling and turn straw into gold. We’ve also seen guys leave NE faster than they got there, but the Patriots number one tight end had a top 10 fantasy finish from 2012-2017 and Gronk finished at number 11 in 2018. I’m not saying he is Gronk or even Michael Bennett, but his past production makes him an intriguing fantasy value, especially while Tom Terrific is tossing him the ball. Seferian-Jenkins could have just found himself in the perfect situation to revitalize his career and turn him into a fantasy stud.
ASJ could end up a late-round steal in both dynasty and redraft leagues. The probability he becomes an every week fantasy starter is as high as his chances of getting cut before the season starts, but while his value is high, and he is on the Patriots he maintains a ton of upside. That upside can be an opportunity to either hold him for close to nothing or use him as a tradable asset. His return would be in the range of a late second or early third round rookie which could push a trade over the edge for some owners. Either way, with the state of the tight end position in fantasy he is worth a late-round dart throw.
Thank you for reading. If you have any thoughts or would like to discuss, you can find me on Twitter @WillieBeamanDFF