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Player Faceoff: Hunter Henry, LA Chargers

Two staffers go head-to-head and discuss Hunter Henry

The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.

High Side: Ari Ingel

There is a big gate(s) in Henry’s way to being a reliable weekly TE1, but Henry is a very talented tight end and did something most first and second year tight ends don’t do, make an impact. Henry saw the 4th most red-zone targets of all tight ends last season, with 16, just two behind his buddy Antonio Gates who had 18. Although Henry caught two more of those (10) targets and tied with most catches in the red-zone for all tight ends. He averaged a solid 67.9% catch rate and just over 13 yards per reception, while scoring 8 touchdowns as a rookie. Once again, as a rookie! In fact, Philip Rivers passer rating was an impressive 147.9 when targeting Henry, far surpassing all the other Chargers pass catchers last season.

Gates turns THIRTY-SEVEN this year, and has had his share of injuries, so it is quite possible Henry takes over lead duties this year, and I would expect the target share to at worst shift into Henry's favor as they use Gates as more of a red zone threat. In fact, Chargers coaches and Gates himself have mentioned that Gates isn’t going to play his full complement of snaps this year. Unfortunately with Keenan Allen back from injury there is more competition for targets in this offense, but the injury to rookie first rounder, Mike Williams, does help. While I think Henry is a slight reach at his current ADP in the 7th round, and as the 8th tight end off the board, I would love to have him on my team and he would be a high end TE1 if/when Gates gets injured. Fantasy is about playing to win!

Low Side: Devin Knotts

There is a lot to like about Hunter Henry as a long-term prospect as he has the size and speed combination that can make tight ends so difficult to defend against. However, Henry is being drafted as the 9th tight end ahead of players such as Kyle Rudolph, Zach Ertz, and Jack Doyle which is simply too high. Kyle Rudolph is a tight end who saw 132 targets last season, Zach Ertz saw 106 targets last season, even Jack Doyle saw 75 targets last season while Hunter Henry only saw 54 targets so his draft stock is predicated on seeing a significant increase in role for this season that is unlikely to come.

Henry has a lot of talent, but he still has to deal with being on the roster with Antonio Gates. Anyone who is writing off Gates heading into this season is crazy, this is a tight end who had 92 targets compared to Henry’s 54, and based on where Henry is drafted you would think that he is the one that has the potential to get 92 targets this season. Those roles are not flipping this upcoming season, at best you will see a 50/50 split and in that case they would just bring Gates in for touchdown opportunities.

Outside of Gates, the biggest problem for Henry is the amount of weapons that the Chargers currently have on their roster. With the emergence of Melvin Gordon in 2016, the Chargers went from the second most pass attempts in 2015, to the 15th most pass attempts in 2016. Gordon could see upwards of 300 carries this season which is another 50 plays that would not be pass attempts. At the wide receiver position, the Chargers are absolutely loaded with talent with Keenan Allen who was injured last season, so if he were to stay healthy that is additional targets not going to the tight end position. Tyrell Williams is another wide receiver who emerged last season as a breakout player and should continue to see a role in the offense. The Chargers had the surprise of the draft in the first round taking Mike Williams a very talented wide receiver out of Clemson and he should eat into some targets this season, and the Chargers still have highly paid Travis Benjamin who has looked great in camp so far this season. At the end of the day, there is only one ball to go around in Los Angeles, and Henry is being drafted on ability rather than his role with the team as his role will be confined to what we saw last season.