The Odd Couple: Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry

In New England, Coach Bill Belichick is forming a bit of an odd couple by signing the top two tight end free agents, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. If he can make it work, we could see a fantasy gold mine at a scarce position. More than likely, we end up with fool’s gold.

Jonnu Smith –IDP Guys #7 tight end. TE Premium 86 ADP – TE 15

As a prospect and talent, Jonnu Smith is special and quite frankly, a monster. He sat and developed behind Delanie Walker in Tennessee for most of his career, battling injuries simultaneously along the way. Jonnu Smith delivered as a consistent TE 1 through the first five weeks in 2020 once the reigns were taken off. That included an oddly timed week 4 bye due to team COVID issues. He suffered an ankle injury in week 6 but didn’t miss much time. Once he returned his usage and targets were sporadic and he was frustratingly unreliable after a promising start. Jonnu Smith finished the season outside of the top 12 tight ends.

It was announced on Monday that Jonnu Smith would be signed by the New England Patriots and he became the third highest paid tight end in the league. Clearly the evil genius recognized Smith’s potential. The hype tweets commenced.

(Hunter Henry has entered the chat)

Nick Young Meme GIF

Hunter Henry – IDP Guys #6 tight end. TE Premium 72 ADP – TE 11

Rumblings of Hunter Henry to New England began last year, as he was going to be a free agent and seemingly had caught the eye of and received praise from Coach Belichick.

That idea was put to bed once the Jonnu Smith signing was announced on Monday. But Bill said, wait one second…….. THAT’S HUNTER HENRY’S MUSIC!!!!

Ultimate Warrior Sport GIF by WWE

Tuesday brought news that Hunter Henry would ALSO sign with New England for virtually the same contract as Smith.

During his time in San Diego/Los Angeles with the Chargers, Hunter Henry was a perennial breakout candidate. He delivered during his rookie year with 8 TDs. Then he was a perennial disappointment, including missing his third season entirely in 2018 due to injury. Henry has battled nagging injuries his entire career, and continuously finishes as a fringe TE 1 / high end TE 2. I think we’re in store for more of the same in New England.

Fantasy Implications

Every tight end who signs with or is drafted by New England gets inexplicably compared to Rob Gronkowski. Folks, Rob Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends of all time. Matt LaCosse, Devin Asiasi, and Dalton Keane were never going to produce anywhere close to Gronk. Likely, neither will Smith or Henry. Free agency is always a fun, exciting time. Step back and temper expectations. The DeLorean isn’t coming to drop in 2010-2012 glory days stats of New England’s dynamic tight end duo. Tom Brady is no longer the Patriots quarterback. Cam Newton is (for this year at least). We saw how that experiment went last year ????. Yes, another year with Bill in the system should see an improvement, and Cam does like his tight ends. But production is far from guaranteed.

IF we want to play that game, I would assign the Gronk role to Hunter Henry and Aaron Hernandez role to Jonnu Smith. So you’re betting on TDs vs receptions + yardage. We know how volatile TDs are and how useless it is to try and predict them. That means I value Jonnu Smith marginally higher than Hunter Henry. Both have injury issues so health will play a major role in who succeeds in year one, and long term. Both tight ends will probably finish where they always have, as fringe TE 1 / high end TE 2 guys. Obviously if Henry scores double digit touchdowns, which is entirely possible, he will catapult ahead of Smith. If Smith catches 70-80 balls for close to 1,000 yards (think Darren Waller stats – catches + yards, low TDs), he’ll be the clear winner. I’m not going to predict or bet on either.

(Side note: I think these signings help the New England running backs the most)

Final Takeaway

I will not reach to draft nor actively trade for either player. If they fall to me at ADP values, I’d be happy to scoop up either (or both!? – headache city but could be worth it). They should still both be ranked inside the top 12-15 for dynasty purposes. I think we’ll see one guy pull away eventually. My bet would be on Jonnu based on physical traits and skills. But we know Belichick fancies Henry, so he could be force fed the glory targets in the red and end zone. It’s really tough to predict beyond this season especially, due to the uncertainty at quarterback for the Patriots long term. We can analyze previous target shares from an offense almost a decade old, or Cam’s penchant for targeting tight ends. But I don’t believe any of that will actually correlate to correctly guessing Henry or Smith’s fantasy outcomes. Both will be dropping shortly in my rankings to somewhere between the 10-15 range.

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