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The hottest trend of the last three years is to take some fliers at high upside TEs in hopes they pan out and enter the top 10 that year. Quite frankly, it has worked out stunningly, giving you Mark Andrews and Darren Waller in 2019 preceded by George Kittle in 2018.  The last few months the TE who has been getting a load of hype has been Jonnu Smith. An athletic freak who showed flashes last year and now not only has the TE role to himself but also is positioned to be top 3 in the hierarchy of targets. This article isn’t going to rain on his parade, at an ADP of 13.12 he has all the upside and opportunity you could want. However, what happens if someone gets to him before you do?  Ironically enough, Chris Herndon has an ADP of 14.01. I am sure the Ian Thomas truthers will be up in arms, but Chris Herndon is the other sleeper TE you want to target. Ian Thomas, while having the profile and having shown it on the gridiron before, is buried on the Panthers hierarchy of targets. 

    Chris Herndon got drafted round 4.07 to the New York Jets in 2018.  He wasn’t able to participate in the forty-yard dash due to a knee injury but he was able to do the vertical, broad jump, three-cone and 20-yard shuffle. Having to factor in the probability that he wasn’t 100% healthy, his numbers are shockingly good.  So good, in-fact, he was ranked fifth out of the 2018 TE class. While we know being athletic isn’t the ‘flash pass’ to be a top tier tight end, it’s usually the currency they’re taking at the gate.  Herndon’s college profile matches what you’d like to see from a predictive measure of success standpoint. How about his NFL career? As a rookie Herndon saw a significant snap increase (73%) after the week 11 bye. He also sprinkled in four double digit scoring weeks, two of which came after his snap increase. Unfortunately, he lost his 2019 season to a suspension from the offseason and subsequent injury. Just like that, he was gone and forgotten to many fantasy gamers. 

    This year Chris Herndon factors to be top-3 in the hierarchy of targets for the Jets passing game, partially out of necessity due to injuries, two of the Jets new receiving additions (Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims) are both missing time. Herndon, who previously had the worry of being buried on the Jets hierarchy of targets, looks to be positioned comfortably behind Jamison Crowder as the #2 option. While the new receiving additions are going to come back once healthy, they’re going to be battling two important factors; Chemistry with Sam Darnold and familiarity with the playbook, two things Chris Herndon has in spades.

    When I am looking for my ideal late round breakout TE,  I pinpoint a few things. Is this player athletic and capable of yards after the catch? Without much of a NFL production to go off of, one must assume that with his agility and burst he has the potential.  Is this player in the top-3 in the team’s hierarchy of targets?  Herndon is comfortably projected as a top-3 targeted player for the Jets, who stand to pass a lot after the decimation of their secondary.  Does this player fit in the predictive measure of success model? Herndon has the requisite size and speed to fit snuggly into that model. Does the player project for a snap share of 70% or for a 100 target season? Using Herndon’s rookie year snap increase and the expectation of the Jets massive struggles defensively it seems extremely likely that he is in line for both of those. Last but not least, is this player efficient with his targets? We don’t have enough production to gain a true picture on this, so this is a no for now, but those multiple touchdown games his rookie year give hope. 

Personally I like my late round TEs to mark at least three of five factors, opportunity and targets being the two must haves. As you can see, Herndon answers three questions for certain with the possibility for two more as we see more production from him. I give Herndon a ‘Green Light’ as a late round TE with potential to end up as a top-10 TE this season.