TE Fantasy Bargain: Hayden Hurst

Each preseason, some potential fantasy assets fall through the cracks among experts and drafters, often because they’re coming off a bad year. Their career lows become the new norms by which people base fantasy projections. Two years ago doesn’t matter. It’s last year or bust.

Of course, we don’t see things that way. Sometimes a bad year suggests more challenges ahead. Other times it’s a buying opportunity. In the case of new Bengals starting TE Hayden Hurst, there are few – if any – more undervalued fantasy tight ends.

Let’s first examine what we know about Cincinnati. Their “big four” consists of Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Along with Samaje Perine and/or Chris Evans, this is a fairly predictable offensive core. Evans could leapfrog Perine as Mixon’s backup with some passing-down appeal, and Higgins could challenge Chase for No. 1 status any given week. But compared to most other teams, it’s a pretty clear pecking order and a high-producing one at that.

Joe Burrow is a big reason why. Last year, he led all QBs in completion percentage and passing yards per attempt en route to 4,729 total yards and 36 total TDs. He can feed two elite/near-elite wideouts and one of the game’s top No. 3 WRs despite having a highly productive backfield. And presumably, he’s only getting better.

The table is set for TE Hayden Hurst in 2022
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (88) catches a pass during organized team activities practice, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Cincinnati Bengals Football Practice June 14 0048

This all matters because Hurst is replacing C.J. Uzomah, who’s coming off a career-high 49-493-5 receiving campaign in 16 games, culminating in a semi-respectable TE19 performance. Uzomah, a former fifth-round draft pick who’s now with the Jets, was a useful deep-league streamer last year. He had “value,” even if it wasn’t consistent or high-end.

So why is Hurst’s ADP significantly worse than Uzomah’s 2021 performance? A former first-round pick, Hurst was the overall TE10 with the Falcons in 2020. Sure, he didn’t line up with fantasy studs like Chase and Higgins. He lined up with (checks notes …) still-prime Julio Jones, uber-prime Calvin Ridley, and the ascending Russell Gage. And for those keeping score, yes, Jones missed seven games that season. But Hurst actually averaged more receptions and yards per game with Jones and Ridley on the field (3.9 receptions for 46 yards) than with Jones sidelined (2.3 receptions for 18 yards).

Hurst’s regression last season has no bearing on his 2022 value. The Falcons drafted Kyle Pitts to be their long-time No. 1 TE. Still, Hurst played remarkably well, leading all 20-plus-targeted TEs with a sterling 84% catch rate. He was 6 for 7 with three TDs inside the red zone (more productive than Uzomah’s 3 for 7 with one score, despite Hurst playing a more limited role).

Hurst is arguably Cincinnati’s best TE since Tyler Eifert circa 2015. He’s a great bet to improve on Uzomah’s 2021 numbers and finish in the top 16 and with the kind of must-start breakout potential that few non-top-20 TEs ever have.

Most of the fantasy universe disagrees. 101 of 103 experts compiled by Fantasy Pros (98%) place him outside the top 18, while 87 (83%) rank him outside the top 24. But talent plus opportunity usually wins. 2021 is in the past. In 2022, the table is set for Hurst. The market is beginning to catch on, improving his TE ADP from 27 to 23 in the first two weeks of July. Buy low before it’s too late.

Hayden Hurst, CIN (TE23 ADP)
Contrarian Prediction: Top-16 TE

Life in Jerry’s World | Ed Werder

ESPN reporter and Hall of Fame McCann Award winner Ed Werder joins Trey Wingo to discuss the Dallas Cowboys, his time at ESPN, covering players such as Brett Favre, and more.

Sunday Hail Mary: Week 1 2022

Each Sunday morning throughout the 2022 regular season, I’ll discuss players with much higher- or lower-than-expected probabilities of success in today’s games.

Living with Passion | Tedy Bruschi

Super Bowl champion Tedy Bruschi joins Trey Wingo and Brett Yarris to talk about his perseverance through multiple strokes, amongst many other life-changing issues.

HOPEFUL: Psyche of Cleveland Browns Fans and Sports in the City of Cleveland

HOPEFUL: The Psyche of Cleveland Browns Fans and Sports in the City of Cleveland is Pro Football Network’s first fan-focused full-length film exploring NFL fandom.

Animal Scouting: Daniel Jeremiah

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah joins Trey Wingo and Brett Yarris to talk about scouting, the process, and everything around it.