With free agency just around the corner I’ll be highlighting
some of the biggest names available at each skill position. I’ll
match each player with a team that I think would be a best-case
scenario for his fantasy value in 2019. Up first are the tight ends.
Best of the Bunch: Jared Cook topped 100
receiving yards three times for Oakland in 2018.
There aren’t a lot of hot commodities at tight end heading
into 2019, but Jared Cook is probably the most productive of the
options. Cook had some monster games for the Raiders last season
including three games over 100 yards receiving, and he’s
31 years old, turning 32 before the 2019 season begins. He’s
also coming off his best statistical season his career –
his tenth – posting 68 catches for 896 yards and six TDs.
If there’s a team that could make the most out of Cook given
their need for a durable TE without a glaring injury history,
it’s the Patriots. He’s an excellent locker room presence
and the questions about Rob Gronkowski continue, even if he’s
been a “presence” at the Patriots facility in the
Best fit: Patriots
There have been many NFL tight ends who have remained effective
during their 30s, and Cook is a resilient performer, a gifted
athlete and still very hungry to perform at a high level. Gronk
is an injury away from retiring, and Cook has the kind of mentality
that Bill Belichick covets.
Other possibilities: Cowboys, Saints, Lions, Bengals
Last year I had Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ASJ from here on out)
in this same spot. Now, he’s coming off a lost season for the
Jags, as he hit the IR in October after aggravating a core muscle
injury he dealt with the whole year. The Jaguars had signed ASJ
to a 2-year, $10 million contract following his successful comeback
season with the Jets in 2017, but he made no impact for Jacksonville’s
putrid offense during the time he was there. He’s another guy
who could end up on the Pats as a reclamation project, but I’m
thinking another team might take a shot.
Best fit: Raiders
The Raiders will need to fill the spot left by Cook, and there’s
not too many folks who will line up to play for them, but ASJ
could be another high-risk, high-reward TE on a team that needs
talented big-bodied pass catchers. He’s still relatively
young (26) and should have something left in the tank.
Other possibilities: Patriots, Cowboys, Lions, Saints
This year’s FA tight end class looks an awful lot like
last year’s – but Eifert really is a talented pass
catcher whose biggest challenge has been staying on the field.
An updated injury history:
A torn ligament in his elbow that ended his 2014 season after 1 game
A back injury that sidelined him after 8 games in 2016
A nasty back injury that required surgery in late December 2017
A gruesome lower-leg injury that saw him exit Week 4 in 2018 against Atlanta
Eifert was well on his way to decent numbers in 2018, coming
off a 6-74-0 game in Week 3 and racking up 4-38-1 before he got
his ankle snapped in half in Week 4. That brings his career totals
to 142-1716-21 in 43 games played. The Bengals got burned again
last year ion him, so they might be moving on.
Best fit: Cowboys
The Cowboys need a pass catcher with some game-breaking ability
and someone to give Dak
Prescott a reliable red zone target, and Eifert fits the bill.
Whether or not the Cowboys brass wants to take a chance on a guy
with this many IR appearances is beyond me, but Eifert is reportedly
jogging and running and expects to be back where he was before
the injury. An incentive-laden deal from “Jerruh” isn’t out of
Other possibilities: Saints, Lions, Patriots, Bengals
The pickings are already slim, but Uzomah (43-439-3 in 2018)
showed some flashes last season and got plenty of hype about his
size and pass-catching ability. It certainly didn’t help Uzomah’s
free agency standing that he spent the latter half of 2018 catching
balls from Jeff
Driskel, who filled in when Andy Dalton messed up his thumb
and missed the last several weeks of the season. Still, the Bengals
like to reward players and coaches for mediocrity, so its’ entirely
possible he ends up right back in Cincy.
Best fit: Bengals
There are plenty of other landing spots out there, but I think
he stays with the Bengals and takes over primary TE duties in
the absence of Eifert. He could even return alongside Eifert and
serve in a similar capacity, but that’s probably the most
unlikely scenario. The Lions and Jaguars are also desperate for
a TE, and any of the other guys would make sense in those spots
if the price was right.
Other possibilities: Saints, Raiders, Lions, Jaguars
He’s not as valuable as his former teammate Vance McDonald,
but there’s still a lot of upside and a couple of teams
who will be in the mix for such a big target. James got off to
a heck of a start with 198 yards over his first two outings in
2018, but the fourth-year Penn State alum averaged just 16.1 receiving
yards over his final 14 games with McDonald (50-610-4) getting
the bulk of targets. James won’t be signing a huge contract,
but he’ll generate plenty of interest in such a soft market.
Best fit: Saints
The targets for James was nearly cut in half in 2018, and a lot
of that can be explained with the emergence of McDonald and JuJu Smith-Schuster as such a prolific slot weapon. If he heads to
New Orleans, he’ll immediately garner more red zone targets
and doesn’t face competition for TE1 duties, as Ben Watson
(FA), Josh Hill and the butter-handed Dan Arnold handled the position
in 2018 for New Orleans. If the Saints don’t sign Cook,
I think they’ll land James. There’s also something
cool about a guy with a famous outlaw name playing for the Raiders,
so if you’re into narratives, there’s that.
Other possibilities: Cowboys, Lions, Bengals, Raiders