Most Underrated Player: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are always a tough team to analyze during the offseason. Julio is obviously going to be a star year-in and year-out, but other than him, the Falcon's second option is often changing from year to year. Many believe that Calvin Ridley will take over as the number two option for Matt Ryan in his third season, and it's a valid assumption to make. However, I believe that the team's replacement for Austin Hooper, who was their second option last season, Hayden Hurst will take the reins. The Falcons traded a second and a fifth round pick for Hurst, which means that they hold him in high regard, and obviously believe that it's necessary to have a replacement for Hooper, who left in free agency. This article is not to say that Calvin Ridley won't have a productive 2020 season, but more to argue that Hurst is being more undervalued than Ridley is in Fantasy Football at the moment.
Let's talk about Austin Hooper. Hooper was the number 1 tight end in fantasy through the first 10 weeks of the 2019 season. Unfortunately, He would go on to miss 3 games down the stretch, which would put him out of contention for that top spot as a tight end. Hooper would finish the season averaging the third most points per game (14.8) for a tight end, behind Travis Kelce and George Kittle, and even though Hooper only played 13 games, he still scored the 6th most points among tight ends when all was said and done. You may ask, "Why are you telling me this?" I'm only going so far in depth on Austin Hooper, because I believe that it's not his talents that made him the incredibly productive tight end that he was last season, it's Matt Ryan, and the Falcons offense.
Hooper is not going to go to Cleveland and be a borderline top 5 tight end for the Browns. It's just not going to happen. Hooper was immensely successful last season because the Falcons threw the ball on 70% of their offensive plays, which was the most in the league. Matt Ryan threw the ball 684 times in 2019, which is 50 times more than anyone else in the league. Do I expect these numbers to repeat in 2020? No. Do I think that the Falcons will still throw the ball just as often as anyone else? Yes. Hayden Hurst will be successful if the least he does is stay on the field with Matt Ryan.
Hayden Hurst is a far more athletic tight end than Hooper is, and that's evident to anyone who cuts on the tape of the two guys. I don't love using PFF's grading system, but even though Hooper had almost 50 more catches than Hurst last season, and ranked top 10 in basically every category he came in at a 78, which was only 4 points higher than Hurst, who was a backup, and only had 30 receptions in 2019. Hurst was a first round pick only two years ago, and is ready for his time to shine. As of right now, Hayden Hurst is being drafted as the TE11 in ESPN fantasy drafts. With the clear top 5 upside that we have established, spending a 12th round pick on him is a potential league winning move.
Again, you can't go wrong with Calvin Ridley either, but he is being drafted in the fifth round as of right now. Taking Hurst in the 12th round as opposed to Ridley in the 5th is a huge disparity, especially when you consider that Hurst will likely get more targets this year, and that the tight end position is always very thin, so getting that taken care of in the 12th round of your draft is invaluable. I hate redundancy, but sometimes it's necessary to get a point across, if you want a potential league winner at tight end in the 12th round. Look no further than Hayden Hurst. The former first round pick will see a minimum of 120 targets from Matt Ryan in 2020, and should capitalize on those.