Early drafters, and especially those in TE-premium leagues, may be wondering if the Bengals will have a sleeper tight end. A year ago C.J. Uzomah showed some early promise, and after he got hurt, Drew Sample had some notable games. But it looks optimistic to think either will be much of a factor.
Uzomah looks like the best bet. Last year he caught 8 passes and a touchdown the first two games of the season, before being lost to injury. Sample, a former second-round pick, stepped in and had a pair of 7-catch games. That's big in PPR leagues, especially those that award a point and a half to the position for each catch.
But Sample didn't actually have a good year, ultimately catching just 40 passes all season. It should be Uzomah, and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan says 50 catches is a realistic target for him. Even that seems modest based on his fast start with Joe Burrow a year ago.
The question, though, is if that very small sample set can be sustained for Uzomah this season. The Bengals, of course, have three very good wideouts after drafting JaMarr Chase. And while some of it may be due to losing Uzomah, they really didn't do much with tight ends a year ago.
Last year Cincinnati as a team completed just 53 passes for 489 yards and 2 TDs to all of its tight ends over the course of 16 games. All three were near the bottom of the league in terms of percentage of the passing game. Only the Giants and Patriots threw fewer touchdowns to tight ends than Cincinnati (and after those teams' moves in free agency, that will probably change this season).
The below table shows tight end production and its percentage of the team passing offense a year ago, sorted by touchdown percentage.
|TEAM TIGHT END PRODUCTION, 2020|
Maybe you can make a case that if the Bengals had had Uzomah all year long, things would have been different. But he's a 28-year-old trying to come back from an Achilles injury, and he caught a total of 5 touchdowns while starting 31 games in the 2018-2019 seasons. I'll be looking elsewhere for TE sleepers.