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Juwan Johnson

Foot injury clouds availability

With NFL minicamps in full swing, each day brings new and potentially troubling news from the around the league. Somebody's holding out for a new contract, somebody's buried on the depth chart. And somebody, like Saints tight end Juwan Johnson, is going to miss extended time with a foot injury.

According to a report from Adam Schefter, Johnson will undergo foot surgery. "The hope and belief for now is that he'll be ready for the start of the season." If you're drafting now and had Johnson anywhere on your draft board, sounds like time to take him off. Even late in a draft, there are better options than a tight end who will "hopefully" be ready for the start of the season.

The question is if there's a backup tight end in New Orleans we should be interested in. My early lean is no, there isn't.

Next in line is Foster Moreau; he's the guy to consider if you must have a Saints tight end. There's also Taysom Hill, in leagues where he has tight end eligibility (the Saints list him as a quarterback, and many fantasy leagues follow suit; at the moment ESPN leagues are the only ones I know of that list him as a tight end). They've also got veteran Tommy Hudson (he last caught a pass three years ago) and undrafted rookie Dallin Holker. But Moreau is the guy to consider.

But I think we can pretty much remove Moreau from significant consideration, too. Even if Johnson's not available, New Orleans will work in Hill. Apparently Jimmy Graham hasn't officially retired; they could bring him back to catch a couple of touchdowns. And I think I'll need to see the team actually use the position very much before counting on a big role, even if Johnson is healthy.

Last year, the Saints threw to their tight ends (all of them) only sporadically. Only four offenses completed a lower percentage of passes to the position, and only three saw a lower percentage of yards accumulated by those players. New Orleans has a new offensive coordinator, with Klint Kubiak in for Pete Carmichael, but it's the same quarterback and other players at other positions. I'll need to see the team heavily target the position in the offense before taking an interest in whoever their starter is. (Table sorted by percent of team yards by tight ends.)  

TIGHT ENDS PERCENT OF TEAM, 2023
TeamRec%RecYards%YdsTD%TD
Arizona13237%126940%528%
Atlanta11435%138039%741%
Kansas City12630%131531%829%
Minnesota13532%136731%827%
Cleveland10931%109530%938%
NY Jets8724%85829%19%
NY Giants8124%84329%213%
Baltimore8225%104229%1244%
New England8424%87128%956%
Jacksonville13232%115328%523%
Chicago8827%86028%737%
San Francisco6921%106424%618%
Indianapolis7020%88324%633%
Detroit10125%100823%1137%
LA Chargers9022%85422%833%
Houston8122%89922%726%
Buffalo9725%88521%517%
Seattle7420%83321%313%
Tennessee6521%64921%214%
Washington8521%76721%417%
Carolina5917%56120%431%
Green Bay7721%79320%413%
Dallas8319%86420%719%
Cincinnati8821%68618%415%
Philadelphia6818%66917%313%
Pittsburgh6219%53617%215%
LA Rams6217%66816%312%
Las Vegas5416%54816%210%
New Orleans6415%60015%932%
Tampa Bay5515%50513%518%
Denver3912%36211%414%
Miami4110%4149%00%

Note from the table that the Saints did throw 9 touchdowns to tight ends last year. Eleven, actually, if we want to include the 2 TDs caught by Hill (who wasn't playing quarterback when he caught them). So that's where Johnson, or Moreau, or Hill, could potentially come into some value, if Derek Carr is looking for the position around the end zone.

Problem is that four different tight ends caught 1-4 TDs last year, so there won't necessarily be one guy getting those chances. If there is, it could be any one of the holdovers from last year, or someone yet to be added. Maybe things will be different under a new coordinator, but I will pass on a Saints tight end.

--Andy Richardson

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