By Amol Nadkarni
This offseason, the San Diego Chargers let talented but frustrating TE Ladarius Green leave in free agency. For years Green was considered the heir apparent to TE Antonio Gates, but in the end he was just not able to stay healthy and produce. Gates is still the starter in San Diego, but in the 2016 NFL Draft the Chargers decided to select a new heir apparent in TE Hunter Henry. The former Arkansas Razorback was considered by many draft experts the top tight end in the draft and the Chargers agreed, selecting him with the 35th overall pick.
In 2015, Henry won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end, finishing the season with 51 catches for 739 yards and 3 touchdowns. Henry has very good hands and did not struggle at all with drops during his collegiate career. He has a fearless mentality and does not shy away from contact when making contested catches. Henry’s route running is advanced for a rookie, as he is able to work all three levels of the field and is a mismatch for most linebackers due to his underrated athleticism. Furthermore, Henry is an excellent run-blocker and was a big part of Arkansas’s success as a running team last season. This blocking ability basically ensures that there really is no reason for him to be taken off the field, as he has shown that he can contribute to all facets of the offensive game.
Although he is a San Diego legend, Gates has slowly been in decline over the past few seasons. The Chargers will need a new tight end to replace him and Henry looks like the perfect fit. He won’t have the pressure of immediately having to be a starter but he has the potential to become the starter at some point in the season. Monitor his progress as the season goes on and don’t be surprised if as early as Week 4 or 5 he starts to see just as much (if not more of the field) than Gates. Keep an eye on him!