Jordan Akins Fantasy Sleeper – The Forgotten Texan

The Houston Texans offense has been dissected heavily by the fantasy community since DeAndre Hopkins was traded away. Debates and discussions are still going on about Will Fuller’s and Brandin Cooks’ competition for the #1 wide receiver role in the offense. Randall Cobb is a popular late-round pick in redraft leagues because Deshaun Watson has never had a true slot receiver and Fuller and Cooks have major injury concerns. David Johnson has split the fantasy community. Some see the Texans force-feeding him volume and allowing him to return value on his current 3rd round draft capital. Others believe he’s washed up and drafting him will automatically eliminate you from championship consideration. Even Duke Johnson has received his yearly hype as the handcuff running back to target mid to late in your draft because he’s one injury away from being a three-down back. Lost in all of the offseason news is that the Texans have a secret weapon at tight end ready to be unleashed in Jordan Akins.

Odds Update: Currently the Houston Texans are +325 to win the AFC South while quarterback Deshaun Watson has an over/under to throw for 4099 passing yards this season. As it seems, the sportsbooks making NFL Betting odds this season don’t think the loss of DeAndre Hopkins will slow him down.

DeAndre Hopkins vacated 150 targets in the Texans offense with his trade to the Arizona Cardinals. Hopkins’ 30.9-percent Target Rate was No. 2 among wide receivers. How does this affect Jordan Akins though? Isn’t he a backup tight end for the Houston Texans? While it’s true that Darren Fells is the starter at tight end, Akins runs more routes than Fells. Akins also had more receptions and receiving yards than Fells last year. In fact, with Hopkins’ departure, Akins is third on the returning Texans offense in 2019 targets behind Will Fuller and Duke Johnson with 55 targets (No. 23 among tight ends). If Fells hadn’t scored 7 touchdowns (No. 3 among tight ends), everyone would have talked about Akins earlier this offseason. Fortunately for Akins, the Texans were No. 3 in the NFL in 12 personnel last season and only Philadelphia Eagles have run more plays out of this formation than the Texans since 2018. Last season the Texans ran 12 personnel 350 times (30-percent of their total plays). This is how Akins finished with 36 receptions (No. 23) and 418 receiving yards (No. 21), despite only playing 62.5-percent of the Texans snaps (No. 31).

Analytics

Jordan Akins was impressive in some key analytical areas last season. His 7 Deep Targets and 235 yards after the catch were both top-13 at the tight end position. Looking further into his yards after the catch, he averaged an impressive 4.3 yards after the catch per target. Excluding outlier tight ends that didn’t play enough to qualify, Akins was seventh among all tight ends in YAC/target. Two of the tight ends ahead of him were top-5 at their position (George Kittle and Darren Waller) and two others are popular late-round tight ends in redraft this season (Noah Fant and Jonnu Smith). Needless to say, Akins is in great company in that stat. Continuing with analytical stats, both his yards per reception and yards per target were top-16 among tight ends. His True Catch Rate, which excludes uncatchable passes, was 85.7-percent (No. 14). Akins is a good receiving tight end and should continue to be used more in the Texans offense as he enters his third NFL season.

Athleticism

One of the surprising facts about Jordan Akins is his advanced age (28 years old), despite him entering his third NFL season. There is a reason for this though. Jordan Akins was drafted in the third round of the 2010 MLB draft and opted to play baseball instead of attending the University of Central Florida. Unfortunately for him, his baseball career would last four seasons in the minors before he retired and attended UCF to play football. Tight end is a position that athleticism can help a player make immediate impacts in the NFL while the player still learns how to play the position. Mike Gesicki of the Miami Dolphins was a multi-sport athlete in high school and Darren Waller of the Oakland Raiders made a seamless transition from wide receiver to tight end in one season, along with dealing with alcoholism. The point being made is that having an athletic background is a notable observation to make with tight ends. Akins was unable to run the 40-Yard Dash during the rookie scouting combine, but his 122.3 Burst Score (75th-percentile) showed on the NFL field with his ability to get open for deep targets as discussed in the Opportunity section.

Conclusion

Currently being ranked behind David Njoku, Vance McDonald, Cameron Brate (a third-string tight end), and Trey Burton, Jordan Akins is free in redraft leagues. Don’t draft him, but monitor him the first 2-3 games of the season. The analytics stand out for Jordan Akins and if he carves out a bigger workload in a post-Hopkins Texans offense he will have high upside TE2 potential with his ability to create after the catch on his deep targets from Deshaun Watson. Don’t worry about Darren Fells; he’s primarily a blocker that is a touchdown or bust option at tight end. The departure of DeAndre Hopkins is as much an opportunity for Akins to become more involved in the offense than it is for Will Fuller or Brandin Cooks to assume the target hog role on the Texans offense.

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