With week 7 set to kick off tomorrow night, and the first flurry of waiver wire activity in the books, fantasy owners have moved on to the next stage of double-checking their rosters in advance of important midseason clashes, in steps Josh Hill.
Those owners in a bind due to injuries and/or bye weeks or those just interested in a weekly stream at the tight end position, may want to take one last glance at that waiver wire. On it, a short-term deep sleeper may lie, in the form of New Orleans Saints' tight end Josh Hill.
With electric starter Jimmy Graham expected to miss at least this Sunday's game at Detroit, and possibly up to three weeks, Hill figures to see quite a boost to his usual workload. Veteran Benjamin Watson should start and play in most base, in-line packages, though the athletic Hill, standing at 6-5 229, should see his playmaking ability bring him to the field, especially once New Orleans opens things up in what could be a high-scoring affair against the Lions.
A former undrafted free agent out of Idaho State, Hill has recorded 7 receptions for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns through this season's first five games. As a rookie last year, Hill caught 6 passes for 44 yards in limited duty, but showcased flashes of big-play potential, including a memorable downfield grab against the Seahawks in January's divisional playoff loss.Saints TE Josh Hill is an intriguing short-term deep sleeper while Jimmy Graham (shoulder) sits.
Tom Crabtree, who was signed last week in the event that Graham missed time, could be in line for some snaps of his own. However, it is reasonable to think that Hill, who has once again displayed glimpses of his playmaking ability in the Saints' passing game this year, should see a good amount of work for the time that Graham is sidelined, which could be through week 9. When Graham exited the team's week 5 win over Tampa Bay in the second quarter, Hill's playing time increased, and he went on to see a total of 32 snaps. Watson played on 78 of the team's plays, some of those coming in two-tight end sets with Graham earlier in the game.
Erik Lorig, the former Buccaneers fullback who signed a four-year deal with New Orleans in the offseason, could be another short-term alternative for the team at the position. Lorig returned to practice Wednesday, having battled a lower-leg issue that dates back to training camp. Lorig is capable of playing tight end in a pinch, though having missed all of the 2014 preseason and regular season games up to now, may not quite yet be ready to return to the field straight away. The team also values Lorig's ability as a blocker much more than they do as a part-time tight end.
Watson's veteran presence and blocking prowess should solidify him as the team's go-to man in single tight end packages. This does not mean that Hill, who like Graham, can play as an effective weapon out of the slot, getting open over the middle and deeper down the field, will not have opportunities. Even with Graham healthy earlier in the year, Hill has managed to find his way onto the field in all five of the Saints' 2014 games. With the Minnesota Vikings' defense keyed on Graham during week 3, Hill snagged a pair of receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown. Watson had exited that game with an injury, which opened up some playing time for the second-year man, who took advantage of the opportunity.
Hill, who graded out as the Pro Football Focus's number 5 tight end in the preseason after extensive action, will look to do more of the same this weekend, as Graham is highly unlikely to play. Having proven capable of stepping up in Watson's stead, Hill, who is a solid run blocker, and possesses underrated elusiveness after the catch, will surely have a chance to make plays against a tough Lions defense that will look to eliminate any threat of a running attack from New Orleans. As we mentioned in a May piece regarding the Saints' top 10 fantasy weapons, Hill always presented intriguing upside in the event that Graham were to miss time due to injury or his then ongoing franchise tag dilemma.
There may be better alternatives to those in need of a tight end plug-and-play for week 7 and possibly longer, but Josh Hill should definitely garner a short-term sleeper alert, especially in deep leagues. Hill presents the most fantasy upside out of himself, Watson, Crabtree, and possibly Lorig. Drew Brees and company will face a dreaded road game against a very tough and very good Detroit defense, but it will come indoors at Ford Field, and Hill has already proven on multiple occasions that he is more than capable of performing when needed.
With proper athleticism and knowledge of the team's dynamic system, the 24-year-old looks like one to consider for those in need of an option or alternative at the tight end position this weekend. Again, better, safer options may exist, but Josh Hill is definitely a name to keep in mind for this week, if not longer.