Is Chargers TE Hunter Henry the rising star in the AFC West?


ESPN’s AFC West writers got together and picked who they think the rising star is in the division. Chargers TE Hunter Henry was a candidate.

With so many young studs in the AFC West, it’s hard to pick which player is going to rise above the rest.

Everybody knows Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, the 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year, is already a star. But who else is on the verge of making their presence known?

Each reporter that covers their respective teams for the AFC West made their picks. Eric D. Williams, the Los Angeles Chargers reporter, picked Chargers tight end Hunter Henry.

Here’s Williams’ analysis:

“Don’t sleep on second-year Chargers tight end Hunter Henry. The Arkansas product finished 2016 with 36 receptions on 53 targets for 478 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, seven of which came inside the red zone. With another offseason of work with quarterback Philip Rivers, Henry should be even more productive in Year 2, shouldering more of the workload offensively.”

Jeff Legland, the Denver Broncos reporter, went with Broncos outside linebacker Shane Ray, Adam Teicher, the Kansas City Chiefs reporter, chose Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones and Paul Gutierrez, the Oakland Raiders reporter, picked Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper (though he did mention that Bosa was the easy choice).

It’s hard to argue against each respective candidate, as they all boast something special. But let’s make the case for Henry.

Rookie tight ends rarely make an impact, but Henry did just that in 2016. Henry caught 36 balls for 478 yards and finished with a team-leading eight touchdowns, which tied for the most by a tight end last season. He also finished just second to Saints WR Michael Thomas for the most receiving touchdowns by a rookie.

A crazy stat? Henry’s eight touchdowns in a single season were the second-most by a rookie tight end in the last 30 years, according to Pro Football Reference. It’s even crazier when you see that Henry played just half the snaps last year, splitting them evenly with future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates.

Quarterback Philip Rivers loves his tight ends, and Henry is a reliable target. Among the team’s receivers/tight ends last season, Rivers’ quarterback rating (147.9) was the highest when targeting Henry, as noted by Pro Football Focus. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder is a smooth route-runner who even made spectacular catches from time to time. What makes him special is his run-blocking ability. He’s the whole package.

Henry is quickly ascending into the No. 1 tight end role. With Gates on his way out, Henry has a chance to do great things.