Round one tight end options
For part two of this draft series we’ll focus on possible tight end options for the Jets in the first round. You can find part one of the series, on receivers, here.
Originally I planned to group the tight ends and receivers together, but the receiver class is too deep to not have it’s own article for each round. The tight end position certainly won’t cause the same problems for me as it’s simply not a deep class.
There’s a fairly strong, at least potential-wise, top five with this year’s tight end group, but after that there’s a fairly big drop off. Of the top five tight ends only one of them is guaranteed to go in the first round. I think overall at least two will probably be drafted in the first, but I’m not sure who will be the second as teams are likely to be split in their rankings of not only the second and third tight end but the fourth and fifth as well.
Below you’ll find my top five tight ends followed by a brief explanation for the order, but for the purposes of this article I’m only going to address three of them as possible options for the Jets with the 18th pick.
1) Eric Ebron
2) Jace Amaro
3) Austin Seferian-Jenkins
4) C.J. Fiedorowicz
5) Troy Niklas
Before I started studying the film on this group I had Amaro as my top ranked tight end and it’s not so much that I’ve changed my mind as I still think Amaro was the best tight end in college last year, there’s just too much potential in Ebron to possibly justify taking Amaro over him. Amaro is extremely solid and will be a very good player for whoever drafts him, but he is what he is and has a clear ceiling where as Ebron can be so much more.
Seferian-Jenkins also has a higher ceiling than Amaro in my opinion, but not nearly as much as Ebron and there’s more of a bust/disappointment (I think the term bust is thrown around too loosely these days, anytime a player doesn’t exceed expectations people call them a bust. Many times the player turns out to be fairly solid just not as good as people hoped, that’s not a bust.) factor with Seferian-Jenkins. So, while Seferian-Jenkins has a higher ceiling than Amaro, he also has a lower floor and I ranked Amaro second because he’s the safer pick and I already gambled a bit putting Ebron first.
I ranked Fiedorowicz over Niklas for a few reasons, but I’ll start by saying these are easily the two best blocking tight ends in the draft, hint the Jets need a blocking tight end just as much as a stretch tight end. Niklas, who played OLB at Notre Dame as a freshman, is the better overall and more consistent blocker of the two, but I’ve seen more to like about Fiedorowicz as a receiver on film than I have from Niklas. That’s not Niklas’ fault necessarily, two years ago he was the number two tight end behind Tyler Eifert and last season the poor guy had Tommy Rees as his quarterback.
There’s a lot of flashes of potential with Niklas, but he’s too raw and stiff in his routes for me to get too excited about the glimpses I have seen. But enough about them for now, let’s focus on the top three.
Ebron – As with Watkins and Evans yesterday, I’ll start by crushing your dreams. Ebron will not last to the 18th pick and I doubt the Jets will be trading up high enough to get him. He’s most likely going top 10. Ebron is a physical freak and has all the athletic ability to go along with the physical tools to become a top tight end in the league, but his tape can be maddening to watch. To be fair to him he didn’t exactly have the best quarterback or offense surrounding him last year, he was pretty much North Carolina’s only weapon but I left too many of his games disappointed. Of his games I watched live only two of them (vs. Miami and Duke) included impressive performances, but damn they were impressive. Watch his tape from those games if you want to fall in love with his potential.
What Ebron does well is stretch the field, create separation, find soft spots in the defense, boxes out defenders and is a danger to turn up field and make a big play. He has 4.6 speed with great acceleration and can be a nightmare of a match-up for opposing defenses.
However he is not a smooth route runner, too often breaks off his routes early, is not a good blocker and drops way too many catchable balls. His 11 percent drop rate was the highest of this bunch. As much promise as Ebron has athletically he has a ways to go to be a true top tight end threat. He’s drawn comparisons to Vernon Davis and it’s a fitting comparison, not just because of their freakish size/speed combination but also because as good as Davis can be at times he can be just as maddening and often disappearing. It took Davis awhile to acclimate to the NFL and even now he’s far from consistent.
Amaro – As stated earlier Amaro is the safest of this group in my opinion. At 6′5″ 265 Amaro uses his big frame exceptionally well to create leverage and box out defenders. Smooth route runner, with good initial burst off the line and good quickness coming in-and-out of his breaks. Spent the heavy majority of his snaps lined up as a slot receiver instead of from the tight end position where he has shown he can beat press coverage with his blend of burst and power. Ran a 4.74 but has good straight-line speed for his size and has proven to be a threat down the seam forcing defenders to respect his ability to get vertical. Amaro is very effective after the catch, good elusiveness for his size and runs with an authority that makes it hard for defenders to tackle him.
He has soft hands, but needs to improve on winning jump balls and catching the ball in traffic. Not a good blocker for a tight end, did deliver some devastating blocks on corners while lined up in the slot, but would get thrown around by defensive linemen or linebackers in the NFL. Could certainly improve his blocking, but will never be mistaken for a blocking tight end. He doesn’t have the game-breaking speed and elusiveness of Ebron or the power of Seferian-Jenkins, but he’s a solid and dependable target. Sure he needs to clean up some of his technique with hand placement, but which ever team drafts him will have a happy quarterback waiting for him.
Seferian-Jenkins – There’s a lot to like about Seferian-Jenkins and it starts with his 6′6″ 262 frame, you just wish he’d play to his size and be more power than finesse. When you look at Seferian-Jenkins you expect to see him overpower defenders with power and aggressiveness, but you get more of a technician. In a sense this could be a good thing, if he can build up his strength and get coached up to be more physical and aggressive he’ll already have a lot of the technical aspects down that often elude other top class athletes who never quite make the transition to NFL star.
He’s a solid route runner, though he needs to clean up some of the rough edges. Has excellent hands and long arms he uses to his advantage, does a great job of winning jump balls and has the catching radius you’d expect from someone his size. Has a knack for finding soft spots in coverage and working his way back to the quarterback to find an opening. He won’t take the top off of defenses very often, but will be a dangerous threat in third-down and red zone situations.
He improved greatly as a blocker during last season and certainly has the frame to become a really good blocking tight end in the NFL if he can add some strength and continue refining his technique. When he’s fully engaged he has shown the ability to be the blocker teams want, fully capable of setting the edge against defensive ends and linebackers. His effort has been questioned at times and while I never feel comfortable trying to get inside the head of players I don’t personally know, when you watch his film sometimes you can see why his effort would be questioned by others.
Will the Jets draft one of these three in the first?
I know the majority of the fan base wants the Jets to go receiver and it seems a desire for a tight end in the first is comfortably in second place, but I just don’t see the Jets drafting any of these three in the first round. I’m not even sure the Jets would draft Ebron if he somehow slipped to 18, but they’d certainly give it a lot of consideration. Of course he won’t slip to 18 so that’s moot. While Amaro and Seferian-Jenkins are both good enough to get drafted somewhere in the first round, 18 is too high as there will certainly be higher rated players on the Jets board.
If either Amaro or Seferian-Jenkins were to slip to the second, which is certainly possible in both cases, maybe the Jets would consider trading up a bit and you’d think there would be a good chance they’d draft either of them if they were to somehow still be available for their second round pick. I fully expect the Jets to address tight end in this draft (of course I expected it last year as well), but I think the second or third round is far more likely than the first.