New York Jets Specific NFL Draft Rankings: Tight End

16

We’re still getting snow up here in the Northeast, but the NFL Draft is creeping closer and closer.  Thus, it’s time to tackle some of the better fits for the Jets at another position of need: tight end.

Jeff Cumberland has not warranted even a “show me” deal in New York and I don’t even have to joke about Kellen Winslow’s incident in that Target parking lot because he’s not coming back in green anyway.  Zach Sudfeld has promise, but the position absolutely needs a starter since Sudfeld is anything but that.

Considering the Jets’ offense could take two or even three more years to have a chance at being adequately bolstered, I still believe that 2014 may see a “stop-gap” type of free agent to occupy tight end.  Yet, the tight end talent at the top of the draft is still definitely worth a look, especially considering the Jets may find the best value there at 18.

Much of the discussion here will revolve around the debate between Jace Amaro and Eric Ebron.  There is a large drop-off after the pair and there probably is not an NFL-ready starter in the rest of the class.

Amaro and Ebron will be an interesting debate among Jet fans until May, since they both essentially fit the offense, but still win through different facets of their games.  I can finally comfortably side with one of the two after much deliberation for me and a lot of film.

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech, Junior- 
6’5, 260 lbs

Neither of these two top tight ends, in my mind, are even near elite prospects.  They are very good ones in a class that lacks consistent talent down the board at the position.  However, there is undoubtedly a lot to love about both.

Amaro dominates by consistently getting open and there aren’t many routes or spots on the field that are outside of his range.  His acceleration and pure speed are impressive to start with from a stocky target with a filled out frame.  He wasn’t pressed often at all at Texas Tech due to his power in the slot. However, he proved at times that he could shrug it off with his burst off the line and combination of agility and feet that are both quick and powerful for strides.

It is really difficult to find a tight end prospect who furnishes really fluid route running in his game.  In fact, it’s arguably decreased in value over the years.  With the athleticism of some dominant tight ends, all they need is a mis-match to easily find open gaps in defenses.

Very rarely can a tight end go man to man and beat men with solely his separation ability through pure route running and not just physicality within it.  Amaro possesses a few traits that hint at a gold mine in this area.

The Junior is such an enigma and not in a bad way by any means.  Amaro runs his routes really tall, which restricts the power he can maintain in each cut of his routes.  However, he has this incredible shake and sets up defenders to play his routes poorly by using his agility.

He is basically standing up straight at times at the top of his route, he finds a lot of separation right at the point of his first break.  Thus, Amaro might not find a lot of separation deep since his speed can only do so much, but he’s extremely efficient at finding open gaps and inserting himself in zones for quicker, more dependable routes in the intermediate areas downfield.

Amaro might be told to work on this by NFL teams at the Combine and possibly by the team that drafts him.  However, it allows him to be versatile in his route tree and he can find some success early on in his career before refining his game further.

When it comes to his hands, Amaro is much stronger than Ebron at the catch point, from what I’ve been exposed to.  Amaro doesn’t use his frame as well in regards to attacking the ball, but he does it fine enough to be more successful than Ebron over the middle when catching contested passes.

He can take a hit and with the ball in his hands, he can deliver one too.  When running with the ball, Amaro not only uses his strength but also his agility, and it combines for a menacing duo.

His blocking is, well, what you would expect from a guy who makes his living from catching passes (106 receptions this year, oh by the way).  His effort is commendable and he can deliver acceptable seal blocks on the edge, but Amaro rarely gets to the second level on run plays and he’s typically not successful in eliminating defenders when he gets there.

An important note however, is that his power is at least put to use when in line and not positioned in the slot.  Unlike Ebron, Amaro is typically successful when using his leg power to knock back rushers, whereas Ebron is what I would call a “pusher,” in which he uses power, but so little of it since he’s really only extending his arms and not using his full body.

After reading the run down with the former Red Raider, hopefully it is evident that while Amaro is limited in what he can do, what he can do is of great value, especially for a very open passing game for Geno Smith.

Eric Ebron, North Carolina, Junior
6’4, 245 lbs

I already covered where Ebron doesn’t match Amaro for the most part, but the Tar Heel product has a lot to offer elsewhere.  Ebron is noticeably smaller than Amaro, but still packs a full frame with even more fluidity and athleticism than Jace.  Of course, he is also more raw.

Ebron played both in line and in the slot for the Tar Heels in 2013.  He was depended on to move the chains and win in man to man situations, and he dominated.  The tight end wins with his smooth and quick release off the line, and his pure speed and change of direction ability allow him to run very clean routes.

When compared to Amaro, however, they’re things he can’t do downfield before the ball gets there.  Smarter linebackers and defensive backs will be able to play off-man on Ebron or bracket him off the line, two tactics that will likely throw him off because his physicality in his route running lacks consistency and explosiveness.  Not to mention, some of the ways Amaro fools defenders will never be attainable for Ebron; they’re just world class tricks.

Ebron unfortunately reminds me of a certain tight end we know all too well when it comes to contested catches: Jeff Cumberland.  Ebron can make tactful hands-catches and transition to a runner when not immediately faced with danger, but everything deteriorates as defenders get closer and bigger.  He panics far too often in such situations, and bails on too many core necessities to complete the catch just to ready himself for contact.

Even more concerning, when he locks in an focuses properly on completing the catch despite incoming danger or competing defenders, his struggles remain.  His hands simply aren’t strong enough or synchronized with his arm movements for the ball to make these catches in traffic on a consistent basis.

Sure he may possess the soft hands to make impressive one-handed grabs, but what is it worth when these become significantly weaker when passes are placed in tighter coverage?

Ebron may be the better athlete than Amaro overall (he was electric when used sparingly as a pass rusher in certain situations in 2012!), Amaro has rare tools that can be developed into something really special in the NFL, while Ebron still has to conquer some of the chief concerns on his game.

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Junior, Washington
6’6, 258 lbs

Let me restate something for necessary emphasis: the drop-off after the initial pair of tight ends is completely drastic.  Sefarian-Jenkins might be smart value in the third round factoring in his off-the-field issues, making it a two round gap differential.  Even after a maddeningly disappointing 2013 for the Husky, the Junior still has a unique skillset to offer.

ASJ is a large target with a completely built frame.  In fact, he is so jacked that one could argue he looks and plays a bit top-heavy, which does not bode well for him.  His strength lets him block quite efficiently all around, but he could give a better effort and use his legs more to get a better push when in line.  Yet, his pure power allows him to reach defenders with substantial blocks when he’s only using an arm or half strength when trailing.

As a receiver, Sefarian-Jenkins had a 2013 that really generalized what he can do.  At times, his pure speed hinders him and he struggles to get any credible separation.  His hands are very strong and adequate, so even in tight coverage he can catch passes with ease.  Unfortunately, his natural hands suffer a bit from lazy and simply inconsistent catching discipline.

For example, he rarely treads back to the ball on routes when he faces the quarterback.  Because of his lacking speed and slower foot speed, this hurts him more than it would others.  He isn’t able to get to the ball as fast as he can, so it takes even longer to get to the catch point to complete the reception.

Upon mentioning ASJ’s slow feet, one might imagine it would make him a poor route runner as well.  While he tends to round off a lot of his routes, Sefarian-Jenkins actually gets the job done for the most part.  He’s especially dangerous in the red zone because of his size, but also because his physicality and massive frame boxes out defenders through seams.

Thus, routes that require only one cut can be executed nicely by the big target because of his power, and then it’s simply difficult to contest the pass with any sort of separation he has because of his physicality.  The Jets got the most they could out of Jeff Cumberland by using his power through the middle on routes just like these to take the top off defenses, so ASJ could have a role.

Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State, Senior
6’6, 255 lbs

Gillmore is widely regarded as a Day 3 pick as of right now, but I think the online scouting community will pick up on his skills more as the Combine creeps closer.  I am a big fan of his.  There is always the competition level issue with small-schoolers, but Gillmore proved he could hang with the big names in Mobile for the Senior Bowl this year.  He performed really well.  Let’s take a look into his skillset and how it benefits a team like the Jets.

The Senior is extremely cut for his frame.  Though he stands 6’6, he is much leaner than a guy like Sefarian-Jenkins, without losing significant or any functional strength overall.  As a result he can run extremely well and gets off the line instantly.  He is not a burner, but athleticism is tied to speed and agility a bit too much these days.  If you have a solid athlete like Gillmore who can explode into full speed early, maintain fluidity throughout the play and show nice leaping ability, you’re set.

What’s special about Gillmore will offer teams a lot of value in the mid rounds, and that’s his smarts.  He’s somewhat similar to Sefarian-Jenkins in the fact that he’s typically a vertical route runner, and that’s how he wins leverage, but his attentiveness allows much more.

A mobile quarterback like Geno Smith will love Gillmore’s ability to lose defenders after a route has been attempted, or he has been knocked off his original route.  Gillmore’s intelligence helps him roll with the flow of the play and find open gaps in defenses’ zones, thus allowing for quarterbacks to find him on extended plays.

Even in his normal, everyday routes, Gillmore’s knowledge of the defense and coverages helps him round routes off or extend them to make it more dynamic and find more separation.

Other pluses in Gillmore’s game consist of his solid body control at the point of the catch and versatility.  To start, his hands aren’t world class, but he puts himself in awesome position to come down with poorly thrown balls or passes his catch radius simply isn’t good enough to catch normally.

Additionally, his versatility helps particularly in his blocking.  At Colorado State, he saw time in line, in the slot, or as an H-back.  All he needs to block are his fluidity and respectable strength, and he can do enough to get the job done on any sort of run when he’s in line or in the backfield.  His smarts and effort are on point, and it’s really that simple for a tight end to be a good enough blocker if those first two skills are in place.

Gillmore would provide a lot of things that would suit the Jets’ offense.  For Geno Smith, he can immediately contribute with his abilities that help him catch inaccurate passes and the smarts that always have him open when coverage slacks in focus.

Additionally, his versatility, especially as a blocker on run plays, would equal a lesser necessity for the Jets to give snaps to an actual fullback, which limits their spread offense significantly.  I think he’ll exceed expectations at the Combine, and I actually wouldn’t mind him with the Jets’ second third rounder at the rate he’s climbing at.

Troy Niklas, Notre Dame, Junior
6’6.5, 270

I’m flat-out not a fan of Niklas, who rose in popularity after declaring but has died down considerably since.  In my opinion, I see him as a highly overrated receiver and very ordinary in all other phases of his game.

In fact, I watched about 12-15 tight ends to rank, and I tried to find one that would be suited well enough for the Jets for me to rank higher, but I couldn’t since it’s a really diluted class after the top guys.  It’s not that Niklas is a bad player, I just don’t understand any of the high praise he gets when compared to Amaro and Ebron when they offer outstanding potential in special areas, whereas Niklas is painfully ordinary.

I really don’t see him as a starting tight end in the NFL, even.  Yet, a really bad class after the early depth might have him still on the Jets’ radar if he were to drop.

Niklas has receiving potential, he just doesn’t really know how to use it.  His catch radius could be pretty solid, but he senses defenders around him and that results in a lot of tentative attempts at his targets.  He drops quite a few balls based on weak hands when hit by defenders, and even in short to intermediate distance.  He’s simply not dynamic at the catch like his rumored athleticism suggests, and his discipline is not good in that same regard.

If Niklas is there for the Jets after the third, they could absolutely take him and have some solid value.  Yet I really only see him as a second tight end target.  Since he is weak as a blocker for his size and not as versatile as guys like Gillmore or Richard Rogers, I don’t see an ideal fit.  His potential as a receiving will be valuable enough, but hopes will need to be high that he can be coached up.

 

 

16 thoughts on “New York Jets Specific NFL Draft Rankings: Tight End

  1. I’ve watched the tape on Amaro, Ebron and ASJ and your scouting report is very similar to mine.

    Let me ask you this: how many good plays did you find for Amaro or Ebron where they lined up as a TE? They are almost always in the slot! Its hard to even call them tight ends. They are receivers who create mismatches.

    For Amaro I agreed with everything, from his route running, ability to catch in traffic and poor blocking. Its also worth mentioning that he played in the ‘air-raid’ which severely inflates stats (see Tim Couch). Although that could be good considering Geno came from the same type of system.

    Ebron was a major disappointment to watch. He has to be one of the most overrated players in the draft for me. He dropped passes almost every game, ran bad routes and was not a good blocker. His highlight videos are probably amazing because he does make great one handed catches and he has top end speed, but that only led to 3 touchdowns last season! (Against the ACC)! For a TE that is more of a receiver, he did not produce.

    As for ASJ, he is on the top of my list with Amaro. How many times did his running back get the corner with him sealing the edge? The guy is a redzone mismatch and without the sacrifice of a dominant blocking TE. I would take him in the second. I have also read his weight is closer to 280 which is scary.

    I just hope our fans don’t overrate this drafts tight end class because it is a big need for us.

  2. @ Drew-

    Man, it’s crazy how much time some of these guys spend in the slot. I find it interesting you prefer ASJ over Ebron. I don’t necessarily disagree because I wasn’t a big fan of Ebron’s season, but I definitely think the better player in the future will be Ebron based off the tools there to coach up.

  3. You really need to include the games you watched or what you are basing these assessments on. Videos, photos, or examples illustrating your points would be even better.

    I will start with your most head-scratching analysis. Troy Niklas is an outstanding blocker, probably the best on this list, and, at worst, a competent receiver. This is really the first time I have ever seen him refered to as “ordinary” or a “weak” blocker. The only time I have seen him struggle blocking this year was when he went one-on-one against Trent Murphy. Let me repeat: the only time I have seen Niklas struggle blocking this year was when he was matched up against one of the best pass-rushers in the draft. And that was with pass-blocking, on an island with Murphy. Niklas still managed to seal Murphy on running plays and was back to his dominating ways on almost every snap he took lined up at the traditional position on the right side of the line. He is sometimes hot/cold at recognizing his blocking assignments, most times executing perfectly but sometimes not adjusting to the extra man (this is best seen on screens and on blitzes). I have not seen his issues with catching passes to the extent you describe. Niklas does not reel in every pass he could, as he sometimes lacks the focus to adjust to the pass, but he has very strong, soft hands and he reels in difficult passes much more than he drops them. His catch radius is very large, but it is inconsistent as he, again, struggles at times adjusting to the ball. I have rarely seen him drop an easy pass, even with defenders all around him. If a defender reaches in during a catch, he can knock the ball out of Niklas’s hands (this goes back to Niklas not always having concentration), but it is very difficult for players to tear the ball out of Niklas’s hands once he has it secured. He also is very good at using his strength to prevent defenders from jamming him at the line of scrimmage.

    The only drop-off I see between Amaro/Ebron and ASJ is positional. The first two are receivers playing tight end and the latter is one. First, Austin Seferian-Jenkins weighs somewhere between 268 and 276 lbs. and is a colossus. While he is huge and strong, he does not play as physical as he could. He should be stronger and a better blocker than Niklas, but Niklas always fights to maintain his blocks, while ASJ does not have the same attitude. ASJ is not very fiery, and that really defines his struggles this past year. He is a good route-runner and a good pass-catcher that was passed over in Washington’s offense because Bishop Sankey took up most of the short yardage and even many intermediate yardage situations that ASJ produced in. He does not struggle with technique in catching the football, as much as he simply does not always fight for the ball. I also do not know why you think he is slow-footed; he is very nimble for a man his size and not far from even Ebron in this department. Slow-footed receivers naturally round routes (as every extra step for them is a burden) but as you yourself mentioned, ASJ does so barely. He is one of the best tight ends in college football two years in a row, and discipline and humility are evident in his every motion on the field. His “off-the-field issues” is one DUI last year (no priors), for which he has degraded himself publicly in court and let the scouts and the media sink their hooks into him for the rest of the year.

    I mostly agree about Ebron, except for his route-running, which gets criticized all the time. Ebron is a guy that has always gotten by on his natural athleticism and that is always dangerous when transitioning to the pros. But there are all sorts of red flags about Amaro. They have to start with him being labeled a “tight end.” Amaro lined up so rarely in-line that the only reason he is being called a tight end is because he is too big to be an effective receiver in the NFL. His use as a slot receiver in college seems to be mostly driven by his inconsistency as any type of blocker. He has the strength, but he is a very hot/cold blocker who regularly whiffs on his blocking assignments at every position he lines up in. He should have the strength to get off press coverage and yet that has been his Achilles heel, and he reportedly was not used in-line as much as he could have for fear of him getting jammed by linebackers. Besides being a one-year wonder, Amaro struggles with physicality, which is all he is going to face in the pros. In college, he got matched up with DBs, nickel and dime DBs at that. He will not escape linebackers of equal bulk with him and strong safeties that find their meaning in life by laying out people.

    In general, I agree that there are no flawless prospects in the draft. But I think you are overrating Amaro and underrating ASJ and Niklas (with an analysis that contradicts everything I have seen of them or read about them). Depending on their Combine performances, Ebron, Amaro, ASJ, and Niklas will be taken high, with all four of them likely gone by the Jets second-round pick.

  4. @ Cash-

    Amaro- SMU, TCU, Stephen Austin, WVU, ISU, OKST, Kansas.

    Ebron- GTU, VT, Duke, Cinnci, Pitt

    ASJ- BYU, both Cal games, LSU, USC

    Gillmore- Senior Bowl, San Jose State, New Mexico

    Niklas- Temple, USC, Rutgers, Michigan

    Good enough?

    I would have liked to include screenshots like I almost always do, but I want to keep this a readable length. And I’m glad you have your inside sources that already know before the Combine that Niklas, ASJ, Amaro, and Ebron will all go in rounds 1-2. Nice info.

    You claim you disagree with almost all of my analysis, but I don’t understand the frustration because I disagree with nearly all of yours. Amaro does not struggle with physicality at all from what I’ve seen. I also don’t box-score scout, so Amaro being a “one year wonder” (he wasn’t) and ASJ being dominant statistics-wise mean nothing to me.

    And calling Trent Murphy one of the draft’s best pass rushers is laughable to start with. He’s not very good at all, imo, and yes, Niklas struggled with him. I also disagree with nearly everything you said about Niklas. In fact, nearly everybody I’ve interacted with on Twitter agrees with me that he’s “ordinary,” so I guess we talk to different people (not that it matters even one bit).

  5. Pingback: Today’s Jets Twit Directory Links February 12, 2014 | New York Jets Online Directory

  6. ASJ is a surer propsect than Amaro or Ebron, IMO.

    I downgraded Amaro after watching every game available on all the TE’s you listed excpect for Niklas just watched a couple of his games.

    Amaro was a big body catcher. Nice player think he is a 2nd round guy.

    Ebron was very inconsistent but flashed huge talent both catching and blocking.

    ASJ was the best all-around TE. Reminded me of Heath Miller/Jason Witten a lot. Poor man’s Gronk.

    Gilmore would be a good prospect with our 4th round pick. No glaring weaknesses in his game. Looked like a Pro-Ready # 2 TE from day one (Could develop into a #1)

    Niklas solid in all areas. Did not wow me in the games I watched. I agree a 3rd or 4th round guy.

    I agree with overall, however I think you are missing the the boat on ASJ if you think there is a two round difference between he and the other two TE’s.

    If he comes to the combine in the low 260′s and runs 4.75 or better he will go in the top 32 picks.

    I like him in a trade scenario at 28 for us if we trade back with Carolina. I think they may be very eager to grab a WR if one falls to 18.

  7. @Michael

    Gratz on reading Kash’s babble. I just get a headache with his nonsensicle rants and quit before the illogical ramblings cause a blood clot.
    Thanks for the write up. I appreciate the in-depth content on this site thuroughly.

  8. Just a great write up , thank you. I think this article and subsequent posts articulate is that there is considerable risk drafting one of the big three at 18. There is a bust factor on all three. Let me also say that the WR position may not have a great value at 18. Therefore it is important for the Jets to address the immediate needs at WR’ & TE through free agency. This is a team desperate for playmakers, but they won’t be there at 18. Idzik is a value guy and I see him going for Pryor of Louisville at Safety or Martin of ND at OG. Again it is imperative that Idzik signs a couple of “hold the fort guys” at TE. I think Cumberland is in play, the other Graham from Texas and Brandon Myers from the Giants. Look at this years TE draftees as all developmental projects, therefore , I see great values in the following:
    Second Round : The big three, Ebron, Amaro & ASJ are steals in the second round, understand very low probability.
    Third round: Niklas is a developmental pick that I like because he has the potential to be a three down TE. I like his inline blocking, he should have stayed in school,, you will not a signicant contribution until the second or third year..
    Fourth round : C.J. Fiedorowiics great value, could jump up two rounds if he runs well at the combine.
    Fifth Round : The Jets may have comp. Picks in the 5,6 & 7th rounds, the probability increases. cricket Gilmore made some money at the Senior Bowl, Crockett and Marcell Jensen out of San Jose are great 5th round picks.
    6. Jordan Najvar looks like a player, and a three down TE.
    7. Richard Rodger & Joe Don Duncan.

    really a lack of seam busters in this group, with more of an emphasis on being on the field for three downs and making contributions to the run game.

  9. Niklas’ stock is based purely on his potential, because he only really has the 1yr of ‘tape’ to go on. If he performs well, at the combine, it’s not hard to see his stock rising. Simply put, there aren’t many guys 6’7″ tall and 270+lbs, with his type of athleticism.

  10. OMG, I read the 1st sentence of a poster disagreeing with the Niklas assessment yet he was repeating exactly what Joe wrote – that he was an average receiver and good blocker! And then I scrolled down and wouldn’t you know it…my favorite poster.

    Joe, thanks a lot for all the insight. We’ll see how this all shakes out. I agree with you on Gilmore. I think he’ll rise on draft boards and could be an alternative to a first day selection at TE as he’ll move into the 2nd day in all likelihood.
    And Amaro may be a solid pick for us in the 1st should the Jets make decide to go TE there.
    We’ll disagree on Ebron as I think he’ll be a weapon in the NFL. He didn’t surpass Vernon Davis’ ACC TE yardage record by not getting open and dropping passes everywhere.

  11. Pingback: Ranking Offseason Priorities for the New York Jets

  12. Pingback: 2014 NFL Combine - Five Thoughts - Turn On The Jets

  13. Pingback: A Sad Jets Fan's Realistic Dream 7 Round Mock Draft - Turn On The Jets

Leave a Reply