Considering the New York Jets are unlikely to pursue Eric Decker, Golden Tate is arguably the best available option for the team at wide receiver in free agency. You can make the case for Jeremy Maclin but he is unlikely to leave Philadelphia and has injury concerns. You can make a case for Hakeem Nicks, if you think he can regain his 2011 form. Yet, if we are looking at the past season and a general improvement rate over the past couple of seasons, Tate is the top option.
Why are we such big fans of this under 6 foot receiver who is yet to register a 1,000 yard season? Here is an overview of Tate:
Player: Golden Tate, Wide Receiver, Seattle Seahawks
Experience: 4 years (2010, 2nd round pick)
Size/Speed: 5 foot 10, 202 pounds, 4.42 forty yard dash in 2010
- 2010: 11 games. 21 receptions, 38 targets, 227 yards, 10.8 YPC, 0 touchdowns.
- 2011: 16 games. 35 receptions, 58 targets, 382 yards, 10.9 YPC, 3 touchdowns
- 2012: 15 games: 45 receptions, 68 targets, 688 yards, 15.3 YPC, 7 touchdowns
- 2013: 16 games. 64 receptions, 98 targets, 898 yards, 14.0 YPC, 5 touchdowns
*Tate returned 51 punts for 585 yards last season (2nd highest total in the NFL), for a 11.47 yard per return average (2nd in the NFL for all players with 30 or more opportunities)
Strengths: Tate catches just about everything thrown at him. It flies under the radar but he has demonstrated the best hands in the NFL the past few seasons:
After dropping just three passes this season, he’s caught 144 of the 149 catchable balls thrown his way since 2011. His 3.9% Drop Rate in that span is the lowest of any wide receiver in the NFL with 100 targets
Beyond that, Tate is exceptional after the catch. He averages forcing a missed tackle on every 2.8 receptions and forced 21 missed tackles as a wide receiver in 2013. Despite being “short,” Tate actually is more comfortable operating as an outside receiver and consistently makes plays on contested catches when he appears to be covered. He plays much bigger than his height. Tate is built more like a running back than a receiver and runs after the catch like it. Put simply, when targeting Tate you can rely on him to catch the football and make a play after the catch. Despite not being a “burner,” he has produced nine receptions of 35 yards or longer over the past two seasons. He was arguably the league’s top punt returner last season, where his elusiveness in the open field benefits him. Tate is a physical player who brings an attitude (sometimes over the top) on the field. His style of play is somewhat reminiscent of Hines Ward.
Negatives: Tate thrives in creating plays from the short passing game, whether that is breaking off a big run after a screen or slant or selling a short route and breaking deep for a big play. His production in the intermediate passing game is inconsistent. Tate also created many plays in coordination with Russell Wilson’s scrambling. It is fair to wonder if he will struggle away from such a dynamic quarterback. It was a little disconcerting to see Tate be so quiet during Seattle’s Super Bowl run. Without exceptional height or speed, he may struggle to ever be a 1,100-1,300 yard type receiver with consistency. He has 12 touchdowns over the past two seasons and seven have come in the redzone but it remains to be seen if he could be a regularly reliable threat there. His attitude on the field can be over the top sometimes, in terms of taunting and trash talking.
Overall: Tate would be a strong addition to both the Jets offense and special teams as a much needed punt returner. He would immediately step in as a starting receiver, who would likely play predominantly at split end but would have the ability to be bounced around the formation to be a factor in the screen game. His ability to run after the catch is essential in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense and he would be a reliable target for Geno Smith, who would not leave plays on the field because of inconsistent hands. He might be a touch pricey but the Jets have the money and Tate would effectively fill a gaping need, while giving them more flexibility in the NFL Draft.