With final roster cuts being made in the next week heading into the 2013 NFL regular season, look for teams carrying more tight ends over what is becoming an antiquated position at fullback. Offenses are finding the versatility and flexibility needed in spread formations through the size and athleticism at the Y position. This is nothing new to professional football, but with passing game paramount to success in the NFL coaching staffs are finding the mismatches they crave through tight ends on safeties, linebackers, and even sometimes nickel corners.
You’d perhaps think that the total number of tight ends drafted would have risen over the past decade and yet the number still remains fairly constant. What’s changed is the requirements by which they’re selected. NFL clubs rarely delineate between “blocking” and “receiving” anymore. Today’s modern era tight end has got to be able to high reach a wide 9, separate from man up the seam, and display enough strength, quickness, and agility to create some YAC on his own.
Let there by no mistake, those teams lacking in a talented tight end to compliment their wide receiver corps are not going to be passing as efficiently as the playoff contenders. Jimmy Graham, Owen Daniels, Dennis Pitta, Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez, Jermichael Finley and a handful of others were notable contributors to their club’s passing success.
The Football Educator continues its look at some of the top prospects in college football at the tight end position through Brendan Leister’s preseason evaluations.
The Football Educator
2014 NFL Draft Preseason Scouting Notes: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
by DraftBrowns.com Editor: Brendan Leister
Position: Tight End
Jersey Number: #88
Size: 6’6″, 266 lbs.
Ever since he was a five-star recruit and the number two tight end in the country according to scout.com, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been in the limelight. During his first two seasons at the University of Washington, Seferian-Jenkins did everything he could to live up to his five-star status. As a freshman in 2011, Seferian-Jenkins caught 41 passes and produced 538 yards (13.1 yards per reception) and six touchdowns. During his sophomore season in 2012, Seferian-Jenkins broke two school records for tight ends when he caught 69 passes for 852 yards. Seferian-Jenkins also scored seven touchdowns during his second collegiate season.
The first thing that stands out when watching Austin Seferian-Jenkins is his versatility. Seferian-Jenkins has experience lining up as an in-line tight end, flexed out wide, in the slot, as a fullback, and as an H-back. With NFL teams progressively coveting tight ends that can thrive in multiple roles and create mismatches all over the formation, Seferian-Jenkins’ versatility could prove to be extremely valuable.
As a receiver, Seferian-Jenkins combines incredibly strong hands with tremendous ball skills that allow him to consistently catch any ball within his wide catch radius. You can tell that Seferian-Jenkins has a basketball background (played on the Washington Huskies’ basketball team during his freshman year) by the way that he attacks the football in the air. He regularly boxes out the defender, leaps in the air, and catches the ball at its highest point with ease. Due to his size, ball skills, body control, and leaping ability, Seferian-Jenkins is a matchup nightmare for cornerbacks, linebackers, and safeties.
Although Seferian-Jenkins is not the most vertically explosive tight end, he has more than enough athletic ability to consistently threaten the seam of the defense. As a route runner, Seferian-Jenkins does a good job of pushing vertically and setting up defenders, but I have doubts about his ability to separate at the next level due to a lack of quick-twitch movement skills. With this being said, an inability to separate may not be as big an issue for Seferian-Jenkins as it would be for other tight ends due to his aforementioned ability to leap up over defenders and make contested catches at the highest point. Seferian-Jenkins will fight for yards after the catch, but I doubt that he will ever be a big-time threat in this area due to lacking the lateral agility to make defenders miss and the strength to break tackles with any regularity.
*Note – Austin Seferian-Jenkins enters the 2013 season with a broken pinkie finger & we’ll see how this effects the Huskies offense.