Friday, July 5, 2013
Unit by unit: Ranking the tight ends
By Paul Kuharsky
We pick up our series in which ESPN.com’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, ranks the AFC South position-by-position.
Today, we examine tight ends.
Williamson’s AFC South tight end rankings:
1) Colts (Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Justice Cunningham)
2) Titans (Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson)
3) Texans (Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham, Ryan Griffin)
4) Jaguars (Marcedes Lewis, Isaiah Stanback)
I love the Colts' pair of young tight ends as well. I’ve not seen a lot of Walker yet, but if he turns out to be the player the Titans expect, I think Tennessee could be No. 1 here. But as of right now, my order would be the same.
My questions for Williamson based off of his list:
What was your overall thinking on tight ends? The Colts being first indicates you really like Fleener and Allen. Any doubts about them under Pep Hamilton and in their second years?
“Another pretty decent-and young-position group in the division overall, but I think the Colts stand alone. I am smitten with Allen and already believe he is the best tight end in this division and Fleener obviously has a lot of ability in the passing game. It’s way too early to write him off in any way. Zero doubts about Allen, minimal doubts about Fleener.”
Can you rank the team in the order of what you expect in terms of tight end-reliance and usage?
“The Colts have a lot of weapons, but should be predominantly a two-tight end base offense, so they are first and have the best players at the position. Lewis is the clear No. 3 option for Jacksonville and is a pretty quarterback-friendly target, so I will put them second. Like the Colts, Houston runs a ton of multiple tight end sets, but I can see Daniels taking a small step backwards, so they are third. I really like the young collection of tight ends in Tennessee, but they are last for reliance and usage."
How much is the rationale for the Jaguars being fourth their poor depth behind Lewis? How much is it about Lewis?
"The lack of depth at tight end in Jacksonville is glaring and is a huge reason for them being fourth."
Who's the best pass-catching tight end in the division?
“Allen is probably the best pass-catching TE in the division, but it is debatable. There is a strong argument still for Daniels and Fleener's potential in this area is obvious.”
Who's the best blocking tight end in the division?
“Allen is also an excellent blocker, but the Titans have some serious blocking tight ends. Walker is exceptional in this department and can do so from all over the formation (will Tennessee utilize this skill like San Francisco did?) and Stevens is one of the best inline blockers in the game, while Thompson might have more overall upside as a receiver, but especially as a blocker -- as much as anyone in the division.”
As for me…
I fully expect the Jaguars to sort though tight ends who come free around the league to add better depth.
The Titans have the receivers to go three-wide a lot, but I think they will be two-tight plenty with Walker and Stevens on the field together. I’d rank them higher than the Jaguars in reliance on the position because it’s hard to see Jacksonville using much two-tight ends when we don’t know who the second tight end will be yet.
Fleener and Allen will be featured more and have increased production in Pep Hamilton’s offense. The Colts will run more, which means the two will also do more blocking.
I think it’s a bit dangerous to expect a drop-off from Daniels. With DeVier Posey out for at least the first half of the season, the Texans' No. 2 wide receiver is a rookie (DeAndre Hopkins). Daniels and running back Arian Foster will continue to be key pieces of the passing game.