- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is the fourth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Jets as they prepare for the draft:
Position: Tight end
Departures: Dustin Keller (Dolphins).
Total salary-cap charge (positional rank): $2.28 million (9th).
Scouting report: The Jets parted ways with their only proven tight end, letting Keller bolt for a one-year, $4.25 million contract. What's left? A lot of questions. The Jets thought enough of Cumberland to sign him for $1.3 million, the amount of his RFA tender, but that doesn't entitle him to a starting job. He can occasionally beat coverage on a deep seam, but he's not a reliable short to intermediate receiver. He played 55 percent of the offensive snaps, a team-high for tight ends, but he finished with only 29 catches. Cumberland's blocking is suspect. Reuland has some value because he can play fullback and H-Back. Smith, the former rugby player, remains a project.
Keller would've been ideal in Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense, but got squeezed by a suddenly frugal front office. Mornhinweg needs a pass-catching tight end for his offense, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the Jets address it as early as the second round. The position has been neglected long enough.
The last time: Believe it or not, the Jets haven't drafted a tight end since 2008, when they traded up to take Keller at the bottom of the first round.
Potential targets: Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame), the best in the class, would be perfect, but it would be a reach to pick him ninth overall. Zach Ertz (Stanford) would be a solid second-round value at 39 overall. Ertz (69 catches, 898 yards, six TDs) played in a West Coast system, which helps. At 6-foot-5, 249 pounds, he has the size to overwhelm safeties. He's not a burner, but he has good separation skills. He's also not a traditional 'Y' tight end; he was flexed out a lot. He had 24 receptions on passes of 15+ yards, but also dropped four, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Overall, his skill set matches the Jets' need. If they wait until the third or fourth round, they could take Gavin Escobar (San Diego State), who grew up near Sanchez in SoCal. Escobar (42, 542 and six) is a lot like Ertz (6-foot-6, 254 pounds), a better receiver than blocker.
Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 9