Thursday, April 19, 2012
Jets draft preview: Tight end
By Rich Cimini
This is the fourth part in a nine-part, position-by-position analysis, breaking down needs and draft possibilities.
Position: Tight end
Depth Chart: Dustin Keller, Josh Baker (FB), Jeff Cumberland, Dedrick Epps, Hayden Smith.
Not Under Contract: N/A
Scouting Report: Keller is one of the better receiving tight ends in the league, but there are no certainties beyond him on the depth chart. Blocker Matthew Mulligan signed with the Rams, leaving no true blocking tight end. Cumberland, coming off Achilles-tendon surgery, shows promise as a pass catcher, but rebounding from a major injury won't be easy. The Jets are so desperate they took a flyer on Smith, a former rugby star who hasn't played a down of organized football. Bottom line: The Jets need a physical presence at the position, especially if they want to be a Ground-and-Pound team.
One thing about new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano: He likes to use tight ends in pass protection. Keller would be miscast in that role, so it'll be interesting to see if Sparano adjusts his philosophy. Keller is heading into the final year of his contract and he's believed to be seeking a top-5 TE salary. If the Jets don't want to lock him up with big bucks -- we're not saying that's the case -- they could look to deal Keller during the draft. Because of his talent and contract situation ($3 million in '12), he's their most tradeable player. For instance, they could deal Keller to get into the top 10 without having to give up draft picks. Food for thought.
The Last Time: The Jets haven't drafted a tight end since 2008, when they selected Keller in the first round (30th overall).
Potential Targets: Unless they have something up their sleeve with Keller, there's no point in drafting a tight end -- at least not in the first three rounds. You can simply find your blocking tight end in post-draft free agency. After the top three prospects, there's a considerable drop off in talent, and none of the mid- to late-round options are exceptional blockers. Kevin Koger (Michigan) and Chase Ford (Miami) are late-round possibilities.
Need Rating (scale of 1 to 10): 3.
Next: Offensive line.