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Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Jets draft preview: Tight end

By Rich Cimini

This is the third installment in a nine-part series that will analyze the Jets' needs, position by position, in the upcoming draft.

Position: Tight end.

Depth chart: Dustin Keller, Matt Mulligan, Jeff Cumberland.

Not under contract: No one.

Scouting report: Keller is signed through 2012, so the Jets don't have to worry about a starter for at least two more years. Keller has improved every year, especially as a blocker. As a receiver, he has 80-catch potential, and his numbers will grow if the Jets lose one of their veteran receivers in free agency. Without Ben Hartsock, who was cut to save money, they need someone to step up as the No. 2 -- i.e. blocking tight end. Cumberland, basically red-shirted last year as a rookie, needs to improve as a blocker to handle that role. Mulligan is just OK. Unless they're planning to use a backup lineman as the No. 2, not the ideal situation, they have to find another blocker or else the running game will suffer.

The Last Time: Keller was the last tight end drafted by the Jets -- 2008. They traded back into the first round and chose him 30th overall.

Potential targets: The Jets could look to add a tight end in the later rounds. Problem is, it's not a good crop. Sturdy blockers are hard to find because tight end has evolved into a pass-catching position. They're better off trying to re-sign Hartsock at a lower salary, but if they insist on drafting one, the possibilities include Lee Smith (Marshall) and Cameron Graham (Louisville). They both have warts, but we're talking late-round options here. Smith (6-6, 269) was thrown off the Tennessee team for a DUI, but he's a relentless blocker. Graham has durability issues, but he has ability and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty.

Need Factor (on a scale of 1 to 10): 5.

Thursday: Running back.