Are we embarking on a ‘golden age’ of NFL quarterbacks? With guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady passing the torch to a whole slew of promising young quarterbacks, it’s becoming clear that the already pass-happy NFL will become much more of the same well into the future.
With the increasingly up-tempo, spread out offenses comes the onset of a ‘golden age’ of the tight end position. Five tight ends led their respective teams in receptions in 2013. It’s becoming a race to find new ways to incorporate the position into the game to create mismatches with the defenses. Tight ends have been flexed out, played inline, and consumed the traditional fullback role for the offensive innovators in today’s game.Want some proof of the importance of having not only good but more than one good tight end?
Look no further than the 2013 NFL Draft. We saw fifteen tight ends taken in the draft. 108 tight ends manned the NFL’s 53 man rosters in 2012 or almost double that of twenty years prior. The position consumed over twice as many total receptions and doubled the amount of touchdown receptions than that of twenty years ago.
The point is driven home, now it’s time to find the next in line to join in the fun.
The 2014 NFL Draft tight end class figures to be headlined by two underclassmen, at this point. Oregon’s Colt Lyerla and Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Today we look at Seferian-Jenkins to see how he projects to the next level.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins will most likely own every tight end receiving record in the University of Washington record books. Already the owner of the career receptions, career yardage, career touchdowns, single-season receptions, and single-season yardage by a tight end records, Jenkins figures to add to the record books during his junior season.
One problem…Jenkins is currently suspended following his March 9th DUI arrest in which he crashed his car at over double the legal blood-alcohol level. Jenkins will play this season for UW and is likely to return from his ‘indefinite’ team suspension at any moment.
That hiccup (teams have overlooked worse) aside we explore the enormous game of one of the most exciting tight end prospects in the college game.
Any scouting evaluation of Seferian-Jenkins is going to begin with his shear size. At all of 6-foot-6 and 266 pounds, Jenkins has an enormous frame with long limbs. His catching radius is off the charts as he extends to make catches in traffic and spectacular one-handed grabs. Jenkins doesn’t appear to be an overly powerful man for his size and at times gets bullied by stronger defenders. That said, he isn’t a complete liability as a blocker and teams will overlook some technique/leverage issues for his ability create nightmare matchups all over the field.
As an athlete it’s rare to find guys this size with movement skills that Jenkins possesses. Jenkins, a UW basketball player, shows off his basketball background on the field. His ability to high point the football, his body control along the sidelines, and his ability to shield defenders with his body appear to be second nature for the forward. It’s nitpicking for an athlete of this caliber but he gets too much credit for speed and explosion that I just don’t see on tape. He’s a fluid mover with some burst but he’s far from a Jimmy Graham-type. Jenkins is going to win with his size and ability to break tackles after the catch rather than just by outrunning defenders.
We will highlight a couple of the things that will make scouts salivate at the possibilities that Jenkins brings to the table. In fairness, we will also take a gander at something Jenkins will need to work on to take his game to an elite level.
Football is all about creating matchups that give you an advantage. The one place Jenkins is almost always going to create nightmares for NFL DC’s is down the seam. Travis Kelce was one of my favorite tight ends in the 2013 NFL Draft. That love affair was caused by his ability to stretch the seam and put teams in a bind. In a vertical offense, the tight end is going to be asked to bind up the safeties with their ability to get the vertical stretch on the defense. Let’s face it: four-verticals is still the best pass play in the game.
This should be a staple of Steve Sarkisian’s inside the 40 offense. Two-deep coverage with the linebackers attempting to carry and gain depth. Jenkins doesn’t have great straight-line speed but it’s more than enough to cause problems for linebackers in zone coverage. Jenkins does a great job of staying vertical and bending back to the seam – keeps the safety from being able to play both vertical routes at the same time.
While I think the safety overplays this a bit, there really is no defending this one and it results in an easy six points. Jenkins bends his vertical route back to the seam, leaving the dropping Mike to defend him over the top.
I chose to pull up these screenshots because in the five games that I watched of Washington’s offense, I thought this was the most underutilized aspect of ASF’s game. His ability to outrun, out position, and snare passes in the vertical game could be deadly at the next level. If one wants to draw a comparison between Rob Gronkowski and Seferian-Jenkins — this would be what I would frame that argument around.
HANDS, HANDS, and more HANDS
Five games in and I’m still trying to find an instance of a body catch, a drop, or even a bobble. Vines for arms is a scouting term usually utilized for offensive tackles but it applies to a tight end in this class. Jenkins catching radius is that of another world and will be a quarterback’s best friend on money downs.
The following screenshots don’t do justice to some of the one-handed sideline grabs Jenkins makes. Unfortunately, the screenshots were too fuzzy to even tell he caught the ball, so I opted to show you the abnormal catching radius that Jenkins possesses.
It’s routine. When we talk about a natural hands-catcher — this is what we point to. Jenkins’ ability to snatch the ball with full extension and the strength to hold on in traffic.
Jenkins basketball background is apparent on this play. This is a busted play which Keith Price throws up for grabs. Jenkins ‘boxes out’ the defenders, high points the ball, and secures a big play for the offense.
A bit blurry but trust me on this one…it’s a spectacular catch for a guy this size to be able to go down and get the ball. His body control is through the roof for any tight end, especially one that is 6’6″, 266 pounds.
THE NOT SO PRETTY
Austin Seferian-Jenkins probably gets credit for being a better blocker than what he is in reality. I wouldn’t say he’s a liability as a blocker but his lack of technique and strength are concerning enough to monitor this upcoming season.
Jenkins really struggled with the LSU DE duo of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery — both very solid pass rushers but not known for their functional strength. Jenkins gets bullied on several instances by Mingo and Montgomery. It’s not just Mingo and Montgomery as these issues came up against Utah and Boise State as well. Here’s a look at some of the technique issues with Jenkins as a blocker.
Jenkins draws the one-on-one assignment with Sam Montgomery on several occasions during this contest. This screenshot is pretty indicative of how this matchup goes during this contest.
At 6-foot-6, Jenkins really struggles to sink his hips as a blocker. He lunges and doesn’t sink his hips/butt – leaving him prey for the bull rush of Montgomery.
Jenkins is on skates in this one as Montgomery drives him back five yards into Price’s lap (literally). With some work on technique and some strength and conditioning work, Jenkins could turn into a fine blocker. Let’s face it, teams aren’t taking Jenkins under the auspices of him doing much blocking. Just my opinion but Jenkins was used a little much in that respect last season and a little underutilized in the pass game.
I left this process where I started. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a special tight end prospect that should be the top tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft. That said, he’s not what some are making him out to be.
Jenkins isn’t an explosive athlete from a speed perspective, he doesn’t run the crispest of routes, and his blocking ability is sub-par at this point in his career. For most tight ends, those negatives would be enough to warrant a significant dip in draft stock. Not for Jenkins.
At 6-foot-6, 266 pounds with enough movement skill to keep defenses honest, hands that rival some of the best in the business, and rare body control it’s easy to see why he could be a top end of the first round talent.
I want to be fair to Oregon’s Colt Lyerla — I’m only one game in on his film evaluation — but I have a hard time believing there’s a better tight end in college football.
Special thanks to the guys at draftbreakdown.com for their hard work for pulling together the masses of videos for all of us to share. Check out their site and click on an advertisement to throw a buck or two in their pocket for their hard work.