Newyorkjets.com's coverage of the 2014 draft includes breakdowns of each position group, focusing both on the Jets' current situation and the top players expected to be selected at the position from May 8-10. All player rankings have been compiled from 10 different "big boards" around the Internet, updated as recently as today and as far back as the start of free agency. Today's fifth in the series: Tight ends.
It's a bit of an underwhelming tight end class that faces NFL teams in this year's draft. But there are some gems that could be uncovered by teams that feel they need a TE, and the Jets could be one of those teams.
The Green & White re-signed Jeff Cumberland just before the start of the free agency period. And both they and he think it's time for big Jeff to emerge.
"When you play this game, or any sport, you've just got to be patient and go with what they give you," Cumberland told newyorkjets.com when he signed. "But this is my fifth year in the league now. I've been very patient. This year I feel I should be able to show the ability I know I have."
Behind Cumberland on the current roster are second-year man Zach Sudfeld (five catches in 11 NFL games) and first-year man Chris Pantale has yet to play in the regular season. There should be room for another TE at the party.
Could that come in the first two rounds? Eric Ebron is the mock drafters' consensus choice to be this year's first-round tight. But likely he'd have to drop down boards or we'd have to trade up if that marriage were going to be arranged. And Jace Amaro would also appear to be a 'tweener for the Jets, figuring to go late in Round 1, after our 18th pick, or high in Round 2, before our 49th overall selection.
But if those two prove elusive, we could sit and wait with most of our 12 choices for our favorite player in the second tier of TEs that comes our way. Here are thumbnail sketches on the top six at the position.
Ebron, North Carolina's fast, athletic 6'4", 250-pound pass-catcher, is emblematic of this year's TE orchestra. He's clearly at the head of the class, yet he's moving up and down the first round as if it were a xylophone. Perhaps the wide variety of experts' opinions comes from his pro day, when he had the opportunity to cement his draft stock in the top 10 but proceeded to drop some passes, which was part of his package in his three seasons playing for the Tar Heels.
On the other hand, he made many tough catches on the way to setting UNC records for the position last year for most catches in a season (62) and career (112) and most yardage in a season (973) and career (1,805). In the process, he broke the ACC career tight ends record for most yards in a season set by the now-49er Vernon Davis.
Ebron also has top speed — his 4.60 in the 40 was second-fastest among TEs at the NFL Combine — and top character — "I'm proud of what he's accomplished," said UNC coach Larry Fedora, "and how he's represented North Carolina."
For those who really love the Jimmy Graham model of tight end, then Amaro is your man. Most of the time the 6'5", 260-pounder didn't line up at TE for Texas Tech but rather as a slot wideout. Not surprisingly, receiving is his strength: His 106 receptions marked just the third time a Red Raider reached 100 catches in a season and was tops among TEs last season, with Ebron second-best at 62. And Amaro's 1,352 receiving yards set the record for the most by an FBS tight end in a season.
Amaro, who was named a unanimous All-America first-teamer for his achievements, also is known as a guy who likes to mix it up on the field, which many on the NFL might see as a positive and many others might wonder about, especially because one time he chose to mix it up was in the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas when he was ejected for punching a Minnesota safety.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins racked up Washington TE records with 146 catches, 1,840 yards and 21 TDs in three seasons and ended his Huskies career with a 37-game pass-catching streak, most among active FBS tight ends at the end of last season. It was one of the reasons that the man known as ASJ won the Mackey Award as a junior. The 6'6", 262-pounder's offseason workout schedule was wiped out by his surgery and rehab from a foot stress fracture uncovered at the combine, but he still has plenty of interested NFL suitors.
Can Troy Niklas succeed as a blocking/catching tight end on the pro level? A few indicators say yes. His bloodlines, for instance — he's the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame O-lineman Bruce Matthews. So does his college depth chart — after playing behind Tyler Eifert for Notre Dame two seasons ago, then seeing Eifert go to the Bengals in Round 1 last April, Niklas (6'6½", 270) stepped up with decent numbers of 32 receptions, 498 yards and five TDs for the Fighting Irish as a junior.
Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Troy Niklas could make for viable second-round picks
If we had a tight ends septathlon at this year's combine, Iowa's Colton John "C.J." Fiedorowicz might've won it. The 6'7", 265-pounder turned in a 7.10-second time in the 3-cone drill, best at the position this year, and a 4.26 in the 20-yard shuttle, the best among TEs in the past two combines.
Arthur Lynch (6'5", 258) out of Georgia,*according to NFLDraftScout.com's Dane Brugler, "likely won't* separate easily in the NFL [not with 4.82 speed in the 40], but he's a coordinated athlete who isn't shy about getting his hands dirty as a blocker and projects as a reliable possession target and No. 2 TE on the depth chart."
Other Notables: Marcel Jensen (Fresno State), Xavier Grimble (Southern Cal), Joe Don Duncan (Dixie State), Colt Lyerla (Oregon), Richard Rogers (California)