It’s time for Jets to select a real tight end in the 2017 NFL Draft
By Bobby Kirschenbaum
The New York Jets need to realize that they are missing out on quality production from the tight end position. It’s time for them to select a real tight end in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Of course, every team needs a good quarterback to lead a team down the field to score. And yes, defense is what wins games, because no offense can pave the way single-handedly without some defensive help on the other end. However, these past few years have been eye-opening and indicative of just how important it is to have a great tight end to block and pick up the yards needed for first downs and red zone touchdowns. I know it has to drive fans of the New York Jets crazy when on 3rd-and-10 the Jets try a long ball. Or they throw a short sub-5-yard pass to a running back that falls short of the first down marker.
The best teams and quarterbacks in the league all have Pro Bowl tight ends, which only leads to an improved offense and more space to work with. Tom Brady had Aaron Hernandez, still has one of the best ever in Rob Gronkowski, and when Gronk went down, Martellus Bennett jumped right in there and helped them win the Super Bowl this year.
Alex Smith has Travis Kelce, who led the league in tight end yards and dramatically changed the function of the Kansas City Chiefs offense. Tony Romo‘s go-to guy for years was Jason Witten, who is an absolute Pro Football Hall of Famer and one of the best to play. Cam Newton had Greg Olsen to lean on for the Super Bowl run when Kelvin Benjamin went down. And who can forget Tony Gonzalez, who made big play after big play all those years for Matt Ryan.
If there was ever a time for the Jets to get a tight end it’s unequivocally in this year’s NFL Draft. The 2017 NFL Combine was last week and showed just how deep the tight end class is this year, led by projected first rounders in Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Miami’s David Njoku. However, other tight ends also impressed and tremendously increased their draft stock, particularly Evan Engram of Ole Miss and Bucky Hodges of Virginia Tech.
What makes this year’s tight ends an interesting bunch is the variety to choose from—while Engram is smaller than the typical tight end at 6’3, 234 pounds, there is also Hodges at 6’6, 257 pounds, allowing teams to contemplate a smaller, more wide receiver-oriented tight end or a bigger guy with more blocking capabilities.
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Personally, for the Jets, I’m a huge fan of Hodges. He’s not talked about as much as some other tight ends, which will allow him to potentially fall as a major sleeper and be drafted towards the middle of the draft. It’s very rare, especially in this league, to find a guy of his size with the catching abilities he has, as well.
For the last three seasons, he totaled 1,747 yards receiving and hauled in 20 touchdowns. At the combine, he only helped his draft stock, running a 4.57 40 yard dash, added a 39-inch vertical jump, two very impressive achievements for someone of that size.
Interestingly, Hodges was a quarterback in his first season, which has led many teams to be afraid to take a chance on him due to his lack of knowledge at the tight end position. However, he did play three full positions as a tight end and expressed his confidence and willingness to learn as much as possible.
In an article written by Evan G. Watkins of VTSCOOP.com, here is what Hodges wants the football world to understand:
“…I want everyone to know that I’m a top tight end. They’re starting to understand it, but I want to make a deeper statement of who I am and what I’m capable of doing,” Hodges said. “I’m going to continue to get better in my technique all throughout this process, after the combine and after my pro day I’m going to be still working at my game nonstop. I love getting better, and I’m gonna continue getting better.”
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With the 6th overall pick in this year’s draft, it’s almost certain the Jets won’t pounce on a tight end that early. However, general manager Mike Maccagnan has mentioned the Jets are willing to trade down in the draft for extra picks. Regardless, this year’s class has potential to be one of the most stellar in recent past and the Jets need to take advantage and start grooming the future tight end for the franchise. After a huge disappointment in Jace Amaro years ago, the Jets need to invest as much time as possible because Hodges just might be the next Gronk.