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Grading the 2017 tight end situation

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 06: Austin Seferian-Jenkins #88 of the New York Jets warms up during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 06: Austin Seferian-Jenkins #88 of the New York Jets warms up during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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With the exception of the backfield and interior line, the offense of the New York Jets is weak throughout. Tight end is one of those concerning areas.

Another offensive unit, another weakness. The New York Jets tight end situation is no different from what they have at quarterback and wide receiver. You have youngsters who can develop into respectable starters down the road if they’re coached up correctly, but they won’t make noise in 2017. Progression is more important than wins here.

If we’re talking about who will lead this group moving forward, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the obvious top dog. The Washington product violated the league’s substance abuse policy and is forced to serve a two-game suspension to begin the year. However, he says his off-the-field issues are behind him. He actually quit drinking entirely and tweaked his diet to get his body in playing shape, dropping 25 lbs. to prepare for organized team activities back in May.

The next thing Seferian-Jenkins needs to do is put his on-the-field struggles in the rearview. In nine outings in 2016, he had a mere 13 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown. His career numbers aren’t any better. In only 25 games in three seasons, he totaled 55 catches for 713 yards and seven touchdowns. He’ll have to work extra hard to stand out in 2017 given Gang Green’s quarterback dilemma.

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Rookie Jordan Leggett has an opportunity to earn significant snaps, but he’ll have to make quite the leap in training camp and the preseason to see more field than Seferian-Jenkins.

In four years at Clemson, he put together a phenomenal career and capped it off with a national championship.

He racked up 112 receptions for 1,598 yards and 18 touchdowns. General manager Mike Maccagnan will gladly take that value in the fifth round, although it’ll take time to see that production at the next level.

Eric Tomlinson, Brian Parker, and Jason Vander Laan round out the rest of the bunch. Tomlinson spent time on the Eagles and Texans practice squad before joining the Jets in the middle of last season. He was one of the team’s most underrated run blockers as he received a 56.2 grade in that department on Pro Football Focus, which ranked 50th out of the 103 tight ends to earn a snap. As a result, you have to imagine him as the third guy on the depth chart.

Parker was a member of the Chargers and Chiefs in 2015 before signing with New York in April. Expect him to battle it out with Tomlinson for that third spot. Vander Laan seems to be the odd man out. He was on the practice squad in 2016 and he’ll most likely be on it again. The 24-year-old played quarterback at Ferris State prior to making the conversion to tight end. The issue is his size (6’4″, 244), which may prevent him from succeeding in the NFL.

Must Read: Grading the wide receiver situation of the Jets

Overall, tight end is clearly not a strength. Too much inexperience and barely any depth. We could be talking about the position in two or three years as a huge part of the offense, but currently? Absolutely not.

Grade: D+

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