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NY Jets: Initial grade and analysis for the Tyler Kroft signing

NY Jets, Tyler Kroft Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
NY Jets, Tyler Kroft Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
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The NY Jets bolstered their tight end depth on Friday by adding veteran Tyler Kroft to the roster. Kroft won’t be one of the most notable signings of the offseason, but he could play an important role in the Jets’ offense.

A third-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2015 NFL Draft, Kroft spent his rookie season sitting behind Tyler Eifert as he saw his teammate make the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.

However, Eifert’s injury history caught up to him forcing Kroft into a featured role in both 2016 and 2017. He put together a career year in 2017 finishing with 42 catches for 404 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games (all starts) — all of which were career-highs.

Not exactly superstar production, but he was a reliable receiving threat and an all-round solid blocker. That said, it wasn’t exactly surprising to see him demoted to more of a rotational role from that point on.

And that’s the role he’ll be asked to play with the Jets.

How will the NY Jets use Tyler Kroft?

Kroft spent one final season in Cincinnati before signing on with the Buffalo Bills ahead of the 2019 season. In Buffalo, Kroft was primarily used as their second tight end only hauling in six catches on 14 targets in his first season with the team.

He did see his production rise a bit in 2020 as he finished with 12 catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns. Kroft is a dependable depth piece, although his injury history could be a bit concerning.

Kroft has missed significant playing time in each of the past three seasons having not played more than 11 games since his sole season as a full-time starter with Cincinnati.

However, when on the field, Kroft has been a rock-solid No. 2 tight end.

The 28-year-old earned a 64.3 overall Pro Football Focus grade in 2020 which ranked 37th at his position, but more notably, his 63.8 run-block grade was 28th out of all tight ends.

On top of that, his pass-block grade of 79.1 was among the highest in the NFL. He’s allowed just three pressures on nearly 100 pass-protection snaps over the past three years giving him one of the highest pass-block win-rates among tight ends.

And that’s something that has clearly been an emphasis this offseason. Corey Davis is a notoriously strong run-blocker. Keelan Cole has also shown to be proficient in that area. And the Jets already have Denzel Mims who excels as a blocker too.

The emphasis has been placed on finding skill-position players who can help open up holes in the running game and, in Kroft’s case, provide a little extra protection for the quarterback as well.

It should also be noted that Kroft’s efficiency numbers are pretty high. Kroft caught 75 percent of the balls that came his way in 2020 and scored a touchdown one out of every four times he caught a pass.

Flashback to 2017, his breakout season as a starter, and you’ll find that despite catching only 42 passes, he still managed a whopping seven touchdowns — good for a 17 percent touchdown rate.

Kroft is a sure-handed, dependable (if not unspectacular) weapon in the passing game, an above-average run-blocker, and an exceptional pass-blocker.

Pretty much exactly what you’re looking for in a second tight end.

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The Tyler Kroft addition is far from a flashy one, but don’t be surprised if Kroft is a significant upgrade over Ryan Griffin as the Jets’ backup tight end.

Grade: B-

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