The tight end position has been an irrelevant one for the NY Jets for years. Since Dustin Keller, the position has been in flux, whether because of misuse or simply a lack of talent. But could 2021 be the year to finally change that?
Coming to the Jets with Robert Saleh is Mike LaFleur, who will be the team’s new offensive coordinator. He was previously the San Francisco 49ers’ passing game coordinator, working with tight ends such as George Kittle, Jordan Reed, and Ross Dwelley.
In other words, his history with great pass-catching tight ends could hint at the position becoming relevant in New York once again.
Except, who exactly is going to be the Jets’ version of Kittle, let alone a version of Reed or Dwelley?
The NY Jets’ current depth chart
As things stand today, the Jets have a rather deep tight end corps. The apparent starter would be Chris Herndon, who is coming off of a disappointing 2020 campaign that leaves his future in question.
Aside from Herndon, veterans Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin headline a group that has Trevon Wesco and Connor Davis too. Initially, that unit appears to have some great depth. Kroft and Griffin are capable pass catchers and blockers who offer years of NFL experience.
Meanwhile, Jets fans should be aware of Herndon’s upside if healthy and utilized right. As for Wesco and Davis, both offer solid special teams potential.
However, none of these five tight ends are under contract beyond 2022. Plus, there is the matter that while all five are solid players, none of them really jump out the way Kittle or even Reed does.
Thus, leaving a hole that the Jets must fill.
Who could the NY Jets target in the draft?
In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets own 10 selections, with five of them coming in the top 100. Of course, the team has other dire needs, such as a quarterback or cornerback, that should take priority over tight end.
Nevertheless, New York should explore spending one of their mid-round picks at the position. The tight end class is among the thinner ones in this year’s draft, though there are still some gems.
Starting on Day 2, Miami’s Brevin Jordan, Tommy Tremble from Notre Dame, or even Hunter Long of Boston College could be options. All have excellent size and upside to be contributors in 2021, before taking the starting job in 2022.
Or maybe the Jets wait until Day 3 of the draft to search for another tight end. Players such as Tre’ McKitty from Georgia, Kenny Yeboah of Ole Miss, or Michigan’s Nick Eubanks could be selections in the later rounds.
The bottom line, despite a lackluster overall class, there are still some standout tight ends in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Future outlook for the NY Jets’ tight ends
If the Jets were to go the tight end route with one of their draft picks, it sets the position up better long term. Again, the Jets do not have anyone signed beyond 2022, leaving a need at tight end down the road.
In taking a tight end in the draft, New York brings in another playmaker for LaFleur to replicate the unit he had with the 49ers. It also gives whichever quarterback the Jets take at second overall a tight end to build chemistry with early on.
At the end of the day, the Jets do not have that Kittle or even Reed type tight end currently on the roster, and the 2021 NFL Draft might be the place to solve that issue.