Ranking the AFC East TE rooms: Where do Tyler Conklin and the NY Jets rank?

Where do Tyler Conklin and company rank amongst the rest of the AFC East?
Tyler Conklin
Tyler Conklin / Winslow Townson/GettyImages
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3. The Miami Dolphins

The depth chart: former New England Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith leads the way. Last year's starter Durham Smythe serves as the No. 2 tight end. Julian Hill and Jody Fortson round out the unit.

Jonnu Smith is coming off a career year with the Atlanta Falcons which saw him set career highs in receptions with 50 and yardage with 582. He also added three touchdowns.

A tad on the small size at six-foot-three 248 pounds, Smith has been effective as a low-volume option that can stretch the field a bit more than the average tight end. Miami signed him to a two-year deal hoping he provides a spark as a receiving tight end.

What he won't do however is strike fear in the opposition as a run blocker. As per Pro Football Focus, his 43.7 run-blocking grade in 2023 was eighth-worst among all tight ends. Still, with 4.62 speed, Smith isn't expected to block as much as he is to be a factor in the receiving game.

This issue is that his backup, Durham Smythe, is nothing to write home about as a run blocker either. Smythe's 49.9 run-blocking grade was below average as well. Smythe posted 35 catches for 366 yards and no touchdowns as the starter last season.

That's decent production given Miami's firepower at wide receiver, but still nothing to write home about. His poor blocking makes him an odd fit next to Smith.

Julian Hill is a second-year player who was a UDFA who got a little run in 2023. He snagged 6 balls for 48 yards while appearing in 15 games, and playing 35% of offensive snaps. He also struggled mightily as a blocker. That doesn't inspire much confidence, but at just 23 years old perhaps there's some untapped potential.

Lastly, Fortson is a typical journeyman camp body. The 28-year-old played two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs last suiting up in 2022. He has 14 career catches, 155 receiving yards, and four touchdowns to his name.

2. The New York Jets

The depth chart: veteran Tyler Conklin leads the way while Jeremy Ruckert finally earns the promotion to tight end No. 2 fans have been waiting for while entering his third season. Former UDFA Kenny Yeboah and 2023 seventh-round pick Zack Kuntz round things out.

Conklin was brought in during the 2022 offseason as part of the Jets tight end room overhaul. The more successful of the two signings (veteran C.J. Uzomah was released earlier this offseason), Conklin still gets slept on by some fans.

In back-to-back seasons he's caught at least 58 passes for at least 552 yards, including a career-high 621 yards last season. All of that is with league-worst QB play and a complete deterioration of weapons at the wide receiver position except for Garrett Wilson.

Conklin is not a strong run blocker, settling in around average with Pro Football Focus run block grades ranging between 51.0 and 56.0 in his career. Still, look for Conklin to unlock a new level of production with Aaron Rodgers under center.

Jeremy Ruckert's selection in 2022 earned high praise from some at the time, even if there wasn't an immediate pathway to playing time with Conklin and Uzomah ahead of him on the depth chart. The Long Island native turns just 24 this season proving there's still a lot of untapped potential.

To date, Ruckert has only tallied 17 catches for 159 yards in his limited opportunities. He's mostly popped as a blocker, making some highlight reel pancakes while also having his share of whiffs. The 2024 season will be crucial in determining if he can realize the potential to be the TE1 of the future.

Kenny Yeboah has mostly carved out a role on special teams so far in his young career. A UDFA in 2021, Yeboah profiled as an athletic receiving threat at tight end who left a lot to be desired as a blocker. Now turning 26 years old in October, he's probably not got much room left to grow.

Lastly, Zack Kuntz, a seventh-round pick in 2022, rounds out the room. Kuntz posted a perfect 10 RAS at the NFL Combine, but despite that exceptional athleticism, has a lot of work to do actually playing the game of football well.

The Jets rank this high largely on the strength of Tyler Conklin who's been the best individual tight end we've discussed so far. The true ceiling of this unit, however, depends on how well Ruckert performs in a larger role.