Tyler Conklin is the NY Jets' most underrated weapon

The Jets' tight end is being overlooked
Tyler Conklin
Tyler Conklin / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

After years of ineptitude, fans are abuzz with the possibilities of the new-look NY Jets offense. A lot of that has to do with the return of future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as it should. Otherwise, the new-look offensive line, and newly added wide receivers Mike Williams and Malachi Corley have gotten top billing.

Among the incumbents, fans are salivating over the potential of young studs Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall who have somehow performed at elite levels despite horrid quarterback and offensive line play over the past two seasons.

There is a player who has been lost in the shuffle and has the potential to make a huge impact in 2024. That player is starting tight end, Tyler Conklin, who has been overlooked at near criminal levels this offseason.

While he isn't an elite tight end in the realm of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or Mark Andrews, Conklin is a very solid player who hasn't gotten the credit he deserves. With Aaron Rodgers under center, he should also benefit just like Wilson and Hall.

Aaron Rodgers likes targeting his tight ends

Despite not having an elite tight end his entire career, unless you count the twilight years of Jimmy Graham's career, Rodgers has shown an affinity for tight end targets. From 2018 through 2021, Adams was his prime target, but the rotating cast of tight ends during those years was also featured heavily.

In 2018, Jimmy Graham was second on the team with 89 targets. In 2019, Graham was third with 60. In 2020 tight end Robert Tonyan was fourth with 59, just four shy of second on the team. And in 2021, due to a committee approach and injuries, the trio of tight ends Robert Tonyan, Josiah Deguara, and Marcedes Lewis totaled 90 targets combined.

During that entire four-year stretch, either a tight end or a running back was second to Adams in targets, sometimes with the No. 2 wide receiver ranking fourth on the list.

Even in 2022 without Adams which saw Rodgers more willing to spread the ball around, Tonyan was tied for third in targets with 67, just 5 off of the second-most targeted receiver on the team.

With the Jets having a dominant No. 1 receiver in Garrett Wilson, it makes sense to believe Rodgers will go back to his target distribution during the Davante Adams era.

Why exactly does Rodgers target tight ends so often? The short answer is efficiency. Rodgers is not one who is afraid to take shot plays down the field, but he's also not one to force passes to clearly covered receivers. Instead, he quickly scans the field and if the shot isn't there looks to his check-down.

Tyler Conklin is more than just a check-down target

Though his primary function over the past two seasons has been as a check-down option, that's more a product of the Jets' quarterback ineptitude rather than a function of the offensive game plan or his strengths as a player.

Conklin isn't the fastest or biggest tight end. He's not an athletic freak like some. That being said, he's an adept route technician, able to utilize agility, change of speed, stutter steps, and head fakes to get open against man coverage, while also displaying a nuanced feel for reading zones and sitting down in empty spaces.

He's not the biggest YAC threat, but he's willing to lower his shoulder and fight for extra yards through contact. Additionally, he's got soft hands and the ability to come down with contested catches. In 2023, he ranked second among tight ends with 12 contested catches while also posting just one drop.

After three straight seasons in which he posted exactly 87 targets, he might not see more volume with Rodgers under center. However, the targets he does see will be those that accentuate his strengths and allow him to do more damage.

For example, in two years with the Jets, Conklin has posted just three touchdowns, all of which came in 2022. Expect that to change with Rodgers leaning into Conklin's contested catch ability in the red zone. Elsewhere, look to see him targeted more frequently downfield where his route running shines.

All of this makes Tyler Conklin a player to watch going into 2024. Finally with a real quarterback under center fans will finally give him the appreciation he deserves, and for Conklin, it couldn't come at a better time in a contract year.