An early look at the tight end position

November 11th, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

It wasn’t too long ago that tight end was considered a possible need area for the Seahawks.

Right now, it doesn’t seem quite so vital.

Seattle had 69 offensive snaps against the Falcons yesterday. They used the fullback Michael Robinson (21) nearly as many times as Luke Willson (25). I suspect for most of snaps involving Robinson they didn’t use two TE’s.

They may well move away from the fullback if Robinson’s return is temporary. But we’ve seen how much Marshawn Lynch benefits from a trusted lead blocker.

Zach Miller is the perfect tight end for a run-centric offense. He blocks well. He makes enough plays in the passing game. He knows Tom Cable’s scheme inside out. And while he’s no Jimmy Graham — who is?

Miller’s cap hit goes from $11m to $7m in 2014. It drops to $6m in 2015. They might be able to do a deal to spread the cost out a little, perhaps with an extra year added to the end. Miller is only 27 after all (he turns 28 in December).

Willson has shown some promise in a limited role. He seems to get a target on every opening drive. I also wouldn’t rule out a return for Anthony McCoy. He’s been with Pete Carroll a long time, he’ll be cheap.

There’s also the chance another former USC prospect such as Fred Davis comes onto the radar. He’ll be a free agent next year. And he too wouldn’t cost the earth after a rough couple of seasons in Washington.

So is tight end a big need?

Not unless there’s an unmissable guy.

Offensive line and, depending on cuts, defensive line depth appears to be more of a pressing long term need.

I’m not sure there’s even any tight ends worthy of first round investment.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins entered the year as a viable first round option — but he’s had an underwhelming season. It started with a DUI and subsequent suspension, his role has decreased.

Does he warrant such a high pick?

Particularly when so many good college tight ends have drifted out of the first round in recent years.

And more than anything, has he played within his means at Washington? Has he ever truly delivered on his potential? If not, will we ever get to see it in the NFL?

I found Tony Pauline’s tight end rankings, published today, pretty interesting.

He listed Seferian-Jenkins as a third round prospect. “Can be an overwhelming force but shows a lot of inconsistency and does not play up to his level of ability.” That just about sums it up. That and the fact he’s unlikely to run the kind of combine time that’ll raise eyebrows.

Interestingly, Pauline has Jace Amaro as his only definite first round pick. “Dynamic tight end that’s quickly developing a complete game. Shows himself to be the go-to receiver that cannot be stopped.”

I need to spend a bit more time looking at Amaro. Recently he made it clear he wouldn’t declare for the 2014 draft, but this weekend he seemed to be giving it more thought…

On the year he has 1102 receiving yards in Texas Tech’s always productive offense. He only has four touchdowns though, so is he enough of a red zone threat?

Despite perhaps not needing to make tight end an ultimate priority, dynamic playmakers are hard to find. Especially 6-5, 260lbs pass-catchers who can get downfield. If he’s the real deal, can you ignore him? Especially if there’s an early rush on the offensive line?

Again, much could depend on just how much of an athlete he is. Tyler Eifert benefited from being the fastest runner at the 2013 combine — clocking a 4.65. Jimmy Graham had a 4.56 in 2010 while Jordan Cameron managed a 4.53. Teams are looking out for guys like that now.

Of the other names listed by Pauline, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron is intriguing yet frustrating. He’s capable of amazing plays and being a difference maker, but he’s also flashed inconsistent effort and hands. He plays at his own pace.

Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz is a good blocker but might not be much of a receiver. After that, it’s not much of a class.

If Seattle finds a 4.5-4.6 guy who will take this offense to another level, then fair enough. Otherwise there may just be too many other priorities early on.

51 Responses to “An early look at the tight end position”

  1. glor says:

    I think you are right on to be looking at TE’s.. while we love Zacks ability to block, fact of the matter is that we going to have a crap load of $$ tied up in the DB’s, in Wilson, in Okung, and in the WR’s … I think Zack is going to be a cap casualty, along with Bryant, Mebane, Unger, Sidney, etc. would hope we could trade a couple of these guys.

    • glor says:

      Could also see them letting Heath go.. that’s another 1.5

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think Miller will survive the cuts — he really is the perfect TE for this offense. As mentioned in the piece, adding another year and spreading out some of the cost might make sense with Miller.

      • Attyla the Hawk says:

        I agree. Although frankly, ASJ is about as pure a Miller clone as one could hope. Miller ran a putrid slow 4.84 at the combine. I’m pretty certain ASJ will beat that.

        Picking late in the first, I would expect ASJ to be prominent in our ‘pocket of talent’ evaluation at the end of round 1. And his selection, while it wouldn’t upgrade our talent level per se, would allow the team to plow under a significant contract. In addition to giving the team a valuable and versatile TE talent under cheap club control for several years.

        I don’t think ASJ would be the preferred option. But I do think he’d be a guy who would be attractive to Seattle who has shown that as of last year, they are in reload mode. Jenkins has a lot of redundancy to Miller. If the draft doesn’t fall to us in our plan A or B scenarios, I think he’s an acceptable plan C.

        I think we’ve been so focused on joker type TEs, that we presume we’ll want another sub 4.6 WR/TE prospect. Personally, I see Willson really developing into a very good talent. His blocking has improved immeasurably. His receiving skills are still blossoming. I would not be surprised if we’re out of the joker TE market now.

        Jenkins isn’t a burner. He’s a chain mover. He’s also very very good at that role. And that’s a hugely valuable role for Seattle.

  2. MJ says:

    I agree with Pauline about ASJ…I think he has a long NFL future, but he just isn’t that special athletically and seems to be rather lazy on the field.

    Rob, I know you are not a big Ebron guy but I truly think he could be a huge difference maker on this team, with Tate and Harvin. You could really do some crazy things with those 3 on the field at once. Is it the inconsistency that worries you the most? Or do you not think he’s that athletically gifted?

    Another question, would you still be gung ho about Odell Beckham in round 1? I don’t know why, but I get a sneaking suspicion Doug Baldwin’s time here is coming to a close (not because of performance). I have no logical rationale, I just think he’d rather be elsewhere. That, and I just think Beckham has absolute stud written all over him, especially in this offense.

    • Kip Earlywine says:

      He lacks explosiveness, but lazy… couldn’t disagree more. High effort blocker and high effort runner after the catch.

      I think he’s a very good possession guy, probably not a superstar. So in an offense with a ton of viable receivers and some excellent receiving running backs, he hasn’t produced like he did in years prior when there wasn’t a fraction of the competition for targets. It was a predictable result. People who react to stats without context are being silly, IMO.

      I do think ASJ is special athletically, but only if you compare him to other 6’7″ TEs. Jimmy Graham is fast because he’s smaller than most TEs. ASJ is more of a matchup guy than a burner. If people judge him based on apples to oranges comparisons, they will miss the plain, obvious truth of his talent.

      • Kip Earlywine says:

        As far as the “not playing up to level of ability” comment, I can’t think of any justification for that statement other than his decrease in production, which has everything to do with the changes around him. Per target, he’s as good as he’s ever been, it’s just that the targets have decreased dramatically as UW has switched to a short-yardage hurry up style of offense that is suddenly flush with weapons.

      • Rob Staton says:

        Graham is listed at 6-7 and 265lbs in fairness. ASJ is down as 6-6 and 276lbs by ESPN.

      • MJ says:

        Lazy was a poor word choice, but he to me eyes, he looks like a guy who lacks passion when he’s not catching the ball. I could be totally off base, but he just doesn’t strike me as a “Seahawk” type of player. He doesn’t really have that underdog, fight tooth & nail for every inch type of guy either.

        And not to beat a dead horse, as Rob already stated it, but Graham is a bigger guy, as is Vance McDonald and Gronk, who IMO, are much more athletically gifted than ASJ. Perhaps ASJ is just a smooth athlete for a big man and is really deceiving to the eye?

        Don’t get me wrong, I love ASJ, I am just not sure he’s what this team needs. And I totally agree that ASJ hasn’t changed, it’s just the offense around him. I’m really not a stat/box score guy when it comes to this stuff, I just think the uptempo offense has really shown that ASJ is not nearly the athlete we thought he was. I am not going to be shocked if ASJ runs like Gavin Escobar (4.8s). And again, he’s not a speed player, but I can’t help but think running a time like that won’t negatively affect him.

        The best thing for ASJ would be to go to Atlanta, as I think his game is identical to an older Tony Gonzalez.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think he’s clearly gifted (Ebron). What bothers me is every now and again he seems to switch off. He’ll run a play at medium or low effort. Run a sloppy route, paw at a football, play at his own pace. The really great tight ends in the league seem to play with a fire in their belly. Ebron, if anything, plays a little soft IMO. So while he’s extremely talented with a lot of upside, I also think he’ll be hit and miss at the next level. And if I’m going TE early, I don’t want hit and miss. There are two many TE’s like that with all the athletic potential in the world but don’t dominate. Guys like Jermaine Gresham.

      I am a huge Odell Beckham fan. Even if they re-sign Tate I would consider drafting him. But I think he’ll be gone by the time Seattle picks.

      • MJ says:

        Thanks for the response. I gotta say, I am so tentative to go OL in round 1. The recent history of late R1 OL is really, really poor (obviously because guys are getting overdrafted).

        This might be the most intriguing draft in quite some time. This year’s draft seems pretty poor, so who knows, maybe knowing some big contracts are coming up, they trade away their 1 for a future pick? I usually hate that kind of speculation (as it’s impossible to guess at this time), but if there was a year to do it, this could be it.

        Keep up the good work Rob.

  3. Kip Earlywine says:

    ASJ is the same exact player he’s always been, it’s the offense that’s changed. I think he’s a pretty safe bet to be the first TE drafted. I have a hard time seeing him sliding past Atlanta early in the 2nd round, as his profile is very similar to Tony Gonzalez.

  4. FC says:

    I like Arthur Lynch as a late round TE in the Zach Miller mold, though Lynch is nowhere near the level of Miller. Lynch is a good blocker and reliable short pass receiver.

    I am very cold on ASJ, he just doesn’t seem like he cares. Playing against him in high school he just relied on his physical advantage, avoided giving full effort and made excuses.

  5. chris says:

    i’m starting to think that cornerback might be our biggest need in next years draft.

    if we can’t sign browner or thurmond that leaves maxwell who might also be a FA. jeremy lane and the rookie who we drafted this year who hasn’t played a down this year. if thurmond and browner leave we have no depth at the position.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Maxwell isn’t a FA until 2015. They also have Tharold Simon. I think they will re-sign at least one of Thurmond or Browner. Don’t ask me how. But they’ve rewarded their guys and I just get the sense they’ll want to keep the Legion of Boom together. And I’m not sure Browner will get a big pay day. He’s been suspended. He’s 30 next year. He maybe just picked up a season ending injury. He fits Seattle better than other teams. He might not have a huge market and therefore might be re-signable at a reasonable cost.

      • xo 1 says:

        NFL free agency is hard to predict, but you have listed a number of factors that could well lead to a cold market for Browner. His will be an interesting test case, but I think the release of Mike Rob this summer suggests that the desire to keep the Legion of Boom intact is out of step with NFL mores. It may be overstated slightly, but sentiment is for losers. If Seattle thinks Browner is good value, they’ll try to retain him. If he insists on a big payday, the LOB will have a new member come September.

    • Attyla the Hawk says:

      It’s not the biggest need. But I fully expect us to take a CB like we’ve done in every draft since Carroll has arrived.

      Developing corners is our greatest strength. We’re not obligated to take high profile corners in order to replenish the ranks. We’ll take a day 3 guy and long haul develop him. And he’ll look great in a year or so.

  6. Elijah says:

    I’ve been impressed enough with what Luke Willson has shown that I do believe he’ll be our main TE when Zach Miller moves on. With Miller’s cap hit reducing over the next couple years, I have every reason to think he’ll be around. It’s possible he could restructure too, his best chance of winning a Super Bowl is on this exact team.

    Miller and Willson is a good combo and after that what you expect from a 3rd TE isn’t what you’d expect from a starting TE. I’d guess PC/JS would just scour the waiver wire looking for a guy who can block competently and make a 10 catches a year.

    • Michael (CLT) says:


      • Miles says:

        I think Willson has the potential to be a solid starting TE in this league but I think he’ll need to put on some muscle to be the featured tight end in this offense. He blocks well, though.

    • xo 1 says:

      In that scenario, my hope is that they would work to find someone with a different skill set – a big bodied red zone target who can also play tight end. The former power forward type. Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron is a good example of a developmental guy. He took a year to blossom but the price was right and the upside high.

  7. chris says:

    rob, do you think if the right guy fell to them they would pull the trigger on a db.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Possibly but it’s looking like a poor year for CBs.

    • MJ says:

      Only if it was a Clinton-Dix type. Though part of me thinks Joyner is going to be a Seahawk (not in the 1st though). Undersized but is an amazing football player.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        Thoroughly unimpressed by Clinton-Dix. Seems like a Bama “just a guy”, ya digg? Pretty inconsistent and doesn’t close very well.

        I’m a big fan of Joyner. He plays with some fire.

        Safety class is crazy underrated this year.

  8. chris says:

    in the first round

  9. OakHarborHawk says:

    I could see us drafting another TE next year because while McCoy won’t be expensive to resign a rookie would be cheaper. Tight ends just don’t go high and you can get great value in the mid rounds. Gotta save cap any way you can.

    Only thing really worrying me now about the roster next year is trying to keep Doug Baldwin. I know he’s a RFA, but don’t want him to wind up like Steve Hutchinson. Right now he’s Wilson’s Bobby Engram on third downs and always make’s the catches when it matters. The curse of having a good team is eventually the cap bites you in the ass.

    I do think now with Kearse really emerging we don’t need to spend a high pick on a receiver to replace Rice. We can just go BPA every round and just take whoever is highest on the board as depth is the most important thing to have. Just look at the fact we can get five starters back against the Vikings and we’re still 9-1.

  10. Michael (CLT) says:


    I apologize for asking this on a TE themed draft article, but I saw that the Hawks dropped Michael Brooks to bring Harvin onto the 53. Are we experiencing Michael Bennett Part Deux?

    • glor says:

      Well they just brought Brooks up from the PS on Saturday to play in the game (and get a game check) so I get the impression it was kind of a reward for him for a good week of practice. In reality, they will try to resign him to the PS tomorrow if he clears waivers

    • Rob Staton says:

      I don’t think it’s quite that serious but it’s a shame for Brooks.

      • Miles says:

        He’ll get on the practice squad if logic serves. On the practice squad he was available all season for another team to claim. Now that he’s on waivers it’d be silly if signing him was suddenly more appealing. Unless teams didn’t know he existed until he showed up on today’s transaction list.

        • Michael (CLT) says:

          Appreciate the feedback. I thought Brooks looked solid against Atlanta. I’d be surprised if the Jags let him slide.

  11. Michael M. says:

    Quick, completely unrelated comparison of Wilson and Kraepernick so far this season:

    The two paragons of their primary virtues; Awesomeness and Douchbaggery respectively, have played 7 games against common opponents so far this season. Those games have come against the Rams, Texans, Cardinals, Titans, Jaguars, Colts and Panthers. Most would agree that Kaepernick has had the scheduling advantage thus far in that he faced the four most formidable of those opponents, the Texans, Colts, Panthers and Cardinals, on his home turf while Russell has had to travel to each of them. That being said, here is the average passing performance for each QB over the aforementioned 7 games:

    Russell Wilson: 62.90% for 210 yards, 1.71 TD’s, 0.43 INT’s
    Colin Kaepernick: 54.90% for 162 yards, 0.86 TD’s, 0.43 INT’s

    • Belgaron says:

      This would be more interesting if Wilson wasn’t running for his life and the Niners had their receivers. I just don’t think Kaep can consistently read past his primary option. He lacks competitive toughness and depth. Wilson beats him in all the areas that really count, and it will show up in wins.

      • MJ says:

        Agreed. Even when CK has had success, it’s 95% of the time to his primary read. He really, really struggles with the nuances of playing QB. The biggest concern, if I’m a SF fan, is how uncomfortable he looks in the pocket and when that 1st read is not there. It’s not only an inability to get through a progression, but the clear panic he shows in the process.

        I honestly think SF is better with Alex Smith. Sure, Smith is not going to wow anybody or be a huge threat, but he is efficient, smart and can make enough plays on a loaded team.

        I think the trend of uber-athletic QBs will subside in a few years when teams learn to take away their legs and their first read. That’s my biggest concern with Mariota and Hundley. Premiere athletes, not very good QBs when it comes to actually playing QB. They have great tools, but it won’t mean much if they dont’ understand what’s going on in front of them and if they are not comfortable playing in tight spaces (both the pocket and throwing windows).

  12. Jeff M. says:

    I agree that OL and interior DL are the most likely needs for us to be targeting at the top of the draft and that TE is pretty unlikely. If they were to draft a TE this year, they’re probably looking for a solid blocker to succeed Miller long-term (rather than a flex guy to compete with Willson), which means a mid-to-late round pick on a guy like Fiedorowicz or Lynch.

    I think the one sleeper need for a top pick though is actually LEO. For salary reasons, the team probably only keeps one of Clemons/Avril next year, with that guy starting at LEO. If they can re-sign Bennett (probably at Bryant’s expense) he’d start as the strong-side DE but move inside on passing downs. Irvin has, to my eyes, looked really good at OLB so let’s say that move is permanent and we see him as a long-term starter there instead of the future at LEO.

    I know that’s a lot of “ifs” but if you buy my logic, that means our depth at LEO (and to come in at the other DE spot on passing downs) is down to just Benson Mayowa (maybe plus Schofield if you can get him to come back cheaply). I could definitely see the team using a 1st or 2nd to fill that hole (especially if they choose Clemons over Avril, which means they’ll need to be developing a successor for the relatively near future).

    • MJ says:

      I agree with this. The best part about LEO, is that I think you can find a guy in R2-3. Corey Lemonier is a great example of a idea LEO candidate who is uber talented, but didn’t get drafted that high due to his lack of scheme fit for most teams.

      And Benson Mayowa is potentially a huge development. If he can play, it makes Avril expendable and allow us to keep Bennett.

      • Rob Staton says:

        They clearly rate Mayowa — who looked the part and just appeared raw. He’s essentially on a red shirt deal. Let’s hope he’s a diamond for the future.

        • MJ says:

          It’s going to be a fun off-season. It seems like there are a handful of guys they have basically said “you are redshirting.” Williams (health), Ware (health), Simon (health/development), Mayowa (development).

          All 4 guys, IMO, have pretty tantalizing potential, it’s just a matter of staying healthy and developing.

          Rob, could you see the Hawks trading Turbin? I don’t think he has great value, but let’s say you can get a 4th or 5th for him, knowing you have Michael and Ware in the fold…would you pull the trigger?

          *I should caveat that with my personal opinion on Turbin being that he is about as mediocre as it gets outside of being a nice blocker on 3rd down.

    • Rob Staton says:

      It still looks like addition by subtraction to me if they cut Avril or Clemons just to take a guy in R1. If they’re concerned enough by the LEO to feel like they have to spend a first rounder, I think you keep both guys. I think it’s more likely they look for value later in the draft. If they are looking to move Avril hopefully they can get a late rounder via trade.

      • Attyla the Hawk says:

        I just don’t see a LEO type DE who excites in the 25-50 range. Even if I were to agree with that premise, I can’t see who we’d take.

        I would not be surprised to see one of those contracts go. That’s a lot of cap space tied up there.

        • Miles says:

          Right now the Seahawks have a surplus of defensive ends. In no way is it worth it to continue paying so many guys to play defensive end, especially when they are rotational at this point. Besides, Clemons isn’t having near the season last year and I haven’t seen anyone point that out. I think if the Seahawks aren’t able to trade Avril for a favorable draft pick, they’ll move on from Clemons and expand Avril’s role at the position. Mayowa could get more snaps next year depending on how he develops.

          • AlaskaHawk says:

            Agree that we have a surplus of defensive ends. That may change with injuries. I would be more interested in another defensive tackle that could rush the passer. We also should consider another linebacker. I like who we got but we could use a linebacker who tackles so hard that they separate the ball from the carrier (like Ronnie Lott used to do).

      • Jeff M. says:

        Replacing one of them with a late first would save 7 or 8 million in capspace. Plus it’d be a guy who could provide surplus value for his whole rookie contract. Isn’t it worth it if it helps you keep Bennett and Tate and frees up room for ET, Sherman, and Russ’ extensions?

        • Rob Staton says:

          I can see one of them moving on, I just don’t see them cutting Avril and replacing him with a R1 pick. If they cut Avril I suspect they’ll feel comfortable with the options they have (eg Mayowa) plus the second level options they can bring in (mid-late rounds or FA).

  13. Connor Jackson says:

    I understand this guys ship might have sailed after he quit and then proceeded to get into drug related trouble once again, but I have to mention Colt Lyerla in this TE post. Honey Badger is a helluva ball player who had drug issues to and missed an entire year and up to this point AZ is looking good for drafting him. If Lyerla goes into the later rounds or doesn’t even get drafted (what I expect) he’s just way too intriguing. It’s so unfortunate that that he’s got major character flaws and red flags all over the place. The kid is a special talent without a doubt.

    • Miles says:

      Lyerla’s issues are much worse than Honey Badger’s. Lyerla was busted with coke, which on top of having a far worse stigma than pot is also addictive. I don’t know what type of punishment he’s going to get but if he faces jailtime he’s not going to be worth drafting or even signing, in my opinion. You never want a player on your team if you have to work around jail sentences to get them to practice. Additionally, it could be very hard to stay in football shape if indeed Lyerla is addicted to coke.

      However, let’s not make the immediate assumption that Lyerla is addicted. I would say, without promoting coke or excusing its use, it’s possible Lyerla has used it occasionally and could drop it if he just decided to. That’s no guarantee, but it’s possible.

      As we have seen, especially recently with guys like Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress, Richie Incognito, and even Rob Gronkowski, talent is held at a much higher premium than character in the NFL. Unfortunately, guys who don’t deserve a spot in the NFL can not only have a chance, but get paid millions of dollars in the process. If Lyerla can shake the drugs AND if he can show his athleticism we’ve all been pining about since August as the draft nears, he’ll find himself in a camp. I have no doubt about it.

      Would I be okay with or even happy that he was in Seahawks’ camp? Yeah, I probably would be.

    • Aaron says:

      If Lyerla really does fall into the “later” rounds, I’d pick him up in a heartbeat. It’s like buying a value stock with strong fundamentals and a huge upside. If you score, you score big. If he fails, you didn’t have to give up all that much in the grand scheme anyway. I suspect other teams will be making this same calculation however so he probably won’t fall as far as I would like in order to go this route.

  14. AlaskaHawk says:

    I wonder if we couldn’t take another look at Fells. Wasn’t he a 280 lb TE? If he can block then he would be useful for the running game. He caught a few soft passes in the preseason.