With the NFL Draft less than a month away is time to start identifying players that could be a good fit for the New York Jets. Recently draft analyst Ron Pickett took the time to answer some questions about this year’s tight end class. For those of you that are not familiar with Ron, Mr. Pickett is a high school football coach and speed/agility trainer than has been doing extensive work in scouting and game film analysis.
Tyson: Several NFL analysts have Eric Ebron identified as the only tight end with game breaking potential. What is your evaluation on Ebron and your prediction on where he will be drafted?
Ron: Ebron is a special player, a dynamic player who can line up as a wide receiver or as a tight end. Eric is a burner and will create mismatches at the next level. He is a slightly less athletic version of Vernon Davis. Ebron’s big and physical and knows how to use his size and WR-like speed to get himself open and make some outstanding plays. His route running is crisp and he’s able to get in and out of his breaks extremely fast. The issue with Ebron is his inconsistent hands. That would scare me if I had a top 10 pick. Could it be fixed? Absolutely, but sometimes that takes time. He makes some unbelievably athletic catches but drops some easy ones. I think on potential alone, EricEbron is an intriguing pick at the top of the 1st round.
TR: Jace Amaro has been climbing up the draft charts of some of the analysts. What are your thoughts on Amaro and his fit in the west coast offense?
RP: Amaro isn’t quite as explosive as Ebron, but he brings an element to the game that is what the league is moving towards. Amaro could line up as a slot receiver, as a wide out or in a traditional three-point stance. Jace is another guy who is big and physical that creates separation by using his body and frame to shield off defenders. Amaro doesn’t get enough credit for his speed and his route running ability. The thing that scouts worry about with Amaro is that he will be a one-trick pony in the NFL and only be a route running tight end. He’ll need to improve his blocking and his ability to find holes in the defense when he isn’t required to use his size and physicality. Amaro would give a west coast offense the down the field weapon and a threat to score inside the 30 yard line. Similar to how Jeff Cumberland showed some signs of effectiveness as a tight end in the west coast offense last year, Amaro could be the same type of player with a better ability to get open. Jace Amaro should go middle to late first round.
TR: Troy Niklas surprised some by entering this year’s draft. What are your thoughts on Niklas and where do you think that he will go in the draft?
RP: Niklas is the biggest of the three guys we’ve spoken about so far. Niklas, coming from Notre Dame a powerhouse for tight ends, is just another solid player that a team will be lucky to get in the 2nd round. Troy is more of a traditional tight end as he is an above average blocker, has great hands, and knows how to use his body well. Niklas isn’t a flashy pass catcher like Ebron and Amaro, but he can still be a solid tight end. When I see him I see a Kyle Rudolph-type of tight end who can do a little bit of everything. After Ebron and Amaro, Niklas could be the next tight end off the board.
TR: C.J. Fiedorowicz is a guy that Jets fans are starting to get excited about. How does C.J. rate and would he be a good fit in the west coast offense?
RP: Fiedorowicz was underused at Iowa in terms of pass catching. He has been categorized as a blocking tight end, but after the combine I think teams are seeing that he is an above average pass catcher. Fiedorowicz will need some work as a route runner, but you can tell by the way he catches that he has soft hands and the ball seems to just stick to his hands. It takes C.J. a long time to get in and out of breaks when running routes. I think Fiedorowicz needs development before becoming a starter, but once he gets his feet wet in the league, he’ll catch on quick and be a solid contributor to whatever team that chooses him. He will take some time, but C.J. could easily contribute as the second tight end in a west coast offense and become a checkdown or a reliable third down target.
TR: Are there any later round sleepers that you think can make an impact?
RP: Austin Seferian-Jenkins is another big tight end that could be available when the Jets pick in the second round. He is a huge redzone target, and out of all of the tight ends in this draft, he is the guy who was the most versatile in terms of presnap alignment. ASJ can line up in the backfield, on the line of scrimmage, at slot, at wideout, he can do it all. The concerns with him are durability issues. A guy who could be taken later in the draft is Arthur Lynch from Georgia. Like Fiedorowicz, Lynch was underused in the passing game for Georgia. He is slightly faster than Fiedorowicz and already runs more consistent routes. The thing that makes Fiedorowicz a prospect to go earlier is his higher ceiling and his physicality as a blocker.
Other guys to look out for are Marcel Jensen (Fresno St), speedy tight end A.C. Leonard (Tennessee St), Crockett Gilmore (Colorado St), Jordan Navjar (Baylor), and Divison II tight end Joe Don Duncan. A guy I would stay away from, even though on talent alone he’d be a first round pick, is Colt Lyerla from Oregon. Colt has too many off the field issues, including drug use, and a pending litigation. Character is something most organizations are putting ahead of anything else. Some team will believe that they can handle Lyerla and help him through his off the field issues, but if I were a GM, I’d steer clear of him.
TR: The Jets already have 2 young tight ends, Zach Sudfeld and Chris Pantale, on the roster. Do you think of either of these guys could see increased action in 2014?
RP: Sudfeld’s role increased as the season went on last year. I could see Zach getting more significant playing time, if they don’t draft a tight end high in the draft. Sudfeld had an outstanding training camp for the Patriots and the Jets were lucky to steal him from the Patriots, who tried to stash him on their practice squad. Zach Sudfeld has the physical tools to play, and with an entire offseason to work with Marty Mornhinweg, he could have an impact in 2014.
If Pantale wasn’t injured prior to the 2013 draft, he would’ve been one of the top tight ends selected. Pantale, from Boston College, has the size and potential to be a reliable target for the Jets. If Chris is healthy he should compete for a roster spot this year. Again, it’s all dependent on if and when the Jets decide to draft a tight end this year. They may feel comfortable with the three guys they have and decide not to choose any tight ends. After all, everyone thought they would take a tight end last year and they never did. If they decide not to explore tight ends in draft, I could see Cumberland, Sudfeld and Pantale competing in camp for playing time.
TR: Ron, once again thank you for your time. If you would like to talk about the draft or anything Jets you can contact Ron Pickett on Twitter: Pickett_Ron