As the Jets fourth round pick this year, Herndon had a lot of people excited heading into OTAs. Unfortunately, he made a terrible decision and got in an accident while driving drunk. It is possible he misses time this year, or next, for this incident. Luckily he, and everyone else involved, came out unharmed. Herndon is a very athletic tight end, who showed flashes of his receiving ability in college, but was overshadowed by Browns Tight End David Njoku for most of his tenure with Miami. Herndon will battle for playing time against whoever ends up filling the third Tight End slot, as he is a lock for the roster as a rookie. While he is an explosive weapon, especially after the catch, he still needs a lot of work in blocking, which will limit when he can be on the field at times. Herndon may have a bright future for this team, but don’t expect too much from the rookie Tight End.
This week I will review the New York Jets Tight End position, as a part of a series reviewing the status of the Jets roster heading into training camp. The previous reviews can be found below. The Jets Tight End group is likely one of the weaker positions on the roster. There is no proven player at this position on the roster. The most established player they have is Eric Tomlinson, who is just a blocking tight end. Nevertheless, this will be one of the positions to watch in camp. Can one of the draft picks from the last two years breakout? Will they both make the team? Can a guy like Clive Walford or Neal Sterling play well enough to stick around? Will the Jets do the weird roster management move they have done in recent years and keep four tight ends? It will be a very intriguing battle to watch, even though these players will likely have minimal impact on the offense, as there will be few targets left over for them with the skill at wide receiver.
1. Eric Tomlinson
Tomlinson is at the top of this list for one reason. He is pretty much a lock to make the team, and play a large role. He will not be very involved in the actual passing game, but he is a very good blocker, and will see the field a lot to help with the run. Tomlinson is just a guy, but he’ll be on the field plenty this year.
2. Chris Herndon
3. Jordan Leggett
Leggett, the Jets fifth round pick in 2017, missed his entire rookie year with a knee injury. He was a player the Jets were excited about after his draft. He was a very good receiver in college, although there were questions about his motor and natural athleticism. He has often been described as stiff, has a small catch radius, and has no explosion out of his cuts. Leggett will be battling for his roster spot this season, but it would be a little surprising to see him miss the bubble with how GM Mike Maccagnan has given his draft picks every chance to prove him right.
4. Neal Sterling
Sterling starts this offseason with a bit of a leg up on the guys below him on this list due to his performance in week 17 last season. Sterling exploded for 5 catches and 74 yards out of no where against the Patriots, opening some eyes on the coaching staff. He showed skills in the passing game that the jets have been missing at the tight end position for a long time. He remains a bit of a long shot to make the roster as he really is just an over-sized wide receiver who can’t block. But, if Leggett struggles either on the field, or staying healthy, he could squeeze on the back of the roster, and battle for playing time.
5. Clive Walford
The former Oakland Raider disappointed in his early career in Oakland, which is what led him here. He has the most experience in the receiving game out of everyone on this list, but didn’t do much to impress. Ever since being selected in the 3rd round in 2015, the Raiders hoped he would step up in the passing game but he never did. He had between 300-400 yards each of his first two seasons, with three touchdowns each year, on 61 total catches. Last year, following the signing of Jared Cook, Walford became invisible, finishing the year with just nine catches for 80 yards. He is not much of a blocker, and has yet to develop as a receiver the way people expected. It would not be a shock if he were to make the roster, especially if the Jets keep four TEs, but it is also not something that is expected.
6. Bucky Hodges
Hodges was a sixth round pick last year by the Vikings, but failed to stick around. He was an athletic freak coming out of college, but is extremely raw. He can’t really block and is unrefined as a receiver. It would be a shock if he made the team, but he is a player the Jets could try to stash on their practice squad this season.
Overall Grade: C-
The Jets did not do much to upgrade their tight end position this off-season. While Austin Seferian-Jenkins was far from special last year, finishing with 257 yards and three touchdowns on 50 catches, he was the best tight end the Jets have had in a long time, providing stability and a player that could play all three downs. He wasn’t explosive but he did a solid job getting open to help move the chains. The Jets reportedly offered him $8 million for two years, and he ended up with $10.5 over two years from the Jaguars. While I understand the Jets clearly didn’t think he deserved that money, with all the cap space the team has, and still has, it would have been the better decision to bring him back. Having a reliable weapon at tight end as a safety blanket, even if unspectacular, is very helpful for a quarterback, especially a rookie like Sam Darnold.
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