By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
With the exception of a block here and there, and let’s not forget those eight glorious receptions for 95 yards combined, the Jets may as well have played without a tight end on the roster in 2015. I have seen my share of inept TE’s over my thirty-five plus years of watching the green and white, but never can I remember seeing such a lack of production from the position.
Even the “dynamic duo” of Mark Boyer and Chris Dressel were more productive for the team in 1991. James Thornton and Fred Baxter look like Hall of Famers compared to this past season’s group. Johnny Mitchell would be on the first ballot if the criteria for getting in was to be compared to the 2015 Jets TE’s. The point is that the Jets need to do something to improve this group going forward.
I am well aware that Quincy Enunwa played in somewhat of a hybrid TE role, and he hauled in 22 catches for 315 yards, but I would call him more of an H-Back. Now I like Quincy, and look forward to seeing more of him on offense in the upcoming season, but that does not take away from the fact that the team needs a reliable TE that can help Fitzpatrick, or whoever is behind center in 2016, to get out of trouble in times of need.
From what we have seen from them this year, as well as throughout their careers, Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Davis are certainly not the answer at the position.
There is no doubt in my mind that when Jace Amaro went down for the year, before the season even started, it had a significant impact on the game plan going forward. If he can work on his concentration and come back healthy in 2016, I am quite sure that he can at least equal his totals from his rookie year in 2014, when he had 38 receptions for 345 yards and 2 TD’s. I would even go as far as to say that he will probably eclipse those numbers, although that is not setting the bar too high.
It was a common belief among experts and fans alike this past year that the reason for the absence of statistical results is due to some kind of bias Chan Gailey has against using TE’s in his system. This is simply not true.
In 2008, when he was the OC for the Kansas City Chiefs, Tony Gonzales had 96 catches for 1,058 yards and 10 TD’s. I do realize that Gonzales is one of the best to play the game, but even Scott Chandler had 43 receptions for 571 yards and 6 TD’s for the Bills in 2011 when Gailey was in charge. If he has a reliable weapon, he is going to use it.
You can almost guarantee that Jace Amaro will have at least a decent role in the offense in 2016, as long as he can stay on the field. But even so, the Jets are going to need to bring someone in to help carry the load for this year and hopefully beyond.
Although I am sure the team will look to bring a veteran TE in via free agency, the 2016 NFL Draft would be a good place to look for someone else to join the mix. As nice as it would be to bring top-rated Hunter Henry of Arkansas into the fold, spending a first round pick on a TE would be a bit if a stretch.
Since the Jets have other positions of need that rank higher on the list of priorities, it is safe to say that if they choose a TE in the draft, that it will be in the mid-to-late rounds. Any prospect with a grade past the 3rd round is going to be a bit of a project, and one such project that I believe is worth looking into from the 4th round on is the University of Florida’s Jake McGee.
After playing his first two seasons at the University of Virginia, where he accounted for 71 catches along with 769 yards and 7 TD’s, he transferred to Florida as a graduate student in 2014.
Unfortunately, he suffered a broken tibia and fibula in the season opener, and was unable to play again until his senior year in 2015. During his senior campaign, McGee totaled 41 receptions for 381 yards and 4 TD’s, making several clutch grabs along the way, and earning second team All-SEC honors.
Over the course of his college football career, McGee played for four different head coaches, in four separate offensive systems, at two schools. When you add in the fact that he suffered a devastating injury at the beginning of the 2014 season, it is amazing that he was able to be as productive as he was.
McGee has valuable experience in both a spread offense and a pro-style system, which will be beneficial to him when making the leap to the NFL.
At 6’5 252 pounds, McGee has a long, powerful frame as well as exceptional hands along with the concentration and hand-eye coordination needed to catch balls that are overthrown, underthrown or behind him. He also possesses sufficient speed to challenge safeties and linebackers down the seam. In addition, his experience as a high school quarterback helps him to identify when he is the hot receiver in blitz situations, and he gets open almost immediately.
Like any player coming out of college, especially one that is projected in the latter part of the draft, McGee has his share of work to do in order to be a consistent contributor on the NFL level. Not the smoothest route runner, he has a tendency to give away his intentions early on certain patterns and struggles to gain separation at times. He has also been inconsistent as a run blocker, but he was used on several occasions as a move blocker in Florida’s offense, where he displayed some improvement over his time at Virginia, and he clearly possesses the means to progress in that area.
Although not without his shortcomings, McGee is an interesting prospect worth a look in the latter rounds of the draft. He is a highly intelligent individual, who was an Elite 90 recipient in 2015, which is an NCAA award given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA at each bowl game. Something else that is always beneficial to a team is that McGee is known to be a true leader on the field and in the locker room.
I would not suggest taking McGee too early in the draft, but if he is there for the taking on Day 3, the Jets would be wise to give it some thought.
You can read my Jets Pre-Combine Mock Draft article from 2/24/16 by clicking below:
You can read my article from 2/19/16 on NYJetsNews.Com about a few options for the Jets in the 1st Round of NFL Draft by clicking the following link: