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Earlier this week, the Jets claimed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on waivers. I've been researching and reviewing his film to try and assess what he brings to the table.
The 23-year old Seferian-Jenkins is listed at 6'5" and 260 pounds and was a second round pick in 2014. He has caught 45 passes for 603 yards and seven touchdowns in 18 games in his career so far. However, he's been injury prone and was waived by the Bucs after a DUI citation last week.
Let's recap Seferian-Jenkins' career so far and assess some of his strengths and weaknesses.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Austin Seferian-Jenkins?
Seferian-Jenkins was a three-year starter at the University of Washington and produced consistently over the course of his career with 146 catches and 21 touchdowns. He was sixth in the Pac-10 in 2012 with a career-high 69 receptions and won the John Mackey Award in 2013.
After deciding to enter the draft early in 2014, Seferian-Jenkins was selected by the Bucs with the 38th pick. The Jets selected Jace Amaro 11 picks later.
In his rookie year, Seferian-Jenkins caught 21 passes but he only played in nine games due to injuries. His second year also saw him miss nine games as he again caught 21 passes, although he doubled his touchdown output from two to four and increased his yards per reception average from 10.5 to 16.1.
Prior to being waived this year, Seferian-Jenkins had come off the bench in the first two games, catching three passes including a 30-yard touchdown reception.
Seferian-Jenkins was coming off a foot surgery when he attended the scouting combine in 2014, but still dazzled with a 4.56 40-yard dash and a 37-inch vertical jump. The only other event he participated in was the bench press, on which he achieved 20 reps. On film, he doesn't really display agility or short-area quickness, but looks hard to stop once he gets up to speed.
He's a former basketball player, becoming one of the latest breed of players to make the transition. Clearly there are some transferable skills in terms of athletic attributes, hand-eye coordination, timing, and going after the ball.
Seferian-Jenkins has seen plenty of action out wide and in the slot since entering the NFL. He also lined up in the backfield at times in his rookie year, but not since. With the Buccaneers, he was often employed in-line rather than in an H-Back role.
With his speed, Seferian-Jenkins is a definite threat to stretch the field. At the NFL level, he has three touchdowns of 30 yards or longer, although one was on a Hail Mary pass and another was on a short pass. He had a lot of big plays in college too.
Here was his touchdown from this season's opener which showcases how well he can run and be an option over the top:
Seferian-Jenkins was not considered to be a particularly smooth route runner coming out of college, but with his big frame, he shows enough physicality to create separation. He seems to have particular success with running up the seam and then breaking to the outside, especially in the red zone.
Seferian-Jenkins has a below average hand size at 9.75 inches, but drops haven't been a major issue for him. He had four in 2015, but none of these were routine. Two were potential touchdowns, though.
On the whole, he has strong hands and looks natural catching the ball. He's displayed an ability to go up and get it, hang on when taking a hit and has even made a few diving catches.
He has lost one fumble in his career, though.
Yards after the catch
While not particularly elusive, Seferian-Jenkins does an excellent job of turning upfield after the catch and getting his momentum going forwards to pick up extra yardage. He doesn't break many tackles -although he did slip two on his way to a 41-yard touchdown in his rookie year - but he will drag tacklers with him and fall forwards at the end of a run.
Seferian-Jenkins can certainly give the Jets another big pass-catching option in the red zone, in addition to run blocking in short yardage situations. Of his seven NFL touchdowns, four came from inside the 10-yard line.
My initial impressions of Seferian-Jenkins' blocking abilities from watching 2016 preseason and regular season footage were that he is a little rough around the edges. I also didn't get the impression that he gave much of an effort. He's not particularly strong at the point of attack, will lose leverage and had a couple of whiffs in space. With that said, he is employed in-line, often as the inside guy in two-tight end sets, so he's closer to Kellen Davis than Amaro in terms of how he could actually be employed. He'd ideally be taking reps away from Davis, not Quincy Enunwa.
Despite my criticism were some positive contributions, although on some of these it seemed like he would lose leverage and then recover to use his man's momentum to take him out of the play, rather than cleanly executing a straightforward assignment. There was one excellent edge setting block where he crashed down on a defensive end though.
In search of more impressive highlights, I looked at some footage from earlier in his career and there were more flashes of ability and signs of consistency, especially in his rookie year. Did he start to become lazy or complacent in 2015 and 2016, perhaps?
One thing that was very noticeable was that he was capable of dominating against defensive backs but gave up too much ground against bigger players. On one screen block on the outside, he drove a cornerback 10 yards off the line and to the floor, but when tasked with holding up against a defensive end, he was routinely stood up and pushed into the backfield.
Seferian-Jenkins was called for holding six times in his first two seasons, including preseason games.
Seferian-Jenkins was asked to stay in to block quite regularly in his rookie year, but hardly at all last year. Maybe that's because of the shoulder injury he was dealing with during that season. He held up quite well as a rookie but has been beaten a few times in preseason action over the last three years. Most of these were because he was overpowered by a lineman, as he has a tendency to get too upright, making him susceptible to a bull rush but he is capable of staying in to protect against a blitzing linebacker or defensive back.
When plays break down Seferian-Jenkins has a knack for finding a soft spot in the defense to make himself a receiving option and I didn't see him blow too many obvious blocking or route-running assignments. He seemed less comfortable when blocking but showed some capability in terms of reacting to an initial loss of leverage to re-anchor himself.
Concentration and discipline can perhaps be an issue, as he's had a handful of dead ball penalties.
Seferian-Jenkins has not been used on special teams at the NFL level. His injury issues perhaps contributed to that. Typically, the Jets do expect their reserve tight ends to contribute on special teams so that might be something he needs to work at.
The off-field issues are an obvious concern with Seferian-Jenkins who wrecked his Bucs career with his DUI and faces a likely suspension at the beginning of next season as a result. That wasn't his first DUI either; he also had one in March 2013.
There have also been concerns over his conduct and effort levels in practice. He went on a social media tirade last month after being kicked out of a Bucs practice.
In-game discipline has been an issue at times, too. He had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a celebration and a delay of game penalty for throwing the ball down after a catch.
While he didn't miss much time in college, playing 38 games in three seasons, Seferian-Jenkins still had to have surgeries on his finger and foot while at Washington. In his rookie year, he missed seven games due to ankle and back issues and in year two it was a shoulder injury that caused him to miss nine weeks.
Seferian-Jenkins is obviously a talented player and has had some good production while healthy. However, with his off-field issues and durability concerns it will be interesting to see if the team views him as more of an immediate contributor or just a reclamation project.
I'm sure the Jets view this as a move where a player they think can help them came available so they pounced. However, coming just days after a listless offensive performance in Kansas City, some may view this as a bit of a desperation move to increase the offensive firepower at the team's disposal.
Last year's offense functioned despite a lack of production from the tight end, so will adding a potentially productive pass-catching tight end to the mix add a dimension to the offense, or could it instead lead to the weapons the Jets do have being spread too thin? After all, the season began with Matt Forté catching passes out of the backfield looking like it was going to be a feature element of the offense, but that's already disappeared over the last two weeks.
If things go well and the Jets opt to retain Seferian-Jenkins, he will remain under contract for next season, although you can expect a suspension at the start of the season. Having given up on Amaro, the Jets are probably hoping Seferian-Jenkins can emulate some of the things they were expecting Amaro to achieve with this team. With such poor production from the position over the last year-plus, it's a good opportunity for him to re-invigorate his career.
Maybe this can have a similar impact to when the Jets brought in Braylon Edwards early in the 2009 season, overlooking his off-field issues and giving him a chance to showcase his talent. That would certainly be a best-case scenario rather than my immediate expectation though.