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Over the next month or so, we're going to be reviewing some of the top draft prospects at each position to try and assess some potential candidates that the Jets will show interest in.
We begin today with a look at the 2019 tight end class.
Jets Needs: Tight ends
The tight end position is unlikely to be a major priority for the Jets in this draft, primarily because of one of their picks from last year's draft.
Chris Herndon proved to be a tremendous selection in the fourth round and looks likely to be a key contributor for the next few seasons. After a slow start, Herndon led all rookie tight ends with 39 receptions, 34 of which came in the last 11 games.
Jordan Leggett is the only other tight end currently on the roster and, although his numbers were underwhelming, he was arguably one of the most improved offensive players last year so the Jets might be content to stick with him as the number two. Eric Tomlinson, Neal Sterling and Clive Walford are out of contract. Of the three, Tomlinson is the most likely to return but will draw interest elsewhere because he has a reputation around the league as a good blocker.
2019 Draft: Tight ends
With the scouting combine just around the corner, most experts regard the top two tight ends as Iowa duo TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant.
Entering the 2018 season, Fant was the consensus top tight end prospect in the nation coming off a season where he caught 11 touchdown passes. However, Hockenson seems to have surpassed him by showcasing a varied skill-set and a penchant for making highlight reel plays, whether by breaking tackles or throwing punishing blocks.
Two years ago, teams underestimated another Iowa tight end in George Kittle, who was an excellent blocker and put up spectacular combine numbers but had underwhelming statistical production. Kittle wasn't selected until the fifth round but is already a Pro Bowler and some experts believe Hockenson could emulate him. While Hockenson's blocking is perhaps not as consistent and he'll struggle to match Kittle's combine numbers, his all-round potential could get him drafted in the first round.
Some of the other top tight end prospects include Alabama's Irv Smith, Stanford's Kaden Smith and Texas A&M's Jace Sternberger. Each of these possesses an ability to stretch the field with Sternberger putting up the most impressive statistics with 10 touchdowns and an average of 17 yards per catch. Scouts will feel good about Kaden Smith's chances of success as Austin Hooper, Cody Fleener and Zach Ertz have all had good careers coming out of Stanford.
Currently, it looks likely that these five will be selected too early to be a consideration for the Jets, but they'll be on the look-out for a bargain if any of the players from the next tier drop into the mid-to-late rounds.
Other candidates for the Jets would include UCLA's Caleb Wilson, who lacks size but had outstanding production with 60 catches for 965 yards in 2018, Dawson Knox from Ole Miss, who averaged 19 yards per catch, and the athletic Dax Raymond from Utah State.
If the Jets want to take someone in the later rounds, Zach Gentry from Michigan and Foster Moreau from LSU are two players who have experience of playing as inline blockers. Moreau was used a lot in pass protection by the Tigers and had a good week at the Senior Bowl.
Georgia's Isaac Nauta was another player whose stock was probably higher at the start of the year, but he had a disappointing season in terms of his pass catching production. However, he was once a highly recruited prospect and he has some potential as a blocker, so could be a value pick.
The versatile Keenen Brown from Texas State could be useful as an H-back type. He was mostly used as a safety valve but showed some excellent abilities after the catch.
Finally, two other late round prospects with the size and potential to be good blockers are Washington's Drew Sample and CJ Conrad from Kentucky. Sample had entered the season with just 21 catches in three years but showed development as a senior with a career-high 25, adding four more in the Senior Bowl. Conrad also has plenty of experience of lining up at the fullback position.
The Jets could still find value at this position in the draft, as they will probably run plenty of multiple-tight end formations in Adam Gase's offense. Although Herndon's blocking improved over the course of the season, he still needs to continue to improve that aspect of his game, so they should be looking to add some blocking specialists or all-round tight ends to complement him.