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In the 2017 season, Jets tight ends combined to catch 68 passes for 598 yards and four touchdowns, led by Austin Seferian-Jenkins. That was a huge improvement on the previous two years, where Jets tight ends had combined for just 26 catches for 268 yards and one touchdown. However, the only tight end still under contract for 2018 is Jordan Leggett, who didn't play in his rookie year due to knee issues. Clearly the Jets will need to make some moves.
They've already reached out to Seferian-Jenkins, although he reportedly turned down a modest two-year deal. Blocking specialist Eric Tomlinson could also be someone they seek to retain. While Leggett has potential, who could the Jets target in the draft that could compete for time and develop into a long-term contributor?
According to draft experts, the top-rated prospects heading into the scouting combine at the end of February include Oklahoma's Mark Andrews, South Dakota State's Dallas Goedert and Wisconsin's Troy Fumagalli.
Andrews put up big numbers as one of Baker Mayfield's favorite targets this season and eventually won the John Mackey Award for the best tight end in the nation. However, he spends so much of his time lined up in the slot or out wide that it's a stretch to even call him a conventional tight end. He's certainly an athletic player with good size that should provide a matchup nightmare in the passing game though.
Goedert has drawn comparisons to Rob Gronkowski and was dominant in college, albeit playing at a lower level. His combination of size, athleticism and soft hands make him a tough cover going down the seam or in the red zone.
While Andrews is CBS Sports' top-rated tight end and Goedert is who ESPN's Mel Kiper has as his number one, it's Fumagalli whose film is the most impressive in terms of being a complete player.
Fumagalli helped freshman sensation Jonathan Taylor to the third-highest rushing total in the nation, while playing in a role that often required him to put his hand in the dirt and make key blocks against defensive ends. His production wasn't as good as some of the other top prospects due to being in a run-heavy offense, but he impressed with his hands, route running and ability to come up with big plays in the clutch. Over the past two years, he had some of his bigger games statistically against Wisconsin's strongest opponents, which bodes well.
Penn State's Mike Gesicki is one to watch because he may be the best athlete among the top prospects and should put up some impressive numbers at the combine. However, he doesn't show the same ability to beat man-coverage as the top three prospects.
As Todd McShay was discussing during last weekend's Senior Bowl broadcast, one issue with recent tight end classes has been that most of the top prospects have been one-dimensional pass catching-options that struggle to block at the NFL level early on in their career. Andrews is rarely employed in blocking situations and Goedert and Gesicki are both what you'd call a work-in-progress. However, Fumagalli looks like the real deal, which could solidify him as the most complete tight end in the draft once teams revisit his film.
Another tight end singled out for his willingness to block during that game was Durham Smythe from Notre Dame. He didn't do much in the passing game during the season, but showed some promise in Mobile, catching three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown with Goedert and Fumagalli both sitting out with minor injuries.
Another player you'll find highly-placed on tight end ranking lists is North Carolina State's Jaylen Samuels. However, Samuels is more of a utility player that played tight end, running back, and wide receiver during the past few seasons. At 5'11" and 223 pounds it's most likely he spends most of his time as a running back at the next level.
Finally, a couple of other prospects who have been highly rated are South Carolina's Hayden Hurst and Adam Breneman from UMass. Hurst was recently projected to go in the first round of a mock by NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah and is also Walter Football's top-ranked tight end in this draft. Breneman, who caught 134 passes over the past two years, is the top-rated tight end according to Draft Utopia, although there are concerns over his durability.
With the scouting combine coming up at the end of the month, there's a good opportunity for some of these names to put on a show and establish themselves as a high pick. However, while it's a deep class in terms of athleticism and pass catching ability, nearly all of the top prospects will need some seasoning in terms of their blocking skills.