Sal's AFC East position battles: Tight End

June 20, 2019 - 10:52 am
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It's pretty remarkable how quickly the tight end situation has flipped in the AFC East in just a few months. Rob Gronkowski retired. Then the Patriots brought Ben Watson out of retirement. Then they traded for a player who had to go back to his old team because he failed a physical. The Bills released their No. 1 TE, then signed two in free agency, drafted two more, and added two more after the draft. The best returning tight ends to their own teams in the division may very well be two second-year players, for the Jets and Dolphins, respectively.

Here are my rankings of the groups in my latest installment of "AFC East Position Battles." You can click to tweet below to see a full roster for each team, as well as respond yourself:

1.) Dolphins - As it stands right now, Mike Gesicki, Dwayne Allen, and Nick O'Leary is probably the best top-three, as far as depth goes in the division. As they rebuild their team and Josh Rosen takes over at QB, all three will probably play important roles for Miami. Gesicki had a nice first half of last season for a rookie, but his numbers dipped in the final eight games. They'll look for him to take a big jump. Clive Walford is just two years removed from having back-to-back 300+ yard receiving seasons with the Raiders. Not a bad option as a No. 4 headed to camp. Durham Smythe started two games last year as a blocking tight end.

2.) Jets - Like Miami, the Jets have a presumed No. 1 tight end who is going into his second season. But unlike Gesicki, Chris Herndon really came on after the first month and a half of last season, catching 34 passes for 455 yards from week six on. He's actually the current AFC East tight end who had the most NFL receiving yards in 2018, finishing with 502 yards. Herndon is the unquestioned starter going into camp and may very well be the best tight end in the division in 2019. The problem for the Jets is who is behind Herndon. The cupboard is pretty bare. Eric Tomlinson, Trevon Wesco, and Daniel Brown combined for 8 catches for 72 yards last season, and all of that was from Tomlinson. So, it's basically Herndon and then three blocking tight ends. And, but the way, Herndon is reportedly facing a two-game suspension for a DUI arrest this offseason. But when it stacks up against the rest of the division, Herndon alone is enough to put them No. 2, for now.

3.) Bills - The biggest question and factor for the Bills with their group may be health. Free agent acquisition Tyler Kroft broke his foot on the first day of OTAs and may not be ready to start the season. It's the same injury he had last year which caused him to miss eleven games. In 2017, Kroft grabbed 42 balls for 404 yards and 7 TDs, so if he's healthy he'll certainly be a big part of the Bills' offense. Jason Croom enters this year with the third most 2018 receiving yards of any tight end in the division, finishing with 22 catches for 259 yards last season. In the last three games of the year, Croom caught 7 passes for 112 yards, but he had a hamstring injury that sidelined him for most of the spring. That opened the door for draft picks Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney, who could both be in line for pass-catching roles, especially if Kroft can't get back in time to start the season. Lee Smith will be the team's primary blocking tight end. With all these questions about health, I'm putting the Bills at No. 3 for now, but they could very well move up if Kroft can get and stay on the field.

4.) Patriots - New England is really scrambling for help at this position, and for good reason. They had signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but released him after the first day of minicamp. Ben Watson was signed, basically out of retirement, but will miss the first four games of the season due to a suspension. But even with him on the field, he'll be 38 years old and has had declining production each of the past three seasons. Behind him, Matt LaCosse, who caught 24 passes for 250 yards for the Broncos last season, is the starter as of right now. Stephen Anderson had a decent 2017 with the Texans, catching 25 passes for 342 yards, but spent all of last season on the Patriots practice squad and did not play in a regular season NFL game. The group is rounded out by rookie Andrew Beck and Ryan Izzo, who spent his rookie year on injured reserve last season.

Related:

AFC East Postion battles: RB
AFC East Postion battles: WR



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