This tight end class boasts a number of extremely productive players which makes analysis of their receiving targets very interesting. However, each player examined here was successful in a unique way which is what actually makes them worth analyzing. In this piece, I broke them down only by their receiving targets but added in a few metrics that would separate this from past wide receiver columns.
All the targets were hand charted by me from every game of these players. If you’re missing your favorite TE such as C.J. Fiedorowicz or Xavier Grimble - it’s because their receptions were so limited that a good sample size wasn’t possible. In the piece, Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be referred to in the charts as ASJ.
QB Metrics featuring Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel.
WR Metrics 1.0 featuring Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Marqise Lee and Kelvin Benjamin.
WR Metrics 2.0 featuring Brandin Cooks, Jordan Matthews, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham and Allen Robinson.
CB Metrics 1.0 featuring Darqueze Dennard, Jason Verrett, Terrance Mitchell, Bradley Roby and Justin Gilbert.
CB Metrics 2.0 featuring Kyle Fuller, Victor Hampton, Loucheiz Purifoy, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Lamarcus Joyner.
Where Did They Catch the Ball?
The table below represents the percentage of catches in each zone, it is color-coded so that an above-average number of receptions is greener and a below-average number is redder.
- The distribution of Amaro’s catches really represents what we see on tape – that is, a high number of throws underneath to get him in a position to gain yards after the catch. In that sense, he wasn’t the traditional seam threat you might expect for a taller TE.
- Ebron and Niklas represent the more traditional threats down the field you’d think of from a TE. Both caught a higher than average percentage of their receptions in the intermediate zones. Niklas in particular caught 71.9% of completions in the 6-20 yard range.
- Most peculiar is that Seferian-Jenkins was used as a screen threat on 25% of his receptions. Per the charts, he did an excellent job catching balls down the field – but we’ll see that he’s certainly not a YAC threat. The amount of screens he was used on is a bit baffling.
- Richard Rodgers was the most limited of the 5, catching half of his passes in the short zone and failing to tally a screen or pass deeper than 20 yards.
What Did They Do After They Caught It?
- For Niklas, this is really a reinforcement of his ability as a seam threat. Although many will tag him with the ‘blocking TE’ label, he caught the ball further downfield than any Tight End in this class. Considering his size, averaging 6.4 yards after the catch is a feat certainly worthy of praise.
- As a bit of a TE/WR hybrid, we’d expect good YAC numbers from Richard Rodgers, but not necessarily as high as 8.17 yards after the catch.
- Noted earlier, Seferian-Jenkins is never going to break any records for yards after the catch. He just doesn’t have the ability to accelerate and get up field which is why he averaged a group low 3.4 yards after the catch. He did however catch the ball 8.8 yards from the LOS showing an ability to stretch the field.
- You’ll note that Eric Ebron’s metrics in this category look similar to Richard Rodgers. Where Rodgers caught the ball slightly further down the field and averaged less YAC, Ebron leads the class with 8.84 yards after the catch. That’s a number that rivals top WRs in the class like Mike Evans and Allen Robinson.
- Jace Amaro averaged a respectable 5.82 yards after the catch due in large part to a number of short passes. Both Ebron and Amaro caught the ball 6.9 yards down the field, but did so in different ways. Ebron’s average is comprised largely of screens and intermediate passes, while Amaro’s comes from a litany of quick comebacks and crossing routes.
- Theoretically, a TE’s strength and size should separate them from a bigger WR. That should lead to the ability to generate yards after contact when running with the ball. Here are the yards after contact for this group:
- Niklas: 3.63
- Rodgers: 3.31
- ASJ: 1.69
- Ebron: 3.5
- Amaro: 2.96
Where Did They Line Up?
Where a TE aligns pre-snap is currently a hot topic and will continue to be as offenses spread out. Does a TE have the ability to put his hand in the dirt, is he always in the slot, how versatile is he? The chart below represents their alignment pre-snap on the totality of their targets.
- Amaro represents the TE we’re most likely to think of as an over-sized slot receiver. He still lined up for 11.8% of his targets on the offensive line, but spent an overwhelming majority of his time in the slot.
- With a bit more versatility, 21.7% of Ebron’s targets came in-line. He also has experience on the outside of the formation where 6.5% of his total targets came.
- Seferian-Jenkins by far showed the most experience in different alignments. 47% of his targets came after lining up with his hand in the dirt, while another 40% were a result of either starting in the slot or outside.
- Representing the more ‘traditional’ TE, Troy Niklas started alongside the offensive line 71% of the time. Compared to his fellow TEs who all had significant experience in the slot, Niklas only saw 13.7% of his targets come from the slot. This may make it all the more impressive that Niklas was able to get so many receptions deep down the field.
How Are Their Hands?
As the convergence of TEs and WRs continues, drop rate becomes a much more important metric to analyze in regard to these players. Tight ends will often have higher drop rates than wide receivers, so we’ll be less harsh on them. However, if a TE is being marketed as a ‘receiving’ player, you can’t always cut them slack for drops.
- Amaro’s drop rate of 7.7% is about average for a receiving TE. If we were talking about a receiver, we’d be getting into concerning territory – but again TEs get cut a bit of slack.
- Here’s Ebron’s dirty little secret – his hands just aren’t as good as some make them out to be. He made some nice one-handed grabs, but he also has a 11.43% drop rate which is not something to be overlooked.
- Seferian-Jenkins is in wide receiver territory here, only dropping 5.4% of his total targets. Nothing to worry about with his hands.
- Right in the middle between safe and danger territory is Troy Niklas who dropped 8.57% of his catchable targets. Unlike players like Amaro and Ebron, his targets were limited and this number was more easily skewed by a few drops.
That’s all I have for now. I’ll answer any questions and tweet out additional info such as red zone target percentage and more on Twitter @NU_Gap. Thanks for reading.