In the lead up to the May 8-10 NFL draft, The Insider is looking at Washington’s positions of need, spotlighting players who might fit what Jay Gruden and staff are looking for. On Wednesdays and Fridays, Mark Bullock checks in with screengrab-based examinations of players who could be available early, mid-draft and late. On Mondays and Thursdays, Mike Jones reports on players at the positions the Redskins need most, and provides top 10s.
High round: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Most tight ends that measure 6 feet 6, 262 pounds are labeled quickly as athletic, pass-catching tight ends with little blocking ability. Seferian-Jenkins, however, is from a different mold. While he is an athletic pass catcher, he also displays a willingness and an ability to be an effective blocker in the run game.
Here’s a red-zone situation for Seferian-Jenkins and the Huskies offense. Seferian-Jenkins is lined up as part of a bunch trio tight to the formation. The Huskies are looking to run the ball on an outside pitch to the right. Seferian-Jenkins has to block down on the defensive end and cut off the defenders on the inside from getting to the runner on the outside.
Seferian-Jenkins does a good job initiating contact, getting his hands inside on the defender. He is leaning slightly too far forward, but he gets away with it here.
As the running back begins to cut upfield, Seferian-Jenkins has successfully managed to cut off the defensive end and both defensive tackles from getting outside to make a tackle. The runner is given an easy running lane into the end zone for a touchdown.
His run-blocking definitely still needs work; He’s not a powerful blocker that will drive defenders back. But the zone-blocking scheme that is expected to be carried over from the Shanahan regime allows tight ends different opportunities to block without needing to knock a defender to the ground. Seferian-Jenkins can kick out a guy to create a lane behind him or cut off a defender like we saw in the play above, which is more along the lines of what a zone scheme will ask of a tight end.
Seferian-Jenkins is very aware of both his role in the offense and the concept of the play altogether in the passing game. He also seems to know what the defense is trying to do and how to work that against them.
On this play, the Huskies are running a double slant concept. The defense wants to drop its linebackers into zone coverage to take away certain passes.
As Seferian-Jenkins runs his route, he notices the linebacker dropping into a zone that could potentially take away the slant to the receiver behind him. Seferian-Jenkins uses a savvy veteran move, altering his route slightly to interrupt the drop of the linebacker, clearing the space behind him.
That allows the ball to be thrown to the slant behind him without the linebacker having a chance of breaking it up. Plays like that make Seferian-Jenkins looks like a veteran well beyond his age. It was almost an unnoticeable move, but one that showed great awareness and selflessness.
He’s not quite as athletic a pass catcher as Jimmy Graham or Jordan Reed. He lacks the elite speed and elusiveness in the open field that the likes of Reed have. But he catches the ball well and can make necessary adjustments to the ball in the air.
Here, the defense is playing Tampa-2, with the middle linebacker dropping deep to split the middle of the two deep safeties. Against this scheme, a tight end essentially has a one-on-one matchup with the linebacker up the seam.
The middle linebacker does a good job opening his hips and running with Seferian-Jenkins up the seam. As I mentioned, he lacks the elite speed to run away from defenders.
But the quarterback is only looking to one target on this play. He trusts his big tight end to make a play. He throws to the back shoulder of Seferian-Jenkins, knowing he’s capable of making the adjustment to the pass.
Seferian-Jenkins does an excellent job adjusting to the placement of the pass, using the most of his frame to reach out and grab it. It’s an almost impossible play to defend. The linebacker had good coverage on the play, but the placement of the pass along with the adjustment by Seferian-Jenkins makes his coverage irrelevant. You couldn’t ask for more from a red-zone target.
Projection: Second round
Middle round: C.J. Fiedorowicz
Fiedorowicz might be the best blocking tight end in this draft class. The Iowa prospect played in a run-first scheme that required its tight ends to be productive run blockers. At 6-6, 265, Fiedorowicz is a similar size to Seferian-Jenkins, but is much more physical in his blocking, consistently sealing the edge and driving defenders back off the line of scrimmage.
Backed up inside their own 10, Iowa lines up in a run-heavy formation. Fiedorowicz’s initial assignment is the seal the edge for the running back to get outside.
With the help of the left tackle, Fiedorowicz is able to block the outside shoulder of the defensive end, sealing off the edge and giving the running back a clean read to run outside.
But Fiedorowicz isn’t content with that. He spots an incoming linebacker and peels off the defensive end to block the linebacker.
Fiedorowicz takes a good angle of attack, making sure he cuts off the linebacker from getting to the perimeter and stopping the running back from getting outside. Fiedorowicz gets his hands inside on the chest of the linebacker and keeps his pad level low, giving him all the leverage in the block.
Fiedorowicz makes the most of that leverage, driving the linebacker back at least 10 yards from the initial point of contact. This gives the running back a clear path up the sideline to pick up an easy first down.
Iowa was a run-first team, limiting the number of opportunities for Fiedorowicz to show his receiving skills. But his size made him a strong red-zone threat, particularly off play-action.
On this goal-line situation, Iowa elects to run the “Spider 2 Y Banana” concept, made famous by Jon Gruden, brother of Redskins Coach Jay Gruden. The play is designed to sell the run fake and catch the defense off guard with the fullback running into the flat and the tight end running to the back corner of the end zone.
Fiedorowicz does a good job selling the fake, initiating contact off the snap.
But then Fiedorowicz breaks out into his route. The first read on this concept is always the fullback, but Ohio State does a good job taking him away, leaving Fiedorowicz the only option for the quarterback.
The quarterback delivers a throw just before he gets hit, trusting his big tight end to go up and get it. Fiedorowicz adjusts his route to the flight of the ball and manages to stretch out to pull in the catch over the top of the defender.
This kind of play-action concept is something the Redskins have run in the past and is one that Fiedorowicz excels at. Logan Paulsen struggled at times last season after a solid 2012 campaign. Jay Gruden liked to use two tight ends often in Cincinnati and drafting Fiedorowicz could offer an upgrade to Paulsen as the team’s second tight end.
Projection: Fourth round
Late round: Colt Lyerla
Lyerla might not even be on some draft boards ahead of next week’s NFL draft. One of the most athletically gifted tight ends in college football in 2012 looked set to have a big season and secure his spot as a first-round pick. But Lyerla surprisingly quit the Oregon football team back in October and has had a number of red flags pop up since then. He had his drivers license suspended for four tickets in a 24-month period and was also arrested for doing cocaine. These are big red flags that teams will have to be thorough investigating to be comfortable with the kind of person Lyerla is. Is he just a kid that has made some mistakes, or somebody they can’t trust?
Those questions remain to be answered. But on the field, he shows the athleticism and talent — albeit raw — to be a top weapon in the NFL. He has the speed to be a threat up the seam.
Here, Lyerla lines up as an in-line tight end. He’s running a seam route right up the middle of the field.
He finds himself wide open for the catch and quickly looks to add more. He identifies the defender most likely to make a tackle.
He makes a cut and walks through the tackle attempt from the initial defender as more defenders arrive. Lyerla isn’t one to shy away from contact, so he lowers his shoulder and attacks the defender head on.
The defender is too small to bring down Lyerla on his own, resorting to just delaying Lyerla as long as possible to allow other defenders to catch up and help.
In the end, it takes five defenders to gang-tackle Lyerla and stop forward progress.
That play shows off his athletic prowess. He’s too fast for linebackers to stay with him running up the seam, can cut quickly to elude open-field tacklers and is strong enough to run through defensive backs. This athleticism allows Lyerla to be extremely versatile, similar to Jordan Reed. He lined up all over the field; in line, split outside, in the slot and in the backfield as a H-Back or fullback. Oregon even used him as a running back to great effect.
On this play, Lyerla is lined up in the backfield and takes the hand off.
As he approaches the line of scrimmage, he spots the defenders having inside leverage. So Lyerla plants his foot and cuts to the outside.
A cornerback comes up to help try and contain the run, but Lyerla gives him a stiff arm that Adrian Peterson would have been proud of.
That stiff arm broke the tackle attempt of the cornerback, allowing Lyerla to run into open field.
Lyerla is eventually pushed out of bounds, but not before he picks up 22 yards and moves his team into the red zone.
The talent Lyerla possesses is undeniable. He’s still very raw in his route running and blocking technique, but that can be developed. If he had played all of this season to his full potential, I have no doubt he’d be a first-round pick. Unfortunately, those off-field issues are legitimate concerns that might make him go undrafted altogether. Jay Gruden was on a coaching staff in Cincinnati that gave Vontaze Burfict a chance as an undrafted free agent after some similar off-field issues, and Burfict went on to make the Pro Bowl this season. So there is some potential reward, but also a lot of risk involved in taking a player with a lot of red flags.
Projection: Seventh round
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